NAPLES, FL—As the 2016 construction season shifts into a higher gear and warmer weather, company executives and union officials from New York’s downstate region gathered at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Naples and are meeting to learn about the challenges and be prepared for the opportunities that await the industry.
New York State’s construction industry is witnessing a burst of important public-sector and private-development projects that have crews working overtime, testing the resources of the building trades, according to industry officials and owners. Mega infrastructure and school construction projects, along with other public works that can no longer be pushed onto future years, promise to put crews to work, reported government, company executives and union officials from New York’s Downstate and Mid-Hudson Valley region.
Aligned united under the banner of the Hudson Valley Construction Industry Partnership, the group of some 80 delegates will attend the 2016 Mid-Winter Meeting from Wed., Feb. 17, through Sun., Feb. 21. The seminars include presentations by both legal, legislative and labor/management specialists on topics that include business management and statewide and national industry affairs that are vital to the well-being of the construction industry.
The Welcoming Reception will be held on Wednesday evening, Feb. 17, when delegates, spouses and guests are scheduled to gather at one of the premier Gulf-side patios at the hotel.
The following morning, Thursday, Feb. 18, the first of five sessions will begin with a “Round-Table” presentation by industry executives from organized labor and construction contracting associations. Panelists include: Todd Diorio, business manager of Laborers L.U. 17 and president of the Hudson Valley Building & Construction Trades Council, Inc.; Edward Doyle, Sr., who serves as president of the Building & Construction Trades Council of Westchester & Putnam Counties; John Maraia of the Electricians L.U. 363 and the Building & Construction Trades of Rockland; and Alan Seidman of the Construction Contractors Association, Inc. Serving as moderator for the morning session will be Ross J. Pepe, president of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc.
The executives will update the delegates on transportation and infrastructure spending in Washington and Albany as well as major private-sectors development projects throughout the Hudson Valley region.
For a complete agenda, please contact Karen Zedda at CIC and BCA headquarters, (914) 631-6070 or Karen@cicnys.org.
Later that same morning, attorneys Neal S. Schelberg and Anthony S. Cacace of the law firm Proskauer Rose LLP will offer an overview of employer withdrawal liability.
“This presentation will provide the basics of withdrawal liability, including when it is assessed, how it is calculated, the manner in which it is paid and the statutory scheme for challenging the assessment,” Mr. Schelberg said. “The presentation will also explain the application of building and construction industry exception to withdrawal liability, from both the perspectives of the employers and of the fund.”
As co-presenter, Mr. Cacace noted, “It is critical that fiduciaries of multiemployer pension funds and those employers that contribute to such funds have a basic understating of ERISA’s withdrawal liability provisions. This is so because fiduciaries have an obligation to assess and collect withdrawal liability from those employers that have withdrawn from the fund. Also, withdrawn employers often face sizable withdrawal liability assessments that could impact the employers’ financial health.”
He added, “Lastly, we will walk through the process by which disputes concerning withdrawal liability are adjudicated through arbitration, and sometimes, litigation.”
Friday, Feb. 19, Neil Wilkinson, who serves a managing director of the Union Labor Life Insurance Company, will discuss several of ULLICO’s leading products, including the “J For Jobs Fund.” This is a real estate debt fund deploying labor’s capital back into commercial real estate projects, Mr. Wilkinson explained.
Also known as the Separate Account J (“Fund”), this is a commercial real estate investment vehicle with a record of delivering attractive and competitive fixed-income performance to institutional investors over its long-term history, all while growing unions, creating union jobs and creating capital for their employers.
Also included in his presentation is a discussion of the ULLICO Infrastructure Fund, which is an open-ended equity fund that invests in long-term infrastructure assets that generate consistent income.
“The fund was established to assist in the investment, maintenance and refurbishment of our nation’s infrastructure,” he added. “The Fund’s investment goal is to achieve attractive risk-adjusted returns with significant annual cash yield and relatively low volatility.”
Mr. Wilkinson will also present an overview of ULLICO Retirement Services, with its newly defined contribution platform exclusively designed for Taft-Hartley plans.
Charles A. Degliomini, who serves as executive vice president of Government Affairs & Corporate Communications for Empire Resorts, Inc., will provide progress updates on the Montreign Resort Casino, the $1-billion entertainment and lifestyle complex in Sullivan County which is being built under the terms of a Project Labor Agreement with the Hudson Valley Building & Construction Trades Council.
The project will be home to a 90,000-sqare-foot casino, a luxury hotel that features some 360 rooms, suites and villas, a variety of resort amenities, seven restaurants and four bars to suit every taste and budget, a full spa and salon to complement the conference, meeting rooms and banquet facilities, and a Rees Jones-renovated, 18-hole “Monster” golf course.
Montreign Resort Casino is expected to generate four million new tourist visitations and will create more than 5,000 construction and permanent jobs in an area with one of highest unemployment rates in New York State.
Later on Friday morning, James M. O’Neill of Hill International will lead a pertinent discussion combining two popular and timely topics in the industry: a progress report on the ongoing $3.9-billion project to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge and the increasing use of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) on publicly funded construction work.
Mr. O’Neill is a vice president of Hill International, a leading construction management and claims consulting services company. Mr. O’Neill provides PLA support services in all aspects of the PLA methodology for both public and private owners. These include feasibility studies, labor/cost analysis, drafting of the pact, negotiating, administration and legal defense. He serves as program manager of the New York State Thruway Authority Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on the new bridge project. He will also update attendees on the use of PLAs nationally in the public sector and on private development projects.
“The federal government is finally realizing the benefits of PLAs on significant public works projects,” he explained. “The General Services Administration (GSA) has begun to use them fairly regularly in constructing federal court houses and other government buildings from Honolulu, HI to Newark, NJ. PLAs have been proposed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for use at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY.”
Mr. O’Neill explained that PLAs are continuing to evolve in the public-works sector. “Today’s PLA began with the first Tappan Zee Bridge in the mid-1990s, and it was followed by public construction of every kind in New York State, including highways, bridges, stadiums, courthouses, schools, convention centers, and nationwide as witnessed by major water conservation projects in the Southwestern U.S.
However, the future of PLAs in the Hudson Valley is evolving and unclear, he explained. “Where once there were obvious advantages to incorporate PLAs, the marketplace is achieving parity. Now with cost savings diminishing – in fact, certain building trades have even opted out of PLAs—public owners are now taking a new look at PLAs as well as design-build as the construction methodology of choice for their projects. The cost savings once realized through PLAs are spreading throughout the marketplace for both the public and private sector.”
He will also discuss the status of the Tappan Zee Bridge construction and the impact of a PLA, including several anticipated areas of concern as the project progresses. Part of this segment will examine the number and type of grievances and disputes found on megaprojects and how these matters are resolved under the current language of the PLA contract.
Mr. O’Neill will examine several of the new ways contractors and Building Trades officials can work to promote PLAs both locally and statewide.
Also featured Friday morning, is Vice President Michael Jordan of MagnaCare who will lead a presentation on “Health Benefits: Helpful Strategies for Plan Sponsors.” This session presents ideas and explores strategies to reduce healthcare costs without reducing member benefits. Concepts include population health, high-performance networks, member cost-transparency tools with meaningful incentives, and the value of “site of service,” Mr. Jordan said.
“Why change your administrator or network in order to provide a more cost-effective program to your participants?” he asked.
“Historically plan sponsors relied on network evaluations that focused primarily on network access (disruption studies) and repricing (discount levels),” he explained. “Those are important but the healthcare game has changed. The focus needs to be on the ‘total cost of care’ and where dollars are being spent in totality compared with who has the best discount—whether that’s the Albany Medical Center or the Orange Regional Medical Center, for example.”
Where care is rendered has become much more meaningful. “We have 10 percent of our membership driving 76 percent of the hospital/medical cost,” he explained. “This is not all attributed to catastrophic claims but to simple procedures like colonoscopies and prostate biopsies. This is where the focus needs to be: providing comprehensive benefit coverage but at the most cost-effective places for those procedures and services.”
The following day, Saturday morning, Feb. 20, Mr. Pepe will update the delegates on transportation and infrastructure spending in Washington and Albany, as well as the consequences of the reauthorization of the multi-year federal transportation spending bill and funding for the Highway Trust Fund. “Did we achieve adequate funding levels and revenue-generating mechanisms for both these programs in its reauthorization last November?” asked Mr. Pepe. “It is our job to ensure adequate funding for mass transit both in the Northeast and nationwide. Any erosion will have a devastating impact on the amount of federal monies the New York region receives,” he said.
Each day of the four-day conference features component, divisional and committee meetings with informal displays by sponsoring companies, members and guests. Filling out the agenda are social functions, including an annual golf tournament and other sports activities that are popular among delegate members and guests.
On Saturday evening, Feb. 20, the HVCIP Mid-Winter Meeting will conclude with the Grand Reception & Awards Ceremony. A full report on the industry’s agenda and legislative action for 2016 will be available to CIC/BCA members from the associations’ headquarters in Tarrytown, by calling (914) 631-6070.