Several weeks ago, BUILDER published an article regarding President Obama’s executive order on immigration. Most of the article expressed criticism of the plan, but I indicated that the president’s actions will have a positive impact on home building. “Builders have a huge need for access to more labor; the U.S. population demographics are very unfavorable unless we increase immigration,” I said.
The story raised a good deal of comments from readers, so I thought as a follow up I would ask some of my clients, colleagues, and consultants—across the political spectrum--for their opinions. (In order to draw out their true feelings, I promised not to use their names or companies.)
This was my question: "If you ignore the political uproar, how do you think the executive order will impact home builders, especially the trades?" Their answers may surprise you.
Private builder: “Currently in Texas, most of our trades are using illegal immigrants. I believe the new executive order should make everything much easier but I am unsure what impact it might have on costs as some of these folks might be able to ask for higher pay. On a positive side, we might be able to contract directly with some of these workers, perhaps help them set up or expand their business, so that might help with the labor shortage we are experiencing.”
Public builder: “This was a positive move as there is clearly a labor shortage in the current state of construction. In the near term, this can have a positive effect in increasing a trade base (not necessarily a trained one). The existing base, which does contain illegals, will be able to operate more freely vs. running at the first sign of an immigration officer drive-by. It may also lower labor prices as more resources become available. The negative side to this is that as the previous group of illegals is now legitimate and subject to minimum wage or market wage, costs of trades can go up over time.”
Private builder: “I think immigration reform is the right thing to do from a business and humanitarian standpoint. I wish it could be done in a non-partisan way.”
Building industry consultant: “We can predict that almost nothing will change at the end of the day … Having said that, it could only help.”
Private builder: “If we allow these people to immigrate to the USA, I believe the ‘new immigrants’ will move their families to the USA, will purchase homes … and add to the economic boost in the metro areas they move to. The talk around here lately has been, ‘If the border patrol catches an illegal, we should do everything in our power to recruit and train these people to remain in our country.‘“
Private builder: “Granting work visas for 5 million people who are currently here is a boon to our industry! Home builders will be less scared to hire those who we desperately need to fill the diminished trade ranks.”
Public builder: “My response would be that I don’t see it changing much at all with the workforce we have. Trades … have long been men whom I leave their immigration status up to their employer. … I have a problem with questioning if they are paying their taxes or finding ways to cheat the system.”
Wall Street analyst: “Immigration reform should be a significant benefit for labor given the deficit of labor in construction … documenting able workers should be a positive force on that front.”
Public builder: “….Key from my perspective is to help the new immigrants to become Americans while maintaining their cultural identity. I think the Obama plan would be a great beginning for the new immigrants and our industry.”
What do you think? How will the executive order affect labor in your market? Add your comments below.