Michael Collins of Building Industry Advisors, the keynote speaker at last week’s American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) Summer Conference in Newport, R.I., addressed both the challenges and opportunities facing the industry as the Trump administration settles into Washington. Collins predicted how Trump could influence topics such as immigration, China trade, healthcare and other areas of concern to the industry.
Decreasing Financial Regulation
Republicans are seeking to replace the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in 2008 by President Obama in the wake of the financial crisis. The proposed replacement plan is called the Financial CHOICE (Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs) Act. The act would end the “too big to fail” philosophy of banks and would emphasize oversight by financial industry self-regulation rather than Washington.
Immigration Policy’s Impact on the Industry
There have been more than 41,000 immigration-related arrests since Trump signed a controversial executive order in January, creating an atmosphere of concern, said Collins. This could mean a furthering of the current labor shortage, and companies may need to do more to ensure that workers are documented.
While Republicans are trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many building products companies already offer benefits packages that surpass the requirements of the ACA or are too small for ACA to apply, said Collins. Therefore, it’s not likely that repeal of the ACA would affect the industry.
The Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule was meant to ensure environmental safety of navigable waters. Trump signed an executive order to restrict the waters regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under this rule. Builders applauded the move, saying it eased regulatory burden. However, Collins said a bigger deal in the environmental sphere is Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord, which would take effect in 2020. This decision has angered some cities and states, and many are vowing to continue to abide by the accord.
Another big component of environmental policy that could impact the industry is the fate of Energy Star. Trump’s budget calls for the EPA to privatize the program. “The industry benefits from Energy Star no matter who runs it,” said Collins, concluding that companies should hope that the program ends up in good hands. The industry benefits from the program thanks to its name recognition with consumers.
The 2018 proposed government budget totals $4.1 trillion. However, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the EPA all face cuts. Discretionary spending would decrease by $1.5 trillion over ten years, leaving a balanced budget by 2027, if future presidential administrations follow the same budget plan. EPA cuts include funding for the enforcement of the lead paint rules, which would be pushed to the states. When it comes to infrastructure spending, Trump has designated $1 trillion to create jobs and benefits in areas where construction takes place.
“One drawback to this is that those projects will pull labor from residential and commercial construction, worsening the current labor shortage,” Collins said.
China is a thorny issue in the industry, Collins admitted. Trump’s policies seem likely to result in increased prices on goods imported from China to encourage use of U.S. goods. That said, companies that make their own extrusions in the U.S. have an advantage. Collins also pointed out that the government has ways of adding soft costs to imported goods that make them relatively less attractive. This includes increasing the length of time that it takes for a foreign worker to receive a temporary visa permit to aid in the installation of manufacturing equipment purchased overseas.