Every new president wants to make their mark out of the gate. They each layout an ambitious plan to take the country into a bigger, brighter future. With both the House of Representatives and Senate under a Democrat majority, President Biden may have an easy time passing legislation over the next two years compared with previous presidents. Under President Biden, construction in the United States might start to look very different.
Here are 11 ways that President Biden plans to transform and impact the construction industry.
11 ways President Biden will impact construction
A good portion of President Biden’s campaign and plans have a direct effect on the construction industry. Knowing what those changes might look like now will help you prepare for them — whether it be to take advantage of a new program or to shift your business’ focus for survival.
1. Clean energy
Clean energy is perhaps the largest focus of President Biden’s construction-related plans, and it’s going to take some effort to achieve his goals.
President Biden plans to immediately put the country on an “irreversible path to economy-wide net-zero emissions” by the year 2050. That plan includes investing over $400 billion in the next 10 years.
This investment will fund the construction of wind-energy infrastructure, hydropower, and solar-energy plants, among other sources.
Someone has to build those structures, and Biden’s focus on American labor means there will be more federally-funded projects to bid on.
2. Public works and infrastructure
It doesn’t take a political genius to realize that the United States’ aging infrastructure could use some attention. President Biden plans on taking immediate action, spending “$50 billion over the first year of his Administration to kickstart the process of repairing our existing roads, highways, and bridges.”
President Biden’s infrastructure plan includes building the fastest, cleanest rail system in the world for freight and passengers. He’ll work with Amtrak and other private freight companies to continue electrifying the rail system to lessen our dependence on diesel fuel.
Beyond rails and roads, the Biden Administration wants to make America’s airports the best in the world. He intends to double funding to airports through the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement Program and launch a grant program for large renovation projects.
Biden also has big plans for the electrical industry. According to the incoming President, “Transforming the US electricity sector — and electrifying an increasing share of the economy — represents the biggest job creation and economic opportunity engine of the 21st century. These jobs include every kind of worker from scientists to construction workers to electricity generation workers to welders to engineers.”
3. Affordable housing
The Biden Administration has an eye on the affordable housing crisis as well. President Biden plans to spur the growth of the affordable housing market by 1.5 million homes and public housing units. His focus is on low-income families, minority communities, veterans, and persons with disabilities.
On top of the 1.5 million houses and units, Biden plans to route additional capital to low-income communities to further encourage affordable housing and small businesses.
4. Construction jobs
American jobs are a priority under Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan — including construction jobs. Improving infrastructure, transitioning to clean energy, and building affordable housing takes labor. In fact, the Biden Administration believes that transforming the US electricity sector alone represents the biggest job creation and economic opportunity of the 21st century.
Among all of those investments and new initiatives, President Biden is planning upgrades to the building sector that “will create at least 1 million construction, engineering, and manufacturing jobs.”
5. Construction materials
The Biden administration will have a significant impact on construction materials, though it’s somewhat unclear what to expect. In recent months, material shortages have been driving up building costs.
Biden’s plans for infrastructure could create faster, cheaper shipping, which should lower the cost of materials. But, the focus on carbon-neutral building products could drive the cost of producing those materials up.
However, President Biden’s plans do include grants that encourage the purchasing of American-made materials. These grants would help ensure that materials producers are making a profit and growing their businesses, which could provide market stability.
Although, if the materials producers aren’t able to keep up with the demand caused by a cash-infusion in infrastructure and affordable housing, the rules of supply and demand will rule the day.
One of the largest, most recurring themes of the Biden campaign was its focus on creating pro-union working environments. He has pledged to “create good, union jobs that expand the middle class.”
Biden’s administration will be focusing on the American workers’ right to organize and lobby for better pay, benefits, working conditions, and retirement benefits.
While employees may expect to thrive under that support, company owners will likely anticipate an increase in labor costs and a hit to profit margins. Some larger companies may prefer to lessen their staff, opting instead for 1099 contractors.
President Biden’s plans don’t stop once the clean energy industry takes off from his cash infusion. He also plans to spend resources on training the workforce to maintain and improve upon it.
Biden plans to require federally-funded projects to prioritize hiring workers trained in registered apprenticeship programs. His administration will also invest in pre-apprenticeship programs to make workforce training more accessible for veterans, women, and people of color.
According to Biden, his administration will work to “fund new Apprenticeship Readiness Programs that specifically target veterans, women, and communities of color to enter the construction trades and that are connected to Registered Apprenticeships.”
8. Tighter regulations
The Biden campaign made sure to direct attention to global warming and other environmental issues. As such, regulations around carbon consumption and pollution, as well as water and air quality, could get tighter.
For instance, infrastructure contractors already know that to receive grants or bid for particular jobs, it’s likely that they’ll have to find a way to watch their greenhouse gas emissions output — a tall order for a carbon and petroleum-heavy industry.
Notably, Biden has announced plans to reverse course on the Keystone XL Pipeline — a move applauded by environmental activists but one that will impact the construction businesses along the pipeline’s route that were banking on the opportunity.
The workforce can expect the Biden Administration to provide a pathway for immigrants, making it easier for folks who aren’t yet legal residents to be legally employed in the United States. This has the potential to create a significant impact, as many of those folks are skilled craftspeople who could easily find positions in the construction industry.
In 2018, immigrants made up 25% of the construction workforce in the US — a share that’s expected to grow.
10. The border wall
President Biden was very clear on which side of the border wall issue he stood on.
During his campaign, he stated that his administration would pull the plug on the project, ceasing construction where it stands. This will certainly cause an issue for the contractors and builders working on the wall, as they continued to make progress every day up to Inauguration Day.
11. COVID-19 Response
Among the administration’s aggressive plans to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden plans to sign an Executive Order on his first day “requiring masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings, on all federal lands, and by federal employees and contractors.”
Many construction projects across the country are already under strict pandemic protocols required by individual states. Biden’s coronavirus response will extend those requirements to federal construction projects.
Many of Biden’s construction changes unlikely in the short term
Many of the ambitious construction plans of the incoming Trump administration didn’t materialize after 2016. Even with the support of a Democrat-controlled Congress, Biden’s desired policy changes and programs would take time to roll out.
There’s also a budget in place for 2021 already. It’s unlikely that much will happen overnight that directly impacts the construction industry.
The key takeaway is this: Pay attention to policy and law changes. Whether the industry thrives or shudders under the Biden Administration, construction businesses are always at risk.
In uncertain times, it becomes even more critical for construction businesses to free up cash flow to protect their bottom line.