For all of us, the world has totally changed our personal and professional lives. The new normal involves attending virtual meetings and participating in conference calls in place of in-person meetings. I have participated in several Zoom calls where we discussed trends in the marketplace. Recently, I participated in a St. Clair County EDC Board Meeting, a CCIM Coffee & Current News, and an Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC) Board Meeting. I’ve also been in conversations with individuals from the Alabama Center for Real Estate (ACRE) along with clients and friends around the state to discuss their thoughts on today’s economy and the engineering industry.
Below are a few thoughts from leaders across the state:
- March had the biggest decrease in consumer confidence in over 60 years.
- Alabama unemployment claims have reached historic levels.
- Most new retail projects have been put on hold or suspended indefinitely.
- Impact to revenue budgets in communities because of COVID-19 varies. Some smaller and rural communities are seeing an increase in revenue, especially if they have a Wal-Mart, grocery store, or Lowes/Home Depot. Some communities, especially the larger ones that are dependent on shopping malls for sales tax revenue, have seen a decrease in revenue.
- The AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) has predicted a 30% shortfall in state DOT revenues and has requested a $50B stimulus from congress. City and County associations have also requested stimulus funding.
One common theme of my many conversations involves the notion that no company could have imagined we would face a global pandemic in 2020 or been able to predict the impacts that would follow. Fortunately, small businesses are accustomed to adapting to change and facing uncertainty quickly. Below is an update on Sain and several ways we’ve responded to COVID-19:
- Our investment in technology has made the transition to working from home go smoothly.
- Some of our market sectors are doing well, and our staff is working hard to balance out work from departments that have slowed due to the pandemic. Proactive management is the key to our response strategy.
- The diversity of our services has been a strength for us and positions us well for the future.
- Sain is one of the leaders in Alabama in the industrial economic development market, and we have seen continued activity in this market.
- We have seen an uptick in GIS services based on innovative work we’ve done to develop Broadband master plans for counties needing to improve internet capability.
- Transportation planning and traffic/transportation engineering services for cities/counties around the state has been steady thus far, although there is uncertainty as to how that market will be affected long term due to changes in travel behavior.
- We are assisting several communities in pursuing grant opportunities like the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) and the EDA Cares Act.
Although we are okay right now, we are concerned about cities/counties and ALDOT revenues for the remainder of this year and how that could affect a substantial portion of our business. We have seen many projects delayed because of COVID-19. Sain is praying for recovery for our friends and clients in this challenging time.
We are also thankful for our clients that are sustaining our firm with their business. We will all get through this. Stay safe.