Commerce Department Announces Voluntary Industry Pledge to Increase Women in Construction Workforce

RER Chairman and Suffolk CEO John Fish, above, convened a meeting this week of leading construction company CEOS to sign on to the “Million Women in Construction Community Pledge,” led by U.S. Commerce Department Secretary Gina Raimondo. (UPI, May 21 and ConstructionDive, May 22)

Committed to Workforce Expansion

  • Fish said, “The construction industry continues to face significant labor challenges due to the aging workforce and dwindling number of young people entering the construction field. There is a critical need to attract more talent and diversify our workforce to ensure we have the resources to build our cities and grow our economy.” (Commerce Department news release)
  • He added, “Suffolk is honored and privileged to be one of the first companies to commit to Secretary Raimondo’s inspiring Million Women in Construction Pledge. As an organization that has long been committed to rebuilding the ratio of women in the construction industry, we are proud to play a leadership role in inspiring other organizations to commit to this effort and help position our American workforce for future growth and success.”
  • The Million Women in Construction Community Pledge is a nationwide call to action for the construction industry to commit to bold steps aimed at increasing the number of women in the construction workforce. Secretary Raimondo launched the initiative after participating in The Real Estate Roundtable’s Spring 2023 Meeting. (Roundtable Weekly, April 28, 2023)
  • In addition to Suffolk, other leading construction companies committed to the Pledge include Baker Construction, Gilbane Building Company, McKissack & McKissack, Mortenson, Power Design, and Shawmut Design and Construction.

Call for Greater Industry Participation

Left to Right: RER Chairman John Fish, Commerce Sec. Raimondo, RER President & CEO Jeffrey DeBoer
  • Secretary Raimondo is seeking more industry companies, unions, and training organizations to sign the Pledge. She emphasized the need for the industry to recruit, train, hire, and retain thousands of new and non-traditional workers as the next generation of skilled laborers and leaders—and prepare them to rebuild U.S. infrastructure and supply chains to complement the Federal government’s investment.
  • Secretary Raimondo said, “President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is creating a construction boom all over the country, and with that boom comes a huge increase in jobs and opportunities for workers in construction and the trades. But right now, women make up less than 11% of jobs in construction and only 4% in skilled trades.”
  • She added, “Many of these are good-paying, quality jobs you can get without a college degree, and women deserve equal opportunity for these jobs. I’m calling on everyone—contractors, labor unions, training organizations—to join our Community Pledge to commit to solutions and support proven strategies that help overcome barriers faced by women and underserved communities in construction and the trades.”

For questions about the program or to pledge, email WomenInConstruction@doc.gov

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Real Estate Roundtable Leaders Discuss Market Conditions, Policy Issues Facing CRE

Real Estate Roundtable Chair John Fish (Chairman & CEO, Suffolk)
Real Estate Roundtable Chair John Fish (Chairman & CEO, Suffolk) on Bloomberg’s Wall Street Week.

This week, Real Estate Roundtable Chair John Fish (Chairman & CEO, Suffolk) and Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer discussed market conditions and policy issues impacting commercial real estate with Bloomberg’s Wall Street Week and the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL).

Markets and Federal Actions

  • Roundtable Chair John Fish addressed how current economic challenges facing commercial real estate, cities, communities, businesses and individuals have led to a somewhat “somber” mood in his Feb. 26 Wall Street Week interview.
  • Fish emphasized the importance of CRE to the overall economy and the need for policymakers to work with the industry to ensure a soft landing. He also discussed the wave of maturing CRE debt coming due at higher interest rates as remote-work continues to press the industry—and the ramifications of a large number of environmental regulations moving forward in a compressed time period.
  • The Roundtable’s chair noted, “Back in June of 2023, the Federal Reserve, the FDIC in the OCC issued forward guidance on working with borrowers, and that was credit worthy borrowers. I would encourage them to continue with their policy and reinforce that policy. It’s extremely important to the industry as a whole because creditworthy borrowers should not get hurt through this process.” (Roundtable Weekly, June 30, 2023)
  • He added, “We need the Federal government to work with us on interest rates. We also need the federal government to ask workers to come back to work. That’s one of the reasons why some of our buildings in downtown urban areas are 25, 30 percent vacant today. As an industry, we need to work together, collaborating with the government to try to solve these problems.” (Bloomberg’s Wall Street Week)

The Roundtable’s Policy Role

Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, right, with Jay Epstein, former president of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, left.
  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer spoke with Jay Epstein, former president of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers on the Feb. 26 edition of the ACREL Files podcast about The Roundtable’s policy advocacy role in Washington and compelling issues now facing the industry. 
  • DeBoer explained that The Roundtable is a unifier between industry and lawmakers on policies that benefit the economy and communities by using a non-partisan, data-centric, asset-based approach.
  • DeBoer also said the industry is at an inflection point as issues—including post-pandemic remote work and CRE needs, office-to-residential property conversions, affordable housing, building energy usage, insurance costs, and xenophobic attitudes to foreign real estate ownership—are “all rushing forward on top of the market challenges.” (ACREL Files podcast)

“By and large, the industry has stepped up to challenges, met them, and helped the economy and the country move forward.” He added, “Today there are other problems with financing and remote work, but I have no doubt the industry will overcome those challenges and emerge stronger.”

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Senator Joe Manchin and Financier Michael Milken Among Roundtable’s SOI Meeting Guests

2024 photo: left, Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer with Roundtable Chair John Fish (Suffolk)

Roundtable Chair John Fish, right, (Chairman and CEO, Suffolk) and Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, left, launched this week’s Real Estate Roundtable 2024 State of the Industry (SOI) meeting, which focused on many of RER’s 2024 Policy Priorities. (See Executive Summary and the SOI meeting agenda)

  • The meeting featured a discussion with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Financier Michael Milken on America’s leadership role in the world. Additional presentations by prominent policymakers and industry leaders focused on issues of importance to commercial real estate, including updates on select market conditions by Roundtable members. (See below)

Economic Leadership & Future Challenges

Sen. Joe Manchin, left, with Financier Michael Milken at The Real Estate Roundtable's 2024 State of the Industry Meeing
  • Sen. Manchin, left, and Mr. Milken, right, discussed the need to preserve American economic leadership; the crucial, long-term importance of an educated workforce; and global demographic trends that pose new challenges to U.S. strength.
  • Sen. Manchin noted that he is retiring from the Senate at the end of this Congress but not retiring from his efforts to encourage bipartisan policy solutions to America’s big challenges such as immigration, the national debt and deficit, and electoral system issues.
  • An international financier and philanthropist, Mr. Milken discussed a variety of his successful initiatives in access to capital, medical research, education, and public health. He leads a new DC-based initiative called the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream while spearheading the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan think tank focused on financial, physical, mental, and environmental health issues affecting critical global issues.
The Real Estate Roundtable's 2024 State of the Industry Meeting was well attended.

Three additional U.S. Senators and other guests at the Jan. 23-24 SOI meeting addressed a variety of other policy issues, including affordable housing, tax policy, banking and climate regulations, evolving security threats, and the current election cycle. (RER’s 2024 SOI meeting agenda and stories below).

Next on The Roundtable’s 2024 meeting calendar is the Spring Meeting on April 15-16. The upcoming meeting is restricted to Roundtable-level members only

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Roundtable Chairman Raises Concerns About Florida Law Impacting Foreign Investments in Real Estate 

Real Estate Roundtable Chairman John Fish during The Roundtable's Fall 2023 Meeting

Roundtable Chairman John Fish (Chairman & CEO, Suffolk), above, was quoted in media articles this week raising concerns about certain aspects of a new Florida law that would limit and regulate the sale and purchase of certain Florida real property by “foreign principals” from “foreign countries of concern.”

Foreign Investment in Florida Property

  • Fish commented to Bloomberg about Florida’s SB 264, stating, “The law is far-reaching, very, very confusing, and the unintended consequences would be very, very detrimental.” (Bloomberg, Dec. 11 | Bisnow and Inman, Dec. 12)
  • The Real Estate Roundtable urged the Florida Real Estate Commission on Sept. 5 to consider specific concerns about implementing the state law, which could impair capital formation and hinder the important role legitimate foreign investment plays in U.S. real estate, the broader economy, and job growth. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 8)

Need for Clarifications

Florida State seal
  • In response, the Florida Department of Commerce on Sept. 21 proposed a positive clarification to one section of the law, which could have implications for similar laws in other states.
  • Montana and Alabama have also passed legislation with similar restrictions to Florida’s that ban the sale or lease of agricultural land, critical infrastructure, and properties near military bases to “foreign adversaries,” including China. (Inman, Dec. 12)
  • Broader prohibitions in another area of Florida’s SB 264—Section 204—generally preclude Chinese investors from acquiring “any interest”in any Florida real property anywhere in the state. The Roundtable is hopeful that Section 204 will be subject to clarification during the rulemaking process. (See highlighted areas in the Notice of Proposed Rule)
  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer noted in his Sept. 5 letter, “Our concern with the new law is that U.S.-managed investment funds, which are controlled and managed by U.S. nationals, may now be precluded from pursuing investment opportunities in Florida if there is any level of investor participation in the fund from countries of concern like China.”
  • The Roundtable is seeking a technical clarification that would permit U.S.-managed investment funds, which may include passive investor participation from investors across the globe to continue to pursue investment opportunities in Florida.
  • Non-U.S. investors routinely subscribe for small, generally passive minority interests in these funds. These investors exercise no control over the investments or the operation of the assets. Importantly, the investment decisions are made by the U.S.-managed funds, not by passive investors who simply commit capital for a return, not to control the underlying investments.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has launched the SecureFlorida Portal, where foreign principals from foreign countries of concern like China must register property.

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Roundtable Chair John Fish Honored at Annual Lamplighter Awards

Roundtable Chair John Fish (Chairman and CEO, Suffolk), right, was honored this week with the Lamplighter Award from the American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kurt Newman, President and CEO of Children’s National Medical Center. (Photo: Mr. Fish with Rabbi Levi Shemtov, left. | Watch Mr. Fish’s powerful comments)  

Lamplighters

  • The American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) is a part of the largest network of Jewish educational, cultural and humanitarian institutions in the world, with branches in all 50 states and over 100 countries on six continents.
  • The annual Lamplighter Awards honor exceptional communal, political, corporate and academic leaders. Several hundred people attended the Oct. 24 event reception and dinner, including 8-12 U.S. Senators; House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and several House members; 20 Ambassadors from foreign nations; and seven family members of hostages now held in Gaza. 

Roundtable Leaders’ Comments

  • Mr. Fish commented, “It pains me to discuss the reality that many of us have discussed here this evening. There is, unfortunately, a rise in anti-Semitism and hate in the world today. A reality that played out tragically several weeks ago.” The Roundtable issued an Oct. 13 statement condemning the violence and urging humanitarian aid.
  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, above, gave introductory remarks as the co-chair of the event, stating that each one of the three honorees exemplified a unique combination of leadership and optimism. DeBoer added that Mr. Fish is a selfless person who provides The Roundtable with steady guidance, positive advice, and consistent support in his role as Chairman of the organization.

DeBoer asked the Lamplighter audience “… for a moment of silence to internally pledge that each of us will do our part, every minute, hour and day to reject evil, to help those in need, and to embrace the goodness of ethnic and religious diversity worldwide.” (Read DeBoer’s remarks and watch Mr. Fish’s comments)

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