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Everything you need to know about BMD and the industry.

Finding Opportunity in Adversity: Optimism for the Construction Industry

It is said that opportunity hides itself in adversity, and so, for those industry stakeholders still struggling with the impacts of the pandemic, it is fair to ask: what opportunities has the COVID-19 pandemic created within the construction industry?

Opportunities to Collaborate are at an All-Time High. Collaboration is, at times, a byproduct of necessity. For many years, contractors, subcontractors and lower tiers have all talked about a more collaborative approach to building, but habit always seemed to get in the way, as many of those same parties were quick to resort to familiar, one-sided contracting methods and traditional risk allocation mechanisms. Now, however, faced with the need to revise project programs, manage disrupted supply chains, accommodate public health restrictions, and mitigate project delays, project owners and construction managers are learning that it is in their best interest to work with team members in unison, not restricted by lines of contractual privity. This presents a real opportunity for the industry to come together to develop processes and procedures that correspond to the changed public health and market conditions.

We expect that along the way, project owners and program managers may see the benefit of increased participation in joint efforts related to managing project budget, scope and time. Adding stakeholders to the conversation lends itself to the future use of more collaborative project delivery methods, and improved contracting processes through which parties agree to fairly allocate risk based on their ability to control, and prevent, such risk. 

Innovations in Technology and Building Methods.  Physical distancing is now the norm, which necessarily changes the way contractors, subcontractors and other project participants interact with one another. Interactive web-based meetings have replaced in-person meetings. Tours and inspections are being conducted virtually to allow stakeholders to monitor project progress from miles away. Artificially intelligent sensors and devices can be worn to ensure physical distancing measures are being observed. All of these tools offer real-time information so that issues can be identified and resolved quickly, thus improving productivity and efficiency. 

We can also expect to see an increase in the modular building trend. Here, control is the key. When physical components or units are built off-site, the benefit is two-fold: first, more opportunities to better control the safety of that off-site environment, and second, a greater ability to control, and reduce, on-site congestion. 

Made in the U.S.A.  The pandemic has exposed another truth: the construction industry in the United States is still dependent on international materials and workers. Reports indicate that nearly 30% of building materials used in the United States are imported from China. When international borders are closed, or trade relations are strained, disruptions in critical supply chains are inevitable. Herein lies an opportunity to bring production and manufacturing operations back to the United States, particularly where owners and developers may be willing to pay higher prices for materials that come from a more reliable supply chain. The construction of those very manufacturing facilities could, in and of itself, also be a boon for the industry. 

Safer and Cleaner Project Sites.  Practices such as temperature checks, frequent handwashing, improved mask and glove policies, and sanitization of work sites and equipment are all drivers for improved public health, and are likely to continue beyond the pandemic. We may also see evidence of secondary benefits from certain health and safety measures. For example, staggered shifts will lead to less crowded work areas, which should aid accident prevention efforts. Less congested work areas may also lessen burdens to coordinate work, which in turn may increase productivity. With these practices likely here for the long-term, the project participants most willing to embrace the new measures are most likely to succeed.

Justin M. Alaburda is a member and co-managing partner of the Akron office of Brennan, Manna & Diamond. He can be reached at jmalaburda@bmdllc.com. 

New York, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Delaware Become the latest States to Adopt Full Practice Authority for Nurse Practitioners

While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly created many obstacles and hardships, it also created many opportunities to try doing things differently. This can be seen in the instant rise of remote work opportunities, telehealth visits, and virtual meetings. Many States took the challenges of the pandemic and turned them into an opportunity to adjust the regulations governing licensed professionals, including for advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).

Explosive Growth in Pot of Gold Opportunity for Bank (and Other) Cannabis Lenders Driving Erosion of the Barriers

Our original article on bank lending to the cannabis industry anticipated that the convergence of interest between banks and the cannabis industry would draw more and larger banks to the industry. Banks were awash in liquidity with limited deployment options, while bankable cannabis businesses had rapidly growing needs for more and lower cost credit. Since then, the pot of gold opportunity for banks to lend into the cannabis industry has grown exponentially due to a combination of market constraints on equity causing a dramatic shift to debt and the ever-increasing capital needs of one of the country’s fastest growing industries. At the same time, hurdles to entry of new banks are being systematically cleared as the yellow brick road to the cannabis industry’s access to the financial markets is being paved, brick by brick, by the progressively increasing number and size of banks that are now entering the market.

2021 EEOC Charge Statistics: Retaliation & Impact of Remote Work

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released its detailed information on workplace discrimination charges it received in 2021. Unsurprisingly, for the second year in a row, the total number of charges decreased as COVID-19 either shut down workplaces or disconnected employees from each other. In 2021, the agency received a total of approximately 61,000 workplace discrimination charges - the fewest in 25 years by a wide margin. For reference, the agency received over 67,000 charges in 2020, and averaged almost 90,000 charges per year over the previous 10 years.

Ohio’s Managed Care Overhaul Delayed – New Implementation Timeline

At the direction of Governor Mike DeWine, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) launched the Medicaid Managed Care Procurement process in 2019. ODM’s stated vision for the procurement was to focus on people and not just the business of managed care. This is the first structural change to Ohio’s managed care system since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' (CMS) approval of Ohio’s Medicaid program in 2005. Initially, all of the new managed care programs were supposed to be implemented starting on July 1, 2022. However, ODM Director Maureen Corcoran recently confirmed that this date will be pushed back for several managed care-related programs.

Laboratory Specimen Collection Arrangements with Contract Hospitals - OIG Advisory Opinion 22-09

On April 28, 2022, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (“OIG”) published an Advisory Opinion[1] in which it evaluated a proposed arrangement where a network of clinical laboratories (the “Requestor”) would compensate hospitals (each a “Contract Hospital”) for specimen collection, processing, and handling services (“Collection Services”) for laboratory tests furnished by the Requestor (the “Proposed Arrangement”). The OIG concluded that the Proposed Arrangement would generate prohibited remuneration under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute (“AKS”) if the requisite intent were present. This is due to both the possibility that the proposed per-patient-encounter fee would be used to induce or reward referrals to Requestor and the associated risk of improperly steering patients to Requestor.