Getting Back to Normal

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President’s Message by Victor Romero, PE, CPEng, ENV SP

I recently attended in-person conferences in Dallas and Las Vegas. The organizers kept these events safe, and it was good to interact with colleagues again, where ideas were freely and easily exchanged face-to-face. You just don’t get this from a video meeting!

Victor Romero

Victor Romero

A takeaway from the Matheson Advisors conference is that there is pent-up demand for acquisitions, but now equity firms are in the game, driving up multipliers. Additionally, economic consultants who look closely at Washington say we will finally see infrastructure stimulus, but it will probably be a year before it impacts the A&E market. Lastly, inflation is undoubtedly coming as federal debt in the United States exceeds GDP, but when and how will depend on velocity of money, which is low right now as consumers have resisted spending.

At the Rapid Excavation and Tunneling Conference in Las Vegas, it was good to see friends and colleagues, old and new. Some interesting technological trends are coming out of the various LA Metro projects, and there were great examples of TBM manufacturers, suppliers, and contractors overcoming more challenging ground and site constraints. There was also a lot of discussion around risk transfer: GBRs, design-build, insurance, and unfortunately increasing disputes among all parties in the owner-designer-contractor triad, many stemming from imbalanced risk transfer. As an industry, we should look at steering this trend in a better direction so that all parties can succeed.

Everyone I talked to has had similar experiences with COVID-19 and agrees that as engineers we need to get staff back in the office for collaboration. But everyone also recognizes that the workplace won’t look like it did before the pandemic. We need to find the right balance for clients, employees, and our businesses. Undoubtedly, some activities are better done together in the workplace: collaboration, mentoring, and certain risk management activities; other work can be effectively done remotely. Finding that balance and making it work for businesses is our next opportunity.