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CT Construction Digest Thursday September 12, 2019

THEIR VIEW: Apprentices key part of the answer to Maine's workforce problems
With Maine facing a workforce shortage that is only going to get worse, employers can’t afford to sit back and wait for good employees to come their way - they have to help produce them.
Many companies have already gotten the word. Roughly 115 employers are now taking part in the state Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship Program, an increase of 40 percent in two years, the Portland Press Herald reported last week. Another 60 have applied and are awaiting approval.
Under the program, businesses having trouble finding qualified applicants recruit and hire apprentices, who work full time while also attending classroom sessions, often through a community college.
The state partially subsidizes training and education for the apprentices, who in return get on-the-job training and a nationally recognized certificate. They also get a foot in the door at a company that needs workers - state officials say 95 percent of apprentices end up working with the company that sponsored them.
The program in the past has been used mostly to train workers in blue-collar jobs such as construction, shipbuilding, plumbing and electrical work. But in a sign of just how widespread Maine’s workforce shortage has become, more white-collar professions are using apprenticeships, including the health care and information technology sectors.
In one case, in a for-profit venture spun off the state program, apprentices make up the staff of a public relations agency, building the number of workers in that field. A similar initiative also is planned for the hospitality industry.
Some companies are already heavily invested in employee training. Cianbro Corp., for instance, has had its own training institute for over a decade.
And Bath Iron Works, which has been a participant in the state apprenticeship program, operates a training academy that has trained 700 workers since the beginning of the year; they plan to hire 1,000 more workers in 2020. Gardiner-based Everett J. Prescott Inc., which has 300 employees, has trained 50 workers through its apprenticeship program in the last 12 years.
But it is difficult for Maine’s many small businesses to mimic those kinds of initiatives by themselves. That’s where the state program comes in - officials say an apprenticeship program can be set up through the state for nearly any profession.
But the state program is so popular that the maximum reimbursement to employers has been cut by more than half; it needs more funding, as do training programs in general. (Gov. Mills originally proposed a $19 million workforce development bond be put before Maine voters; a pared-down version to fund career and technical centers was rejected - at least for the time being - by Republicans last week.)
Apprenticeships and other training programs aren’t the only answer to Maine’s workforce problems. For employers struggling to find workers amid strict competition, increasing wages must be on the table.
And Maine absolutely has to attract more working-age people. If not, there simply won’t be enough workers to fill open positions, even if every native-born Mainer stays here to work.
But when employers commit to training their own workers, it can pull new people into the workforce, and it can allow others to move up to better-paying jobs.
It can reshape Maine’s workforce, little by little, for the better.
 
Gregory Seay
early $1 billion in federal emergency highway funds are coming to 39 states and several U.S. territories, including $661,000 to Connecticut, for storm and disaster-related road repairs, authorities say.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration announced Tuesday $871.2 million in emergency-relief funds to help the states, as well as American Samoa, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, make repairs to roads and bridges damaged by storms, floods, and other unexpected events.
A year ago, last Sept. 25, Connecticut roads sustained flooding and damage during heavy wind and rainstorms that overspread the state.
The funds reimburse U.S. municipalities, territories and tribal governments for reconstructing or replacing damaged highways and bridges along with the arrangement of detours and replacement of guardrails or other damaged safety devices.
More than $220 million for Puerto Rico to continue repairs following Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
More than $157 million to California, including more than $115 million for 2017 winter storms.
Nearly $110 million for Tennessee, the bulk of which is for severe storms in 2019.
More than $18 million for flooding in Mississippi in 2018 and 2019.
More than $12 million for volcanic eruption and earthquakes in Hawaii.
$68 million for the March 2019 storms in Nebraska.
More than $6.5 million for tribal governments for a variety of events in California, Michigan, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
 
ELIO GUGLIOTTI
NAUGATUCK — The borough is closing in on a deal to buy nearly all of a roughly 88-acre parcel from Lanxess Corporation for the proposed “Port of Naugatuck.”
The Board of Mayor and Burgesses Sept. 3 unanimously approved a motion to authorize Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess to enter into an agreement with Lanxess, the successor of Chemtura Corp., to buy the land off Elm Street for $1.
Officials didn’t release the agreement, which the board has been discussing in executive session, or discuss it in detail, since it had not been executed.
In a subsequent interview, Hess spoke about the proposal in broad terms. Under the proposed agreement, Lanxess would retain its facilities at 400 Elm St. and 12 Spencer St., and the borough would get the rest of the land.
Lanxess plans on selling about 80 acres to the borough, according to the corporation.
Hess said Lanxess would be responsible for environmental remediation of the land, which is the former Uniroyal site, per a consent order issued by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The company would only leave areas that could be remediated by capping them with a parking lot or building, Hess said. The borough would be responsible for capping these areas, Hess said, and local officials would work with state and federal officials and private partners to pay for the work.
Hess anticipated the agreement will be signed by the borough and Lanxess this month. Once it’s signed, there is a 180-day period during which the borough will do additional environmental testing to verify work done by Lanxess, he said.
The borough is eyeing the land to develop an intermodal transportation hub, dubbed the “Port of Naugatuck,” where goods can pass through customs and be loaded to and from trucks and trains. The site sits along the Pan Am Railways line that stretches from southern Connecticut to Canada. The borough is working state agencies and Pan Am Railways, and has had discussions with Nestle Waters, the bottled water division of the Nestle Group, and Maine businesses about being a part of the project.
Local officials view the proposed project as a way to reinvent the borough, which has lost major industries over the years, and significantly grow the tax base.
“This is a necessary step in order for us to recapture the tax revenue that we lost when industry left Naugatuck,” Hess said about the proposed land deal and project.
Lanxess Corporation President and CEO Antonis Papadourakis said the corporation has been engaged with Hess and the borough since discussions of this project began several years ago. He anticipates moving forward with the agreement.
Papadourakis added the corporation supports the vision for Naugatuck, and the proposed Port of Naugatuck provides an opportunity to repurpose a facility for the benefit of the broader community.
“Lanxess is proud to be able to play a small part in the Port of Naugatuck project that could lead to a more efficient terminal process and may even attract additional jobs and economic opportunity for the region,” he said. “We look forward to working with the mayor and the borough on the agreement and collaborating on the next steps of making this a reality for the Naugatuck community.”

Waterbury, Naugatuck land for massive development subject to study for artifacts
MICHAEL PUFFER
WATERBURY – Waterbury and Naugatuck leaders are hoping to put a huge commercial or industrial development on a roughly 160-acre site straddling the border of the two municipalities.
But first, they need to make sure there’s no historically important settlements or artifacts hidden beneath the soil.
Last Friday, the Waterbury Development Corp. board of directors signed off on a $22,000 study to be conducted by Cheshire firm Milone & MacBroom. The study is intended to satisfy requirements of the State Historic Preservation Office.
It’s expected to be completed within two to three months, according to a memo by WDC Project Manager Zachary Keith.
Connecticut taxpayers are contributing $2.8 million to the project, courtesy of a vote of the Connecticut State Bond Commission. That money is intended to pay for the creation of a new roadway and underground utilities pushing in from Naugatuck. A portion of that funding can be used to pay for the study.
If any artifacts are found, it would prompt further study and archaeological work on the site, potentially delaying development efforts.
The $2.8 million state grant is expected to be enough to cover road and utilities costs for either of two proposed building scenarios. The most expensive would be to locate several large buildings on the property. The preferred alternative would be a single, massive, building. That would simplify the installation of a roadway and utilities, and significantly cut costs.
City and borough officials also see it as the best option in terms of taxes and jobs.
“I think that would provide a lot of economic development for the city and borough as well as job opportunities,” Waterbury Mayor Neil M. O’Leary said Tuesday.
The manner in which the city develops the site will be determined by the company or companies it and the borough are able to attract. O’Leary estimates the city would be ready to begin marketing the site by some point in December.

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