Construction labor crunch = Greater Knoxville opportunities

    Leon Williams Contractors an attractive place to work


    “Labor shortage.”

    “Major fixes needed.”

    “Shifting construction plans.”

    Google it if you dare, but that’s just the hint of headlines that abound about a growing labor scarcity in the design-build construction fields.

    But what some may call scarcity, we call opportunity. Our current labor force at Leon Williams Contractors is qualified, skilled and highly sufficient, but we are always looking for skilled additions to our team.

    The U.S. unemployment rate – at 4.3 percent as of Aug. 10, is back to pre-Recession levels, if not less. Many markets – including Knoxville – are seeing jobless rates below 3 percent. That means there is stiff competition for construction laborers and skilled craftsmen in the Knoxville and Maryville areas.

    That also means skilled workers can shop themselves around before committing to new opportunities. But our history and reputation as a leading East Tennessee design-build firm already makes us stand apart from other companies, and we tend to attract and retain the best minds and hands in the industry.

    Send your resume today to if you are interested in joining our team and taking your construction career to the next level.

    In the meantime, for some perspective on the opportunities that await, here is a quick by-the-numbers snapshot of the current labor situation:

    • 56 percent of home builders report a lack of skilled laborers is a major issue.
    • 75 percent of builders say they have recently increased wages.
    • 40 percent of the workforce in some markets is foreign born. Many of those workers left the American workforce during the Recession.
    • 500,000 skilled electricians and carpenters are needed nationally. If a national infrastructure-repair plan ever came to fruition that number would grow to 1.1 million.

    The issue is complex, and the answers are not easy, but we are committed to maintaining a workforce that can build the Maryville, Knoxville and East Tennessee economies.

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    Is your business expanding? The pros and cons of building for growth

    The team at Leon Williams Contractors, LLC, offers complete general contractor services, including a full range of construction services, pre-construction consultation and site assessment, construction management, value engineering, and construction management. Regardless of the size and scope of the project, the team at Leon Williams Contractors delivers outstanding, on-time and on-budget results and can assist your business when it comes time for building for growth of your business. 

    As many businesses are looking to expand their operations to meet the demands of their customers, one question that we often discuss with clients is understanding the pros and cons of building a new space for expected expansion versus expanding the build of an existing location to meet anticipated needs. This question can also be considered for worship centers as well; a recent project that our teams worked on for Foothills Church shows the importance of determining the best choices for expansion for your organization.

    Building for Growth with Leon Williams Contractors
    Understanding Expansion Planning with existing locations
    Regardless of the business that you are in, expansion of your reach is a process that will involve a large number of moving parts before you make the move to expand. From a practical standpoint, taking stock of your current building location to see if you have additional space to grow should be one of the first steps in the process of expansion. 

    For industrial and manufacturing clients, engaging with a design/build firm to determine if your existing space will support an expansion of your current footprint can offer excellent insight in the creation of an expansion plan with the resources that you have in place. Retail and restaurant clients may have specific restrictions in their existing space, which may necessitate a move to a new, larger location that would help your business expand your retail or dining space to better serve a larger volume of customers at this new location. 

    Building for Growth
    No matter the type of business that you are looking to expand, planning for growth should include planning for the future of your business. From a strategic standpoint, while you may be thinking about this next step of expansion, consider what the next step will be after this step. If your business continues to grow, ask yourself how you would want to proceed when you decide to grow your business again.

    Having a partner like Leon Williams Contractors, LLC, will allow you to use our design/build, pre-construction consultation and site assessment, as well as our value engineering services, to not only plan your initial expansion, but to determine the best ways to help your business grow to meet the demands of your clients over time.

    To learn more about Leon Williams Contractors and how we can provide the services to help your business expand on a schedule that makes sense for your individual business needs, please contact us today to find out how we can assist you with your next project.

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    What to Know about OSHA’s New Injury Reporting Rules

    Earlier in September of this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised and finalized its rules for reporting industry injuries. Under the new severe-injuries-and-illness reporting requirements, employers must not only notify OSHA within eight hours after a worker is killed on the job, but also within 24 hours after an employee suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.

    Before the revision, businesses were only required to notify OSHA after a fatality occurred or when three or more employees were hospitalized from a single incident. Unlike other industries, members of the commercial construction business have never been exempt from OSHA reporting but still, there are some key items to take away from the recent revision.

    • Employers in states with state-run OSHA plans are encouraged to check with their local agencies regarding the implementation date. Federal OSHA is currently pushing for a January 1 deadline nationwide.
    • Companies with less than 10 employees remain exempt from record-keeping requirements and OSHA is in the process of developing an electronic reporting method.
    • Building material and supply dealers, building and dwelling service providers, commercial and industry machinery and equipment rental and leasing firms, and facility support service providers are now covered under the new rules.
    • Some industries are still partially exempt from the new rules such as architectural, engineering and related services, computer systems design and related services, management, scientific and technical consulting services, and schools, technical schools, colleges and universities

    The continual alterations to OSHA rules, regulations and reporting have benefitted the commercial construction industry and beyond immensely. In 2013, workplace deaths in the construction industry fell by another 1 percent and the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the industry’s 2013 fatality rate fell by .5 percent compared to 2012 to 9.4 percent.

    Being fully integrated into the commercial construction industry means Leon Williams Contractors understand, abide by and appreciate OSHA standards. Without them, construction in East Tennessee and in general would not be able to grow as fast or as safely as it has been since the organization was enacted more than 40 years ago.

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    Construction Laws You Need to Know

    The foundation of commercial construction has many factors including codes and legality. The laws behind the industry have been put in place for contractors to abide by in order to provide best practices, facilitate compliance, and advocate improvements. Construction law also governs disputes that may occur between the contractor and the client.

    At Leon Williams Contractors, we keep a watchful eye on all aspects of the commercial construction industry – including codes and laws. Being a trusted East Tennessee design-build firm, we also understand how much variance in laws exist from state to state. While laws regarding construction disputes are similar to those found in other parts of the nation, Tennessee has recently made some amendments to parts of its construction laws:

    • General contractors cannot have a similar license name to an existing licensee. New for 2014, this ruling relative to licensure of contractors was recently amended and now, Tennessee general contractors will be denied any application if the board determines that the name they would like to use is identical with or nearly similar to an existing licensee.
    • The Sunset Law that govern the Tennessee state board who oversee licensing contractors has been extended. From now until June 30, 2020, the current board will remain the same.

    While these amendments may seem minor, it shows how often construction law is altered statewide. The reason for the constant changes can be attributed to the growing interest in commercial construction tactics. Newer methods for design-build firms to utilize on a day-to-day basis need rules and regulations to ensure projects are completed legally as well as safely.

    As sustainability grows in popularity, more rulings regarding building codes and ethics are making headlines as well. The International Green Construction Code (IgCC) was the first model code to include sustainability measures for the entire construction project and its site and was recently treated to a round of proposed changes for 2015 with hearings and voting taking place throughout the month of October.

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    OSHA Proposes Silica Dust Rules to Protect Workers’ Lungs

    Last year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration proposed new rules to protect workers from potential health hazards of crystalline silica particles, which some experts say can contribute to developing lung cancer, kidney disease, respiratory illnesses and silicosis – a progressive, incurable disease.

    The proposed new rules are undergoing a process of public comment and review, which began in March 2014, before a final decision is made to implement them – or not – but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a topic of controversy in the construction industry. Some national building associations are calling for more feasible and cost-effective regulations to keep workers safe rather than the current proposed rules, which some independent sources say will cost the construction industry $1 billion a year in compliance.

    Understanding the source

    Silica is an industrial material found in nature that occurs in several forms including quartz, which is a component of rock, concrete, brick, block, mortar and other commons construction materials.

    Those who work with glass manufacturing, cement cutting, demolition, sandblasting and more are at risk for inhaling small silica particles, which could lead to lung diseases and scarring of the lungs. The current rules for exposure are nearly 40 years old, which prompted OSHA to take a closer look at new regulations.

    Raising hazard awareness and prevention

    Awareness is a big factor to help prevent workplace exposure. The most severe exposure can occur during blasting with sand to remove paint and rust from structures like bridges, concrete and other surfaces as well as concrete drilling, block cutting and sawing.

    What can commercial construction companies and contractors do to help mitigate the risks?

    1)    Choose to replace crystalline silica materials with safer alternatives

    2)    Use protective equipment and measures when exposure cannot be avoided

    3)    Wear only NIOSH-certified respirators

    4)    Participate in training and health screening and surveillance programs

    5)    Do not eat, drink, smoke or apply cosmetics in areas where silica dust is present

    At Leon Williams Contractors, we definitely believe in being proactive. What is your take on the new silica dust rules?

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