This region was built by laborers, and they are the foundation of our community. For decades we have worked tremendously hard to create good labor and management relations, and today we can see the benefits of that hard work with projects like Build the Block.
Laborers have called it “one of the finest examples of labor-management cooperation we’ve seen in a long time.” The project will be done by local laborers, and I believe that is a true testament to the labor relations of our region. This project means roughly $140 million worth of construction. The 25-month construction phase will create the region’s own economic stimulus package, generating more than 250 local union jobs each month and $1.8 million in monthly labor payroll.
If you look back just a couple of decades, you can see how much things have changed. After the recession in the 1980s, foreign competitors took a big chunk of the workforce. Take Caterpillar, for example. The company was producing in perhaps 10 countries back then; today, it manufactures in nearly two dozen countries. Yesterday, the company was much more dependent on Peoria and the U.S. as a whole; today, like many other companies, Caterpillar is global.
Also in the 1980s, the manufacturing industry (which employed a majority of common laborers in this region) started turning to machines to do work instead of people. That meant many companies, including Caterpillar, stopped hiring the common laborer. The laborer had to change to keep up with the changing times. Today, being a laborer doesn’t always mean an assembly line or a get-your-hands-dirty kind of job. There is a whole new face to labor, one that requires more skilled workers with stronger backgrounds in science, math and technical skills.
The current economic recession has wreaked havoc on the trades. In August 2008, they had more work than they could handle, then, within a couple of months, $2 billion worth of work was put on hold or completely stopped. Turn the page to the present day, the second half of 2009, and we are starting to see some of that growth return. OSF Saint Francis and Methodist Medical Center have spent nearly $500 million updating their facilities. Bradley University recently did a major upgrade, and there are orange cones up all over the place with work happening on every major roadway in the region. While we are seeing some empty storefronts, on the next block, we’re seeing construction crews.
We are working! iBi