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Rural Infrastructure Development

The USDA (Dept. of Agriculture) is mandated to help farmers and rural parts of the country develop and prosper. One method is through USDA Rural Development loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; high-speed internet access, and community facilities such as schools, public safety, and health care.

Recent efforts include awarding a total of $1,684,647 in grants to rural Iowa farmers, ag producers, small businesses, and institutions. Other projects range from more than $17.8 million to complete improvements to the Cape Girardeau County Reorganized Common Sewer District’s centralized sewer treatment system, benefiting 3,723 residents in its service area to a $4.1 million loan to improve the water quality and pressure in the Four Corners and Rio Brazos service areas in Fort Bend County, Texas.

Updating Smart-Home Predictions

Research firms across all industries have had to adjust their predictions and estimates to accommodate the impact of COVID-19. For example, economic uncertainty, consumer spending constraints, restricted physical retail opportunities, installation restrictions, disrupted manufacturing, and distribution all have curbed smart home spending, reports ABI Research.

Consumer smart home spending will still grow in 2020 but well below pre-COVID-19 expectations. Smart-home revenues will reach $85 billion in 2020, just a 4% increase over 2019 while their pre-pandemic forecast for 2020 was 21% over 2019. The difference represents a $14.1 billion loss.

Commercial Disinfection During COVID-19

As shops along with hospitality and dining venues reopen for limited indoor access, making those returning customers feel save amid COVID-19 can be a challenge. Mask use and social distance arrangements help but another improvement in the location might add to the reassurance: air conditioning with disinfection.

Given the emerging research indicating airborne transmission of coronavirus, enhanced environmental hygiene initiatives—for complete protection—should include both surface and air disinfection. Air disinfection in high-touch areas like lobbies, reception desks, hotels, restaurants, exercise facilities, medical facilities, and other public spaces should also be considered.

Working Remotely—But Not at Home

The COVID-19 mandates, starting in March, caused many businesses considered “non-essential” to send their workers home, with some transitioning to remote workers while others were furloughed. Construction in some states stopped entirely for weeks or until the governor realized how essential construction was to the state, the people, and the economy. Now that the economy is opening up more, remote workers are returning to offices and trades are returning to their jobsites.

But the pandemic isn’t over and remote working can return in force at any time. Now, even construction work can be done “remotely,” on the jobsite, using wireless technology. On a construction site, wireless controllers can operate heavy machinery, such as concrete mixers and cranes. Remote operation provides a number of benefits, including reducing the amount of personnel on-site and keeping workers out of harm’s way.

Modular Construction’s Suite Life

Computers have been commonplace in construction companies for generations, now. The 1982 introduction of the IBM PC changed the relationship of companies with computing by bringing relatively inexpensive computing to the desktop of individuals and organizations alike. But in those early days, software was limited in capability by the limited memory and processing power of the PC. As both evolved, individual software applications were integrated into systems and suites of applications, providing greatly improved benefits to the user.

As computing changed businesses, businesses changed their approach to doing business. In construction, technology was giving architects and engineers digital design abilities via CAD and BIM (computer-aided design and building information modeling) while field applications, ranging from remote project monitoring to digital punch lists, brought technology to the jobsite. Meanwhile, offsite construction was also benefiting from technology as robotics changed the way modular and prefabricated buildings were assembled in the shop and later onsite.

Investment in Water Infrastructure

Are we investing enough in our water infrastructure? New data shows, the answer might be a little bit more complicated than it once was, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) recently created a status report on COVID-19’s impact on America’s infrastructure—and the outlook is bleak.

Hard and Harder for Infrastructure Reliability

The election has been stranger than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One area of importance that has been agreed upon by both major candidates is the need for increased investment in infrastructure.

Fiber to the Farms

Rural development loans and grants are being used to bring broadband Internet access to farms and small towns across the country. With many businesses and schools depending on remote work rather than in-person contact because of the COVID-19 pandemic, having Internet access is vital, not a luxury.

Nineteen recipients of a total of $75 million in federal grant funds under the Mississippi Broadband COVID-19 program, which is designed to help residents and businesses in unserved or underserved areas of the state get fast, reliable internet access in 2020, are required to match 50% of the overall cost of their individual project. This cost sharing approach will make the project a community partnership with the companies involved while allowing the companies to recoup their investments from long-term Internet access fees.

From $660 Billion to Foreclosure?

U.S. lodging industry contributes nearly $660 billion to U.S. GDP according to the AHLA (American Hotel & Lodging Assn.) With record low travel demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of independent hotels cannot afford to pay their commercial mortgages and are facing foreclosure with the potential of having to close permanently. Tens of thousands of hotel employees will lose their jobs and small businesses that depend on these hotels to drive local tourism and economic activity will likely face a similar fate.

A report, from research firm Trepp, shows that the hotel industry is facing a historic wave of foreclosures as COVID-19 continues to devastate the country. Since the beginning of the pandemic in February, the hotel segment has faced an increasing number of delinquencies and is the most heavily hit sector of the CMBS (commercial mortgage-backed securities) market.