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November 23, 2014

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SIX QUESTIONS:

Dana Wiggins, labor relations manager of Associated General Contractors

Reflections on the construction boom and its fallout

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Steve Marcus

Dana Wiggins, labor relations manager of the Associated General Contractors, says it’s possible that Las Vegas will never again see the kind of building boom witnessed in the past few years. “It’s bad,” he says. “The architects are literally not drawing any new projects.”

Las Vegas-native Dana Wiggins has lived through many a construction boom. Yet nothing prepared the labor relations manager at Associated General Contractors, a construction trade organization, for what he witnessed the past few years as towers rose rapidly on the Strip and off.

The fallout from the boom included 12 deaths, injuries and construction problems, such as issues at the Harmon tower.

With commercial construction taking a dive in this economy, Wiggins reflected on the high-flying days.

Did you ever see anything like the past few years?

I’ve seen them build fast here before but we didn’t have the problem with the deaths, the injuries, what’s going on at the Harmon, because back then they had enough qualified supervision. This time, they just ran out of qualified people. You had men in supervision who couldn’t spell that word. The contractors and the unions did the best they could with what they had. They tried to do it right.

How did they find workers?

People came in from out of town. I’m not sure they were as highly qualified as the people trained here.

What’s different here?

This town has always been known for building hotels faster than anyplace in the world. We do it by a process guys need to learn. We do what they call fliers, full-floor forms that fly in. Most jobs outside of Las Vegas pour one floor every few weeks, but here we do one floor a week.

What’s it like right now?

It’s bad. The architects are literally not drawing any new projects. The guys that have jobs now are lucky, but their jobs are going to be coming to an end. We better hope this economic stimulus gets us the money to build some infrastructure projects.

Do you think there are any lessons to be learned?

The union and employers together are looking to pass laws at the Legislature to require safety training for construction workers. That’s important.

What else will be different when work starts up?

I don’t really know what else you can do. The work went so fast here and there just wasn’t anybody available. But I don’t think you’re going to see a boom like that for a long, long time — if ever. That was one heck of a boom.

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