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500 tons and what do you get?

p01 recycleEmployees work around some 78 conveyor belts that are part of the floor at Republic Services recycling facility in Hazelwood, Mo.

(Photo by Stephen Herring)
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH

    Years of educating the public about recycling is paying off, judging from the mountain of trash taken from Metro East to Republic Services’ sorting facility in Hazelwood, Mo.
    Some 500 tons a day of mixed material comes in to the plant, and nice, bundled, organized shipments of plastics, paper and aluminum go out. All of it is destined to be repurposed so it pops up again in consumers’ lives.
    St. Louis General Manager Brent Batliner, the fourth generation of his family to work in the recycling trade, has seen a world of change in the way trash is recovered. Machines do most of the sorting, but a team of workers must coordinate the process, making sure to separate what machines fail to catch.
    Making it easier to recycle has definitely improved participation, residentially and commercially, he said. Businesses that formerly had to devote room or dock space for separating their recyclables now find it a lot less cumbersome to toss them in the same outgoing bin. Many homeowners can now pitch everything into the same 95-gallon recycling cart and roll it to the curb.
    “That’s allowed recycling to just explode,” Batliner said.

By ALAN J. ORTBALS
    Construction is booming across the nation and the skilled workforce is having a hard time keeping up, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.
    Construction spending in September reached a new seven-year high and climbed at the fastest rate since early 2006, according to an analysis by the AGCA. But, while construction was strong overall, spending on nonresidential projects declined by 0.1 percent between August and September. The AGCA pointed to growing workforce shortages as likely impacting the amount of work firms were able to perform for the month.
    “Overall demand for construction continues to grow at a very robust rate,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “It appears, however, that many firms performing private nonresidential work could not find enough qualified workers in September to keep pace with growing demand.”
    Simonson offered that the reason for the skilled labor shortage in commercial work as opposed to residential may be due to greater complexity of the projects and need for higher skill levels in all trades.
    Construction spending in September totaled $1.094 trillion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, 0.6 percent higher than the August total and 14.1 percent higher than in September 2014, Simonson said. He noted that the total was the highest since March 2008 and the year-over-year growth rate was the strongest since January 2006, indicating a faster pace of construction spending overall.
    However, private nonresidential spending fell by 0.7 percent from August even as it remains 14.9 percent higher than a year earlier. The construction economist noted that while spending on sectors such as lodging, manufacturing and offices experienced significant year-over-year growth, most categories saw a decline in spending between August and September as firms struggled to replace retiring workers amid growing labor market tightness. There were only 479,000 unemployed construction workers in September, the smallest September total in 15 years, Simonson said, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    Eighty-six percent of firms responding to a recent AGCA survey reported having a hard time finding qualified workers to fill available positions. As a result, many firms are likely struggling to find enough staff to keep pace with the growing demand for construction services, prompting the slight drop in monthly construction spending in the private nonresidential sector, according to Simonson.
    One market that is particularly hot is multifamily residential. This sector has been strong for some time, according to Simonson, but he said he does not believe it’s been overbuilt.
    “Most people believe that we’ve hit the peak in the multifamily market,” Simonson said. “But so far the figures on vacancy rates remain very low; rents keep rising about 5 percent per year; and there is still a very high level of building permits for multifamily housing, so it looks like multifamily construction will remain hot for at least one more year.”
    The AGCA has expressed growing concern regarding the workforce shortage and has developed a 9-point plan to address it.

By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
p01 ngaU.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, right, discusses the potential move of NGA during a press conference at Scott AFB. Listening are St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern, left, and Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan.    SCOTT AFB — Metro East officials are going all-out to lure a federal intelligence agency to Southern Illinois, doubling their offer of free land on a proposed site that was a prime contender for the same project just a decade ago.
    But they face stiff competition from the home base of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency — the city of St. Louis, which is scrambling to buy up or otherwise acquire the necessary property to move the facility from the south side to the north side of the community, near Cass and North Jefferson Avenues.
    At stake is a project involving a $1.6 billion investment and more than 3,000 jobs. Two other, less touted sites are also possible, in Fenton and Mehlville, Mo.
    A contingent of local and federal leaders has come together in recent weeks to voice its support of the Illinois plan, which received a considerable boost when St. Clair County increased its offer of 182 acres alongside Scott Air Force Base by another 200 acres.
    St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said comments by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers triggered the land offer. The Corps has referred to the project as a “99-year decision,” meaning the need for a site that’s good for a century.
    “This would enable NGA to build for generations,” Kern said. “It would not only allow them to have additional buffer or building zone, but it would provide opportunities for NGA to do whatever they wanted on the site.”
    With the growing nature of cyber security, he said, NGA might find it useful to have the land available for potential cyber partners down the road.
    The Corps of Engineers released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement assessing the qualities of the four competing sites.
    Kern said the county is addressing some archaeological concerns that have been pointed out, involving an old German farmhouse on the land.
    “We’re ready to go to mitigate the site. We know we’re $150,000 away and about 45 days from having the site mitigated (analyzed and protected),” he said recently.
    “There are no other knocks (in the Corps’ report),” Kern said. “We have everything taken care of. There is nothing on this site that prohibits NGA from starting building in the first quarter of 2016. We know we are the only site that meets and exceeds the needs of the NGA.”
    Kern, Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and representatives of local congressmen gathered this past month for a press briefing at Scott AFB.

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photo1Jim Howard, left, Sheree Thacker, right middle, and Amy Fair, right, and the food that was delivered to the Crisis Food Center in Alton. Daily Supervisor Nick Kessinger, left middle, discussed the importance of the donations while the team was there.    ALTON — Five Madison County pantries are sharing in 25,500 pounds of food collected by the Alton office employees of Simmons Hanly Conroy.
    The 9th Annual Simmons Employee Foundation Food Drive collected 5,000 pounds each for the Crisis Food Center and the Salvation Army in Alton, the Community Hope Center in Cottage Hills, the Collinsville Area Ministerial Association’s Helping Hands Food Pantry in Collinsville and the Community Care Center in Granite City.
    “The Simmons Employee Foundation delivered multiple pallets to each pantry this year,” said Amy Fair, Simmons Employee Foundation director and head of the firm’s Asbestos Medical Department. “It is inspiring to see firm employees come together to help families who need extra support during the holiday season.”
    The SEF food drive started Oct. 9 and lasted through Nov. 20. Firm employees participated through several internal activities such as raffle tickets, Fan Day Fridays and a Halloween costume contest.
    “The food delivery from the Simmons Employee Foundation is very important to us,” said Nick Kessinger, daily supervisor at the Crisis Food Center in Alton. “We do well with donations, but during the summer they always slow down. With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming, this helps us catch up.”
    The Crisis Food Center helps an average of 25 to 30 families daily throughout the year. During the holiday season, the center serves approximately 40 to 45 families daily, with each family receiving a minimum of five days of food.
    Half of the families the center helps are seniors on fixed income, Kessinger said. The other half is made up of homeless, younger families, and people who have been laid off for months and need a helping hand to get back on their feet, he said.
    “At Simmons Hanly Conroy, we are dedicated to giving back to the communities we call home,” said John Simmons, Simmons Hanly Conroy Chairman. “The SEF food drive is just one of the many ways our employees are able to make a difference in people’s lives beyond the courtroom.”
photo2Nick Kessinger, of the Crisis Food Center in Alton, packs family boxes that will be distributed to local families in need.    In addition to the Alton location, the firm’s offices in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco participated in their own office-wide food drives. Pantries that received their donations include the Great Chicago Food Depository in Chicago, the OPCC in Los Angeles and the Marin Food Bank in San Francisco. The firm also donated $500 to each of these pantries.
    
About the Simmons Employee Foundation    
    
    In late 2004, the employees of Simmons Hanly Conroy came together to create a single, streamlined way for them to give back to the communities they are so proud to call home.  As a result of their creativity and heartfelt commitment, the Simmons Employee Foundation has provided over $1 million of financial support and countless volunteer hours to charitable organizations.
    
About Simmons Hanly Conroy, LLC
    
    Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms and has recovered more than $5 billion in verdicts and settlements for plaintiffs. Primary areas of litigation include asbestos and mesothelioma, pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental and personal injury. The firm’s attorneys have been appointed to leadership in numerous national multidistrict litigations, including Vioxx, Yaz and Toyota Unintended Acceleration. Offices are located in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Alton. Read more at www.simmonsfirm.com.