The Associated General Contractors of America unveiled a new plan today designed to revive the hardest hit sector of the economy, the nation’s construction industry. The plan, “Build Now for the Future: A Blueprint for Economic Growth,” is designed to reverse predictions that construction activity will continue to shrink through 2010, crippling broader economic growth.

“The problems facing the construction industry aren’t just devastating construction workers, they are crippling our broader economy,” said Stephen Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “Simply put, you can’t fix our economy until you fix the construction industry.” The mix of new incentives, tax cuts, policy revisions and infrastructure investments outlined in the plan are needed to stem the dramatic decline in construction activity and employment taking place nationwide, Sandherr said. He added that a new analysis of federal employment data conducted by the association found construction employment declined in 324 of 337 metropolitan areas between August 2008 and 2009.

Sandherr said the hardest hit area of the country was Reno-Sparks, Nev., which lost 35 percent of its construction workforce. Following close behind were Duluth, Minn., which saw a 33 percent decline; Tucson, Ariz., which saw a 31 percent decline; Wenatchee, Wash., which saw a 30 percent decline; and Redding, Calif., which saw a 28 percent decline in its construction workforce.

He added that communities that avoid declines in construction employment had little to celebrate. Taken together, the 13 areas saw a total increase in construction employment of 2,800 people. During the same time, the industry lost 1 million jobs, Sandherr added. Only one community saw a double-digit increase, Columbus, Ind., at 14 percent, Sandherr noted. Anderson, Ind., was next with a 6 percent increase, followed by Tulsa, Okla.; Longview, Wash.; and Baton Rouge, La., all with a 3 percent increase.

Sandherr said the recovery plan’s primary focus was on stimulating new private-sector construction activity, which accounts for 70 percent of the market. He said the plan calls for repealing the alternative minimum tax and increasing and extending a series of tax credits and cuts – including the net operating loss carry back and the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts - to boost investments in real estate development.

He added that many of the infrastructure investments would be funded by increases in existing user fees, new trust funds, private investments and new bonding authority. He noted studies have found that every billion dollars worth of nonresidential construction activity supports over 28,500 jobs, boosts gross domestic product by $3.4 billion and raises personal earnings by $1.1 billion.