Market Watch

Bond Measures Notch Big Ballot Box Wins

National pass time

In addition to deciding high-profile gubernatorial, House, and Senate races, voters in the 2022 midterm elections approved significant construction-related bonds that will benefit AE and environmental firms for years to come. According to Bloomberg, taxpayers authorized at least $44 billion in state and local government debt sales—a passage rate of 83%.


Even amid record inflation and gasoline prices, voters in 18 states approved nearly 400 state and local funding measures that will generate more than $20 billion for transportation infrastructure projects, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. Texas led the way with 114 ballot measures totaling $12.9 billion. Sales tax extensions to fund transportation projects passed in El Paso County, Colorado, and San Francisco, but similar efforts failed in California’s Fresno and Sacramento counties; Florida’s Hillsborough and Orange counties; and Arizona’s Pinal County.

School report cards

Austin voters green-lighted a $2.4 billion bond package to upgrade and modernize schools along with $770 million for community college facilities, while a $1.7 billion school construction bond measure is on pace to pass in Long Beach, California. Wisconsin voters backed $1.4 billion in school district financing. In North Carolina, Durham County voters supported $424 million in bonds for schools and $113 million for Durham Technical Community College while neighboring Wake County approved $531 million for schools and $353 million for Wake Technical Community College.

Green thumbs up

Voters in New York state backed a $4.2 billion bond measure to pay for environmental projects that will include flood control, clean water infrastructure, and climate change mitigation initiatives. Affordable housing proposals received support in blue and red states alike, according to Moody’s Analytics. Austin voters approved a $350 million affordable housing bond, while Moody’s reports that a statewide affordable housing initiative that passed in Colorado could result in the construction of 170,000 homes and rental units over the next 20 years. An $850 million bond initiative to fund infrastructure and affordable housing passed in Oakland as did a “mansion tax” that could raise $600 million to $1.1 billion a year for tens of thousands of new affordable housing units in Los Angeles. A $1.5 billion bond package authorized in Columbus, Ohio, includes funding for affordable housing and municipal infrastructure.

Technology Corner

Managing Personal Smartphones’ Cybersecurity Risks

Being vulnerable

When personal smartphone use for business activities surged with the COVID-19 pandemic, it brought not just convenience and accessibility benefits—but cybersecurity threats as well. This is especially true for business travelers who connect to public Wi-Fi systems and USB ports, which present particular cybersecurity risks. More than half (55%) of IT security professionals surveyed by the Ponemon Institute in 2020 reported that smartphones were their organizations’ most vulnerable endpoint.

Security concerns

An April 2022 report sponsored by Samsung and authored by Oxford Economics found that 15% of surveyed businesses distributed smartphones to all employees while 46% issued smartphones to some staff and let the rest use their personal smartphones and 39% were fully Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). According to the 2021 BYOD Security Report from Cybersecurity Insiders, organizations’ top security concern with the use of personal devices such as smartphones is data leakage or loss (cited by 62% of those surveyed) followed by users downloading unsafe apps or content (54%), lost or stolen devices (53%), and malware (51%). 

Gone phishing

Smartphones are becoming increasing targets of cybercriminals. According to Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigation Report, 58% of mobile phones had at least one malicious URL clicked and 16% had one malware or riskware app installed in the previous year. Verizon also reported that 18% of phishing e-mail clicks occurred on mobile devices, and the Samsung study found 48% of BYOD companies had malware introduced through employees’ personal phones. Of the organizations surveyed by Cybersecurity Insiders, only 11% used cloud-based malware protection, while 41% relied on endpoint malware protection and 30% didn’t protect against BYOD malware at all

Step by step

IT experts advise firms to take several precautions to reduce their risks from personal smartphone use. Mobile Device Management (MDM) packages can immediately detect security vulnerabilities and force regular backups of files and configurations. Yet, only 40% of BYOD companies surveyed by Samsung had MDM software in place. Companies should require employees to immediately install patches and operating system updates, but an October 2022 study by SonicWall found that 78% of organizations failed to install patches within 24 hours of availability. Additional protective steps include installing anti-virus programs for smartphones, requiring multi-factor authentication, implementing an Acceptable Use Policy with clear rules for employees, and regularly educating staff of dangers such as clicking on links in unsolicited texts and e-mails.

The New Workplace

New Study Highlights Architecture Firms’ Diversity Challenges

Get engaged

“More work is needed” to improvediversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) inside architecture firms, according to a November 2022 survey by the U.S. General Services Administration and Dodge Construction Network. Only 23% of surveyed architects reported “high engagement” with DEI activities while 31% reported “moderate engagement” and 46% reported “little/no engagement” (a number that rises to 60% inside small firms). More than one-quarter (26%) of architects said that owner use of diversity as a selection criterion would create a major burden for their companies.

Training days

Training that promotes a more diverse, inclusive, and positive workplace culture has been the most widely adopted DEI initiative by architecture firms. The survey found that 58% of architects worked for firms that offered DEI training—including 48% of small firms, 55% of midsize firms, and 83% of large firms. The next most common measures undertaken by architecture firms were considering DEI when selecting other team members (cited by 42%) and a code of ethics that includes a DEI focus (39%).

Hire grounds

While recruitment practices are critical components of DEI strategies, 42% of architects reported that their companies lacked formalized recruitment policies—a percentage that rose to 65% at small firms. Only 23% said their firms had initiatives in place—such as consideration of nontraditional and blind interviews—to diversify their hiring. Surprisingly, 40% of architects in large firms said their companies relied solely on standard nondiscrimination language in their recruitment policies to prioritize diversity. While acknowledging the challenge for small firms, the report concluded “a codified policy could help make the goal more top-of-mind when actively recruiting new people.” 

Organic remedies

Only 14% of architects reported that their firms had formal paths for staff advancement that included increasing leadership diversity—while 13% had no clear path and 61% said there was no formalized path. “These findings suggest that the profession is largely relying on organic changes to make its leadership more diverse,” the study noted. “However, the low levels of diversity present in the leadership of the profession at this point suggest that a more intentional approach is required.”

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