This is a time of extraordinary challenge and extraordinary uncertainty, says Alex Carrick, chief economist of ConstructConnect and CanaData, Canada’s construction forecasts conference.
The 35th edition of the live, three-day economic conference will be held virtually Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The theme of this year’s conference is The Perfect Storm and it will focus on forecasts against an unknown COVID-19 backdrop.
“We always say heading into the conference that there are times of uncertainty, but I don’t think there’s ever been times of uncertainty like this before,” said Carrick.
“It seems like all kinds of things have fallen on us all at once. There is political unrest everywhere, there are climate change issues and wildfires and then there is the not so small matter of the pandemic. It seems almost biblical the way things are going.”
Each day of the conference will focus on one of three subject areas: technology, demographics and economics.
“What this is, it’s an acceleration of innovation and I think that the conference is a natural evolution of that,” said Carrick. “If we hadn’t had the technological advances we’ve had over the last number of years, the economy would be in so much worse shape. We’re able to do video conferencing, companies are able to manage inventory and their staff and keep in touch with people in ways that were never possible before.”
In addition to providing information of key trends impacting the construction industry, the conference will also be interactive and allow attendees to participate in Q&A sessions and virtual networking events.
“A lot of people are feeling disconnected,” said Carrick. “With a conference like this you’re able to connect with people, you’re able to hear what other people are thinking and you’re able to stay current. That’s the really difficult challenge.”
Speakers on the first day of the conference include John Weigelt, national technology officer at Microsoft Canada; James Benham, CEO of JBKnowledge; and Jas Saraw, vice-president, Canada with Procore.
“The importance of technology is being shown on the stock markets,” Carrick explained. “All you have to do is consider the fact that the valuation of Zoom is greater than the valuation of the four biggest airlines in the United States.”
On the second day, speakers include Peter Norman, vice-president and chief economist with Altus Expert Service, Altus Group; Ray Wong, vice-president of data operations with Altus Group; Andrew Ramlo, vice-president, consulting at Rennie; and David Colleto, CEO of Abacus Data.
In addition to Carrick, who will outline the construction starts forecast, the third day speaker line-up features Peter Hall, vice-president and chief economist with Export Development Canada; Graham Robinson, global business consultant at Pinsent Masons LLP; and Timna Tanners, equity research analyst, metals and mining with the Bank of America.
“The technology subject areas are things that are going to impact construction like modular construction and wearables and drones and IoT devices. That’s one of the topic areas, but technology is also going to be required to come to the help of all of us when you get into topics on the second and the third day of the conference,” said Carrick.
“We will be talking about the outlook for the Canadian construction market.
“We have two speakers that will be talking on the subject of global economies and global construction markets, so it will be interesting to hear whether or not other parts of the world will be picking up possibly faster than North America or not.”
Carrick will also touch on subject areas such as mega projects, how shifts in personal preferences, such as working from home, will alter the residential and commercial construction outlook, deglobalization and construction costing.
Fifty per cent of the proceeds will go to the Yonge Street Mission’s COVID-19 response.
For more information visit https://canada.constructconnect.com/canadata.
Follow the author on Twitter @DCN_Angela.