I was fortunate to be selected by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) to be a representative for Wisconsin at a legislative conference in Washington D.C. Wow – what an experience! We went to Washington to discuss issues that affect our business and have an impact on our future. Here is what I learned about the issues facing architects:
1. As architects, most of us operate fairly independently as small businesses (over 95% of architectural firms employ 50 or fewer people and 80% of Wisconsin firms are 10 people or fewer).
2. We operate in an industry that accounts for one in nine dollars of the US Gross Domestic Product.
3. While the overall economy has suffered high unemployment, our industry has been hit especially hard. Since 2008, the employment level in architectural and engineering services has dropped from 21,000 to 18,000.
To speak to the issues facing architects, AIA identified four specific topics to share with our legislators that can make a difference in our industry:
1. Unfreeze credit to jump-start projects that are at risk by passing the Equal Treatment for Covered Bonds Act and the Capital Access for Main Street Act.
2. Remove regulatory burdens that hold small businesses back by repealing the 1099 filing requirement that takes effect in 2012 for goods and services exceeding $600.
3. Encourage energy-efficient upgrades to existing buildings by increasing the tax deduction currently in place or by converting the tax deduction into a permanent tax credit.
4. Pass a comprehensive transportation bill that addresses and promotes future development and improves the current transportation systems.
In the process, I was able to meet other architects from other parts of the nation, serving in many different roles. While we operate in numerous different areas and in many different industries, we face many of the same issues and are blessed to be in a profession that is bonded in a sense of kinship that is unique to architects. While I enjoyed my experience in Washington – a city built of marble, granite and bronze – I looked forward to coming home to my little brick house in the woods of northern Wisconsin…just in time to see the Green Bay Packers win the world championship. Maybe people from small towns and cities can do great things.