Guidance on preparing workplaces for a pandemic

Posted on March 20, 2020 by Jorie Helms


In the event of a pandemic, employers have a key role in protecting the safety and health of their employees as well as in limiting the impact on the economy and society.  A business may experience employee absences and interrupted supply and delivery schedules.  Good planning will allow employers in both the public and private sectors to better address issues that will arise. 

While there is a difference between seasonal flu and a pandemic respiratory virus, symptoms and response can be the same or similar.  Seasonal flu is an annual occurrence.  Many get sick and unfortunately, deaths do occur.  Vaccines are available and many have some immunity.  A “new” virus such as COVID-19 may have worldwide implications.  Initially there is no immunity and there are no vaccines; this may result in higher levels of illness, death, social disruption, and economic loss. 

Implications in the workplace and for your business can vary widely depending on the product or service you provide.  Many “critical” industries are already mandated to have pandemic plans in place.  This list includes: Government Facilities, Dams, Commercial Facilities, Nuclear Power Plants, Critical Infrastructure, Food and Agriculture, Public Health and Healthcare, Banking and Finance, Chemical and Hazardous Materials, Defense Industrial Base, Water, Energy, Emergency Services, Information Technology, Telecommunications, Postal and Shipping, Transportation, and National Monuments and Icons. 

How a Pandemic Can Affect the Workplace 

While your business may not be considered a “critical industry”, implications for being unprepared may have significant impacts on your business and employees as follows:

  • Absenteeism - A pandemic could affect a large percent of the workforce.  Employees could be absent because they are sick, they must care for family members, they are afraid to come to work, or unbeknown to the employer, the employee may have died. 
  • Change in patterns of commerce – Consumer demand for items related to infection control is likely to increase, while interest in other goods may decline.  They may change the ways they shop.  They may try to shop at off-peak hours to reduce contact with others, or show increased interest in home delivery services, or drive-through service, to reduce person-to-person contact. 
  • Interrupted supply/delivery - Shipments from geographic areas severely affected may be delayed or canceled.  We live in a global economy so this may greatly affect business.

Employee risks of occupational exposure to a virus during a pandemic may vary from very high to high, medium, or lower (caution) risk.  The level of risk depends in part on whether or not jobs require close proximity to people potentially infected with the virus, or whether they are required to have either repeated or extended contact with known or suspected sources of pandemic virus such as coworkers, the general public, outpatients, school children or other such individuals or groups. 

Pandemic planning resources are based on past pandemic scenarios and would apply to COVID-19 pending further information.  It is unlikely that any significant changes will be made to this guidance. 

Additional guidance information and documents specifically for pandemic planning and response for business as bulleted below can be found on OSHA's Pandemic Influenza website, and on the CDC website

Specific checklists for business planning including those with overseas operations can be found on the CDC website

Maintaining Operations During a Pandemic 

As an employer, you have an important role in protecting employee health and safety and limiting the impact of an influenza pandemic. OSHA recommends a systematic approach to planning.  

Develop a Disaster Plan That Includes Pandemic Preparedness

Issues to consider and plan for:

  • Be aware of and review federal, regional, and local health department pandemic plans, and integrate into your plan.  
  • Prepare and plan for operations with a reduced workforce. 
  • Develop a sick leave policy that does not penalize sick employees, thereby encouraging those who are sick to stay home. Recognize that employees with ill family members may need to stay home to care for them.
  • Identify possible exposure and health risks to your employees.
  • Minimize exposure to fellow employees or the public.
  • Identify business-essential positions and people required to sustain business-necessary functions and operations. Prepare to cross-train or develop ways to function in the absence of these positions.
  • Plan for downsizing services but also anticipate any scenario which may require a surge in your services.
  • Recognize that, in the course of normal daily life, all employees will have non-occupational risk factors at home and in community settings.
  • Stockpile items such as soap, tissue, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies & recommended PPE.
  • Provide employees and customers with easy access to infection control supplies.
  • Develop policies and practices that distance employees from each other, customers and the general public.
  • Identify a team to serve as a communication source so that employees and customers can have accurate information during the crisis.
  • Work with employees & their union(s) to address leave, pay, transportation, childcare, absence & other human resource issues.
  • Provide training, education and informational material about business-essential job functions and employee health and safety.
  • Work with your insurance companies, and state and local health agencies to provide information to employees and customers about medical care in the event of a pandemic.
  • Assist employees in managing additional stressors related to the pandemic.

Protecting Your Employees

For most employers, protecting their employees will depend on stressing proper hygiene (disinfecting hands and surfaces) and practicing social distancing.  Social distancing means reducing the frequency, proximity, and duration of contact between people (both employees and customers) to reduce the chances of spreading the virus and illness from person-to-person. 

OSHA, and the safety profession at large, recognizes and encourages the framework called the "hierarchy of controls" to select ways of dealing with workplace hazards.  An expanded discussion of these 4 levels of control can be found on the OSHA website referenced above however, in brief, there are 4 levels of control: 

  • Work Practice Controls
  • Engineering Controls 
  • Administrative Controls 
  • Personal Protective Equipment.

Work Practice and Engineering Controls 

Historically, infection control professionals have relied on personal protective equipment (for example, surgical masks and gloves) to serve as a physical barrier in order to prevent the transmission of an infectious disease from one person to another.  This reflects the fact that close interactions with infectious patients is an unavoidable part of many healthcare occupations.  The principles of industrial hygiene demonstrate that work practice controls and engineering controls can also serve as barriers to transmission and are less reliant on employee behavior to provide protection.  

Work practice controls are procedures for safe and proper work that are used to reduce the duration, frequency or intensity of exposure to a hazard.  When defining safe work practice controls, it is a good idea to ask your employees for their suggestions, since they have firsthand experience with the tasks.  These controls should be understood and followed by managers, supervisors and employees.  When work practice controls are insufficient to protect employees, some employers may also need engineering controls.

Engineering controls involve making changes to the work environment to reduce work-related hazards. These types of controls are preferred over all others because they make permanent changes that reduce exposure to hazards and do not rely on employee or customer behavior.  By reducing a hazard in the workplace, engineering controls can be the most cost-effective solutions for employers to implement.

Coronavirus disease is NOT known to spread through ventilation systems or through water.

During a pandemic, engineering controls may be effective in reducing exposure to some sources of pandemic influenza and not others.  For example, installing sneeze guards between customers and employees would provide a barrier to transmission.  The use of barrier protections, such as sneeze guards, is common practice for both infection control and industrial hygiene.  However, while the installation of sneeze guards may reduce or prevent transmission between customers and employees, transmission may still occur between coworkers.  Therefore, administrative controls and public health measures should be implemented along with engineering controls.

 Examples of work practice controls include: 

  • Providing resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. For example, provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, and disposable towels for employees to clean their work surfaces.
  • Encouraging employees to obtain a seasonal influenza vaccine (this helps to prevent illness from seasonal influenza strains that may continue to circulate). 
  • Providing employees with up-to-date education and training on influenza risk factors, protective behaviors, and instruction on proper behaviors (for example, cough ettiquette and care of personal protective equipment).

  • Developing policies to minimize contacts between employees and between employees and clients or customers.

More information about protecting yourself, your coworkers and employees, and your family can be found at

 Examples of engineering controls include: 

  • Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects: use soap and water, a bleach and water solution, or approved products to clean items such as handrails and doorknobs (always follow product label directions) 
  • Installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards.
  • Installing a drive-through window for customer service.
  • Coronavirus disease is NOT known to spread through ventilation systems or through water.

Administrative Controls 

Administrative controls include controlling employees' exposure by scheduling their work tasks in ways that minimize their exposure levels. Examples of administrative controls include: 

  • Developing policies that encourage ill employees to stay at home without fear of any reprisals.
  • The discontinuation of unessential travel to locations with high illness transmission rates.
  • Consider practices to minimize face-to-face contact between employees such as e-mail, websites and teleconferences. Where possible, encourage flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting or flexible work hours to reduce the number of your employees who must be at work at one time or in one specific location.
  • Consider home delivery of goods and services to reduce the number of clients or customers who must visit your workplace.
  • Developing emergency communications plans.  Maintain a forum for answering employees' concerns. Develop internet-based communications if feasible. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) 

While administrative and engineering controls and proper work practices are considered to be more effective in minimizing exposure to the influenza virus, the use of PPE may also be indicated during certain exposures.  If used correctly, PPE can help prevent some exposures; however, they should not take the place of other prevention interventions, such as engineering controls, cough etiquette, and hand hygiene (see  

Examples of personal protective equipment are gloves, goggles, face shields, surgical masks, and respirators (for example, N-95).  It is important that personal protective equipment be: 

  • Selected based upon the hazard to the employee;
  • Properly fitted and some must be periodically refitted (e.g., respirators);
  • Conscientiously and properly worn;
  • Regularly maintained and replaced, as necessary;
  • Properly removed and disposed of to avoid contamination of self, others or the environment. 

Employers are obligated to provide their employees with protective gear needed to keep them safe while performing their jobs.  Check the website for the latest guidance. 

Steps Every Employer Can Take to Reduce the Risk of Exposure to a Pandemic in Their Workplace

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection.  The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • Encourage sick employees to stay at home.
  • Encourage your employees to wash their hands frequently with soap and water or with hand sanitizer if there is no soap or water available. Also, encourage your employees to avoid touching their noses, mouths, and eyes.
  • Encourage your employees to cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or to cough and sneeze into their upper sleeves if tissues are not available. All employees should wash their hands or use a hand sanitizer after they cough, sneeze or blow their noses.
  • Employees should avoid close contact with their coworkers and customers (maintain a separation of at least 6 feet). They should avoid shaking hands and always wash their hands after contact with others. Even if employees wear gloves, they should wash their hands upon removal of the gloves in case their hand(s) became contaminated during the removal process.
  • Provide customers and the public with tissues and trash receptacles, and with a place to wash or disinfect their hands.
  • Keep work surfaces, telephones, computer equipment and other frequently touched surfaces and office equipment clean. Be sure that any cleaner used is safe and will not harm your employees or your office equipment. Use only disinfectants registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and follow all directions and safety precautions indicated on the label.
  • Discourage your employees from using other employees' phones, desks, offices or other work tools and equipment.
  • Minimize situations where groups of people are crowded together, such as in a meeting. Use e-mail, phones and text messages to communicate with each other. When meetings are necessary, avoid close contact by keeping a separation of at least 6 feet, where possible, and assure that there is proper ventilation in the meeting room.
  • Reducing or eliminating unnecessary social interactions can be very effective in controlling the spread of infectious diseases. Reconsider all situations that permit or require employees, customers, and visitors (including family members) to enter the workplace. Workplaces which permit family visitors on site should consider restricting/eliminating that option during an influenza pandemic. Work sites with on-site day care should consider in advance whether these facilities will remain open or will be closed, and the impact of such decisions on employees and the business.
  • Promote healthy lifestyles, including good nutrition, exercise, and smoking cessation. A person's overall health impacts their body's immune system and can affect their ability to fight off, or recover from, an infectious disease. 

These are everyday habits that can help prevent the spread of several viruses. They are the same guidelines that can help prevent the spread of seasonal flu and the common cold. 

Workplaces Classified at Lower Exposure Risk (caution) for Pandemic: What to do to protect employees

If your workplace does not require employees to have frequent contact with the general public, basic personal hygiene practices and social distancing can help protect employees at work.  Follow general hygiene and social distancing practices recommended for all workplaces.  Also, try the following: 

  • Communicate to employees what options may be available to them for working from home.
  • Communicate the office leave policies, policies for getting paid, transportation issues, and day care concerns.
  • Make sure that your employees know where supplies for hand hygiene are located.
  • Monitor public health communications about pandemic flu recommendations and ensure that your employees also have access to that information.
  • Work with your employees to designate a person(s), website, bulletin board, or other means of communicating important pandemic flu information.

More information about protecting employees and their families can be found at:

Workplaces Classified at Medium Exposure Risk for Pandemic: What to do to protect employees

Medium risk workplaces require frequent close contact between employees or with the general public (such as high-volume retail stores).  If this contact cannot be avoided, there are practices to reduce the risk of infection.  In addition to the basic work practices that every workplace should adopt, medium risk occupations require employers to address enhanced safety and health precautions.  Below are some of the issues that employers should address when developing plans for workplace safety and health during a pandemic.

Work Practice and Engineering Controls 

  • Instruct employees to avoid close contact (within 6 ft/2m) with other employees and the general public.  This can be accomplished by simply increasing the distance between the employee and the general public in order to avoid contact with large droplets from people talking, coughing or sneezing.
  • Some organizations can expand internet, phone-based, drive-through window, or home delivery customer service strategies to minimize face-to-face contact. Work with your employees to identify new ways to do business that can also help to keep employees and customers safe and healthy.
  • Communicate the availability of medical screening or other employee health resources (e.g., on-site nurse or employee wellness program to check for flu-like symptoms before employees enter the workplace).
  • Employers also should consider installing physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards, to protect employees where possible (such as cashier stations). 

Administrative Controls 

  • Work with your employees so that they understand the office leave policies, policies for getting paid, transportation issues, and day care concerns.
  • Make sure that employees know where supplies for hand and surface hygiene are located.
  • Work with your employees to designate a person(s), website, bulletin board or other means of communicating important pandemic flu information.
  • Use signs to keep customers informed about symptoms of the flu, and ask sick customers to minimize contact with your employees until they are well.
  • Your workplace may consider limiting access to customers and the general public, or ensuring that they can only enter certain areas of your workplace. 

For More Information

Federal, regional, and local government agencies are the best source of information should a pandemic occur.  It is important to stay informed about the latest developments and recommendations since specific guidance may change based upon the characteristics of the eventual pandemic influenza strain, (for example, severity of disease, importance of various modes of transmission).

Below are several recommended websites that you can rely on for the most current and accurate information:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website 

CDC Coronovirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; offers one-stop access, including toll-free phone numbers, to U.S. government avian and pandemic flu information.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration website 

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health website

U.S. Food and Drug Administration website

Public Health Agency of Canada


Diligence, Prevention, & Mitigation are Key 

Following recognized practices to avoid exposures common to any respiratory virus will help to keep the threat posed by Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) in check.

Proper planning can help protect your employees, customers, and your business. 

HUB International is also monitoring developments in order to offer assistance and guidance to our clients as they weigh their potential responses to this developing situation.  

Additional information on managing a public health emergency in the workplace can be found at  

Please reach out to your local HUB service team if you have any questions or if we can be of any assistance. 

For Additional Information:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

CDC Travelers’ Health: Novel Coronavirus in China

CDC Health Alert Network Advisory Update and Interim Guidance on Outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Wuhan, China

CDC Health Alert Network Advisory information for state and local health departments and health care providers

CDC Information on Coronaviruses

Nonpharmaceutical interventions

Symptoms associated with COVID-19

Guidance to help in the risk assessment and management

CDC guidance on how to reduce the risk of spreading your illness to others

World Health Organization

World Health Organization, Coronavirus

Public Health Canada

Current situation

How Canada is monitoring the 2019 Novel Coronavirus infection

Risk to Canadians

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Posted on February 27, 2020 by Jorie Helms

Aggregate Producer’s Annual Event Recognized by Oklahoma Asphalt Pavement Association

Dolese Bros. Co. has won the Oklahoma Asphalt Pavement Association’s (OAPA) Community Champion Award for organizing and hosting Rock the Block, a community-focused construction industry Touch-A-Truck event. Dolese received the award at the 2020 OAPA Asphalt Conference on Feb. 24 in Norman.

“We launched Rock the Block in 2017 as a community outreach event with our construction industry partners to give the public an up-close and hands-on opportunity to learn about what our industry does and the equipment we do it with,” Dolese Director of Communications and Community Relations Kermit Frank said. “The event, which benefits Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, allows Oklahomans the opportunity to interact with the equipment that helps build Oklahoma’s roads, bridges and buildings.”

Oklahoma’s leading aggregates and concrete producer held its third annual Rock the Block event in Aug. 2019 at its headquarters in Oklahoma City and invited construction industry partners from across the state to participate. Families attending the event explored trucks, equipment and interactive displays, posed for photographs from the driver’s seat of assembled vehicles and enjoyed grilled hot dogs. The event benefited the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as well as the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

Dolese employees volunteered throughout the event to educate the public about Dolese’s operations and the impact of the construction industry on the city. The employees played a crucial part in executing the event to ensure its success.

The OAPA is a non-profit trade association representing the asphalt producers operating in and for the state of Oklahoma since 1971. OAPA producer members account for approximately 90 percent of all asphalt production within the state. The 2020 OAPA Asphalt Conference was held from Feb. 24-25 at the Embassy Suites in Norman.

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Builders building building

Posted on February 24, 2020 by Jorie Helms

Oklahoma Home Builders Association to start new headquarters

By Richard Mize
Real estate editor

State homebuilders are building a new building for themselves, a new headquarters just north of the state Capitol.

The Oklahoma Home Builders Association (OKHBA) is set to begin construction Monday at 3520 N Lincoln Blvd. on land acquired from the Oklahoma Asphalt Pavement Association next door, said Mike Means, executive vice president of the builders trade group.

The builders association approved the new office building last fall on what is generally seen as the entryway to the Capitol complex.

It is meant to be noticed by lawmakers, who are just three weeks into the four-month legislative session less than a mile away.

Visibility and proximity to the government went into the selection of the site, Means said.

“We are the state advocacy branch for this association,” he said. "Our presence at the state Capitol is critical for our members. As we often say here at OKHBA, if you don’t have a seat at the table, you may find yourself on the menu.”

The two-story, residential-style office building will have 6,432 square feet of space including a 2,000-square-foot classroom and education center. It will have an expansive entry to display the Oklahoma Housing Hall of Fame.

It will be nearly three times the size of the builders' present headquarters at 917 NE 63, which was built in 1982.

The builders group couldn't say what it will cost to build because much of the labor and materials will be donated, spokesman Jorie Helms said. The building permit issued by the city estimates the cost at $850,000.

Construction will be led by Dan Reeves with Landmark Fine Homes in Norman, with assistance from Curtis McCarty with C.A. McCarty Construction in Norman, Mike Gilles with Savannah Builders in Edmond and Todd Booze with Ideal Homes of Norman. The architect is Tim Palone with TP Architecture, Bethany.

“We are ready to get this project started,” said Reeves, who is chairman of the building committee. “We’ve had so many donations from members who know this is the next step in helping our association grow.”

The large meeting room will have an attached warming kitchen — where catered food can be finished or kept warm — for training and events, Palone said. The foyer, in addition to housing the Hall of Fame, will be big enough for events, he said.

The building design is "a traditional style with only materials typically used in Oklahoma residential construction," Palone said, with a dark-colored shingle roof, mostly brick and stone exterior, some timber columns and accents at the entry, and large windows facing Lincoln.

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Journal Record: Strong Foundation: Legacy of Dolese Bros. Co. set in Oklahoma stone

Posted on February 17, 2020 by Jorie Helms

Strong Foundation: Legacy of Dolese Bros. Co. set in Oklahoma stone!

By: Steve Metzer The Journal Record February 14, 2020 # 0 

OKLAHOMA CITY – Other companies with names like Devon and Chesapeake benefit from being identified with some of the most iconic buildings in Oklahoma. 

And that’s OK with Mark Helm. He knows that deep within the bones of those better-known companies – or at least within the bones of their buildings – lies his own Dolese Bros. Co. 

Were it not for Dolese Bros., the Devon Energy Center as it now stands as the most recognizable building in Oklahoma City would not be. Were it not for Dolese, the Chesapeake Energy Arena would not stand as it does, as the proud home of the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Other Oklahoma icons, too, like Route 66, owe their existence at least in part to the Dolese Bros. Co., which traces its history to before statehood and was there, literally, at the foundation of communities from Altus to Woodward and from Bartlesville to Idabel. In fact, few companies – if there are any at all – would be able to lay claim to a breadth of history and geography in the Sooner State that might rival that of the Dolese Bros. Co. 


Dolese Bros. Co. President Mark Helm stands with a display of photos and artifacts dedicated to the company’s long history in Oklahoma. (Photo by Steve Metzer) 

And the company, known for transforming the state’s raw rock into everything from highway overpasses to libraries, didn’t even begin here. 

Helm, the company’s president and chief executive officer, said Dolese, which formally incorporated in 1902, actually can trace its roots to 1857 when 20-year-old John Dolese went into the paving business in Chicago. Fate and railroad construction drew his descendants west, and by 1907 Dolese Bros. Co. had a contract to mine ballast for the Rock Island Railroad at a quarry at a place called Richards Spur not far from Lawton. In 1908, the company bought a second quarry in such a remote spot in Murray County that Dolese workers became just about the only occupants of the tiny community of Dougherty. 

From that point, the future of Dolese Bros. and Co. in Oklahoma was set in stone. 

In 1910, the company bought a site in Oklahoma City between 13th and 14th streets adjoining the Santa Fe Railroad. It also purchased 10 dump wagons and 20 large horses to haul crushed stone and coal hand-shoveled from the rail cars to construction sites throughout the city. 

Dolese entered the ready-mixed concrete business in 1927 and over time also furnished large volumes of stone and sand used at road construction and other sites across a broad region. 

“We like to say we built communities from the ground up, or at least supplied the products,” Helm said. “If you think about anything that gets built – anything – it’s going to start with crushed stone, sand, concrete or asphalt. We have plenty of competition, but we are one of the major players here in the state.” 

In fact, as a supplier of crushed stone products, Dolese ranks in the top 15 in the country. It’s among the top 30 

suppliers of ready-mix nationwide. That accounts for “many millions of tons” of stone and sand taken from eight quarries scattered across Oklahoma, including the original and largest one at Richards Spur and also from operations near Ponca City, Hartshorne, Coleman, Davis, Ardmore, Cooperton and Roosevelt. The company also has four stone yards, four sand operations and 45 ready-mix plants in the state, employing more than 1,000 people at about 65 locations. 

Helm said that on any given weekday, between 600 and 700 trucks might haul raw rock away from a typical Dolese quarry. The three main types are limestone, dolemite and gabbro. 

“We do out of our quarries somewhere around 13.5 million tons a year,” he said. “About 2 million tons of sand comes out of sand operations in a year.” 

Everything from riprap seen along banks of the Oklahoma River to fine-ground materials used in the construction of skyscrapers can be traced back to Dolese quarries. 

“What’s cool about the Devon tower is that it is concrete all the way to the top,” Helm said, “which a lot of people don’t realize. The skeleton of that building is all concrete, and it all came from the Richards Spur quarry, from 300 feet down all the way to the top of that structure. ... We are not the only producer, but we’ve been lucky enough to be really involved in Oklahoma City, with the Devon tower, the BOK tower, Chesapeake Arena, the new Omni Hotel and other projects.” 

The company is deeply invested in Oklahoma in other ways as well. Years ago, before his death, Roger Dolese, who had guided the company for more than 60 years, determined that he wanted Dolese to remain private but to become employee-owned over time. He also had a vision to leverage money made by the company to benefit engineering programs and students at the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University and Kansas State University. So, after he died all of the stock he’d bought from family members and friends was ordered to be held in a foundation and redeemed over time with proceeds to be donated to the three universities. When stock is redeemed from each of the universities, new stock is distributed to a profit sharing plan for employees. Over the past dozen years or so, Dolese has redeemed about $30 million worth from the universities. Employees now own about 15% of the business and the three universities have been able to make significant investments in engineering schools and to double the number of graduates in fields ranging from electrical to aerospace engineering. 

“Obviously some of them end up in construction, but it is all engineering fields, and we think that helps our communities as a whole,” Helm said. 

The company also has invested in science, technology, engineering and math programs in public schools in Oklahoma and hosts field trips to quarries for elementary and middle school students. 

Helm said the company’s efforts have been rewarded by the loyalty of employees. Multiple generations of some families have contributed to Dolese’s long history in Oklahoma. There are many long-tenured employees, including one at Richards Spur who recently marked a half-century on the job. 

“They feel like they have some ownership in the business. We think it’s had a major impact on our performance as a business,” Helm said. 

While not many companies in Oklahoma can trace their incorporated histories back 118 years, as Dolese can, even fewer might be able to anticipate remaining in business into the next century and beyond, but Dolese can. 

“This product does not have a replacement. Even ready-mix concrete does not have a replacement right now,” Helm said, “so the challenge for us is to really be efficient and to be good neighbors so we can continue to be in business another 118 years.” 

By: Steve Metzer The Journal Record

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$1,000 Makes a Big Difference in Housing Affordability

Posted on January 29, 2020 by Jorie Helms

A small uptick in home prices or mortgage rates can have a big impact on housing affordability.

The latest study from NAHB determined that for every $1,000 increase in the cost of today’s median U.S. home price, 158,857 American households are “priced out” and would no longer be able to afford it. In other words, based on their incomes, 158,857 households would be able to qualify for a mortgage to purchase the home before the price increase, but not afterward.

Those numbers are even more staggering when looking at potential interest rate increases. It takes only a quarter-point rise in the rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to price approximately 1.3 million households out of that segment of the market and force them to set their sights lower than a median-priced home –- or delay their home purchase altogether.

More details, including priced out estimates for every state and over 300 metropolitan areas, and a description of the underlying methodology, are available in the full study.

NAHB economist Na Zhao provides further analysis in this Eye on Housing blog post.

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Millennials Will Dominate the Mortgage Market in 2020

Posted on January 29, 2020 by Jorie Helms

Markets in the South and West will experience the highest housing activity in 2020, as more millennials move out of big cities in search of more affordable markets, according to experts who shared some of the latest industry trends during last week’s International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas.

“Millennials will dominate housing in 2020 and account for 50% of mortgage originations,” said George Ratiu, a senior economist at He added that they will be leaving expensive metros for more affordable markets.

“Millennials will be moving to mid-sized cities like Boise, Idaho; Tucson; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Columbia, South Carolina. These cities offer good weather, suburban downtowns and lifestyle amenities.”

Looking at this key demographic more closely, Ratiu said:

  • 1-in-4 millennials have been looking for a home for more than a year.
  • 16% are searching for homes in urban areas.
  • 34% are looking for homes in the suburbs.
  • 45% are seeking homes in small towns and rural areas.

Summing up his findings, Ratiu said that in 2020:

  • Millennials will demand an affordable product.
  • Mortgage rates will remain attractive.
  • Lesser markets will shine.
  • Baby boomers are not moving.

Ali Wolf, director of economic research for Meyers Research based in Costa Mesa, California, also noted that boomers are staying put.

“Boomers [say] they are not selling because ‘we don’t need to.’ Only 17% of boomers are dissatisfied with their current home,” said Wolf.

Other factors that are keeping boomers at home are that 23% have no retirement savings and 30% of those in the 62-66 age range have postponed retirement.

As for millennials, they are also facing affordability and supply constraints. “Affordability is the biggest obstacle to buying a home,” said Wolf. “Only 5% of millennials want to rent. They are the largest buyer demographic but faced with a supply shortage.”

Looking at public and private builders, Carl Reichardt, managing director at BTIG headquartered in San Francisco, said that 8-out-10 private builders expect sales will rise in 2020.

“Labor and land costs are their biggest worry,” he said. “Builders still appear cautious on pricing. Very few are raising prices aggressively.”

Meanwhile, Reichardt said that public builders account for 36% of all new homes in the U.S. market.  (NAHB data show the top 20 builders accounted for 29% of all single-family starts in 2018.) Among the top 50 markets in the country, Reichardt said a public builder is No. 1 in terms of volume in 36 of these markets.

Reichardt said that public builders are not looking to get into all markets but instead are focusing on local market share in the metros they are currently engaged in.

NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz, who moderated the session, said that while the industry continues to face significant labor issues on the supply side, 2020 might be the year that labor shortages stop getting worse.

For more on the economic impacts of housing, visit

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