• 3M Joins Companies Laying Off Staff, Builders Oppose EPA Water Rules, Office Attendance Rises

    3M Joins Companies Laying Off Staff

    Industrial giant 3M, best known for products including Scotch tape and Post-it Notes, plans to lay off 2,500 workers, the latest in a string of large job cuts over the past few weeks primarily involving big tech companies like Microsoft and Google.

    The planned cuts to Saint Paul, Minnesota-based 3M’s global manufacturing workforce come amid expectations for what CEO Mike Roman described in a quarterly earnings report as “macroeconomic challenges to persist in 2023.” A timetable for the layoffs, representing about 3% of the company’s global workforce of 95,000, was not specified in a 3M statement Tuesday, though Roman called the move “a necessary decision to align with adjusted production volumes.”

    Roman also said in the statement, regarding 2022, that “in a year impacted by inflation, global conflicts and economic softening, our team took actions to position 3M for future success.” The company has divested some food-safety businesses, plans to spin off its healthcare business and has committed to exit manufacturing of certain plastics tied to pollution by the end of 2025.

    Job cuts by 3M were announced in the same week that streaming music service Spotify said it plans to lay off 6% of its workforce or about 600 employees. Also this week, CNBC cited an internal memo indicating New York-based cryptocurrency exchange Gemini planned to cut 10% of its worker base, amounting to about 100 employees, after prior cuts made last May and July.

    U.S. unemployment remains historically low at 3.5%, with the bulk of layoffs in recent months coming from the technology industry.

    Builders Oppose EPA Water Rules

    Prominent builder trade groups are among business organizations going to court over new federal water-protection rules they contend could affect how development projects are planned and approved in the United States.

    The Environmental Protection Agency late last month issued new definitions intended to clarify what types of water bodies qualify for federal protection under the 50-year-old Clean Water Act. The Obama administration in 2015 broadened the definition beyond existing “navigable waters,” including the Mississippi River and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, to also include other rivers, lakes and wetlands that cross state borders.

    The Trump administration in 2020, among other changes, moved to exclude much of the wetlands and other smaller waterways that had been added under Obama. EPA officials said revised definitions announced in late December are intended to restore protections for large water bodies that existed prior to 2015, while clarifying protections for “upstream water sources” that affect those larger bodies.

    An EPA statement said the rule changes “will strengthen fundamental protections for waters that are sources of drinking water while supporting agriculture, local economies and downstream communities.” But late last week, 19 housing, agriculture and infrastructure-focused organizations filed a joint lawsuit in a Texas federal court challenging the new rules.

    Jerry Konter, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, said the federal revisions could unnecessarily hinder development near small ponds, ditches and erosional features that only carry water flow following a major rainfall. “By vastly increasing federal regulatory control over private property, the new Waters of the U.S. rule needlessly increases housing costs,” Konter said in a statement.

    Groups opposing the rule changes, which also include the Associated General Contractors of America, contend the government is overstepping its authority and are calling on the federal court to declare them unlawful. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently reviewing a similar case regarding the scope of the Clean Water Act.

    Office Attendance Edges Up

    Large-city office use continued a post-holiday rebound, with 10 cities in Kastle Systems’ “Back to Work Barometer” averaging 49.5% of pre-pandemic attendance for the week ended Jan. 18.

    That was up from 46.9% in the prior week and marked a return to a pandemic peak reached in mid-October, though the security technology firm noted the latest numbers were adjusted for the Martin Luther King holiday on Jan. 16.

    Based on anonymous keycard data from Kastle Systems’ office property clients, most cities in the barometer have yet to reach 50% of pre-pandemic office use. Austin, Texas, remained far above average in the latest tracking at 65.1%, followed by Houston at 60.9% and Dallas at 54.3%.

    Next came Chicago, topping 50% for the first time since the start of the pandemic at 50.7%, with Los Angeles at 47.3% and New York at 47.2%.

    Source: www.CoStar.com