by Bruce Wallace
The pure excitement of a new, stand-alone McDonald’s with a double-window drive-thru — that’s right, you heard me, a drive-thru to take your money and a drive-thru to hand you your food – is almost too much to be believed.
OK, there’s as much sarcasm in that opening paragraph as there is calories in a Big Mac.
But, wait. I’m a bit of a fan of the Golden Arches.
The venerable burger chain has likely changed and changed again more often than your average business. While they were late to the game in taking credit cards, their credit card processing machines are as fast as any retailer. While they were begged for years to serve breakfast all day, when they did finally make the change, they reported higher earnings and profitability immediately.
Millions of adults got their first jobs at McDonald’s and I know several investors who have owned and profited from the stock for years.
But what became recently very clear to most of us in Southern Boone is that McDonald’s knows how to build new facilities – quickly.
“How is it,” a reader asked me on Friday, “that McDonald’s can put up a new building from scratch, install all of the infrastructure, the tables and the chairs as well as the full kitchen and then train their crew and open the place up – all in about 90-to-95 days?”
“Well,” I hesitated, not knowing if this was a complaint or not…”I think that – ”
“And how is it,” the reader continued, “that McDonald’s can do all that, but our school district can’t get a single wall started on three new building projects?”
I was stumped.
Yes, how is it that McDonald’s can put up an entire new building, and our school district had only pushed some dirt around – dug a hole out at the Primary School.
I shared my reader’s frustration with a school board member.
“How is it,” I asked Kevin Schupp, “that McDonald’s can build a new store and get it up and running in one summer and the school district take 15 months to put up a building of classrooms – which is pretty simple construction?”
“It’s all about prevailing wage law,” Schupp said.
The Missouri Prevailing Wage law establishes a minimum wage rate that must be paid to workers on public works construction projects in Missouri. Projects such as bridges, roads, and school buildings are included.
As Schupp explained, with the prevailing wage law, the construction management team is required to bid for everything – earth-moving to concrete to steel – which slows the process.
“We built the (current) weight room using volunteers and community members in about a tenth the time the new facility will be built at the high school,” Schupp said, “that is very frustrating. But we follow the law and have the same headaches as other public school districts.”
Schupp recalls how the cafetorium at the Middle School seemed to take “forever” to build and notes a key frustration with the process:
“Public schools don’t have a lot of money (the state legislature has not fully funded the foundation formula) and yet they require us to pay prevailing wage,” Schupp said, “instead of building in a more cost-efficient way. We built the weight room for $150,000 with prevailing wage it would cost us nearly a million dollars.”
Schupp’s opinion has merit, but there should be a balance.
And it’s not just with school districts.
The United States is quickly coming to a crossroads with its crumbling infrastructure, yet there is a disappearing middle class of workers – many who have lost jobs or are underemployed.
It would seem strong leadership at the state and federal level would bring the infrastructure and underemployed worker problem together – in a modified prevailing wage process that would build schools, improve sewer and water districts and repair and replenish our nation’s infrastructure.
However, in the barrage of idiotic back and forth by our current candidates – state and federal – few words about plans to re-build the middle class and re-build our country.
McDonald’s could teach our leaders a lesson or two about getting things done.