Eugene Gershman
Eugene Gershman, CEO, GIS International Group
Q:  What are the most critical issues facing the future health of our industry?

A: There are several, for sure, with a couple that immediately come to mind. First, the regulatory climate has become a major issue for new project development and permitting, especially with the complexity of commercial projects, evolving infrastructure, and the recent pandemic. The barriers to entry are now so high that the separation between giant projects and infill developments is becoming wider and wider every year.The other issue, which is related, that I think about frequently these days is the remote-work environment. Its adoption in construction and real estate has been pretty seamless, in fact. But as industry professionals become used to remote working, it’s getting harder to convince them that real, one-to-one face time remains critical for problem resolution, team cohesion and collaboration. In addition, measuring employee performance remains a significant issue — and sometimes, a challenge — in today’s remote work environment.

Q:  What are our most profound obstacles to growth in this region?

A: Overregulation is by far the most profound obstacle to growth in our region. Real estate development is such a complicated process, requiring such a lengthy approval process, that it sometimes can create unnecessary barriers. These barriers limit supply, which in turn causes indefinite cost escalation. A typical commercial project takes between 18 to 24 months to permit, on average. Inconsistencies in review process, and uncertainty in jurisdictional interpretation of certain codes can increase the cost of new projects — therefore, causing an ultimate increase in housing prices. A more streamlined approval and permitting process for single- and multi-family residential projects could help significantly reduce housing costs, an outcome that we can all embrace.

Q:  How has Covid-19 had a positive change on the way you conduct business on a daily basis?
A: GIS was able to set up a reliable remote work environment to allow our office to perform most of their required tasks from home (excluding construction field operations). In the beginning of lockdown, we introduced company-wide weekly “virtual happy hours,” which have become important team-building exercises. These meetings are optional, but most team members do sign in for some social interaction every Friday afternoon. We play virtual games, share stories, and tell jokes, which is very important for people who do not normally interact on a daily basis.