Tuesday, 30 September 2008

It’s not just sales

Relevant to the current global financial crisis and the surprise sale of Wachovia ’s assets to Citigroup, here is a meaningful and meaningful observation from Charlotte business consultant Jeffrey Gitomer: Why do businesses succeed or fail? HINT It’s not just sales.

…Today’s American reality is that there’s a day-to-day ongoing drama in the saga of business, and on this particular day, I was dealing with major drama. I was in an informal staff meeting trying to resolve the ancient issue, “Why can’t everyone just get along?”

The meeting was civilized. Apologies started even before I entered the room. By the time I walked in, resolve had begun. Everyone was talking about how to make things better – at least for the moment.

During the discussion with my employees I remarked (among other things) that I was looking for long-term harmony, not just a momentary truce, or a week of peace. I wanted to get to the root of the issue, not just put a band-aid on the surface skirmish.

I decided to talk more about what it takes to have a successful business instead of a petty disagreement. I thought if I got into more detail about how the whole business ran, maybe they would have a better understanding of what they did, and how important it was for each of them to be harmonious with the other.

Below is the essence of what I said. Compare these elements with those in your business. I believe this list to be essential for business success and sales success in any company – including mine – including yours.

These are the elements that have driven my business to success:

1. Great people. People who are excellent at what they do. Self-starters, smart, responsible -- with a passion for excellence, and a successful track record. Not just salespeople – everyone MUST be excellent. Reception, accounting, shipping, and especially anyone who talks to customers.

2. Harmony within. Each person must decide to “get along” with everyone else. This means their attitude must be positive, and they have to understand and be able to get along for the common good, even through personality conflicts, minor disagreements, and major disagreements will occur. They can get over it, and get on with it.

3. A continuous flow of ideas. From everyone – especially me as the leader.

4. Unless you have sales, you have no business. Products and services that are understandable, have perceived value, have gained market acceptance, and are easy to purchase. There are lots of sales on the books because the product is in demand.

5. Money. Don’t confuse sales with money. Money comes from making profitable sales. My father once told me “You can have lots of business -- but no money.” Learn your profitability, and transfer it to your sales and your salespeople.

6. Creativity and willingness to risk. Trying new things and new ways. Your customers demand it but your competitors hope you’ll do “business as usual.”

7. Earn loyalty from everyone. Loyalty is stability, growth, and profit all rolled into one. Loyalty has 3.5 parts. You must earn from (1) your customers, (2) your vendors, and (3) your employees. The best way to get loyalty is (3.5) to give loyalty.

8. Wide open communication. Speak your mind and say your peace – truthfully. This may mean drop the PC and get real world, real life. Maybe that way you’ll have a real business.

9. Freedom to succeed and fail. No one fails on purpose. I give everyone freedom to learn, freedom of expression (without fear of reprisal), and freedom to take risks.

10. A respected liked (loved) leader. I am the leader. The passionate, lead by example, cheerleader leader. I love what I do, and it’s contagious to all.

10.5 A fun atmosphere and a fun environment. We won an award a few years ago “Most fun place to work in Charlotte.” Could your company win that award...?

Gitomer acknowledged that this list is by no means complete. “I am certain that as you read this you had some additional thoughts,” he wrote. “Please post your ideas for the benefit of all at: www.gitomer.com/salesHelp/SalesForum.html.”

Jeffrey Gitomer is Gitomer is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He is the author of The Little Red Book of Selling and eight other business books on sales, customer loyalty, and personal development. Gitomer conducts more than 100 personalized, customized seminars and keynotes a year. To find out more, visit www.gitomer.com or contact him at 704-333-1112 or by e-mail at salesman@gitomer.com

Monday, 29 September 2008

Green jobs growing in NC

Though North Carolina is a straggler in green energy compared with California and other states, proposed projects to meet the state's new renewable electricity requirements bring the promise of thousands of jobs, the News & Observer reports.

The rise in green jobs reflects the growing emphasis on conservation and sustainability at universities, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and major corporations.

Even before this state endorsed an alternative energy policy, scores of businesses had set up to tap the region's brain trust and feed green economies sprouting throughout the country. Along with solar installers and biofuels producers, many of these niche companies design electronics and components to streamline power grids, develop alternative fuels and boost energy efficiency.

Anticipating demand for green-job skills, state community colleges are including conservation and efficiency practices in their course offerings on architecture, construction and landscaping. The N.C. Solar Center, Advanced Energy and other nonprofit groups say builders and contractors are asking for sustainability seminars.

"Eventually it's the way everyone is going," said Kim Kasdorf, 59, a former mechanical engineer who recently finished a program in architectural technology at Wake Tech. "People who don't have that kind of experience are not going to be able to survive," he was quoted in the N&O.

The Center for American Progress this month projected 62,000 new green jobs in North Carolina in the next decade tied to government policies to promote a low-carbon economy.

North Carolina's new renewables requirement is already creating market demand, as Progress Energy and Duke Energy, the state's two biggest electric utilities, sign deals to build solar farms, biomass facilities and other alternative energy resources.

The state's power companies will spur additional job creation when they begin offering customers and builders financial incentives to upgrade and rehab homes and offices to make them more energy efficient.

Meanwhile, the General Assembly last year required new construction in state buildings to meet stricter sustainability requirements. The N.C. Building Code Council is considering requiring better construction techniques to boost the energy efficiency of residential homes.

"The potential for service jobs is huge," said Stephen Kalland, director of the N.C. Solar Center in Raleigh. "It looks a lot like the HVAC industry: You'll open the Yellow Pages and you'll see thousands of installers and contractors."

NC contractors should look into the state community colleges for “green” skilled workers. Many community colleges have incorporated sustainability – to limit wasted energy and materials in courses on building design, construction ,landscaping, heading and air conditioning. Standard courses include instructions on recycling building materials and energy-efficient design. Read the entire News & Observer article or visit the North Carolina Community College System website for details.

Friday, 26 September 2008

NC Shows Off Growing Trend of Building Green

North Carolina is becoming a leader in renewable energy, energy efficiency and green building in the Southeast, and over the next three weeks, business owners across the state will have multiple opportunities to learn more about these important solutions and technologies first-hand. The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association is sponsoring the Green Building Pavilion in Raleigh and its annual Green Building & Solar Tour in various communities from the mountains to the coast.

First up is the Green Building Pavilion at the Southern Ideal Home Show at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds this weekend, where attendees can speak with a wide range of green building experts, see the latest technology in building and remodeling in a sustainable manner, and compare prices about remodeling, decorating or landscaping projects. The Green Building Pavilion will be in the Jim Graham Building. Hours are Friday: 12pm-9pm, Saturday:10am-9pm and Sunday:10am-5pm.

The 2008 Green Building & Solar Tour, which is an annual event conducted by NCSEA in collaboration with community leaders, partner organizations and the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), will feature more than 80 homes, businesses, schools, government facilities and other renewable energy projects during the first two weekends of October.

The NC Green Building & Solar Tour has grown tremendously in recent years and was the 4th largest in the nation in 2007. The tour is an excellent opportunity to see and learn about solar and other renewable energy installations and talk with building owners, builders, architects and planners about their experiences. Participants see first-hand that they have an opportunity to implement these solutions in their own homes and businesses.

The 12 local tours will take place on Saturday, October 4 and Saturday, October 11. The tours will feature technologies such as passive and active solar, passive cooling, cisterns, rainwater catchment, geothermal HVAC, fresh air ventilation, encapsulated and conditioned crawl and attic spaces, daylighting, energy efficient and low-flow appliances, radiant barrier and foam sheathing, xeriscaping and drought resistant plants, radiant heating, spray foam installation, green roofs, reclaimed hardwood, bamboo and rubber floors, solar pool heating, and LED lighting. Several sites are LEED, HealthyBuilt, Energy Star or Advanced Energy certified.

Saturday, October 4th Tours:
Chapel Hill/Orange County, Charlotte, Durham, Greenville, Wilmington, Winston-Salem

Saturday, October 11th Tours:
Asheville, Boone/High Country, Chatham County, Fayetteville, Hendersonville, Raleigh

Find more information on each local tour at www.energync.org/solartour.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

ConsensusDOCS First Anniversary

ConsensusDOCS™ marks its first year anniversary this week. It is the first consensus standard contracts written by and for the construction industry, endorsed by the Associated General Contractors, Associated Builders & Contractors, American Subcontractors Association and many other leading contruction organizations.

ConsensusDOCS invited the entire construction industry together to draft consensus standard contract documents. More than 3,000 unique office locations with upwards of 50 people per location are currently using ConsensusDOCS on projects. Moreover, there is a steady stream of 75 to 100 users joining the program each month.

In addition to producing a comprehensive library of contracts that address all project delivery methods, ConsensusDOCS introduced the first standard tri-party or integrated project delivery contract, which has taken the industry by storm.

ConsensusDOCS further established itself as the leader in construction contracts with the release of the ConsensusDOCS 301 BIM Addendum on June 30, 2008. The BIM Addendum is the first and only standard document to comprehensively address the legal ramifications of using Building Information Modeling (BIM).

Originally drafted and endorsed by 20 leading construction organizations, ConsensusDOCS has added American Wall and Ceiling Institute (AWCI), National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED), as well as the endorsement of the Construction Management Association of America (CMAA) for the ConsensusDOCS 301 BIM Addendum. In addition, the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC), and the National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS) actively contributed to the new ConsensusDOCS BIM Addendum.

In celebration of its first anniversary, ConsensusDOCS has issued a Reference Kit CD available at the limited time price of just $92.87, which includes complete samples of 80+ documents and helpful commentary. For more information, visit www.ConsensusDOCS.org or call 1-866-925-DOCS (3627).

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Army awards Hensel Phelps contract for new Bragg headquarters

WRAL reported that the Army Corps of Engineers has awarded a $288 million contract to Hensel Phelps Construction Company, Greenley, CO, to build the new headquarters for two new commands that are relocating to Fort Bragg. The commands are scheduled to move to North Carolina by 2011 after the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) voted in 2005 to relocate them.

The new 700,000-square-foot building will house the Army Forces Command and the Army Reserve Command, both of which currently are at Fort McPherson, Ga., which is scheduled to be closed.

The BRAC Regional Task Force announced on Monday that Hensel Phelps' Mid Atlantic District office, Chantilly, VA, was awarded the headquarters contract. The building will be located at Knox and Randolph Streets on the Fort Bragg post.

The Fayetteville Observer noted that Hensel Phelps will try to hire as many employees as possible from the Fayetteville area. Steve Speer, VP, of the company’s Mid Atlantic District was quoted, "We will take full advantage of everything the Fayetteville area has to offer. What they can't do, we will look elsewhere."

The contract is good news for the Army, which had budgeted about $292 million for construction at a time when costs of everything from fuel to copper is rising. “We’ve anticipated escalation in those materials,” Speer said. “We locked in early on those things. The prices are guaranteed."

The Army Corps of Engineers expects construction to be completed by June 21, 2011. Other project built by Hensel Phelps in NC include a federal prison in Butner and the RBC Center in Raleigh.

Monday, 22 September 2008

BRAC halfway through, not halfway done

The Fayetteville Observer reports that at the midpoint of the changes to Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base, ordered under the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) law, little of the major construction work has been done. That has raised questions about whether all of the project will be completed on time.

Today the Army awarded the contract to Hensel Phelps Construction Company, Greenley, CO to design and build the headquarters for the Forces Command and the Reserve Command. The Army is funding $292 million for the building. The maximum time to finish the headquarters will be three years. The head of the Forces Command, General Charles C. Campbell, wants it done six months sooner, the Fayetteville paper reports.

“I’m hopeful that they are going to be able to complete the construction somewhere between the preferred time and the maximum time to give us the flexibility we need to complete the move by September 2011,” Campbell said.

As new military construction opportunities are announced, the NC Military Business Center (NCMBC), a state funded business development agency, disseminates this information to NC-based contractors and subcontractors.

Business development professionals will want to attend the 2008 NC MILCON Summit, co-hosted by NCMBC and the North Carolina Military Foundation, at the Durham Marriott Convention Center on November 19, 2008. The purpose of the event is to connect government officials with prime and specialty contractors, designers and construction suppliers in North Carolina. Registration for the MILCON Summit is $70.00 per person. On-line registration will begin in early October 2008 on the NCMBC website www.ncmbc.us.

See the September 21 Fayetteville Observer article for information other BRAC-related construction opportunities.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

The Maintenance Evangelist

Even as the economy slumps and unemployment rises, many construction and maintenance employers are scrambling to find enough skilled workers to plug current and future holes. The shortages of electricians, welders, pipe fitters and other high-demand workers likely to get worse as more of them reach retirement age.

At the Facilities Decisions Conference and Expo held last week, I interviewed Joel Leonard, former trainer for MPACT Learning Center, Greensboro, NC, who is on a crusade to get the future generation interested in maintenance (and construction) work.

In his seminar entitled, “Fighting the Maintenance Crisis,” Leonard asked the audience made up of over 200 maintenance professionals to stand if they plan to retire in the next 10 years. Over 80% of the audience rose from their seats. When he asked the audience for those in their 20’s to rise, only three people stood up.

“It’s the perfect storm,” Leonard said. “We have a vacuum created by people leaving, but we can’t tell the future generation to pursue skilled maintenance and construction-related careers.”

Leonard has made industry recruitment a personal mission. His zeal has earned him the nickname maintenance evangelist. He plans to make all media outlets his pulpit for improving the image of maintenance-related industies.

In cooperation with Putman Media, Inc., Leonard launched a new, internet-based TV show called SkillTV. (www.SkillTV.net). Leonard interviews industry experts, educators and government officials, including locals like Tom White of the NC Department of Commerce, on the SkillTV website to counterbalance the negative images of learning maintenance and construction-related skills.

A few years ago, Leonard came up with the idea of reaching young people by writing a song about the maintenance crisis. "I have no musical background," concedes Leonard. "My friends said the magic words, "I bet you can't do it,' and I couldn't back down from the challenge."

Leonard’s “Maintenance Crisis Song” has been downloaded more than 100,000 times. Radio stations, including national Public Radio, have played it.

“I’ve got eight genres,” said Leonard. In addition to hip hop, opera and garage rock, there’s also reggae, funk and blues versions, plus a song called “Find Me A Maintenance Woman,” which he hopes will inspire women to enter the field. You can play the song on the MPACT website.

We asked Leonard if he could suggest any unconventional places employers can recruit new maintenance (or construction)workers. He mentioned history reenactment camps and remote control race car competitions as sources. “These hobbies require creative mechanical skills,” Leonard observed.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

How to find a contractor

We received the following email inquiry:

My name is Charles Tapp and I am the Director of Maintenance for Hoke County Schools. I have a project on my plate and don't have any local contractors that can handle it. My boss wants a covered walkway in front on one of our elementary schools around 250 feet long, but the problem it has a long radius in it. Do you know of any contractors in the state that I could talk to about this? Any information will be of great help. Thanks in advance for your help.

Charles Tapp
Director of Maintenance
Hoke County Schools

Phone 910-875-4263
Fax 910-875-4519

We suggested that Mr. Tapp contact two respected non-residential contractor organizations in the state--the Associated Builders & Contractors of the Carolinas and the
Carolinas Associated General Contractors. Construction buyers can visit the respective national websites to access their membership lists broken down specialty and location. General contractors can be identified at ABC's Find A Contractor Directory and AGC's Membership Search directory.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Blogging Power in Raleigh

Keith Bloemendaal (left) of Raleigh Fence Contractors shares how his blog has succeeded with Mark Buckshon and Bob Kruhm, publishers of the North Carolina Construction News blog.

Keith Bloemendaal has discovered blogging power. The Raleigh fencing contractor has developed a new network of clients, relationships, and connections just months after starting his blog -- and he hasn't yet reaped one of the most tangible (and business building) rewards of a well-managed blog -- really high search engine rankings for his business.

We meet with Keith last Tuesday when Ottawa-based group publisher Mark Buckshon was in Raleigh. Keith relayed his life story and experiences, and how he has found the blogging process has influenced his business.

Here are the some of the Mark's comments from the recent blog posting on Construction Marketing Ideas:

Bloemendaal's web designer created a blog that combines the immediacy, relevancy and ease of updating of a blog, with the design of a professional business home page/website. I like his blog -- it exudes professionalism. And he writes well. This has caused his blog to attract attention of some of the leading luminaries of the blogging community, creating link backs and traffic -- and within Raleigh, connections within the community's high technology community. Many of these people need fencing for their homes, and some have been calling him for estimates, and to give him work.

Keith however must wait several months for Google to do its thing. Google takes its time in giving high search engine rankings to new blogs and websites -- sometimes you can wait for upwards of a year before you are out of the "sandbox". We can speculate on the reason for the seemingly unmovable delay -- it could be to ensure authenticity and discourage spamming, or it could be a device to induce people needing higher search engine rankings to purchase advertising through Google's Adwords program.

I told Keith that a good sign his blog will be leaving the sandbox is when he finds, suddenly, that Google disables it. I experienced that on my Blogger account -- to find once the site had been manually inspected by a real person (presumably to ensure I wasn't publishing a Splog -- or a blog entirely designed to manipulate search engine results), that this blog's search engine rankings suddenly skyrocketed. Keith may not experience the same thing; he is using an alternative template and thus may not be subject to the Blogger controls I experienced.

Regardless, Keith's blog combines the right combination of authoritative, interesting information, and practical self-promotion. You can read the blog and learn stuff about fencing whether or not you have any interest in calling him, but you'll find his phone number clearly displayed if you need fencing in Raleigh and wish a free estimate. (I don't really like 'free estimates' but realize it is common practice among residential contractors and service providers.)

Keith suggested he in the future he could provide blogging consulting services for other contractors. He could succeed at this, I think, but the challenge is really good blogs must reflect the individual character and personality of the blogger; and not that many fencing contractors, I think, are great writers who enjoy the hours that need to be spent in making an effective blog. Of course, if you are in that category -- or are willing to pay someone to be your ghost writer -- you could still succeed.

You can link to Keith's blog on the right (see North Carolina Construction Industry Blogs) or Raleigh Fence Contractors. If you know of other examples of well produced local blogs from construction contractors, let us know.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Publisher hosts NC construction marketing roundtable

(l to r) Matt Smith, Barnhill Contracting Company; Donna Emmary, Frank L Blum Construction Company; Bob Kruhm, NC Construction News; Shan-Te’ Johnson, MACTEC Engineering and Consulting; Mark Buckshon, Construction News Group and Burke Wilson, Sharpe Images.

In the September 10 blog posting on Construction Marketing Ideas, Mark Buckshon, group publisher for the Ottawa-based Construction News and Reports, shared his observations after visiting Raleigh for our editorial advisory roundtable.

“The most important lesson learned is how successful regional businesses survive and thrive through generations and changing economic circumstances and technologies,” Buckshon said. “ They maintain their cohesive and simple values of respect, integrity, and respect for competence -- while adapting, consistently, to the changing environment.”

He noted, “Barnhill Contracting Company has been around for 65 years and Frank L Blum Construction Company has been in business for 85 years -- Donna Emmary says her company has the second oldest active North Carolina construction business registration. And Sharpe Images, represented by Burke Wilson, has been in North Carolina for 50 years. Shan-te’ Johnson, MACTEC Engineering and Consulting, represents the new era as larger, multi-state businesses form through expansion and mergers and change the shape of the business landscape.”

Buckshon reported,“Matt Smith from Barnhill Contracting and Donna Emmary at Frank L. Blum both observed they are facing new competitive challenges as out of state contractors, many of which are well funded and established, are setting up North Carolina branches to capture one of the most vibrant markets in the South. While residential construction has declined along with private-sector commercial construction, much work is either under construction or in the pipeline in infrastructure and institutional areas….”

Everyone at the roundtable discussion agreed that expertise in issues such as Building Information Management and environmental sustainability -- LEED certifications -- are now essential for survival; competence in these areas doesn't carry too much marketing weight in itself, but lack of these capacities will set them back. Burke Wilson said his business generally does better in slower times, as more copies of plans and documents must be printed for the higher number of bidders for each job. Of course, the reprographics business is undergoing its own challenges -- with electronic communications, use of conventional blueprints is declining, but opportunities still can be found.

How can a publication best serve this dynamic market? Buckshon replied, “Good will, mutual respect, and an acknowledgement that construction businesses both need to maintain their relationships while adapting and innovating -- and our role as publishers should be to encourage and engage in these relationships and provide information and insights, and work on enhancing the community and its spirit.”

You can view the complete posting and also sign up for a free copy of Mark Buckshon's Marketing Ideas Email Newsletter at Construction Marketing Ideas link.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

NC engineers, skilled workers, in high demand

Pat McCroy, Republican candidate for governor, receives contribution from Associated Builders & Contractors of the Carolinas. Photo courtesy of Tom Miller.

ASCE SMART BRIEF reported on the bidding war for engineers in NC. The online newsletter, published by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), said the boom in power plant construction has meant engineers are in high demand in Charlotte, home to several power plant companies.

Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, the Republican candidate for governor, sounded a similar message yesterday at the Associated Builders & Contractors of the Carolinas (ABCC) luncheon meeting in Raleigh.

McCrory said the feedback he gets from employers around the state is that they cannot find qualified employees to do the work. He deplored the state’s 30% high school dropout rate.

“We need to reinstate more vocational training in the high schools,” McCrory observed. He said community colleges should reemphasize technical training to meet the labor needs of NC. “Let’s put the word ‘technical’ back into our community colleges," McCroy told the ABCC gathering, representing a cross section of the state's construction industry.

The ASCE reports that NC headhunters compete to lure civil engineers away from their jobs, and engineering students receive job offers before they even graduate. First-year engineers can expect to start at an average salary of $50,000, according to ASCE.

McCroy believes that the state budget should reward universities that graduate engineers.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Accent Construction wins EPA award

Accent Construction, the Chapel Hill-based commercial general contractor, has announced that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has named them 2008 WasteWise Small Business Partner of the Year. Accent Construction will receive the award at the WasteWise & National Partnership for Environmental Priorities (NPEP) Conference to be held October 29-30, 2008 in Arlington, VA.

WasteWise is a voluntary program sponsored by the EPA through which businesses and organizations pledge to reduce municipal solid and industrial waste. Each year, the EPA recognizes the achievements of participants by sponsoring "Partner of the Year" awards in various categories, including business, government, and educational sectors. To be eligible for a partner award, organizations must submit a detailed report of total solid waste reductions and the associated savings.

Award winners must exhibit a commitment to promoting the WasteWise program to employees, suppliers and clients. Since joining the WasteWise program in 1999, Accent Construction has kept nearly 500 tons of waste from going into landfills through their innovative approach to construction material reuse and recycling. Past award winners include Rutgers University, Los Angeles Unified School District, US Postal Service and Raytheon Co.

Accent Construction focuses on providing environmentally-friendly tenant finish for office buildings and medical facilities. Their expertise in reuse/recycle efforts affords clients cost effective and innovative solutions. Visit www.accentllc.com for more information.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

NASCAR Hall of Fame costs rise

The Charlotte Observer reports that NASCAR Hall of Fame planners, including city staff and the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, want an extra $32 million to build better exhibits, increase the building's energy efficiency and pay for unexpected construction costs.

They presented the proposal to City Council on Monday. Approval would bring the total cost of the project to $195 million. The hall will be paid for with a mix of hospitality taxes, loans and money from land sales.

Charlotte won the NASCAR Hall of Fame over proposals from Atlanta, Daytona Beach, Richmond and Kansas City. The project is being designed by New York architectural firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Indianapolis-based Lauth Property Group and Charlotte’s Turner, Thompson, Davis are serving as general contractors on the project.

Most of the increase – $17 million – would go toward exhibits. It would push the exhibit budget to $30 million and allow for more “interactive” displays, said Winston Kelley, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He said the hall would include a movie theater with 250 seats, three screens and rumbling surround sound. Less money would mean more “static” exhibits, Kelley said. He said the early investment would pay off in attendance.

Assistant City Manager Jim Schumacher said new agreements with Bank of America, Wachovia and NASCAR also will allow the city to defer $2 million in loan and royalty payments each year for five years. That money would be reinvested in the project and allow the city to borrow more.

With rising fuel and material costs, NC owners, architects and contractors are looking for ways to hold down costs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said in July that construction materials costs rose 10.4 percent over the last year.

Contractors interviewed by NC Construction News recommend accelerated design packages and bidding out work before the design is completed. Getting contractors to begin work early with a project’s design team and owners can mean big savings. Barnhill Contracting and Skanska USA Building, the co-general contractors for the Raleigh Convention Center, saved millions for the project by pre-ordering. Other contractors report they are focusing on re-using demolition materials.

Schumacher said Monday that he's “99.9 percent sure” that this is the last time the project will need more money. “You can never be 100 percent sure,” he said. “The good part of the story is getting a better facility, a facility that will be a stronger draw for visitors.”

Monday, 8 September 2008

Raleigh Convention Center built for sustainability

The $222-million, 500,000-square-foot Raleigh Convention Center that opened last Friday is not just a boon to the city’s downtown and convention business. It is also the most sustainable building the city has ever built. The facility is one of the few convention centers in the U.S. built to LEED standards, and it is the first project the city has submitted for LEED certification for the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

At the grand opening, John Muter, vice president of the building division of Barnhill Contracting Company praised the support of the Raleigh City Council and Wake County Board of Commissioners. A joint venture between Tarboro-based Barnhill and Skanska USA Building handled construction at-risk management services for the city of Raleigh.

Muter said some 70% of the subcontractors on the project were local and over 90% had North Carolina ties. Many of the workers who live in the area toured the new facility with their families during the grand opening. Twenty-seven percent of the subscontractors were minority and women-owned businesses.

In an interview with NC Construction News to be published later this year, Muter said, “There were many obstacles, and the team spent lots of weekends and nights pulling it all together.”

The design and construction team –which also included a consortium of architects, which included O’Brien Atkins of Durham, Clearscapes of Raleigh and nationally recognized convention center designers, Thompson Ventulett Stainback (TVS) headquartered in Atlanta, – used a variety of techniques to create a sustainable facility that will improve air and water quality, conserve natural resources, reduce operating costs and minimize strain on the local infrastructure.

Some 6,600 tons of structural steel was used to build the center, along with 2,000 tons of miscellaneous steel and 26,000 cubic yards of concrete. Project managers foresaw drastic cost escalations coming for those materials, Those materials have increased greatly in the last three years, and to cope with that, the Skanska-Barnhill team put together accelerated design packages, and $50 million of work was bid out before the design was completed.

Muter also praised the Skanska-Barnhill safety record. Despite the overall size and scope of the project, there was only one minor loss-time accident for about 2 million man hours. You can read the complete interview in the November/December issue of NC Construction News.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Economic development surges in Triangle

The Raleigh-based News & Observer reported the nation's economic slowdown has not stopped business investment in the Triangle, even as unemployment has hit its highest point in nearly five years.

New and expanding businesses announced more than $1 billion in new investments this summer, exceeding the total announced during all of 2007, the Research Triangle Regional Partnership observed. Officials at the economic development group say the surge in announcements may be a coincidence but highlights the economic strength of the region.

This summer four companies -- Cheminova, Medis Medical Imaging Systems, Patheon and Tryton Medical -- moved their corporate headquarters to the Triangle, and businesses continue to contact economic development officials about moving to the area or expanding existing operations.

"It's really remarkable to have that many announcements coming in such a short period of time," said Charles Hayes, CEO of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership. "The thing that struck me was the amount of the investment -- a $1 billion increase in the tax base of the region."

The group coordinates economic development for 13 counties, including Wake, Durham, Chatham, Orange and Johnston.

The Triangle's unemployment rate in July surpassed 5 percent for the first time in four years. While layoffs contribute to joblessness, rising unemployment in the area also is caused by the high number of people moving here at a faster clip than the local economy can absorb the new workers. Transplants continue to stream into the area, which is consistently rated as a top place to live and work.

This summer's investment announcements came from 30 new and existing companies, mostly in research and manufacturing. Michael Walden, an economics professor at N.C. State University, said the partnership's statistics bear out a familiar theme.

"People in the know -- economic developers, investors -- see this region has a solid foundation for growth," Walden said. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a region in the country that's better suited for the future than the Triangle."

For more details visit the Research Triangle Regional Partnership website

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Immigration agency proposes changes to temporary worker visa program

ASA Today, the American Subcontractors Association online newsletter, reports the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would ease application requirements for employers seeking H-2B visas for temporary workers, but that would also make an employer financially liable “if it knows or reasonably should know that its H-2B employees have been charged a fee by anyone … related to their placement as an H-2B worker with the employer.”

In a change that would make petitioning for H-2B visas easier, USCIS proposed lifting the existing requirement that employers name all the individual workers for whom they are seeking H-2B certification, allowing employers instead to name the number of positions they are seeking to fill.

Also under the proposed rule:

• USCIS would discontinue its practice of considering petitions for H-2B visas when temporary labor certifications have not been granted.

• Employers would pay any costs workers incur from recruiters or other agencies that match potential workers with jobs in the United States.

• Employers could no longer change the start date for H-2B visa recipients to dates later than are stated on their temporary labor certifications.

• Employers would be required to report within 48 hours their H-2B visa recipients who do not show up within five days of their start dates, are terminated, or who complete their projects more than 30 days ahead of schedule.

USCIS will accept comments on this NPRM until Sept. 19, 2008. To review and comment on this proposed rule, visit www.regulations.gov and search for Docket No. USCIS-2007-0058.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

September 2008 NC Construction News

The online versions of the September/October Triangle/Triad Construction News and Charlotte Construction News are currently posted for your review. (See links to the right).

We express our appreciation to all who have shared their knowledge and insights in the following articles:

Carolinas Construction Firms Invest in Cost Saving, Efficient Technology

RDU Terminal 2 Takes Off

Miller & Long Meets Challenge of Cape Fear Valley Medical Center Expansion

Myers & Chapman Taking LEED in Green Corporate Office

VIEWPOINT: NC Roads: A Perfect Storm in the Making

David Allen Company HQ: A Shrine to the Possibilities of Stone, Tile and Terrazzo

Center Pointe – Capstone Project for Downtown Greensboro

If your business is interested in contributing to NC Construction News, we invite you to contact Bob Kruhm at 800-578-3216 or send an email to rkruhm@cnrgp.com.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

OSHA proposes to increase penalties for protective equipment violations

ASA Today, the American Subcontractors Association’s weekly national news bulletin, reports the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed to “clarify” how it will apply penalties for violations of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) rules.

In response to a case before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission that suggested that “minor variations in the wording of the provisions affect the Secretary’s authority to cite and penalize separate violations,” OSHA said that it "interprets its respirator and training provisions to impose a duty upon the employer to comply for each and every employee subject to the requirement regardless of whether the provision expressly states that respirators or training must be provided to ‘each employee.’"

OSHA’s proposed change would make explicit in the 29 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 1910 through 1926 employers’ duties to provide PPE, such as respirators, to each employee who performs covered tasks and to train them to use PPE properly.
OSHA set a deadline of Sept. 18, 2008, for public comments or requests for hearings on this change. The American Subcontractors Association has asked for a 90-day extension to allow more feedback.

You can read OSHA’s proposed rule and ASA’s request for an extension under the “Federal Advocacy” section of “Subcontractor Advocacy” at www.asaonline.com.