Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Healthy outlook for 2010

There's certainly a lot of information in ZweigWhite's recently released 2010 AEC Industry Outlook, so don't worry if you haven't gotten to the section in chapter 2 about the health care market yet. For those who are still digesting the 214-page report, I found this line penned by book editor Elaine Howley particularly interesting: "The rising cost of health care benefits that makes AEC firm leaders crazy when looking at their expenses is a main driver of growth in the sector and a potential source of funding to drive more work."

With so much change expected to come in 2010 through health care reform, you can expect this delicate relationship to become even more prominent in the year to come, and beyond. What is your firm doing to benefit from the changes to our health care system? Are you in the mix now for projects, or will you be left on the sidelines again, like you were when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was signed into law 10 months ago?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sustainability can be fun

Autodesk has found a way to bring sustainability awareness to the masses: it recently launched RETROFITS, an online game it hopes will broaden the appeal of green building issues, not only within the design community but to the world as a whole. Through a hybrid quiz show/animated adventure, players can learn more about why it's important to think about the environment when they decide to build a skyscraper, or throw their burger wrapper out the window, or replace the windows in their office buildings.

So, what's your high score? Did you learn anything by playing that will help your firm in 2010?

Looking back, moving forward

Whether it's a look back at the first nine years of the 21st century (I refuse to declare 2009 the end of the decade; after all, the first year was not the year 0, so the decade still has another year to go) or simply a reflection on the past 12 months, December brings about a lot of self-examination in all corners. It's tasks like these that can serve to strengthen your firm in the coming year, as long as you learn from mistakes in the past and continue to do the things that made you successful in the first place.

How much time does your firm spend reviewing what went right, what went wrong, and how to fix it next time so it never happens again?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

No resting on their laurels

Only 18 months or so after finishing the longest sea bridge in the world, Chinese officials announced this week they're getting started on one that will shatter the new record. The 31-mile Y-shaped structure will connect mainland China with Macau and Hong Kong when it's completed in 2015. It's expected to feature an underwater tunnel with artificial islands and cost about $6.75 billion.

They say, "Everything's bigger in Texas," but I'm not sure how our friends in the Lone Star State could top this one.

So, is there a chance your firm could get some work out of this project? What do you think of the idea? Are there other places you think a bridge like this, or maybe an even longer one, could be built here in the U.S.?

Happy 102nd, Oscar!

About a month ago, we noted Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer was returning to work after a bout with gall stones and a cancerous tumor in his kidney. Earlier this week, Niemeyer celebrated his 102nd birthday, doing what he loves: working. He's unimpressed about reaching the ripe old age of 102, saying, "There's nothing to commemorate."

Have you seen any of Niemeyer's work in your travels? Has his work inspired you in any way to think differently about a project, especially given his love of domes, curves, and sweeping lines? Are you part of a firm that has someone in place whose tirelessness is similarly inspiring?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bad news for ABI

After seeing its monthly Architectural Billings Index reach its highest level since August 2008 in October (46.1), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) this morning says the number slid to 42.8 for November, a trend AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker called "cause for concern" in a telephone interview.

"It looked like it was headed for 50, but the November number is lower than the March number, so clearly the message is this is going to be as labored recovery," Baker says. Any number over 50 shows an increase in billings from the previous month.

New project inquiries were flat in November, at 58.5, but Baker hasn't seen those numbers translate into much new work, he says. Regional totals were largely unchanged, as were sector figures for residential, commercial/industrial, and institutional projects.

"Folks are looking a bit wider for projects, but ultimately only one firm is going to get the project," Baker told me this week, adding he expects it to be "well into 2010, maybe closer to mid-year, before we see a real recovery in design activity."

So, what's your take? Are you concerned by the latest ABI numbers? What's your thought on the project inquiries number staying well above 50 for several months now?

Focus on the basics

We're excited this morning to have our first of what we hope will be many contributions from Steven W. Smith, president and managing director of WSP-SELLS (Briarcliff Manor, NY), a 250-person transportation and infrastructure firm. The company is part of the WSP Group family, which ranked third in The Zweig Letter 2009 Hot Firm List. Inspired by one of his managers' requests to venture in to new areas, Smith looks at what firms can do to ride out the economic storm, even when it reaches historic depths:

"In a difficult economy, remember to focus on the basics. As we enter the second year of The “Great Recession,” I have been pleased that we have been fortunate enough to maintain our revenue and bottom line, but it has not been easy. As with most things in life, it all comes down to hard work and a little luck, such as coming in first rather than second on an important project. I believe the real trick to surviving in these times is by staying totally focused on what makes your firm tick.

"It is so tempting to try new avenues of business when some of your existing revenue streams are drying up. More often then not, these side ventures result in dead ends. Spending that effort on the existing areas of your business that are working well will, more often than not, provide a far better return on investment. If you think about it, when project opportunities are few and far between and competition is intense, our clients will protect the ones they know! While there are exceptions to every rule, when the choice is between investing in an area of your business you know well or taking a leap of faith to a new business area, I will always choose the known route, especially in times like these."

So, what's your firm's approach? Do you stick to the basics or do you try to chase whatever you can find?

Monday, December 14, 2009

On the fast track

If you thought the competition for the $787 billion available through the economic stimulus package, more formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,  was fierce, you haven't seen anything yet. More than 40 states are vying for $8 billion in federal high-speed rail funds, with projects totaling about $60 billion. Once again, there will be a lot more work on the outside looking in.

Is your firm part of any of these proposals? What are you doing to latch on to one of these projects? Are you doing any lobbying in Washington to try to make sure your project is chosen?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Big Apple projects rotting

More than 500 projects are on hold in New York City, according to the New York Building Congress. The Building Congress said the city government should allow tax credits or zoning changes to help get stalled projects moving again. The city recently approved a law that lets owners submit construction-site safety plans that would keep their permits current for an extra four years, so stalled projects could be restarted more easily.

So, if nothing's happening in Las Vegas, and now things are slowing down in the Big Apple and in the Windy City, where are we to turn for some good news? Are you a victim of one of these stalled projects? How much is affecting your firm?

Cities desire streetcars

At least 45 U.S. cities are considering adding street car lines after the recent announcement by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that $130 million will soon be available to communities looking to build these mass-transit lines. The list includes Augusta, Georgia; Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Grand Rapids, Michigan. With grants as high as $25 million each, it could be quite a battle for a piece of the pie.

What do you think about this idea? Does your firm stand to benefit from the construction of these new rail lines? If so, would you prefer to see them go to the big cities or have the money more spread out among several dozen smaller projects?

Gingerbread houses get a makeover

The Chicago Tribune recently got some architects in the holiday spirit by asking them to come up with new versions of the classic gingerbread house. The edible creations will be auctioned off for charity. Good to see that, even in tough times, there's still time to remember what's really important.

So, which one is your favorite? Is your firm doing anything unique to celebrate the season?

Decade of decadence?

New materials and methods helped to produce an array of sci-fi structures across the world in the past 10 years, leading the architecture of the decade to serve as a representation of our penchant for excess, according to one overseas critic. The writer calls the BMW Museum in Munich, Germany, a "nightmarish" example of the need for attention and personal gratification.

So, what do you think? Was there an excess in self-promotion in architecture in the turn of the century? Will the economic downturn lead to a more conservative approach in the next decade or so?

Phoenix falling

The Associated General Contractors of America, facing the potential of another 430,000 job losses in 2010 in the wake of 20% unemployment through the end of this year, is encouraging federal lawmakers to pass new transportation spending measures. Officials hope that will ease some of the bloodletting, but it may be too late for former hotbed Phoenix, which lost more construction jobs from October 2008 through October 2009 than any other major U.S. market.

"There's almost no place to go but up," AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson said, referring to the dire situation facing general contractors these days. So, while the national unemployment rate is down to 10%, things continue to look bleak on the construction arena and in commercial real estate.

In one glimmer of hope, it looks like about 400 workers will be needed to build the biggest wind farm in the U.S. in Oregon, after General Electric secured the $1.4-billion contract. Shepherd's Flat is expected to be able to power 235,000 California homes and will supply 10% of Southern California Edison's renewable energy.

So, how long do you think the downturn will last for the construction industry? How much worse will it get?

From Hot Firm to closed - but how?

In August, Cubellis was #13 on The Zweig Letter Hot Firm List. A little more than three months later, the 175-person Boston-based architecture and engineering firm was closing its doors, largely because Sovereign Bank froze its line of credit, according to President and CEO Lenord Cubellis.

So, do you expect to see more of this in 2010 - firms unable to stay open because banks are getting less lenient with letting them slide? Our founder, Mark Zweig, says that wouldn't have happened in the recent past but speculates it will happen more in the future. Do you agree? Have you seen this happen first-hand? Are you hoping your firm won't follow in Cubellis' footsteps? Do you learn anything from their misfortune?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The walls are closing in

There was an interesting piece in The Wall Street Journal yesterday on how office space is becoming a little cozier during these tough economic times. I'm sure you'll notice that most of the firms profiled in the story are from the AEC space, and some of them are big boys like Stantec and HOK, both of whom are always at or near the top of The Zweig Letter Hot Firm List.

So, what's your firm doing in this regard? Are you trimming the office space as a way to save money? How are you finding the negotiations when your lease expires or is up for renewal? Are prices more reasonable than in the past because any occupant is a good occupant in a landlord's mind?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Get inspired to be creative

I came across this collection of wacky roadside architecture today and saw it as my duty to share it with all of you. Sure, there's a time and a place for standard buildings and following the lead of historic edifices. But what seems to be lacking in this age of "get it done and move on to the next job" is a spark of creativity that could really set your project apart. Some people might hate it, others will love it, but EVERYONE will be talking about it, and enough people with deep pockets and land to go with it will notice and want to bring your firm aboard when it's time for their next building to go up. Sure, it takes a unique owner to open a donut shop shaped like a donut or a clam shack shaped like a take-out box, but it doesn't hurt to toss the idea out there and see what your client thinks.

Let's make a deal

I spent three days last week at ZweigWhite's 2009 Mergers & Acquisitions Summit, meeting some of the industry's top wheelers and dealers and hearing about some of their successes and even some of their failures, a rare treat for journalists-- and for potential first-time buyers or sellers, I'd imagine. We'll have plenty of coverage of the Summit in the December issue of AEC Finance News, but my overall impression of the event after attending for the second year in a row is there was much more conversation among those who were there than last year, when interaction was at a minimum in the early days of the economic meltdown. I'm not saying there will be more deals in the next 12 months than there were this year, but it was good to see more firm leaders thinking about buying rather than selling.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mixed bag for construction industry

As we turn the calendar and enter the final month of 2009, it's still a bit unclear where the AEC industry is headed. On the one hand, highway construction projects that were on the fast track because of the $787 billion economic stimulus package are slowing, meaning more job cuts on the horizon for that segment. On the other hand, the U.S. Commerce Department says construction spending was up slighlty in October, with an increase in home building offsetting the continued decline on the non-residential side.

So, how do you read the tea leaves? What do you see on the horizon for the rest of this year and the end of the decade over the next 12 months or so? Will we close the first part of the new millennium on a high note or do we have a dreaded W curve on the way, with another dip still to come?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dubai on hold, Vegas on rebound?

After several years of fast-paced growth, development in Dubai hit the skids with about 400 projects put on hold because of a lack of funding for them. Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, the opening of the $8.5 billion City Center resort on Tuesday could be the beginning of the turnaround for the glitz capital of the world.

So, what do you see ahead for the economy of Las Vegas, Dubai or your neck of the woods? Is the worst over in the U.S. but still to come in other parts of the world? Or are you bracing for another downturn before things fully recover?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An educational marketing campaign

Kelly Teenor, director of marketing and associate at Hall & Foreman, Inc. (Tustin, CA), a 40-person civil engineering, surveying, and planning firm, sends us in to the holiday weekend with a lesson on sharing knowledge and building relationships:

"The premise of this educational marketing campaign is simple: Explain the changes to the California General Permit.

"Effective July 1, 2010, a stricter California General Permit that regulates water quality at construction sites goes into effect. It affects both new development and redevelopment projects. Anticipating that the changes would generate questions from our clients, Hall & Foreman, Inc. teamed with Rain for Rent, a nationwide liquid handling solutions firm, to hold a conference that gives answers. The conference brings together the regulatory agencies and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) construction permit holders so they can discuss the new regulations and implementation solutions.

"The conference format is designed around two concepts: share knowledge and build relationships. The one-day agenda includes two panels. The morning panel features regulators while the afternoon panel features private sector storm water management experts. The panel format provides the audience plenty of opportunity to ask questions and explore 'what if?' scenarios. Networking during lunch encourages the information sharing to continue. A vendor display area showcases local storm water-related products, services, and solutions.

"More than 60 attendees participated in the mid-November conference. Indicative of the high interest level in the general permit changes, the regulator panel ran longer than originally scheduled. To meet the demand for information, two additional conferences are planned throughout Southern California. The conferences are being promoted through multi-channels. Direct client contact is made by project managers and sales representatives who distribute the registration brochure in both hard copy and electronic formats. On-line channels include posting the brochure on the Hall & Foreman website with Tweets linking to the registration form. Plus, each of the panelists can distribute the brochure to their contacts.

"Sharing knowledge and building relationships are key to the building industry successfully navigating the stricter California General Permit. Recognizing this, Hall & Foreman and Rain for Rent are making it happen."

What do you think of this outreach program? Is your firm doing anything similar?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More unfinished business

The cancellation of the University California-Berkeley's proposed museum is nothing new when it comes to grand plans coming to a screeching and disappointing halt in San Francisco. Sadly, many long-time observers say they've seen this before in the City By The Bay.

How are things looking in your neck of the woods? Are plans being mothballed, or is the apparent economic turnaround starting to bring shelved plans back? What do you see happening as we head toward the end of 2009 and on to a new year?

Monday, November 23, 2009

In the eye of the beholder

A list ranking the ugliest buildings in the world picks the Morris A. Mechanic Theater in Baltimore as this year's winner - or should we say loser? Interestingly, last year's most hideous - Boston City Hall - couldn't even crack this year's top 10 somehow. Apparently, the folks who compiled the list found a lot more places they liked less in the last 12 months. Apologies if any of your buildings made the cut.

So, what do you think about this list? Does it make you want to scale back your creativity for fear of this sort of negative publicity? Or do you believe in the saying, "There's no such thing as bad PR?"

Can't slow him down

Famed 101-year-old Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer is reportedly back at work just weeks after surgery for gallstones and an intestinal tumor. O Globo, a Portuguese-language daily newspaper, reports Niemeyer is working on a collection of buildings in Niteroi, a city outside of Rio de Janeiro. Talk about a love of his work!

Does this story make you rethink or put off your retirement plans? How prepared are you and your firm for when the next generation of leaders will take over?

Race to the bottom

Ty Kicklighter, chief financial officer at Walter Schoel Engineering Company (Birmingham, AL), a 40-person civil, environmental, and surveying firm, kicks off the holiday workweek with a call to action for his colleagues in the AEC space:

"The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy by Pietra Rivoli follows the life of a T-shirt from the cotton field through harvest, production, distribution, initial sale, and finally to the used clothing market in Africa. It is an interesting take on the inner workings of economics and the global economy. One portion of the book describes the 'race to the bottom' in textile production, describing its rise and fall in countries around the world, from Europe in the 1700s to China today, as production shifts to the lowest cost producer. An interesting note is that many of the countries or areas that have 'lost' this race and been beaten out by cheaper labor and manufacturing, ultimately are better off and have a higher standard of living after having lost the race. Prior to entering the race, many of the laborers lacked skills, had very little autonomy, and were primarily in family agricultural jobs that seemed hopeless. Losing the race forced innovation, left a more skilled workforce, and also left a workforce motivated to maintain their autonomy and not return to the farm.

"Certainly in the current economy, fee pressures in the design professions seem like a race to the bottom. Firms are sacrificing profits for work, competing with many more firms for the same work, freezing salaries, and reducing labor costs to stay competitive. Even under these circumstances, it is worth being reminded that the race to the bottom in regards to fees is not sustainable, both for individual firms and for the industry. Those firms that avoid this race by innovative thinking, continuous skill building, and leveraging a motivated workforce will ultimately be the real winners."

So, what do you think? How can your firm and the AEC industry as a whole combat the race to the bottom, even in these trying economic times?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Energy Star changes ahead?

We're not sure when or how this will affect the AEC industry, but there could be some changes coming to the Energy Star system that determines whether a building or appliance is energy-efficient. One possible idea is adding a "superstar green label" for the top performers. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources in its Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 that would require an overhaul of Energy Star.

So, what do you think? Should the program be overhaul, given a few tweaks or left alone?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Building safer bridges

Across the country and around the world, structural engineers are planting sensors inside concrete so they can tell when a bridge, office tower, and other tall structure is in danger of collapse. One prominent example of where this technology is being used is the St. Anthony Falls Bridge (I-35W) in Minnesota, which collapsed in August 2007, killing 13 people and injuring 145 more. It's too bad it takes such a tragedy to find ways to prevent them from happening again, but kudos to those who have embraced the increased safety measures.

Has your firm used these sensors? Will it be trying them out?

You're higher!

As if real estate mogul Donald Trump needs to have a reason to brag, he's got another one: The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has moved Chicago's Trump International Hotel & Tower from the seventh-tallest building in the world to sixth after changing its criteria for judging how high a building really is.

We can all breathe a little easier knowing The Donald won't be sulking too long after giving up on his quest to win back his casinos in Atlantic City earlier in the week.

As I write this, Taipei 101 is the tallest building in the world, but that structure will soon lose the perch it's held since 2004 to Burj Dubai, which is expected to be ready in 2010.

Little houses - not just on the prairie

Architect Sarah Susanka, who has become a best-selling author, is taking to cyberspace to sell plans for the small homes for which she's become increasingly famous. Susanka, who penned the "Not So Big House" series, is offering plans for her own humble abode as well as a prairie-style home inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, and a demo showhouse she designed for the International Builders Show in Orlando.

Let us know what you think of these homes and if you'd buy the plans for yourself or a client.

ABI numbers give some hope

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) (Washington, DC) released its October Architectural Billings Index numbers this morning, with the 46.1 overall score the highest since August 2008. New project inquiries dipped slighlty from September to October (from 59.1 to 58.5). For complete coverage and analysis of the ABI and other economic indicators, check out the November issue of AEC Finance News.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Foam: futuristic or fad?

It turns out foam is not only being used to build fake walls these days, but also to construct real ones. San Francisco architect Tim Murphy says architectural foam "is probably here to stay" based on its durability, low cost and environmentally friendly production. No worries, though: There are no plans to use foam in any structural walls at this point, according to the article.

So, what do you think? Has your firm tried using architectural foam? How have your clients reacted?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Going REALLY old school

Bill Lewis, senior editor for ZweigWhite's newsletters, takes a step in to the Way-Back Machine to kick off the week:

"While wealthy Middle Eastern regions including Dubai and the United Arab Emirates have drawn interest— and billions in investment dollars— from Western architecture, engineering and construction firms, the area's poorest's nation has a rich architectural history of its own.

"That’s the take of an article in The New York Times on Sunday about architectural gems in Yemen, a country with a long history of poverty and isolation. Those factors, the article says, have blocked development booms, but have also helped preserve centuries-old building arts and create an architectural landscape that 'often makes it feel like a refuge.'

"Indeed, building seems to be in the life-blood of Yemeni citizens. The result has been traditional homes that prove to be sturdier and more efficient than their modern counterparts and that have helped Yemen avoid housing crises that have plagued other developing nations."

Friday, November 13, 2009

The sounds of silence

William C. Beckman, CEO at X-nth (Maitland, FL), a 350-person international consulting engineering firm that was 10th on the The Zweig Letter 2009 Hot Firm List, chimes in with his thoughts on the state of the U.S. economy:

"How can the politicians think that the economy is going to get better if the design industry isn’t cranking out designs NOW? We all know design is ahead of construction by one to two years.

"From my viewpoint, too many firms are idle, especially with respect to the U.S. market. Construction drives the economy in a big way. Contractors are steadily eating through backlog. Designers need to be designing NOW to fill the pipeline.

"So the question is: what can we, as members of the building services industry, do to get the government to sit up and take notice so that this so-called changing tide in the economy becomes a reality? Shouldn’t the government be backing lenders who create construction projects rather than banks only interested in shoring up their bottom line?"

What are your thoughts? How can you and your firm make sure there's a true turnaround in the economy?

Controlling the uncontrollable

We all know the cost of health care continues to spiral as Congress continues to debate the merits of a full-scale overhaul. In fact, the November issue of The Zweig HR Letter recently looked at the merits of giving employees who opt out of the firm's health care coverage an incentive. In The Board Room's first post from a firm leader, Robert M. Dankese, Jr., principal and chief financial officer at Howard/Stein-Hudson Associates, Inc. (Boston, MA) a 45-person consulting firm in the areas of transportation planning, traffic engineering, civil engineering, and public involvement/strategic planning, looks at the issue from the inside:

"The spiraling cost of health care is a concern for anyone running a business these days. Our open enrollment and renewal period is Jan. 1. We recently met with our insurance agent and our renewal rates were 17%. It’s too much of an increase to just say okay and move on, especially with many double-digit increases in years prior to this one, so we explore the different options with plan changes. That comes with its own host of challenges. With times tough for a lot of individuals and families, any plan change to them, looks effectively like a pay cut for them. I know all companies having been facing the issue of rising health care costs and many have made plan changes to lessen the increase that their business is facing."

How’s your firm doing handling heath care increases? Have you made plan design changes in the past that have been more accepted by employees and if so, what are they?

On road to recovery?

State agencies have approved more than 10,000 transportation projects to receive money through the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, more commonly known as the economic stimulus package, according to Vice President Joe Biden. Most of the projects are small, but some bigger fix-ups are included in what's been doled out so far. So, maybe the stimulus package hasn't been the quick economic fix some had been expecting, but it seems to be making some headway.

How has your firm been helped by the economic stimulus package? Are you expecting better things from it in 2010?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Green 'til 2013 - and beyond

According to a press release from the U.S. Green Building Council, green building will support almost 8 million jobs between 2009 and 2013 and add almost $400 million in wages to the nation's economy in that time. Those figures come from a study by the USGBC and Booz Allen Hamilton. Even if they're even a little bit off, it's pretty clear that green building is here to stay.

So, how's your firm doing in this regard? Do you see green building as a fad? What steps have you taken to either embrace it or find other ways to do business in the era of LEED certification?

Recession hits home for AIA

After nearly two years of recession, the Washington, D.C.-based American Institute of Architects (AIA) this week joined the ranks of many of its member firms when it announced it will eliminate 33 staff positions, or 15% of its 203 employees, in its national headquarters. The decision came after the AIA’s board of directors began planning its 2010 budget. The institute’s revenue has dropped by 20% since 2008 and the AIA had two weeklong furloughs for its national office staff in June and August. Plans call for the AIA to create a number of new positions as well that will better reflect what its members need and want today.

So, what do you think about this news? Does it make you worried about how long it will be before the industry recovers from its economic slump?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Office shooting at Orlando engineering firm

The disturbing trend of office shootings across the U.S. struck a little too close to home this morning when a former employee at Reynolds, Smith and Hill opened fire, killing one person and injuring five other people. Our condolences to the RS&H family for this terrible loss.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What happens in Vegas ...

For decades, we've all thought of Las Vegas as the center of glitz, glamor, debauchery, and decadence. As we've all heard, the recession has not been kind to Sin City, as evidenced once again in this piece.

My ZweigWhite colleagues said it was striking to see evidence of the potential City Center project in the middle of the Strip during last week's Hot Firm Conference but no signs of any work being done there any time soon. Let's hope things turn around there - and across the country - real soon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Welcome to The Board Room

If you’ve found your way here, you are obviously someone with a keen interest in architecture, engineering, environmental consulting or the related fields, or more likely someone who’s made your career in one of those industries. We’re launching this virtual community, which we’re calling The Board Room, as a way to bring together some of the best and brightest minds in the AEC industry with the folks here at ZweigWhite, who aim to inform you about the latest news that can affect you and your bottom line.
For those who made it here by accident, let’s give you some introductions and hope you’ll like what you hear and want to stick around and even tell a few friends about us. I’m Craig MacCormack, senior writer for ZweigWhite’s four newsletters - The Zweig Letter, AEC Finance News, Marketing Now, and The Zweig HR Letter. I’ve been with ZweigWhite for almost two years after more than a dozen years in the newspaper business, so I’ve learned what it takes not only to get the tough story but also the features that give you a look behind some of the key figures in your industry. That’s the kind of coverage you’ll get in the newsletters, and even more here, where the industry leaders themselves will help in telling their own stories.
Our team of writers, led by myself, includes several fellow long-time reporters, all of whom know a good news story when they see it, as well as ZweigWhite’s consultants to the AEC industry with decades of expertise in helping firms turn themselves around, become even more successful, or know when it’s time to turn things over to someone else. You’ll also hear occasionally from Mark Zweig, who started this company more than 20 years ago to help leaders in the architecture, engineering and environmental consulting industries achieve their business and personal goals, and still has his finger on the pulse of what’s going on in AEC — sometimes even before many of you do.
Combine that team with a stable of firm leaders, including Chris Stockwell, chief marketing officer and executive VP at GEI Consultants, Inc. (Woburn, MA); Bill Beckman, CEO at X-nth (Maitland, FL); and Steve Lucy, principal at Jaster-Quintanilla (Austin, TX) among more than a dozen insiders who will contribute regularly to this space, and you can see this blog will be unlike any you’ve ever read in covering every nook and cranny of the industry. Let me know if you’d like to join the team— all expert opinions and advice is welcome.
Having the people who make the key decisions every day for their firms tell you what they’ve done to be successful and chime in on how the latest industry news will help or hurt the industry could also help your company improve its bottom line. We’re doing this to bring you the news, views, insight, and analysis you truly can’t get anywhere else, no matter how hard you look. Make sure to follow us so you don’t miss a thing.
One last housekeeping item: Remember to leave us your feedback. Your comment might plant a seed for a future newsletter story. The only thing we ask is that you use your real name with your comments and keep them civil. We want to hear what you have to say, but not if we have to censor it after you post it.

Again, welcome to The Board Room. Enjoy your stay and come back again real soon.