A good time to invest in the future.

With the hot summer weather and long daylight hours here in the Pacific Northwest, the livin’ is easy. For those with overhead under control, it’s a good time to enjoy some outdoor activities and vacation time with family and friends. Between the slumping economy and the enticing lure of summer, we took some time off in July. Just before heading back East for a 4th of July break,  I attended the AACE conference in Seattle, whose membership is mostly engineering-industrial firms. Business in those sectors is down from last year, but stronger than what we’re seeing in commercial segments. Those firms were guardedly optimistic; plus they’re getting a discount on their projects due to depressed material and subcontractor pricing. Not unexpectedly, there’s still plenty of bad news: ENR’s construction revenue data (updated through second quarter) show the commercial market still declining, especially in retail and office construction. While health care and education revenue is less dismal, it’s still following the same downward trend. For the first time this year however, there’s a small seed of optimism sprouting in the dirt. Power and fuel-industry construction rose last quarter, compared with 2008. And a surprising (shocking?) 11% uptick in housing starts last [...]

Commitment to process

We’re fast-approaching the half-year point in the worst economy in nearly 80 years. Most of our clientele is doing better than the economy. We’ve had only one of our customers go out of business, not bad out of the roughly 50 companies we work with. (The one that didn’t make it was an anomaly- the president skipped the country, which really had nothing to do with the viability of the business.) I think the fact that we’re all still in business speaks well of companies who have recognized the importance of solid business procedures. All our clientele have invested in Timberline, US Cost, Win Estimator, Primavera, OnCenter, Dexter & Chaney, and in some cases more than one of the above. That commitment to process is one of the attributes that separates the good companies from the also-rans. Our commitment is expertise with those systems, to help our customers get maximum efficiency and productivity from that investment. We at Cassell Consulting are having a decent year. Our revenue is down 11%, not as good as we’d hoped, nor as bad as we’d feared. In January I stated that a good year in this economy would be between 90% to 110% of [...]

Exciting products and fresh directions

March finds the bid market slowing in many areas, but holding its own in a few areas. Job prices continue to plummet as marginal contracting firms fight for survival. However some of our clientele reports that it’s still possible to bid a job with some profit, and actually get awarded the job. Starting that project on time is often problematic however, as Owners and Developers report that bank funding remains inordinately tight. ENR’s forecast for 2009 shows continuing declines in nearly all sectors of industrial, commercial, & residential markets, with modest growth only in public works highway and infrastructure work in 2010.  Some rebound in health care, education, and agriculture is forecast for next year, but private development and residential construction is predicted to continue its decline. Therefore the companies with solid presence in public works, and negotiated markets are best-positioned for the current recession. Just as surely as spring breezes blow in a different direction from those in winter, the new season has brought significant changes at Cassell Consulting. After fifteen years as an Independent Timberline-certified Estimating consultant & trainer, we declined to renew. This is not to suggest that our support for our loyal Timberline clientele will diminish. [...]

Sage Timberline Estimating to adopt industry-standard Microsoft SQL.

Feb. is here, and we’re not sure whether we should be celebrating or lamenting its arrival. We’re seeing some upticks from our customers, but most indications are still headed in the wrong direction. Hard work and good controls are the hallmarks contributing to the limited successes of our clientele- nothing new. We attended the World of Concrete in Las Vegas. All in all the show appeared to me to be successful, with somewhere between 66%-80% of the anticipated 85,000 attendees. That’s not bad  by this economy’s standards, (although it clearly would have been viewed as a disaster in recent years past). Also at World of Concrete: when we spoke with Steve Watt, president of WinEstimator Inc. of Kent, WA he showed us Modelogix, its new conceptual modeling component.  In our opinion, it’s the best, easiest-to-use parametric estimating tool that we’ve seen.  Don’t own WinEst? No problem- as long as you can export your estimates to Excel, WinEst’s new tool can intelligently sort, query, and evaluate your entire historical estimate library, weighted for estimate date AND locale, in just minutes!! Finally, we can’t leave our WoC review without offering our congratulations to Adam Vaske, of  Seedorff Masonry of Strawberry Point, IA, [...]

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, and welcome to BC’s Blog for January.  The good news is that most of us made it, companies largely intact, through the first year of the recession.  We’ve been keeping an eye on President-elect Obama’s stimulus plan. According to ENR, over a billion dollars worth of work (per state) is in various stages of planning and bidding, in Hawaii, Arizona, and Washington. Our contractor clientele in several states are seeing fewer bid opportunities, more bidders, and projects going for lower margins. Those trends are unlikely to improve for at least six months. Despite the outlook for declining construction revenues in 2009, taking the long view, good companies will survive, and weaker competitors will be weeded out. December’s SureTrak training, (our first at Honolulu Community College), was well attended. Summit Construction and Alan Shintani Construction sent personnel to the class. Our followup training is scheduled for March. Please check HCC’s website for details and registration info. Additionally we put some finishing touches on Beachside Roofing Hawaii’s brand-new Timberline Estimating system, going live last month. Successful milestones included successfully interfacing a Timberline estimate to a Sage Master Builder accounting budget, and sending Timberline Estimating items to Timberline Buyout to [...]

BC’s Blog December 08

Despite last year’s residential meltdown (-35%), industrial construction recorded strong growth in 2008, and commercial largely held its own, with gains in niches such as the hospitality and office sectors. Next year’s construction forecasts, released in December haven’t been good; industry experts predict a downturn in every single sector of construction for 2009. The good news is that fuel, lumber, drywall, and steel prices have fallen to their lowest prices in years. However the current AIA Billings index is down to its lowest level since its origin fifteen years ago, and we know that if architects aren’t drawing, we surely won’t be building much in the near future. Major projects in Las Vegas are being mothballed, shutting down mid-stream. (Now that’s an expensive bearish bet on the economy.) The bid markets have slowed, but likely not as much as we’ll see in the months to come. Likewise contractors’ margins are plummeting. We’ve been told by our friends in estimating departments that even uncomfortably low bids are finishing second or third. It appears that the bottom-feeding frenzy is on. On the Mainland, in order to help our customers survive the downturn, we are now working jointly with Market Accelerators and Golden [...]