On Record – November 2009

Marcia Doyle
I was having a casual hall conversation with a co-worker and we both agreed that when it came to readers, we’ve got one of the best audiences around. No offense against magazines that address the concerns of podiatrists or jewelers or convenience store owners, but as a writer, I’ll take one of our rooted, professional, hard-driving contractors as a reader any day of the week.

So in this month devoted to giving thanks, here’s what I especially appreciate about you:
You’re creative. I recently talked to an engineer about an excavating contractor he’s worked with on a golf course. “A number of times he’s revised the routing for roads to eliminate the need for a retaining wall or change the need for storm drainage,” he told me. “He’s always looking for ways to save the owner dollars.”

I can see most of you shrugging in a “so what” manner. Isn’t that what you do for a living? But this ability to take a conceptual set of drawings and come back with accurate estimates is a creative skill few have.

Another less everyday example of creativity is what S & B Construction of Indianapolis did when it saw its institutional building business dry up. It sponsored a one-day “Build Your Vision” seminar in September, designed to give non-profits, schools and churches ideas on how to fund and cost-effectively renovate and build structures. Latching on to one of twelve regional seminars put on by nationally known construction, financing and church consultants, the 35-year-old S & B not only got its name out but became the go-to company for seminar attendees.

You’re farsighted. This year, right in the middle of construction’s dive, Alabama contractors supported the creation of the Alabama Workforce Development Initiative, funded by a fee of 0.0009 collected on wages paid to field personnel working on nonresidential construction. The funding mechanism makes sense – it applies to everyone, so no one is at a competitive disadvantage. But more important is what this money will fund: a four-year statewide image/recruitment campaign to get more people in hardhats. Sure, it’s a bit ironic this fund proposes to spend $1.75 million annually in recruiting for an industry currently drowning in unemployment, but these smart contractors know the industry’s chronic worker shortage problem hasn’t gone away.

You’re family. I could say “family-oriented” here, but this goes beyond blood kin. “He/she treats their employees like family” is a common refrain I hear when others talk about contractors. Take the example of Don MacIntosh, this month’s featured Contractor of the Year finalist. Not only do his two sons and brother work with him, but his office manager, Sherry Walker, has been with him for 35 years and her husband, brother and nephew are also with the company. This type of longevity indicates there’s much more involved than a paycheck.
So thanks for the privilege of writing to you. It continues to be an honor.