Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cities With The Most New Construction In The U.S.

Image courtesy of carolinaservicesinc.com
New commercial construction projects have been popping up in metro areas around the U.S. the past two years at a rate not seen for several years. In 2013 McGraw Hill Construction put together their list of cities with the most money spent on new construction through May of last year (to my knowledge their  haven't been any newer updates to these numbers).

The overall numbers in their study were interesting. In 2012 new construction was up ten percent and at the time of their research they projected another 12 percent increase in 2013. Obviously, if you're looking at Metro projects you're looking at expenditures climbing into the billions. However, it's interesting to compare some other numbers to the fastest areas of new construction growth. Let's look at the top five in their list.

1. New York. Not surprisingly, New York came in first place as far and away the largest city in the country. From 2010 to 2012 population in New York jumped up slightly from 8.19 million to 8.34 million, but with annual new construction starts of over $20.5 billion it's clear that even in years of modest population growth, the need for newer, bigger and better things are taking place in New York City.

2. Dallas. Amazingly, Wikipedia has the most recent population at only 1.2 million, even though the city had new construction starts of over $11.1 billion in 2012 and increased that in 2013. The scope of projects for a city much smaller than New York is truly something.

3. Houston. Texas is definitely the site for new construction as Houston follows hot on Dallas's heals. In 2012 they had identical new construction starts of $11.1 billion. In the past year, Houston's population (already at 2.12 million) grew by 83,000. The thriving oil economy, healthy birth rate and a steady stream of immigrants helps fuel this growth.

4. Washington D.C. Far less populace than the top three in this list, Washington's government driven economy and historical buildings like the recent renovation to the IMF Headquarters continue to fuel healthy growth upwards of $10 billion annually.

5. Atlanta. Another crown jewel of the south, Atlanta's new construction starts grew by roughly 80% (projected) in 2013. That's astonishing growth for a city that had seen a drop in population of more than 100,000 from 2009 to 2010 and a sign of the city's resurgence.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Construction: A Dangerous Career

Truck drivers swerve through mountain passes during a blizzard. In skin melting heat, forest fire fighters run into Mother Nature’s blazing rage. Fishermen ward off ice chunks and massive waves to bring in a cage of crab. Police officers suit up in body armor before an armed raid. These are the dangerous jobs that hard working men and women in the United States face every day on the job. But what people don’t realize is that one of the most dangerous careers to be in is construction.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Elder Care Referral Services: Know What They Know!

Oftentimes, elder care referral services will advertise in hospital waiting rooms, online, television, and even on the side of vans. I know this having done some CNA training at several near my home years ago.

So what is an elder care referral service? When someone is about to be discharged from a hospital, or when they are no longer able to live independently (or at the same level of care to which they were accustomed), these services are supposed to provide an informed choice to seniors.

Based on the information they receive from your loved one or your family, they make recommendations as to facilities that are able to care for your loved one. There are two problems. First, often the referral service hasn’t done their research on the facilities. Second, often they’re basing their recommendations based on incomplete information.

There are several types of facilities that may be able to accomodate your loved one. The facility type often varies based on the level of care your loved one requires.

For example, Nursing Homes are usually able to care for varying levels of dependent individuals. Some simply have some trouble getting around or need a little assitance with washing. Some are completely dependent on others for all of their activities of daily living (ADLs). Adult Family Homes provide a more close-knit care system, with fewer beds and more caregivers per person. However, they lack the large infrastructure and resources of a nursing home. Independent Living Facilities offer activities and meals, but largely let your loved one remain independent in a condominium or apartment style setting.

Most referral services are by no means charitable. They operate to garner a profit. The way they make their profit is generally by receiving the first month’s rent that you pay the facility. This means that the less they spend on research of the facility, the more money they are able to make. So its important to know which questions to ask.


  • Has anyone from the referral service visited the facility?
  • What staff are available to your loved one at the facility?
  • Is there an nurse or doctor onsite or readily available?
  • Are they able to meet the needs of your loved one?
  • What does the facility have in place to prevent pressure ulcers?
  • What training do the caregivers at the facility have?
  • What does the facility do about medications?
  • Has the facility been cited by DSHS?
  • Have their been any lawsuits against the facility?
  • Have their been any actions against licensed staff?
  • What forms of payment do they accept?
  • What are the refund policies?
A lot of these things may seem like they require a lot of time and effort. However, a quick visit and a couple of questions to the facility’s owner can turn up most of the information. Most DSHS websites offer quick and easy public disclosure requests (or even online checks) into licensing and actions against a provider’s license.


The facility should be collecting information from your or your loved one in order to make the right recommendation. A lot of facilities will claim to have “care advisors”, but are solely making their recommendation based on ability to pay and geographic location. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg. In order to properly care for your loved one, they need to know what activities they can and can’t do. Can they brush their teeth, are they incontinent, do they have the potential for skin breakdown and require a higher level of care to prevent pressure ulcers. If the facility cannot meet the care needs of your loved one, they should not recommend that facility.

The referral process does not end there. Once options are given, the family should go check out the facility. Talk to the caregivers, talk to other residents.

Finally, once you choose a facility, visit early and visit often. Stagger the times and days you visit, so you can get an idea of the care that is actually being offered at the facility. If you are not comfortable with the care, move.

It may seem like a lot of work, but taking the time to ensure a proper referral will help to make sure your loved one isn’t exposed to abuse or neglect.

Monday, October 14, 2013

5 Tips To Reduce Your Auto Insurance Premium

insurance

Anyone who owns a car understands the pain of paying for auto insurance. If you are a safe driver, you will never be able to use something that you pay hundreds of dollars a year to use. Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce the amount that you pay each year for car insurance.

1) Improve Your Credit Score Research has shown that drivers who are not responsible with their money are often not responsible behind the wheel. In addition, drivers who have bad credit have a financial incentive to file fraudulent or shady claims in the hopes of getting a quick paycheck. If you have a questionable credit score, start taking steps to improve it as soon as possible.

2) Reduce The Amount Of Coverage You Have Your car insurance premium will drop if you reduce the amount and types of coverage that you have. For instance, you may not need collision or comprehensive insurance on a car that is more than a few years old or that you are no longer making payments on. By reducing your bodily injury coverage levels, you can see a significant savings each year.

3) Increase Your Deductible A deductible is the amount of money that you have to pay before your insurance policy kicks in. If you have a low deductible, you will have a higher premium. By increasing your deductible, you are taking on more of the risk if you get into an accident. Therefore, your premium will drop as a result. Policyholders should know that there is a separate deductible for damage to glass and damage to the body of your car. Typically, increasing the deductible for body damage lowers your premium more than increasing the deductible for glass damage.

4) Add Security Features To Your Car Adding security features to your car makes it less likely that someone will damage or steal your car. This reduces the risk of a policyholder filing a claim for lost or stolen property. In the event that your car is stolen and not recovered, your insurance company will give you a check equal to the current value of the car. Cars that have anti-lock brakes or airbags reduce the risk that you will get into an accident or suffer severe injuries in an accident.

5) Pay In Full Every Six Months The easiest way to lower your insurance premium is to pay in full every six months. When you pay in monthly installments, you are paying convenience fees as well as any fees to process a payment by phone or credit card. Paying your premium every six months as opposed to every month can save you up to 10 percent over the course of a year. Saving money on auto insurance doesn't have to be difficult. By improving your driver profile, adding security features to your car and paying in semi-annual installments, you can save a lot of money on something that you hope that you never have to use.

(Photo credit: Alan Cleaver)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Is A Ford Extended Warranty Better Than One From GM?

2008 Ford Taurus photographed in Gaithersburg,...

I previously talked about the benefits of a GMC warranty (all of a couple of blogs ago), but as a Ford owner as well, I thought it would be worth a bit of time to discuss the differences between the two plans and decide if one is worth more than the other.

First, Ford's extended warranty is officially a "service plan" and it goes by the name of Ford ESP (Extended Service Plan). I got mine online from www.warrickfordwarrantyonline.com and I got a MUCH better deal than I would have at the dealership. 

So, just a quick note, from my past experience NEVER buy an extended warranty at the dealership. They try to catch you at a moment of weakness and you don't have a chance to compare the price you can get anywhere else. Many of the dealerships have separate websites (like the one I purchased from) and you can get a substantially sweeter deal going this route. Trust me.

There are a few different options for your Ford ESP plan, the top notch plan is their Premium Care package, which works similarly to my GMC Warranty. So far, so good, as I've had a couple of repairs at the dealership and they've all fallen within the realm of my ESP coverage. For the most part I've found both warranties to work very similarly. On my Taurus, however, I did find the shopping process to be much easier. Namely because Ford does a VERY good job laying out what's covered and what isn't with each of their plans. As a fairly knowledgeable gear head, it's nice to be able to make an educated decision as to what components you want covered. If the car was a little older I may have dropped down to the Base care package. But for the time being I want things covered.

Anyhow, moral of the story is that GMC and Ford extended warranties have treated me well, so it may be a good option for you as well. But just be sure to shop around before you pull out your wallet!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Felony DUI Education Critical For Students

This picture was taken at the bi-yearly Every ...

For the past few prom seasons first responders in the United States have launched a program designed to increase awareness of drinking and driving among students by staging mock DUI demonstrations. Official see these demonstrations as increasingly critical to avoiding incidents during prom season. Demonstrations are designed to teach students the realities of felony DUI and the risks of drinking and driving.

These mock DUI demonstrations require the participation of police officers, firefighters, EMS personnel, tow truck companies, makeup artists, corners offices, and mortuaries. Both parent and student volunteers from local high schools also participate in the mock motor vehicle accidents. Students learn the effects of driving under the influence by viewing re-creations of severe automobile accidents.

Friends against Drunk Driving, also known as FADD, are a coalition of police departments, fire departments, ambulance services, as well as several other organizations. The group has been dedicated to the education of students about the perils of drunk driving and the dangers of felony DUI for over a decade. In 1989, the organization was founded by Orange County Fire Authority Paramedic Captain Steve Concialdi. Concialdi continues to embrace the importance of the program and confirms that students come back to him year after year to tell him that the program has greatly impacted their lives.

According to Captain Concialdi, "These are realistic accidents that change the lives of everybody. We are showing them reality. We bring in a mom halfway into the program. She's distraught and every student can relate to if their mom showed up on an accident like that."

Many high school students confirm that the accident re-creations hit home with the students in a way that impacts their behavior on prom night. In Orange County, Fire Authority Battalion 5 Chaplain, Jeff Hetschel, reports that the program has been, incredibly effective. He also reported that over the last five years, DUI incidents among teenage drivers have decreased dramatically.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Getting Started With Direct Mail Marketing


Contrary to popular belief, direct mail marketing is still a highly effective platform of advertising, especially when it is well strategized and executed properly. Recently I had the chance to speak with the professionals at Ritter's Communications and Printing in Miami and they gave me some pointers on how to best leverage direct mail for a law firm or other small business. Direct mail marketing allows businesses and organizations to communicate straight to current and potential customers, and provides the company with measurable responses.

Whether you’re a small business owner, or a larger company looking for a different platform in which to reach out to your customers, we’ve put together a guide to help you understand the ins and outs of direct mail and give you the information necessary to create a successful marketing campaign.

The first step in your journey is to set objectives and plan your approach. These steps will help you to determine whether direct mail is the best platform for your campaign. You also need to determine what you want the campaign to achieve. Do you want to create/raise brand awareness? Or do you want to market a specific sale/promotion?

Next, you will need to determine your target audience.  Answering a couple of questions will help you determine the correct audience to target with your campaign. These questions include: Who is your buyer? What is their age? What is their marital status? Where do they live? Where do they work? What is their level of education? You also want to answer questions about their buying habits. Do they shop online or in-store? When do they buy? How often do they buy?

If you plan to use an in-house database for contact prospects, make sure the list is more than names and addresses. You want to report each prospect's transactions, interactions and responses. Gathering information and researching specific patterns will help you to segment your target audience even more. Surveying these segments through phone interviews or online surveys will help you to learn about specific interests, tastes and experiences.

If you use a rented list or purchase a list from a broker, make sure that it is compliant with the Data Protection Act. Often, lists acquired from brokers are segmented quite a bit, speeding up the process of determining your target audiences.

Now, you need to set a budget. The cost of your direct mail campaign will vary, depending on a number of factors; the number of people that you intend to reach, whether you will use an in-house database of addresses or if you need to purchase a list from a broker, whether or not you will have an in-house team produce the creative, size, shape and quality of the piece, and how personalized it will be. You also need to consider postage costs, and other expenses such as labor, etc.

Next, you will need to produce your direct mail copy. Make sure that your copy includes a strong message and a call to action.  High quality direct mail is packed with relevant information that is strongly written and 100% accurate. Be sure to proofread for grammatical/spelling errors and typos. You also want to entice the customer with an irresistible deal or a call to action. NEVER forget this step! Clearly state to the customer: what they should do(call, register, order, visit, etc) why they should, how they can and by when.

After you’ve created your copy, you should test your campaign on approximately 10% of your overall intended distribution list. The result of responses will help you to determine if are targeting the correct audience.  Changes can be made to your campaign or target demographic to better customize your plan.

The final step in this beginning process is to execute your campaign and track your results. One of the biggest benefits of direct mail is that you can easily measure the effectiveness of your campaign. Mailings that include an offer are especially easy to measure because response rates can be directly tracked through purchases or redemptions of an offer.

Other tips:
-Integrate your entire business strategy into your piece by reinforcing other print or media campaigns.
-Ensure brand cohesion by making sure all elements (logo, colors, etc) are the same each time it is printed and sent out.
-Find a steady frequency. Direct mail campaigns will not be successful if the audience only receives a piece from you once, or if they receive multiple mailings at an inconsistent rate.
-Follow up with your customers. Drive them to other platforms, such as websites, blogs or social media channels and keep them engaged.
-Address price concerns by offering an “opt-out” option.

It is up to your business to create exciting and engaging material, but these steps and tips offer you a strong framework for building and executing a successful direct mail marketing campaign.  Good luck!