Friday, May 6, 2011

My Firm's Job Growth

Members of my firm (rendered versions)

Listening to NPR today on my way to Boone, I heard news about the national uptick in new jobs.  This past month, US companies added nearly 250,000 employees to the payrolls.  Modest growth (apparently “household employment” is still down), but this is something nonetheless. 

This tidbit of information confirms my personal experience.  What has been happening in my firm of late is probably a small picture of what is happening nationally with firms in 2011. To explain my sustained silence on my blog, ...I’ve simply been inundated with work!

No…. I haven’t abandoned Proper Scale!  In fact, I’ve been longing to catch up on my reflections, especially since so much of my experiences in my professional life since my last post have enriched them (I can’t believe that last post was made last year…really??). 

If any indication there exists for a turnaround in the economy, it is that those fortunate few architecture firms still alive after the fallout of the housing collapse and real estate boondoggles are now inundated with work.  Charlotte firms that trimmed their workforce to bare-bones staff to hang on are now demanding much of the similar workload they saw in the boon times (and, in some cases, greater) from the fortunate few architects that they retained.  To be fair this is a survival tactic. 

It was a scary moment last summer, no doubt about it, when for the first time ever in my professional experience, I had no project in the front burner.  I am happy to be busy today, because for a while through last year, I had only the tail end of the Charlotte Streetcar Project to hang on to.  I mainly depended on those random small assignments from civil and consulting firms needing maps and visuals to feed me some billable hours (much of this from government-related work…think the stimulus doesn’t matter?). 

But toward the end of 2010, my, how things rapidly turned around!  The inundation began for me this January and hasn’t let up (after my Summer Scare, the thought and extra effort I put into my fall proposals paid of!).  Finally, after four telling months, my firm took pity on my situation and hired a planner on contract toward the end of last month.  We also hired a part-time business developer last month.  This was not an easy choice for our principals to make.  After the bumpy lean times of the past three years, one could understand their hesitation. 

If my firm’s experience is any indication, there was a big time pent-up demand for new hires building up throughout this past winter.  Suddenly in April, the continuing inflow of work must have caused some skittish employers to dust off those empty chairs.   

Of course, part of the reason we’ve also added a business developer to our payroll is we have to redouble our marketing efforts to feed the new planning position.  The burden suddenly lifted off my shoulders on my backburner projects and responsibilities writing proposals is palpable on this fair day in May in the mountains.  Believe you me.  It also helps that we took on a part time intern that I can plug in when needed.

So… Very glad to report that Neighboring Concepts (with a net total of 13.5 employees now) contributed about a net of one and a half created positions in that jobs figures report.  For us, this represents a size-able personnel increase of 11%.  Firms in our orbit, I hear, are also doing the same. 

With our new employees, I will hopefully be finding more leisure time to post reflectively on this blog.  (Leisure time!  The term feels almost tooooo luxurious on my typepad….Can I actually have leisure time???). 

Things being what they were, I’m very sad for neglecting this blog so long. My fair readers, as soon as one project was down, I just had to catch up on the others. 

But, I’m more than fortunate that the things of late that have kept me burning the midnight oil have so engrossed me and have been amazing professional stepping stones.   I hope I can blog about some of that.  With gas prices doing what they are, I believe, …yes, …I’m paddling on the course of a sustainable career here, as a transit-focused urban designer.  

Thank you, President Obama, for your administration’s multi-pronged stimulus program.  My firm is living proof that the lifeblood of federal grants and federal infrastructure stimulus projects allowed our firm to preserve its “human capital”.  While our bread and butter projects are now private institutional work, it was those federally sustained projects that allowed us to hone our resources and increase our productivity in the lean times.  As a result, we are only too eager now to add private sector jobs!

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