A new, 11 October 2012, blog post by Jenna Goudreau of Forbes staff using data from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University reports that anthropology and archaeology top the list of the worse college majors in economic terms.
Topping the list at No. 1, anthropology and archeology represent the worst choice of college major in economic terms. Recent college graduates of the major, those ages 22 to 26, can expect an unemployment rate of 10.5%, well above the national average. When they do land a job, the median salary is just $28,000, compared to a mechanical engineer’s initial earnings of $58,000.
The basic benefits of Historic Preservation Tax Credits in the United States are widely publicized – encouraging preservation, assisting with the viability of a project, increasing the value of an under- or un-utilized building and returning it to the tax rolls, and improving neighborhoods, among others. But a recent article published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation highlights one architect, Robert Verrier, who asserts that he has saved over 150 places in the past thirty-plus years and the key to his business and his success, is historic tax credits.Verrier states that, not only is preservation one of the greenest activities as well as an activity that can embody and save the collective memory of a place or entire community, but he notes that “the recent debate over historic preservation tax incentives is … short on common sense. The benefits of these tax credits are indisputable. By redeveloping historic buildings, tax credits save our architectural heritage and spur new private investment, create construction jobs, and set the stage for new economic activities, such as tourism.”
Historic buildings often anchor communities or serve as a gateway into them. Revitalizing these buildings can bring an area back to life. In addition to providing jobs through the revitalization and resulting use of an old building, adjacent activity also rises – often resulting in a domino effect creating even more jobs, community investment, commercial activity, or housing for example. These buildings, with strong bones and strong roots, need someone with a vision who will in turn likely need the assistance of historic preservation tax credits in order to make the vision a reality.
Charles Mount has been following construction activity as a proxy variable for commercial archaeology work in Ireland (Mount 2012). His data show that a slowdown in construction results in a reduction in commercial archaeology, a well known trend around the world. Applying this concept to the UK we can look at the construction industry as a proxy for possible commercial archaeology activitiy. In this case, the The Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is used. The results show that while construction was very strong at the beginning of the year, especially March, the index has been falling in the last couple of months. It is currently flirting with contraction, a reading of under 50, and it is unlikely that commercial archaeology, as a whole sector, will have seen lots of growth in the last few months.
Taking a longer view of the sector shows some clouds on the horizon. The UK government is now providing pipeline views of new construction projects anticipated over the next couple of years. These are big projects, £10 million plus, but these projects indicate a drop in government construction projects over the next few years. Government construction projects make up 40 percent of the construction sector.
|Count of Entries||Sum of 2011/12 (£m)||Sum of 2012/13 (£m)||Sum of 2013/14 (£m)||Sum of 2014/15 (£m)|
|Flood||38||£224 m||£289 m||£273 m||£251 m|
|Health||158||£590 m||£1,066 m||£983 m||£807 m|
|Housing & Regeneration||47||£1,789 m||£1,100 m||£1,281 m||£1,552 m|
|Justice||14||£203 m||£254 m||£280 m||£78 m|
|Transport||68||£3,596 m||£3,411 m||£3,622 m||£4,001 m|
|Waste||35||£594 m||£1,090 m||£1,407 m||£803 m|
|Education||£2,504 m||£1,640 m||£486 m|
|MOD||90||£396 m||£732 m||£627 m||£592 m|
|Police Authorities||132||£216 m||£14 m||£15 m||£03 m|
|Home Office||6||£13 m|
|Nuclear Decommissioning||24||£313 m||£275 m||£360 m||£449 m|
|Research||10||£13 m||£23 m||£14 m||£11 m|
|Further Education||1||£17 m||£153 m||£59 m||£01 m|
|Culture, Media and Sport||4||£1,098 m||£467 m||£425 m||£117 m|
|FCO Embassies||£42 m||£64 m||£69 m||£65 m|
|Coal Authority||2||£06 m||£07 m||£08 m||£08 m|
|Grand Total||629||£11,614 m||£10,586 m||£9,908 m||£8,738 m|
This could pickup as more projects are proposed and more money is allotted to large government construction projects. However, there needs to be a 25 percent increase in money allotted for proposed projects by 2014/15 to keep the supply constant. It looks as though construction will not see large growth in the next few months and there are head winds for the future. This means that commercial archaeology is probably in a similar setting. Do not expect a large contraction, but there is unlikely to be a large pickup either.
As should always be noted, a large catastrophic event make all projects redundant.
Mount, C. 2012. Indicators suggest that archaeological activity in Ireland continued to decline in the third quarter of 2012. The Charles Mount Blog, 4 October 2012. http://charles-mount.ie/wp/?p=960
Numerous studies and even more websites have been produced linking the economic benefits of preservation, but the connection of sustainability in this grouping should not be ignored. Historic preservation is an inherently green activity, and is slowly but surely gaining recognition in today’s sustainability-conscious world. Coherently summed up by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, “both preservation and green design share a concern about resource conservation and the goal of making a better future. Preservationists begin by identifying places that have enduring value and deserve to be part of the future. Green design begins as a response to the future challenges of resource depletion, population growth and climate change.” Further summed up in the article, are many of the green benefits of historic preservation, including the fact that many preservationist have knowledge of the fact that many historic buildings were constructed with features considered green today, such as the use of local materials compatible with climactic conditions and operable, well-placed windows for fresh air and daylight – some even featuring systems to collect and utilize rainwater. Not only are many historic buildings green, but their placement and the planning of historically developed areas also exhibit green qualities including compact arrangement, pedestrian friendliness and both mixed-use and mixed-income blended into one area creating an accessible and walkable community. Utilizing this existing infrastructure is not only environmentally-conscious, but is an economic win for any community
A study in West Virginia demonstrates the strong, positive economic impacts produced by historic preservation, which also result in additional positive impacts such as the revitalization of small town business centers – an undeniably green benefit. Wanting to not only test this theory, but gain from its benefits, numerous programs across the United States have been put into place such as the Green Pilot Project in West Union Iowa. The project focussed primarily on creating a green, sustainable community infrastructure – doing so in the greenest way possible: by rehabilitating the existing town center, utilizing and highlighting what they already had. Project planners realized that utilizing the existing downtown building stock would not only help to preserve cultural, architectural and historical assets, but would strengthen the smart planning and growth concepts already a part of their built environment by providing valuable retail space on the street level (keeping spending local and producing jobs) and by reclaiming the much-needed residential space already in place on many of these building’s upper levels. Some of this work was made possible by a further economic benefit provided by historic preservation: the use of historic tax credits.
The annual conference of the American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA) was held a few days ago in Seattle, Washington. ACRA is the trade association for the heritage compliance sector in the United States. While the ACRA program is filled with valuable business topics, the real benefit of attending is gained from talking with company owners and senior employees in the hallways and at the many social events. People often say things about their businesses that they probably shouldn’t and one always comes away from the meeting with a wealth of information about competitors and the compliance sector as a whole.
My back hallway sample, probably representative although not statistical, indicated that the compliance sector in the United States is strong. Most companies reported that 2012 has been a good year for business, with more than a few companies reporting that this year will be their strongest year since the recession of 2008/2009–some reporting their best year ever. Strength is primarily coming from activity in the mining, electrical transmission, alternative energy, and oil/gas client sectors. This pattern of strong performance appears to be geographically uniform, although there are some areas of the country doing better than others due to geographical factors (e.g. locations of oil fields and mineral resources). There are, however, a few gaps in the compliance sector’s overall strong business performance. A few firms reported that they are still having difficult times and have yet to really rebound from the recession four years ago. What is interesting about this is that a few of these firms are well known firms that have been market-share leaders in the past.
To Boom or not to boom, that is the question.
Australia’s Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson declared on 23 August 2012 that the country’s mining boom was over. This was one day after the world’s biggest miner BHP Billiton shelved two expansion plans – the Olypmic Dam open cut mine expansion in South Australia and the Port Hedland outer harbour expansion in Western Australia’s Pilbara region – each project valued at around $320 billion.
These statements prompted some immediate flak from the mining and resources sector, while the Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett repeated his mantra that there never was a “boom”, it was just that his State has a healthy, expanding economy!Minister Ferguson and other senior Labor Government figures rapidly clarified his statement, saying that he was referring to the commodities boom being over, particularly with the international iron ore and coal prices dropping, while tens of billions of dollars in ongoing mining and energy development projects in Australia would continue on track.This is the point at which Australian heritage consultants could stop holding their breath and quaking every time they looked at a media financial report for more news of impending doom.
Heritage consulting in Australia is predominantly tied up with mining and energy developments and regional infrastructure development projects – which in turn are responses to growth through mining and energy developments. Minister Ferguson’s original announcement, coupled with BHP Billiton’s announcement and the resulting media blitz caused considerable angst among consulting firms still taking on new staff to push for bigger shares of mining-related heritage survey and impact-mitigation work – and for the growing numbers of local archaeology and anthropology graduates, as well as international ones on holiday-working visas, who are looking for work in the industry.
There has been some drop in available project work – cancellation of the BHP Billiton projects and some slowdowns in other companies’ projects due to credit and cost recalculations in the face of lower commodity prices. This has hit Queensland’s coal industry, though coal-seam gas projects so far seem unaffected. Overall though, everyone still seems to be maintaining their work flow on current projects. However, heritage services for development projects represent a finite block of work, and to maintain momentum, heritage consultancies need a constant flow of new projects. So while there appears to be enough work at the moment, we will still be all watching China in particular and the financial news in general, to see if the past continues to have a commercial future in Australia.
The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CME) described the Australian domestic outlook as “cautiously optimistic”in its quarterly WA Resources and Economics Report (with KPMG) in March 2012. The export resources sector, which is providing a sustained boom for the heritage consulting segment, still leads the national economy.
Western Australia continues to benefit from the surging resources sector. The March 2012 ABS Investment Survey shows that resource investment has grown to be larger than investment in all other Australian business sectors combined. According to the survey, 86 per cent of this investment goes to Western Australia and Queensland, and there could be a further 62 per cent increase in total resource sector investment in 2012/13.
The report also noted that the high level of investment is maintaining record levels of employment in Western Australia, with February 2012 unemployment for the State at four percent, and forecast to remain this low for the next few years.
The Western Australian resources industry supports heritage industry employment (archaeologists, anthropologists, GIS specialists, etc) not just in Western Australia, but throughout the country. Most of the mining and energy project development is in remote areas such as the Pilbara and mid-north regions, so that heritage consultants join the flood of fly in-fly out (FIFO) workers for these projects from around the country. Most heritage consulting firms engaged in heritage survey and management work in this sector source both permanent and casual staff from around the country, who fly in via Perth to regional airports around the country, sometimes followed by hours of four-wheel-drive travel to reach the work sites. Read more…