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The power firms in heritage consulting

Engineering News-Record recently released its list of The Top 200 Environmental Firms. Published annually, this year’s list is based on 2011 revenue.

Rank Company Heritage Services Revenue (million)
1 CH2M HILL Ltd. Yes $3,835
2 URS Corp. Yes $3,362
3 Veolia Environnement SA No $3,294
4 Bechtel Corp. No $2,731
5 Tetra Tech Inc. Yes $2,050
6 AECOM Technology Corp Yes $1,768
7 EnergySolutions Inc. No $1,752
8 The Shaw Group Inc. Yes $1,559
9 Fluor Corp. No $1,236
10 Kiewit Corp. No $1,160

Half of the top ten firms on the list provide in-house compliance services for heritage resources. On a similar list of design firms, seven of the top ten firms were in-house providers of heritage services.

Unfortunately, what most people want to know about these firms isn’t available:  how much of their overall revenue comes from their heritage consulting activities. While most of these companies are publically-traded companies and report their financials, the filings are not fine enough to go down to the level of heritage services. Read more…

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Preservation raises US property value

May 16, 2012 Leave a comment

A recent article in the Hartford Courant (Connecticut, USA) publicized two studies done by economist and historic preservationist Donovan Rypkema, studying the effects of historic district designation and property values. The first study evaluated the economic benefits of Connecticut’s historic tax credit incentive program, while the second specifically evaluated property values. The conclusion of both studies is that preservation “makes good economic sense” not only creating jobs but increasing property values. Similar results have emerged from additional studies, including one released by the Alabama State Historic Preservation Office in 2002.

The reports concluded that property values within designated historic districts rose faster than neighboring areas or metropolitan averages. The Connecticut study also noted that historic district designation did not, in any of the districts studied, reduce property values – a fact that should relieve the fears of some homeowners worried that potential restrictions may make it more challenging for them to sell their home. In reality, these studies showed that the restrictions sometimes instituted by local historic commissions are in fact the key factor in the rise in value noting, “character of the neighborhood is important, and the assurance that character will be maintained has an economic value.” Read more…

Heritage tourism increasing in the Navajo Nation

A photograph taken of Monument Valley, Navajo ...

Monument Valley, Navajo Nation.

Heritage tourism is on the increase, states a Native American Times article (3 April 2012) by Susan Montoya Bryan. Based on a report commissioned by the Navajo Nation from Northern Arizona University, data show that some 600,000 visitors made nearly $113 million in direct purchases on the reservation in 2011. That represents a 32 percent increase in tourism spending since 2002.

Surprisingly, this increase occured over the same period when U.S. gasoline prices rose from approximately $1.80 to $3.90 a gallon. The Navajo Nation, a soverign nation since 1868, is the largest Native American reservation in the United States. It covers 27,000 square miles in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Traveling to the Nation by automobile, and there are few other options for visitors, is a significant trip from almost anywhere. However, the article states that U.S. visitors to the Nation were actually down in the period since 2002. It was non-U.S. visitors, primarily from Germany and France, that were up more than 11 percent and responsible for the increase.

Historic preservation creates jobs

March 20, 2012 1 comment
Deutsch: Fassadenrenovierung in Chicago Englis...

Job-producing rehabilitation to a historic building in Chicago

In an HBJ post from February (6 February 2012),  Christopher Dore noted a recent report from Colorado that summarized the economic impacts of preservation on local and national economies. Reports like this have become increasingly common as many become more aware and accepting of the positive benefits of preservation. Just during the recent economic slump in the U.S. economy, similar reports have emerged out of Nebraska, Washington state, and Pennsylvania, to name a few, followed in November 2011 by a report from the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation (ACHP), an independent federal agency.

One of the conclusions that emerges from these types of studies, which is particularly relevant in the current economic climate, is that historic preservation activities creates jobs, a point consistently made by Donovan Rypkema, an economist and preservationist and one of the lead authors of the ACHP report, who generalizes that spending for new construction is split about half and half between labor and materials, while between approximately two-thirds and three-quarters of rehabilitation spending goes toward labor and the remaining to materials. This means that rehabilitation projects not only produce jobs and employ local labor, but it puts the money into the hands of those that live in the community rather than sending it outside, which is what typically happens when money is spent on materials. Additionally, small businesses are responsible for creating the vast majority of new jobs in America, and historic buildings often provide the ideal location out of which to run a new or small business carrying on the domino effect of the positive economic benefits of preservation. Read more…

New small business thresholds in North America will change competition

March 13, 2012 1 comment

Last week in the Federal Register, the United States Small Business Administration increased 37 small business size standards for 34 industries in Sector 54, Professional, Technical, and Scientific Services. Under the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), used by Canada, Mexico, and the United States, the industry code for Environmental Consulting Services (541620) was increased from $7  to $14 million. The majority of cultural resource consulting firms in North America are in the Environmental Consulting Services category. This change was effective yesterday, 12 March 2012.

Within the United States, many, perhaps the majority, of cultural resource compliance service contracts issued by the federal government are set aside for small businesses. This new, larger, small business size category will change the competitive landscape by allowing firms with annual revenue up to $14 million to compete directly with truly small firms for small business contracts. The American Cultural Resources Association (ACRA), the trade organization for the heritage compliance sector, classifies small firms as those with annual revenue below $400,000, medium firms as those with annual revenue between $400,000 and $1.5 million, and large firms as those having annual revenue above $1.5 million. This new ruling will not provide any protection for truly small heritage firms, those in ACRA’s small and medium categories, and create head-to-head market competition for all firms below the $14 million threshold. For companies who target the federal contracting sector, there is now an advantage to being larger and this may prompt a new round of heritage firm mergers and acquisitions in North America.

Another look at employment and market share

A very thoughtful comment was made about HBJ post Employment: Multidisiplinary firms vs. heritage-only firms (18 Feb 2012):

“Large multi-service firms tend hire and terminate for each project because their offices rarely have enough local work to retain technicians. They tend to have centralized full time labs and production centers that do not have positions for techs for after fieldwork tasks. Whereas many hertiage-only company like CRA use full-time technicians in a variety of tasks. The ability to live near a company’s office(s) to come in and do post-fieldwork tasks is the key to full time work. In addition the ability to move techs and other staff between offices reduce the need for temporary project specific techs except for the largest field projects. Plus in any given year we receive enough cold call applicants from technicians with good resumes that simply working the resume file drawer eliminates the need for an ad for most projects.”
Steve Creasman and Kay Simpson

A high turnover of technicians in multi-service firms could easily explain why there are more job advertisements from these types of companies than from heritage-only firms. To explore this more, I also took a look at senior positions (e.g. principle investigators, senior archaeologists, office/regional managers) for the same 2011 data set. Of course titles are not standardized across the sector and names can be misleading, but a full 46% of the job advertisements reviewed asked for 10-25 years of experience and 55% asked for 5-9 years of experience (a slight overlap with some asking for 8-12 years). The job descriptions and requirements (years of experience, permits, etc.) firmly place these jobs in the top levels of employment regardless of title. None of these jobs mentioned temporary employment but that does not mean it is not. However, asking for 20 years of experience for a temporary job would be rare but not unheard of (or it should be in my personal opinion). Out of 79 job postings, 61 of them mentioned their employers (some of the job postings have been removed making it impossible to see who was the employer). In this data set the breakdown is even more lopsided in favor of multi-service firms

Heritage-only firms may look for their top-level workers through other means than advertisement such as internal promotion or through professional networks. A lack of lower level positions in multi-service firms may make it hard for them to recruit internally. What these data do show is that the majority of job advertisements for archaeologists at all career levels was dominated by multi-service firms in 2011. Does this mean they get the majority of business? That can not be determined from these numbers but employment may indicate strong growth prospects.

Employment: Multidisiplinary firms vs. heritage-only firms

February 18, 2012 4 comments

In a recent HBJ post (17 February 2012), Christopher Dore reported that it appears that heritage-only consulting firms are losing market share to full-service firms. To add a different set of numbers to his data, I took a look at the number of job postings for field technicians on the job websites Shovelbums and ArchaeologyFieldwork.com for 2011. Eliminating duplicate posts both between and within the websites, I looked at companies offering jobs for field technicians:  a total of 330 separate posts. Jobs were considered separate if the project was different even if the company was the same, six or more months had passed, or it was an emergency hire for a previous job (assumed to be a separate hiring event). If single ads were for multiple positions, the number of positions offered was not counted as most job postings did not give those details. Surprisingly, not every job listing had the company’s details or even the firm’s name on it. Thus, of the 330 unique postings, 295 were used for analysis. Here is the break down of job hiring events between CRM only firms, multi-service firms, and other firms.

In 2011, multi-service firms posted more than twice the number of job ads for field technicians than did cultural-only firms. These employment data seem to support Dore’s observation that heritage-only firms are losing market share to multidisciplinary environmental and engineering companies.

There are limits to what can and should be inferred by these results. There are many small CRM firms that  do not advertise for field technician positions as their projects are too small to require a full crew. Though it does say something that the majority of job adverts for lower level positions are being done by multi-service  firms. The full data can be accessed here.

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