Friday, October 30, 2009

Women are 70% of Do-It-Yourself Home Builders

Building a home yourself without swinging a hammer

written by: Jeffrey Wolf written by: Mark Koebrich

DENVER - If you've wanted a new home, but the tough economy is making that a tough proposition - there is a solution.

You should look into building it yourself. The process can save tens-of-thousands of dollars and you can do it even if you've never swung a hammer in your life.

Many people are currently giving it a try. Perhaps more surprisingly, about 70 percent of them are women. They become "general contractors" with the help of a "building coach."

A general contractor will typically take 15 to 20 percent of the cost of any project. If you do that job yourself, you can pocket a lot of cash, no matter how much of a home you want to build.

Some of the homes are breathtaking, even though the builders are largely people who previously had no experience in residential home construction.

Leslie Spees-Mcghee built her house and it's full of wonderful designer touches, such as open beamed ceilings, custom fit cabinets and cozy fireplaces. She also has a unique circular Tuscan staircase that cost her more than she anticipated.

"If you're building your own house, remember, curves are expensive," she said laughing.

Emily Brennan is currently building her dream home. It's a process she says has included a few teary breakdowns.

She discovered homebuilding is all about tight timelines, a process that can be overwhelming.

"You just want to cry and say, 'How am I going to get this all done?'" Brennan said.

It's not that either of the women ever drove a nail, or ran a saw through a sheet of particle board or lifted a section of wall into place. They acted as their own general contractor, the construction boss who organizes all of these activities.

It's a job they performed under the tutelage of Bob Hinz.

Hinz is the real deal: a true licensed general contractor who now sells his knowledge and expertise to do-it-yourselfers. He calls himself a building coach.

"By acting as a homebuilding coach, or as an assistant to the actual homebuilder, we're able to participate in an awful lot of homes at any given point in time. We've usually got 12,13 or 14 homes going at once," Hinz said.

That is how his company, HomeWrights, makes money. Hinz gets 5 percent of the construction cost.

"I love the 'creative chaos' that surrounds the building industry and this business allows us to participate in lots of projects at once, and be much closer to the owner's creative process," Hinz said.

He helps his clients every step of the way by hiring the electricians, the plumbers, the stone masons and bricklayers.

"Custom home building is a little bit science, a little bit art and a little bit magic. My industry gets pretty badly maligned sometimes, but there are a lot of great, honest, hardworking sons and daughters who work in this industry," Hinz said.

He makes sure the staircases are solid, the windows don't leak and the fireplaces are exactly what his student builder ordered.

Brennan ordered a two-sided fireplace.

"You can take a bath and have a fire," she said enthusiastically.

The savings are impressive. Brennan may pocket as much as 20 to 25 percent of her construction estimate of $840,000.

"We're totally under budget right now, which is great. We're really excited. But we have been able to get everything we wanted," Brennan said.

Spees-Mcghee's savings are comparable.

"We saved probably over $100,000 building it ourselves," she said.

Both women say they never had to worry about a complete collapse of any kind because Hinz was always there to save them.

"Thank goodness we have Bob to help us out. It's been great," Brennan said.

They all agree that it's a beautifully innovative solution in an ugly housing market.

The HomeWrights system can work with any size and value of home. They've even done some very nice, small starter homes. Hinz says the irony is that many folks who are interested in the 1,500-square-foot "starter" home want to build a true "custom" home, so they're often attracted to production homes.

Of course, production builders have a very strong cost structure, so they can deliver an 1,800-square-foot home for $100 per square foot.

The other thing that dictates a "typical" HomeWrights client is the cost of land in Colorado. Because our real estate is so expensive, most consumers who are truly interested in real custom homes are pretty well heeled.

To contact HomeWrights, you can call 303-756-8870 or visit

It is possible to have a full time job and do this. Hinz says he's had quite a few clients who've been able to juggle both.

It requires discipline and some long days; usually the first 90 days are the worst because there is so much planning and thought and shopping that must go into the project.

HomeWrights isn't the only company that does this. Another is Direct Build in Parker ( U-Build-It was also active in the industry, but has been closing their Colorado locations (

Hinz says both are very honorable and well operated businesses with good reputations. Hinz also says this is a very old fashioned way to build. Back in the 30s, Sears Roebuck sold kit homes from catalogues for anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 and they shipped to the home owner, who built his own home.

One final note: Hinz says he's starting to see some signs the bottom is behind us. Commodities like copper, aluminum, steel and cement are starting to slowly recover in price. Copper has gone up by as much as 10 percent in the last quarter. Lumber, plywood, and gypsum (sheet rock) are still soft, but starting to show signs that they are nearing bottom as well.

Hinz says for people who are waiting for the best time to jump back into the real estate market the perfect window may in fact be behind us. He says now is a very good time to build.

Carpenters union opens trades college in Nova Scotia

The Carpenters Union of Mainland Nova Scotia has opened a private career college in Lower Sackville that will create more tradespeople for the construction industry to address a shortage of qualified workers.

"The carpenters union has trained its own members for many years and we thought we would like to take this training public in an effort to raise the standards of the industry," Peter Greer, vice-president of the Carpenter Millwright Trades College, said in an interview Tuesday.

Mr. Greer said the most productive and best qualified leaders in industry are moving toward retirement and "about 30 per cent of our workforce will be retired in 10 years and 50 per cent in 15 years."

He said there isn’t a lot of time to transfer the skills of the present generation to the younger workers moving into the industry.

The college, located at 1000 Sackville Dr., is offering an eight-week pre-employment course for people with no experience in the industry and two four-week elective courses in scaffold training and installing construction forms.

There are plans to also offer a drywall course, plus instruction in other industry-related trades.

The pre-employment course provides industry basics, such as how to use portable hand and power tools, how to do construction math, how to improve communications, how to get along with co-workers and how to receive instructions.

"These are basics, but we find these are skills a lot of people don’t have when they come into the industry," Mr. Greer said.

At the end of the eight-week program, students can take the four-week elective courses.

The college, certified by the provincial Education Department, has five certified instructors who have many years of on-the-job experience.

"We want to develop the college into the ‘come-to place’ for innovative, job-ready, skills-development training for Nova Scotia," Mr. Greer said.

"We don’t want to compete with the Nova Scotia Community College, but rather complement their training with ours."

The college also has plans to become a centre of excellence for safety, foreman training, productivity and communications training.

Mr. Greer said the 26,000-square-foot former church building is ideal for the college’s needs. A gymnasium has been converted into a wood shop and drywall lab and a scaffolding training area will be established outside.

"We like to replica industry as close as possible," he said.

The private college has the full support of the international union and is part of a North American program to have several training centres in Canada and the U.S. The union’s international training centre in Las Vegas supports the program.

The curriculum and programs are developed at the international centre and the local trade colleges refine them to meet local conditions.

"We want to deliver better craft value to the industry and raise the quality of the carpentry trade for all Nova Scotians through hands-on training," Mr. Greer said.

"As well as being a college, we intend to become a facility for conferences and discussion groups interested in improving our industry with the focus on skills improvement, construction site safety, quality control and career enhancement for all tradespeople in Nova Scotia."


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

U.S. Department of Labor awards contract to produce ‘A Woman’s Guide to Green Jobs’

News Release

WB News Release: [09/30/2009]
Contact Name: Lina Garcia
Phone Number: (202) 693-4661

Release Number: 09-1200-NAT

U.S. Department of Labor awards contract to produce ‘A Woman’s Guide to Green Jobs’

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau has awarded a $265,690 contract to Public Policy Associates Inc. in Lansing, Mich., which will partner with Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., in the development of a publication designed to increase women's access to high-growth and emerging industry occupations in the green jobs sector nationwide.

"Women are an important part of the nation's workforce, and there are many exciting opportunities for them in the emerging green jobs sector," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

Through both a hard copy publication and an online curriculum, "A Woman's Guide to Green Jobs" will provide women — who make up 47 percent of the total U.S. workforce — and employment professionals in general with information on hiring needs, training and entrepreneurship opportunities in green industries. National, state and local resources, including women's organizations and workforce practitioners, will be included. As part of this effort, the Women's Bureau will connect women with best practices and support services to facilitate their success in the workplace of the 21st century.

Public Policy Associates Inc. and WOW were selected through a competitive process. The Women's Bureau expects to release the new publication and accompanying curriculum in spring 2010.

SBA Launches New Online Training Course for Women Entrepreneurs

SBA Launches New Online Training Course: Winning Federal Contracts - A Guide for Women Entrepreneurs

Wed Oct 14, 2009 11:45am EDT

WASHINGTON--(Business Wire)-- Women who own small businesses will be able to use a new online U.S. Small Business Administration training course to learn how to identify and take advantage of federal contracting opportunities. The new training course, Winning Federal Contracts: A Guide for Women Entrepreneurs, is part of an ongoing government-wide initiative to promote opportunities for women-owned businesses in the area of government contracting. 
 This free online tutorial is a practical and easy to use guide that walks a woman-owned small business through the contracting process. SBA is committed to ensuring that women-owned businesses receive at least 5 percent of federal contracts and believes better training opportunities are central to meeting this government-wide goal. 
 "Federal contracts can provide unique opportunities for women entrepreneurs and small business owners to grow their businesses and create jobs, particularly during these tough economic times," Administrator Karen Mills said. "It`s also a win for federal agencies, by contracting with women-owned small businesses; they are working with some of the most innovative and dynamic companies in the country." 
 The SBA`s Office of Women`s Business Ownership oversees a national network of more than 100 Women`s Business Centers (WBCs) that provide education and training to help women start and grow small businesses. In addition, the SBA has 68 district offices and other resource partners throughout the country available to train and counsel women-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs seeking government contracts. 
 "This online training course makes critical information and training available to an even wider array of women entrepreneurs and small business owners," said Ana Harvey, assistant administrator for SBA`s Office of Women`s Business Ownership. "SBA wants to help ensure they have the tools and resources they need to compete for and win federal contracts." 
 The Winning Federal Contracts course is designed to help women entrepreneurs learn about the federal procurement process and to prepare them to compete for contracting opportunities. The self-paced guide uses audio and script to provide information about contract rules, how to sell to the government and where to find contracts. 
 The Winning Federal Contracts course is available on SBA`s Web site at or directly at It is indexed by subject matter, and includes direct links to additional contracting resources. 
 Release Number: 09-71  U.S. Small Business Administration Cecelia Taylor, 202-401-3059 Internet Address:  

Chicago Turner School of Construction Management Graduates 58 Women and Minorities

Turner School of Construction Management Graduates 58 Chicago Area Minority and Women-Owned Businesses

October 14, 2009

Turner Construction Company, together with the City of Chicago, the Exelon Corporation, The University of Chicago, Roosevelt University’s Marshall Bennett Institute of Real Estate and the Federation of Women Contractors has awarded certificates of completion to 58 individuals representing minority and woman-owned business enterprises (MWBEs) , marking the conclusion of the 21st Turner School of Construction Management in the greater Chicago area.

The free, seven-week training program has been a key resource in Chicago for more than 1,000 MWBE business owners over the last 20 years. The program provides insightful and meaningful tools to local woman-and minority-owned businesses, while offering them an opportunity to develop strategic business skills.

The Turner School of Construction Management is designed to enhance the technical, administrative and managerial skills of leaders within these businesses to help them most effectively manage projects and ultimately build their reputations so that they are able to successfully compete in the construction market.“Helping develop greater capacity in the MWBE building community makes good business sense as well as aligning with Turner values and long-history of helping to expand the skills of minority, women, disadvantaged and small-business enterprises,” said Stephen Fort, Vice President and General Manager of Turner’s Chicago operations.

Participants learn the essentials of managing a business, including how to develop a business plan, estimate and bid on a job, obtain bonding, enforce safety principles and establish and manage credit, in order to become better equipped to compete for progressively larger and more complicated contracts. One goal of the program is to develop a pool of minority contractors with the necessary skills to perform work on future Turner projects. Attendees also have the opportunity to network with peers, instructors and others in the construction industry during the training program.

“After graduating from this course, I have gained valuable insight and a new perspective about general contractors and subcontractors, the challenges they face and the way we can more effectively partner with them to benefit the client,” stated Sharon Jaenel, President, PeopleSpace, Ltd.

Wendy Ryce-Smith, President of Ryce Restoration, Inc. stated, “This course has helped Ryce Restoration improve how we plan, bid, estimate, operate, manage risk and partner with general contractors to grow our business.”

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