Category: Article

How to Protect Construction Sites during Hurricane Season

How to Protect Construction Sites during Hurricane Season

By Chris Tilton, co-founder, Dewitt Tilton Group

Hurricane Irma is probably a memory to most, but hurricane season lasts until November 30, and for builders, the weather plays a major role in any construction plan.

If you have not already done so, now is the time to put a hurricane safety plan into place for any construction site. Having a clear strategy ready to go reduces the risk of unnecessary damage, helps prevent injuries on the site and gives you peace of mind.

Let’s start with the basics.

A hurricane watch is issued when a storm is expected to arrive within 48 hours, and a warning is issued when tropical storm conditions are within 36 hours. When a hurricane watch is announced, it’s time to put your plan in place and prepare the construction site.

Steps for Creating a Contingency Plan
The first step is to create a checklist for areas and equipment in need of protection. This list will most likely include tools, heavy equipment, generators, fuel tanks, portable toilets and other materials that cannot be moved to an inside location. Be sure each item on the check list is assigned to a specific member of the team and take time to review the checklist prior to any potential threats.

Your contingency plan should also include a communications piece. In addition to notifying your on-site team, subcontractors should be notified that the site is halting all work until further notice.

Planning for large amounts of water is key to any plan. Heavy rains and flooding are leading causes of damage to construction sites. It is imperative that any construction site is equipped with permanent and temporary drainage systems to maintain the structural stability of the area.

If there are vehicles on the site, they should be moved to higher ground and away from structures that could be damaged. Plus, consider filling the tanks on these vehicles prior to any hurricane or storm.

One of the last but most crucial steps is to turn off access points for all utilities. Now is also the time to remove any project documents from the construction trailer and secure them to an offsite location. As you leave the site, snap a few photos on your phone for future reference. These may come in handy if any items are missing or damaged after the fact.

After Effects
Any good contingency plan will include necessary steps for clean-up and getting back in business after a hurricane. Once you return to the site, assess and document any damage, giving special attention to downed power lines, unstable structures or wet electrical panels. Items to have on hand include cleaning supplies and fuel for vehicles. Finally contact the appropriate utilities and contact your insurance carrier for any assessment needs.

It’s important that all construction companies have a written hurricane preparation plan. Ideally, the plan will be detailed with specific assignments and action deadlines. And during hurricane season, be sure to monitor the weather on a regular basis.

This type of preparation does require added cost, effort and time but can be extremely valuable in the long run and may be your best investment. If construction managers follow these outlined steps and provide clear communication, any site will be up and running considerably quicker and suffer much less loss.

Chis Tilton of the Dewitt Tilton Group

Chris Tilton, co-founder, Dewitt Tilton Group

Chris Tilton is the co-founder of the Dewitt Tilton Group, a Savannah area commercial construction company. For more information or to contact Tilton, call 912.777.3404 or email chris@dewitttiltongroup.com.

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Commercial Construction: Workload Rising, Workforce Declining. Inspiring Young Americans to Choose a Career in Commercial Construction

Commercial Construction: Workload Rising, Workforce Declining. Inspiring Young Americans to Choose a Career in Commercial Construction
By Chris Tilton

Chris Tilton

Chris Tilton, Dewitt Tilton Group, a Commercial Construction Company

There’s been a lot of talk recently about how automation may soon replace people in the workforce in areas from transportation to financial sectors and others. Some academic counselors are even advising students not to pursue certain fields of study once thought to be sure bets for good future employment because a job may not be waiting for them when they get out of school.

One exception is the commercial construction industry.

Although it has benefited from many advancements in robotics, the commercial construction industry still needs skilled tradespeople to fill positions now and into the future. They include, among others, carpenters and concrete mixers, crew leaders and office managers with an immediate and ongoing need for qualified workers from entry level to management.

But the industry workforce is not growing as it should, so its leaders must do a better job of inspiring young people to seek careers in commercial construction.

Since the end of the 2008 recession, the workload has been steadily rising, but the workforce has failed to keep pace with qualified applicants needed for mid-level management positions and skilled labor jobs.

A recent study by the Associated General Contractors of America found that 73 percent of construction firms in the U.S. plan to expand their payrolls this year to meet project demands, but those surveyed also expressed concerns about the availability of qualified workers to fill those positions.

Europe is experiencing similar issues. According to a recent report in the United Kingdom’s Daily Telegraph, the construction industry will create nearly 200,000 new jobs over the next five years as demand for new homes fuels a boom in the sector.

So why is there such a large gap in the construction workforce? There are a number of reasons. Those who are in the profession are getting older and many mid-level professionals left during the recession to pursue other careers. Our industry must do more to retain the workers we have and lure back those who left, such as offering incentives like project completion bonuses.

But the big problem is that too few young people are pursuing construction jobs out of high school or college. That’s partly because the construction sector has an image problem and millennials tend to view the industry as old fashioned and not very dynamic. They also want security and variety in their careers and want to be challenged and valued.

So the construction industry has work to do to convince millennials of the value of working in construction. In reality, it has something for virtually everyone, from project management to 3D design and modeling, historic preservation, masonry, carpentry and more.

If we want to attract graduate-level talent from our colleges and universities, we need to change perceptions of our industry. As an example, a study by the National Association of Home Builders found that only three percent of young adults were interested in construction trades, citing the physical demands of difficult work as deterrents.

They also generally underestimated the financial benefits of a career in the construction trades. While it’s only one piece of the total employment package, competitive compensation is important. Normally, base salary is determined by the scope of the employee’s responsibilities, qualifications and years of experience. Construction workers earn an average salary of $31,910 per year. The average salary for a construction manager is $73,087 per year. Most companies offer a variety of programs that expand upon your benefits and compensation package too, and this information needs to be shared with our young workforce.

We should work closely with academic and technical colleges, as well as high schools, to provide information about the benefits of a career in commercial construction and its promising future. We should also offer more internships and apprenticeships that encourage young people to try construction and gain work experience while they learn a skill. By working with educators, we can help them define and streamline their programs to better focus on developing skill sets that are critically needed in the commercial construction industry.

Chris Tilton is the co-founder of the Dewitt Tilton Group, a Savannah area commercial construction company. For more information or to contact Tilton, call 912.777.3404 or email chris@dewitttiltongroup.com.

Five Ways to Navigate Zoning Regulations

Five Ways to Navigate Zoning Regulations
By Kim Thomas of The Dewitt Tilton Group

If you’ve ever seen one of those yellow signs posted on a building or empty lot announcing a zoning change petition, you probably know the property owner or potential owner wants to build something new or alter the current building’s purpose and must first seek permission from the governing municipality to rezone the lot.

While zoning issues are unlikely to affect most people in their lifetimes, they can be a complicated and lengthy process for a zoning petitioner.

Zoning is defined as a power granted to municipalities by the state to promote public health, safety and general welfare and to protect and preserve areas of historical, cultural or architectural significance. The land is divided into separate districts within which uses are permitted, prohibited or permitted with conditions.

Zoning ordinances are put in place by the local municipality to help protect residents and guide commercial growth of the community in positive ways. Therefore, business owners who are thinking about buying, developing or altering a property need to become familiar with the basics of zoning and how those rules could impact their plans, budgets and timelines.

Here are five ways to better navigate the zoning process:

1. Before starting the search for a property, ask your real estate adviser to help identify how areas of the community are zoned and what parcels are best suited for your business location. If possible, look for a property already zoned for your type of business. Your real estate adviser can play a huge role in helping to find zoning that meets your requirements.

2. If you find a property you’d like to consider but is zoned differently from your needs, consult with your real estate advisor, land attorney, civil engineer or contractor of record to determine whether the local municipality might consider a petition for rezoning.

For example, if you’re looking at a piece of land for an industrial business and the parcel is outside an industrial park but touches it, the local planning commission is more likely to consider rezoning the parcel than if it is adjacent to non-industrial areas.

3. If the property you wish to purchase must be rezoned for your commercial needs, start the process by visiting the local government where the parcel is located. Invite your land attorney, civil engineer or contractor of record to join you or represent you. Navigating zoning procedures can be overwhelming for those who are not industry professionals.

4. Be aware of special circumstances. For example, if the property is in Savannah’s Historic District, your first stop should be at the Historic District Board of Review because they must approve your preliminary concept before you can take any other step in the zoning process. Again, your industry professional can help you determine whether your property is in an area where special circumstances need to be considered.

5. Try to become familiar with zoning terms such as your desired property’s zoning designation and parcel identification number (PIN) as well as how the zoning process works in your community.

For example, the Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission maintains authoritative zoning ordinances for Chatham County and working zoning ordinances for the city of Savannah. Over the past few years, both governments have been working to update and unify their ordinances, a process known as NewZO (New Zoning Ordinances).

Once your zoning is in place, the next step in the development process is to get permitting underway. This involves submitting your plans to the local planning commission, which will direct them through the appropriate departments for review and approval. As you might expect, the permitting process has its own procedures.

You can view the city of Savannah’s zoning information at http://www.savannahga.gov/index.aspx?NID=1123 and the Savannah Area Geographic Information System (SAGIS) zoning map at http://www.sagis.org/ Zoning ordinances for the city and county are available at http://www.thempc.org/

Kim Thomas, Dewitt Tilton Group, a Commercial Construction Company

 

Kim Thomas is the director of operations at Dewitt Tilton Group, a Savannah area commercial construction company.

Dr. Corinne Howington of Low Country Dermatology

The Dark Side of Tanning

The Dark Side of Tanning
by Dr. Corinne Howington

There’s nothing healthy about a tan. Simply put, a tan equals your skin cells in trauma trying to protect themselves from cancer. Just one sun-damaged cell can initiate the onset of melanoma, which can get into the bloodstream and spread. Even if melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is cut out, cancer may reappear months or years later, often in the lung, liver or brain.

Melanoma is a cancer of the melanocyte cells in the epidermis of the skin. These are the cells that make the melanin that results in skin color. It is also the most serious and dangerous type of skin cancer because it can spread easily to other organs in the body. But since the sun’s UV rays cause 95 percent of all melanomas, the good news is that melanoma is largely preventable by avoiding over exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

While this is an important message for adults to heed for themselves, it is even more critical for their children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just a few serious sunburns or trips to the tanning bed can increase a young person’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Parents should know, too, that it can take as little as 15 minutes for unprotected skin to be damaged by the sun’s UV rays and that it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure.

Here are five easy ways to avoid the dark side of tanning:

1. Seek shade. The strength of UV radiation is highest in the four-hour period around noon. That would be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or, during daylight savings time, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The best thing you can do for your skin is to plan your day to get out of the sun or seek shade when the sun is high in the sky.

2. Protective clothing. Wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible, especially your shoulders, arms and legs. Choose loose fitting, closely woven fabrics that cast a dense shadow when held up to the light.

3. Broad-brimmed hat. A hat with a wide brim is a great way to protect the top of your head and also your neck, ears and face. These are parts of the body where skin cancer often occurs.

4. Sunglasses. The most effective way to protect your eyes is to wear sunglasses that are labeled “UV400” or “100% UV Protection” and wrap around the sides of the face. Darker lenses do not provide better eye protection. In fact, lens color does not matter at all.

5. Sunscreen. Used properly, sunscreens are effective in preventing sunburn. This means generously applying SPF30 broad spectrum sunscreen to your skin 20 minutes before you head outdoors and re-applying every two hours. Studies have shown that SPF30 sunscreen decreases your chances of developing melanoma by 80 percent.

Sunscreen should never be used to extend the amount of time you spend in the sun and should not be used to help get a tan. You should also be aware that some drugs and medical conditions can make you more vulnerable to UV damage. These include Retin-A skin cream, antibiotics and cataracts.

Too much UV exposure may also result in structural damage to the skin – burning or scarring in the short term and premature aging or skin cancer in the long-term.

People with fair skin and light-colored eyes are usually more vulnerable to the sun’s harmful rays, but melanomas can occur in anyone. A July 2016 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology showed it is more deadly in people with darker skin. African American patients were most likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in its later stages than any other group in the study, and they also had the worst prognosis and the lowest overall survival rate.

Melanoma can develop anywhere on the body, including places that do not receive frequent sun exposure, and is likely to have a similar appearance to a mole. Unlike a mole, however, a melanoma will usually grow larger and become more irregular in shape and color. If you’re concerned about a mole or lesion on your body, talk to your doctor and learn the ABCDE rule, which is a useful guide for detecting potentially dangerous moles on your skin. Look for moles that are asymmetrical (not the same on both sides), have irregular borders, have changed color, are 0.5 centimeters or larger in diameter or have changed in size, shape, color or height. If you are worried about a mole or see any of the signs described above, see your doctor right away.

Dr. Corinne Howington, of Low Country Dermatology, is a board certified dermatologist, with expertise in medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology.

 

Dr. Corinne Howington of Low Country Dermatology

Dr. Corinne Howington of Low Country Dermatology

How to Make Your Website Successful

How to Make Your Website Successful
By Lauren Dingus

Lauren Dingus

Lauren Dingus, Speros

Whenever I talk to someone about his or her business website, the conversation inevitably goes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Business owners receive countless emails from individuals claiming they cannot find their websites. What follows is usually a list of services, including a guarantee for first page Google rankings. This sets up an unrealistic expectation of how internet search and SEO works.

Unfortunately, there is no cut and dry solution to getting on the first page of Google, let alone achieving the coveted number one spot. Google determines what websites to serve first in a search based on algorithms that take into account a number of factors, including relevance, domain authority, and content quality. In order to make your website successful, you need to create and maintain a presence that your customers find valuable.

Quality Content above All Else

Do not phone it in when it comes to your website. Treating it as an afterthought or looking for the cheapest option available is going to cost you customers. Having a minimal web presence with your name and contact information, and a few keywords sprinkled into a brief list of services is not going to encourage anyone to do business with you. In order for Google to consider your website relevant, and in turn your customers, your website needs to serve as a source of information.

• Write Informative Articles

Customers nowadays are well informed and they are going to do their research before they invest in any product or service. Instead of coming to your business, or calling you, customers are putting their questions into their web browser. You know your customers best. Think of the most common questions your customers ask, or the services they are primarily looking for. Use those questions as topics for articles, or post step-by-step tutorials on how to use your different products or services. According to HubSpot, businesses that update their blog with new content 16 or more times per month get almost 3.5x more traffic than those who post 0–4 times per month. Build up a database of valuable information, and you will see an increase in quality traffic on your website.

• Outline the Benefits

Customers want to know one thing: what is in it for them. If your customers are not able to see themselves using your products or services on the first page, they are not going to click through the rest of your website. Too often business owners want to talk about their company history, experience, or awards they have won. Save that information for an interior page, and let your customers find it when they are ready. Engage your customers by marketing how your product or service can enhance their lives, as well as what they can expect when they choose to do business with you.

Optimize for Local Search

Your business would need to have significant brand awareness (think Target or Best Buy) to rank above every website on the internet for general search terms. Search engines take into account your physical location when they serve you search results, so it is common for a search phrase to include “near me.” Google has stated that 28% of searches for something nearby have resulted in a purchase. Make sure your city is in the page title, you have a local number prominently displayed, and that your address is in the footer of every page so Google knows where your business is located. Claiming and filling out your Google My Business listing will help as well.

Encourage Customers to Review You Online

Online reviews are the modern day word of mouth. Your customers will be reading those reviews, and using other people’s experiences, and your responses, to decide if they are going to do business with you. The only problem is people are more apt to leave a review if they had a negative experience with your business than if they had a positive one. If someone compliments your service, ask that person to consider posting his or her review on Google or Facebook. Just stay away from offering rewards for reviews. You want the feedback to be authentic.

Make Your Website Responsive

Mobile search has outpaced desktop search, so having a mobile-friendly website is necessary. Google also gives priority to mobile-friendly websites in mobile search. With the variety of devices, and subsequent screen sizes that are available, having a responsive website will ensure that your website adjusts to any screen without the need of a separate mobile website. This gives customers the best viewing experience, and prevents them from getting frustrated and leaving your website.

The important thing to keep in mind is that SEO is all about the long game. If you set out with the goal of ranking well, you are selling yourself and your customers short. Your website requires regular attention in order to be successful. Focus on creating a website that offers value to your customers, and you will set yourself up for success.

Lauren Dingus is the web and graphics designer at Speros, responsible for the website development division, including graphic design and branding, content writing, and consulting on digital marketing strategies. For information, contact Lauren at ldingus@speros.com or 912.354.8900

Six Common Financial Mistakes to Avoid Before a Divorce

Six Common Financial Mistakes to Avoid Before a Divorce

By Sam Hubbard of Coastal Divorce Advisors

You’ll face many pivotal decisions throughout your divorce. Unfortunately, missteps often turn into larger mistakes that could jeopardize your financial security and well-being for years to come. So whether you think your spouse may be considering divorce, or you may be contemplating it yourself, it’s important to be proactive about your finances well in advance of divorce becoming reality.

This article, which focuses on mistakes made before a divorce, is the first in a series of three highlighting frequent financial mistakes made before, during and after a divorce and how to avoid them.

Mistake 1: Not being financially prepared. Some spouses see a divorce a mile away, but others are completely blindsided. Since the divorce process can be very expensive, it’s important to be financially ready so you have sufficient funds to get through the divorce, including the ability to hire a qualified divorce team. If you don’t have a checking account in your name only, set one up as soon as possible and add funds to it regularly. Also consider opening a credit card in your name since it may be harder to get one after your divorce. Additionally, try to establish or boost your credit score by making occasional purchases and paying your bills on time. Following your divorce, you’ll need a strong credit rating if you want to rent a house or a condo, refinance your mortgage, or finance a new car.

Mistake 2: Not having all your financial documents in order. Lawyers and financial experts need to review all your financial documents to negotiate the best terms of your settlement. The list of necessary documents is lengthy, but make sure to have these important ones handy before the divorce begins: three years of tax returns; at least one year of checking and savings account statements, brokerage statements and credit card statements; vehicle titles; and insurance policy declarations.

Mistake 3: Not monitoring and protecting your credit rating. As soon as divorce is unavoidable, immediately request a copy of your credit report (most are free). It will show all debts you share with your spouse and those belonging only to you. Ask your attorney whether it makes sense to close your joint accounts and credit cards you use infrequently with zero balance. Also review your report closely to see if there are accounts you are not aware of. If you are concerned your spouse may borrow money in your name, you may want to sign up for a credit monitoring service (many cost less than $20 per month).

Mistake 4: Failing to proactively monitor the mail. Make sure to be vigilant about the bank statements, credit card bills and investment account statements coming to your house. The more educated you are about the financials and what assets are held where, the more you’ll help your team gain better results on your behalf and lower your divorce-related costs.

Mistake 5: Taking on new debt to pay off other debt. If you’re having marital problems, do not refinance the mortgage on your house or get a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) with the thought of paying off the miscellaneous debt, like credit cards, family loans and business debt. Your spouse may suggest taking this route, but ultimately you are removing the equity you have accumulated in the house to pay off debt your spouse may very well be liable for. Generally speaking, avoid taking on any new debt with your spouse.

Mistake 6: Failure to hire a qualified divorce team. While it’s critical to hire a lawyer who specializes in divorce, it is also important to build a team of professionals to help you secure the most favorable results for you both financially and emotionally. By tapping specialists in different fields, you’ll ultimately get the best and most cost-effective advice. A lawyer is the best resource for legal advice and understanding Georgia divorce laws. A divorce financial planner will provide advice on the many financial aspects of your case. And a therapist will help you and your children through the transition and tough times. Additionally, if you have a privately held business, you may need to hire an accountant with a CVA or BCA designation to value it.

By anticipating and preparing before you enter a divorce, you can avoid the high cost of mistakes.

Sam Hubbard Coastal Divorce Advisors Savannah

Sam Hubbard

Sam Hubbard, MBA, CFA, CDFA is the principal of Coastal Divorce Advisors, LLC, (CDA), a firm specializing in helping clients understand their financial situation and options throughout the divorce process. CDA is an affiliate of Coastal Capital Management, LLC. For additional information, e-mail Sam@CoastalDivorceAdvisors.com, call 912-234-3657 or visit www.CoastalDivorceAdvisors.com. This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author, who is not an attorney. If you require legal advice, please seek appropriate legal representation.

Hinesville’s First Presbyterian Christian Academy Launches New Website Created by Speros

Hinesville’s First Presbyterian Christian Academy Launches New Website Created by Speros

(SAVANNAH, GA) First Presbyterian Christian Academy in Hinesville, Ga., is pleased to announce the launch of its new website, http://fpcahinesville.com/. Designed by Speros, a full-service technology company headquartered in Savannah, the site features up-to-date technology and easy functionality that allow school administrators to make their own routine updates.

First Presbyterian Christian Academy’s previous website had not been updated in a few years,” said Lauren Dingus, Speros web and graphics designer. “School officials had lost touch with the person who built it originally, so they had no idea how to update the information themselves.”

Shannon Hickey, First Presbyterian’s interim head of school, said their collective goal with Speros was to have an up-to-date website they would be able to keep up by themselves.

Lauren Dingus of Speros

Lauren Dingus of Speros

Speros was responsive to those needs and also helped us better organize our web content since we had a good deal of information that families of prospective students would be looking for online,” Hickey said.

First Presbyterian Christian Academy, a fully accredited non-denominational Christian school located in Hinesville, Ga., just outside the gates of Fort Stewart. Founded in 1975, the Academy strives to provide students in the Liberty County area with a high-quality education in a nurturing Christian environment promoting academic excellence, spiritual development and family involvement in a well-rounded educational environment.

Speros' Website Homepage New

Speros’ New Online Homepage

MORE INFORMATION ON SPEROS
Established in 1984, Speros provides technology solutions for businesses, offering telephone systems, IT services, surveillance systems, web design and branding solutions, and cloud computing. Speros team members continually stay updated on leading-edge, certified technologies to maximize solutions and ensure businesses succeed in this fast-paced, technology-driven world. For more information, visit speros.com, call 912-354-8900 or email info@speros.com.

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Speros
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912.790.5117

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