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November 07 Businessexcellence 51 was to expand into emerging markets,” says Poppe. “One of those emerging markets is national and international security. We were able to purchase a firm on the west coast that mostly worked for the government. The military is moving its bases out from the center to the edges, so we are structured to do a great deal of work on the west coast, out to Hawaii and as far west as Guam.” Possibly the best opportunity in the current climate, however, is alternative energy. It’s a relatively new market, and its potential is proving rather difficult to measure with any accuracy, but the common consensus is that it’s huge. The sheer volume of new construction going on in some of the busiest markets is a good indicator that demand for energy will continue to grow. “The Washington DC area has a six billion dollar non residential market,” says Poppe. “South Florida has six to eight billion dollars of non residential. Phoenix alone is about four billion dollars. The energy potential within those markets is in the billions of dollars. With the government providing investment incentives in the growing alternative energy market, there is a significant amount of new market opportunity. We’ve not been able to figure out exactly what the size of it is, other than it’s fairly untapped and it’s growing.” But entry into new markets means learning to walk before you can run. Weitz is taking a cautious and sensible approach. “We decided we didn’t want to go from zero to building billion dollar electrical generation plants,” says Poppe, “so we looked for some edges where we could get in on it. Today we are looking at biodiesel, saw grass, closed loop ethanol systems. We have completed a biodiesel plant in Iowa, and we have several more under contract. We’re looking at some e-grass plants; there’s quite a bit of activity going on and it’s in the size range where we can learn the business at a reasonable risk and grow as that industry grows.” Sustainability has become a huge issue in the US economy and construction is at the forefront of it, with The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) emerging as the dominant player, through its LEED certification system (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). “It’s certainly the driving factor within our industry and we have goals in virtually every one of our operating plans for more of our people to become LEED AP certified (accredited professionals),” says Martling. “A lot of it has to do with what are the best practical solutions that create good resource conservation and a better working environment for employees.” There’s a huge debate about the economics of green building. Some say it’s no more expensive to build green than not to do so, if you plan it properly. But, says Poppe, “initial costs are always higher. People can say they’re not, but they are. The decision is how long a period are you willing to amortize those additional costs over? When we work with a client we try to provide them with good solid information on what the costs are, what the durations are and what kind of recovery times it will take to get their money out of any particular process,” he continues. “We want an owner to be able to make an informed decision. Another force exerting an increasing influence on construction is building information modeling (BIM), a technology designed to improve communications between the various parties involved in a project to speed up the process. BIM acts as a bridge between the design team, the construction team and the owner, avoiding duplication of effort and the information loss typically associated with a construction project. “We’re in the process of implementing building information modeling company wide,” says Martling. “A few months ago we hired one of the most experienced people in BIM. He’s been doing it since 1992 and he is working with several of our business units that are already using it; our Rocky Mountain business unit and our South West business unit are using it, and we’re about to implement it in several of our Midwest offices because an architect wants to team up with us in three different offices on three different jobs. “It should vastly improve the coordination and quality of a building,” he continues. “By moving coordination to the front end of the job during the preconstruction phase, it’s a lot easier to solve issues. You may have a structure that doesn’t fit the architectural drawings, so which one is going to give? You can solve those things before you incur the cost of reordering materials or having people in the field standing around waiting for an answer. In my opinion it will shorten schedules and reduce errors, which will TheWeitzCompany “When we work with a client we try to provide them with good solid information on what the costs are, what the durations are and what kind of recovery times it will take to get their money out of any particular process”

reduce the number of man hours and so reduce the costs of the project, while at the same time improving quality. And that works for the architect too.” With all this talk about sustainability and technology, we must not overlook the buildings themselves. “We’ve completed some stunning buildings nationwide,” says Martling. “We have a project almost complete in downtown Phoenix in their new Copper Square area. We have recently completed the ReMax headquarters in Denver, and it’s a beautiful end user building. In Des Moines we have completed a large facility for Wells Fargo, and we are in the fi nal stages of a project for Scripps Research Laboratories in Jupiter, Florida, just north of West Palm Beach. The Omaha business unit is in the process of redoing the Mutual of Omaha superblock, and turning that into a wonderful mixed use facility right downtown in Omaha.” The Weitz Company proclaims its pride in having a superior work environment which encourages people to stay. As proof of the pudding, Poppe and Martling each have twenty six years’ service, joining together on the acquisition of their former employer, the Al Cohen Construction Company. In addition to employee ownership and its commitment to training and development, the quality of its buildings and its relationships with clients are another determining factor. “We are very customer oriented and we have worked hard to move away from being an adversarial bid contractor to being a negotiated, clients’ best interest contractor,” says Poppe. “It’s a more entertaining environment to come into than ‘every day we go to a fi ght’.” 52 Businessexcellence November 07 TheWeitzCompany When Greiner Electric opened in 1997, the Weitz Company gave us our fi rst substantial project. Ten years later, Greiner has completed over $20 million of electrical construction in partnership with Weitz. Greiner has evolved into one of the premier electrical contractors in the Rockies. We pride ourselves on innovation and problem solving through conceptual budgeting, value engineering, and quality craftsmanship. Greiner Electric