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The producer price index (PPI) for finished goods increased 0.6% in October, not seasonally adjusted (0.4%, seasonally adjusted), and 4.3% since October 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on Tuesday. The PPI for inputs to construction industries, a weighted average of all materials used in construction plus items consumed by contractors (such as diesel fuel), rose 0.6% for the month, not seasonally adjusted, and 4.8% over 12-months. But prices charged by contractors for finished buildings and by subcontractors remained nearly flat, meaning they were having to absorb materials cost increases. Specifically, the PPI for new office construction fell 0.1% for the month and 0.4% over 12 months; industrial buildings, 0.2% and 0; warehouses, 0.5% and 0.2%; and schools, 0.3% and 1.2%. The PPI for nonresidential building work by roofing contractors rose 0.2% for the month but fell 2.6% year-over-year; concrete contractors, -0.3% and 0.2%; electrical, 1.0% and 0.6%; and plumbing, -0.4% and 1.6%. The materials price increases were driven by spikes in the PPIs for diesel fuel, 7.2% and 20%; copper and brass mill shapes, 5.4% and 15%; steel mill products, 1.4% and 12%; and aluminum mill shapes, 1.8% and 10%. Prices moderated or fell for plastic construction products, 0.7% and 2.0%; concrete products, 0 and -0.4%; gypsum products, -0.2% and 0; asphalt paving mixtures and blocks, -0.5% and 4.8%; and lumber and plywood, -0.9% and 6.7%.

   Several price increases for construction inputs have occurred or been announced since the PPI data were collected in mid-October. Crude-oil and copper futures moved to two-year highs last week before retreating in the past four days. The national average retail price of highway diesel fuel jumped this week to $3.18 per gallon, up 39 cents (14%) from a year ago, the Energy Information Administration reported on Monday. Several wallboard manufacturers announced price increases to take effect in December. But American Gypsum said it would not increase prices until March, and weak demand for building construction makes a December increase appear dubious. Similarly, one concrete supplier in Texas announced a $7-per-yard price increase for January 1 but it is not clear competitors or market conditions will sustain the change. On November 8 and 9, the leading makers of reinforcing bar products announced price increases of $20 per ton, effective on December 1.

   Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 151,000, seasonally adjusted, in October, including a 10th consecutive monthly increase in private-sector employment, BLS reported on November 5. Construction employment rose 5,000 in October and estimates were adjusted up by 3,000 for August and 16,000 September, but employment remained 122,000 (2.1%) below the year-earlier level and 2.1 million (27%) below the August 2006 peak. Of the five BLS construction employment categories, only heavy and civil engineering construction gained jobs over the past 12 months: 4,800 (3.5%). Nonresidential building contractors shed 12,200 (1.7%); nonresidential specialty trade contractors, 58,700 (2.8%); residential specialty trades, 51,900 (3.3%); and residential building, 28,500 (4.7%). Architectural and engineering services employment, a harbinger of future demand for construction, was flat for the month and down 14,300 (1.1%) over 12 months. These year-over-year declines were generally milder than in the past two and a half years. The unemployment rate for construction workers in October was 17.3%, not seasonally adjusted, down from 18.7% a year ago but higher than any other industry and nearly double the rate for all workers. Average hourly earnings in construction were $25.26 in October, seasonally adjusted, up just 0.7% from October 2009.

   Construction spending totaled $802 billion in September at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, up 0.5% from the downwardly revised August estimate of $797 billion but down 10% from September 2009, the Census Bureau reported on November 1. Public construction spending climbed 1.3% for the month and year. Of the two major public components, highway and street construction spending slipped 0.1% in September and edged up 0.4% over 12 months, whereas educational construction spending rose 1.6% for the month and fell 4.8% over the year. Private nonresidential spending fell 1.6% and 25%, with double-digit percentage decreases in the eight largest categories. In descending current size, the largest private types were power, -0.9% for the month and -22% over 12 months; commercial (retail, wholesale and farm), -2.6% and -21%; manufacturing, -4.8% and -37%; and health care, 0.7% and -13%. Private residential spending rebounded 1.8% in September after three months of steep declines but was down 6.3% year-over-year. Of the three types of residential spending, improvements to existing single- and multi-family construction jumped 6.2% for the month but dropped 4.6% year-over-year; new single-family, -2.6% and -0.1%; and new multi-family, 3.3% and -44%.

   Mixed indicators of future construction spending appeared this week. The American Institute of Architects reported today that the Architecture Billings Index (ABI), a gauge of the number of responding firms that with higher billings less those with lower billings in the prior month, fell to 48.7 in October from 50.4 in September, the first reading above the breakeven 50 mark since January 2008. Reed Construction Data reported on Tuesday that the value of nonresidential construction starts surged 30% in October from a “weak” September level but fell 9% short of the October 2009 mark. “Together, September-October starts were about at the monthly average for the 25 months since the September 2008 financial crisis,” said Chief Economist Jim Haughey.

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An interesting article on what larger companies are doing in regards to social media. From Entrepreneur magazine. Click here to read the article — Social Media and the Fortune 500

 If you find yourself using Facebook to send out work-related emails to coworkers, you’re not alone.

According to a new report issued by Gartner (IT), 20% of business users will use social networks as their primary means of business communications by 2014. Gartner says it expects e-mail clients from Microsoft and IBM (IBM) will soon start integrating with social networking sites, giving users access to their e-mails, contacts and calendars from their favorite social networking platform. What’s more, Gartner says that contact lists, calendars and messaging clients on smartphones will all be capable of connecting with social networking platforms by 2012.

“The rigid distinction between e-mail and social networks will erode,” says Gartner analyst Monica Basso. “E-mail will take on my social attributes… while social networks will develop richer e-mail capabilities.”

Gartner also predicts that more of these social network-enabled e-mail clients will move away from on-premises networks and into the cloud. By the end of 2010, Gartner projects that 10% of corporate e-mail accounts will be in the cloud, up from 7% in 2009.

Good news for the Ohio economy  

The Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) awarded Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors in Akron a $1 million grant for advanced materials development.  The grant will support Lockheed Martin’s effort to develop the next generation of lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicles for use in persistent surveillance, reconnaissance and communication applications. 

Key technology advancements are required in the materials area to ensure the durability and integrity of the LTA vehicle’s envelope, particularly the hull fabric.  This grant is specifically directed toward establishing commercial production of light-weight, flexible film materials in Ohio that will provide the high modulus and reduced permeability required for the LTA vehicles.  The superior and unique material properties will come from Ohio companies, working collaboratively with Lockheed Martin, as part of its local supply chain.  As the use of LTA vehicles continue to grow, the market for the fabric will increase and create additional jobs in the state.

The project team includes Lockheed Martin, Akron Polymer Systems (APS), Chemsultants International located in Mentor, Ohio, and the University of Akron (UA). Lockheed Martin will be the project lead and provide expertise in LTA technology. APS will provide its knowledge of condensation polymers. Chemsultants is a world leader in films and casting. UA includes experts in polymers and nanomaterials. Ohio’s Center for Multifunctional Polymer Nanomaterials and Devices (CMPND) has a long history with these organizations, building collaborative relationships, assisting with grant preparation and providing leadership.

The proximity of suppliers benefits Lockheed Martin in terms of speed and communications, while providing an additional 10 near-term jobs to the northwest Ohio economy.  Assuming the materials development and subsequent demonstration project is successful, Lockheed Martin’s LTA development team is expected to employ an additional 120 workers by 2013. Further, the project will preserve 80 jobs in Ohio and create expanded opportunities in the state for such advanced flexible composites markets as medical packaging and instruments, space structures and inflatable ground structures.

Both the technologies and collaborations involved in the project build on a history of support and cooperation developed in earlier efforts. More specifically, this proposal is clearly an extension of groundwork put in place by collaborations with CMPND and the ODOD Research Commercialized Program (RCP) Polyimide project support.

The Ohio Third Frontier Program that is funding this and other projects leverages private enterprise funds to create additional jobs for Ohioans.

 The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President John Engler issued the following statement today on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) permitting guidance to account for greenhouse gas emissions starting January 2, 2011:
 
“While we are still in the process of reviewing the document, manufacturers remain very concerned with the EPA’s overreaching agenda, and today’s release of the greenhouse gas permitting guidance raises more questions than answers. The EPA continues to create uncertainty for manufacturers as we move closer to the January 2, 2011 deadline. While the agency has requested public comment, the short timeframe will hinder stakeholders’ ability to provide robust feedback.

It is also questionable whether the state agencies have the resources or the capacity to expeditiously issue new permits. Manufacturers cannot afford additional permitting delays that will hinder decision-making and certainty for their business.”

A pretty interesting article by Gerald Shankel, President and CEO, Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International

Consider a manufacturing career amid media reports of shuttered factories, job losses and the worst economy since the Depression? Although certainly counter-intuitive, the answer to that question is a resounding yes! Despite the shaky economy, scores of American manufacturers are reporting a dire need for skilled labor.

Industry surveys reinforce this claim. According to the 2009 Manpower Talent Shortage Survey, among the most difficult jobs to fill in North America are those of the skilled manual trades, with electricians, carpenters/joiners and welders as the most in-demand employees.

In addition, an October 2009 report issued by the Manufacturing Institute, Deloitte and Oracle, cites that among companies involved in skilled production (whose employees are machinists, craft workers and technicians), 51 percent report shortages and see increased shortages ahead.

Although the United States has lost huge numbers of manufacturing jobs to countries like China, there still are well paying job opportunities for skilled workers in the manufacturing sector here. As more and more baby boomers retire, the problem is only expected to accelerate.

The looming skilled-worker shortage is an unwelcome threat to the nation’s manufacturing base that needs to be addressed at multiple levels, from better educating the next generation of factory workers to improving the public’s image of plant work.

You can read the rest of the article here — America’s Most Wanted: Skilled Workers

 (from a recent report by the Associated General Contractors of America)

Temporary Public-Sector Construction Spending Boosts Commercial Construction Employment, Offsetting Declines in Residential Construction, Association Officials Note

Even as the number of people working in construction increased by 5,000 between September and October 2010, the industry’s unemployment rate rose to 17.3 percent, according to an analysis of federal employment figures released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Temporary government investments boosted commercial construction employment, offsetting further job losses in residential construction, association officials noted.

“Despite significant help from programs like the BRAC and the stimulus, construction employment continues to lag behind much of the private sector,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer. “It is yet another indicator that the economy has a long way to grow before demand for new office buildings, retail centers and manufacturing facilities returns.”

Association officials noted that construction employment lagged behind other sectors of the economy. For example, while total private employment rose by 1.1 million during the past 12 months, the construction industry lost 122,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the industry’s unemployment rate is nearly double the unadjusted national rate of 9.5 percent.

Nonresidential construction fared relatively well in October compared to residential construction, association officials said. Nonresidential construction employment added 10,300 jobs since September, while residential construction lost 5,800 jobs. Nonresidential specialty construction added 7,300 jobs and heavy & civil engineering added 4,800 jobs. However, nonresidential building construction employment declined by 1,800 jobs between September and October.

The employment data is consistent with construction spending figures released earlier this week that showed increases in public construction spending offsetting continued declines in private-sector construction. Temporary federal programs like the stimulus and base realignment efforts were driving demand for construction workers from the specialty trades and heavy & civil engineering construction sectors. Meanwhile decreased private-sector activity contributed to the nonresidential building job losses.

While the stimulus has helped protect the construction industry from more severe job losses, construction firms were unlikely to significantly expand payrolls until the long-term market outlook improves, association officials said. They urged Washington officials to act on long-delayed water and transportation infrastructure programs and to provide the tax and regulatory relief needed to boost private sector economic activity.

“These modest job gains are likely to be as temporary as the programs that are driving them,” said Sandherr. “What this industry needs now is the certainty that comes with consistent tax, regulatory and federal infrastructure policies and the opportunity that comes from sustained and robust private sector economic growth.”

An article in The Wall Street Journal. Interesting look at how social media is not the end all for B2B companies to boost sales. You can read the original article here

Bill.com Inc., a provider of bill-payment services, is trying to market itself on Facebook. But even though the venture-backed company has more than 10,000 clients, it has so far managed to secure only 67 “friends” on the social-networking site.

These days, even small “business-to-business” concerns like Bill.com are experimenting with social media, perceiving the popular online hangouts as low-cost, easy-to-use venues for attracting new customers and retaining existing ones. But unlike their consumer-focused counterparts—retailers that sell smartphones, jeans, games and other personal products—so-called B-to-B businesses seem to be having a harder time connecting with their target audience.

Facebook “is so consumer dominated that it takes time to find a voice that cuts through what’s already out there,” says René Lacerte, founder and chief executive of Bill.com, which is based in Palo Alto, Calif.

A survey released last month of 230 B-to-B companies shows that 24% are using Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and others for marketing, and another 36% plan to try them in the coming year. “It’s certainly something that has taken off in the last six months,” says Michael Greene, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc., which conducted the study.

In general, he says B-to-Bs tend to be slower to adopt new marketing technologies than business-to-consumer companies. But now that they’re catching up, it appears that many are having a tough time gaining followers. “B-2-B isn’t sexy,” says Mr. Greene. “It doesn’t have that same immediate attraction that consumer brands do.”

Bill.com so far has only about half the number of Facebook “friends” as the average user, and far fewer than many of its consumer-focused counterparts. For example, LegalZoom.com Inc., a small business that helps consumers file legal documents such as wills and divorce papers, has more than 10,000 Facebook friends.

Making fans of other businesses, as opposed to consumers (or actual friends), may seem counterintuitive to social networking. So B-to-Bs typically look to interact with workers who make buying decisions on behalf of the companies they target. Many attempt to acquire contacts by providing links to their social-media profiles from their websites and marketing materials.

“B-to-B buyers are people, which means they are on Facebook,” says Tim McLaughlin, president of Siteworx Inc., a small Web-strategy and design company based in Reston, Va., that is on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. “You need to be where they are.”

Some B-to-B owners say social networking is actually ideal for their demographic since it can take months for their kind of buyers to commit to a purchase. The products and services they sell tend to cost significant amounts and often several people are involved in the decision-making process.

For example, Eloqua Ltd., a marketing-software company in Vienna, Va., charges between $15,000 and $800,000 a year for its technology. Regularly posting status updates about industry trends and related topics to its Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn Corp. profiles helps it stay “top of mind” among clients, says Joe Payne, chief executive. “There’s no question what we do in the social world generates leads because it drives people to our website,” he says. “We can see where they’re coming from.”

Sharing information or advice on social-networking sites is also a way for B-to-Bs to show off their expertise, says John Lopez-Ona, president of Six Sigma Qualtec Inc., a business-consulting firm in Princeton, N.J., that uses Twitter and has its own blog. “It’s about building relationships,” he says.

B-to-Bs are also running special marketing campaigns on social-networking sites, such as contests that give away prizes to winners. OnTimeSupplies.com, an online office-supply retailer, launched an initiative earlier this month in which it promises to donate 25 cents to a breast-cancer charity every time someone posts an update on Facebook or Twitter mentioning it. “We’ve always depended a lot on word of mouth… whether it’s people trading stories in the cafeteria or on Facebook,” says Miles Young, chief executive and co-founder of the Atlanta firm.

Some small B-to-Bs say they prefer to market themselves on networking sites specifically designed for businesses and professionals such as LinkedIn.com.

“You have to pick the right tools, and sometimes the tools are dictated by the kind of company you are and the kind of prospects and clients you have,” says Kathy Scheessele, a partner at Mastering Business Development Inc., a Charlotte, N.C., business-consulting firm that recently started using LinkedIn.

“The type of people we’re trying to engage with are at a certain level. They’re not the typical kind of person who’s going to be twittering or have a Facebook page,” Ms. Scheessele says.

Like many other types of companies, small B-2-Bs are also using social media to find out what’s being said about them online, as well as gather competitive intelligence and keep up with industry trends. “The big advantage of social media is listening,” says Eric Bradlow, a professor at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

But he adds that once a business creates a profile on a social-networking site, it needs to use it on a regular basis to avoid stoking the rumor mill. “People build up expectations around communication,” says Mr. Bradlow. “When expectations are violated, people will infer stuff that may not be true.”

The following is an editorial I found on Linked In. It is fairly interesting, addressing why some people/companies do not find the success they hoped for on Linked In. Her Website is www.http://theconfidentcopywriter.com/.

So you’ve been on LI for months and you haven’t gotten one shred of business…except maybe a few inquiries here and there that didn’t pan out; a couple nibbles from companies that were wrong for you; and those endless MLM offers you won’t even consider.

That leaves you wondering what all the fuss is about. Who are all these people who claim they have gotten new, profitable business on LinkedIn?

Bad news: It’s not LinkedIn. It’s you.

To drive business on LinkedIn, you need an action plan and a system, just like any other business strategy. You’re only going to get back what you put in. Without a plan, you’ll waste a lot of time being sociable, with no real business to show for it.

This is the biggest complaint I hear about social media marketing…it takes a lot of time and results never seem to materialize.

I agree, it is time-consuming. But when done correctly (which means planning SMM into your day, maximizing that time, and maintaining a narrow focus), the results can be astounding.

It’s kind of like cleaning your house. You start out enthusiastically enough. Two hours later, though, you haven’t moved from the bedroom. You end up sidetracked, going through closets and drawers and…“ooohhh! What’s this? My high school love letters!”

Before you know it, you’ve walked so far down Memory Lane you’ll need to catch the bus back to the corner of Main & Reality.

8 Steps to Optimizing Your LI Connections

1. See the future: How much new business can you comfortably handle? Be realistic. One new client a month is 12 for the year. Not bad.
2. Choose a target market and do not stray from this focus
3. Join groups for those markets and actively participate in a meaningful way
4. Educate yourself on effective LI search…there are ways to search and findspecific information about specific people
5. Stand out: Be active! Be proactive! Be visible! Get out there and get involved. Create a highly compelling profile; not a resume rehash.
6. Answer questions to highlight your subject expertise
7. Accept connections and request connections. People want to connect with you!
8. Talk to people. I mean, really talk. Show an interest, look for ways to help each other…seeking connections isn’t only about having lots of connections!

Remember…this is social media marketing. You wouldn’t walk into your neighbor’s BBQ, announce your arrival, then sit in your neighbor’s favorite chair and start dominating the conversation, would you? The beauty of social media marketing is the opportunity to use natural, social strategies of communicating, connecting and collaborating to build your online visibility and attract the attention of companies you really want to work with.

What LI strategies have worked well for you?

An interesting article on the keys to using social media avenues to boost a company’s business. Here is a portion of the article.

  1. Analyze existing media, social media, and your demographics. Before you start, analyze existing media, demographics, and new social media alternatives for a fit to your rollout campaign requirements. Factor in the fundamental shift to ‘pull’ marketing taking place across the world in media and advertising. Then set your goals.
  2. Understand the basic tools – the social media trinity. Blogging (WordPress), micro-blogging (Twitter), and social networks are the trinity. Key social networks are Facebook (500 million consumers) and LinkedIn (60 million professionals). Get to know the five W’s of these and others – who, what, where, when, and why. Pick your fit. 
  3. Integrate your strategy into the trinity. Social media does not stand alone; it must be integrated into a balanced marketing strategy. Content is still king, so do the proper homework on what you blog, and the quality of the messages you deliver via social media. Put your social network links on your stationery, business cards, and email.
  4. Assess and commit the resources required. At this point you need executive buy-in, decide what you do personally, assess your staffing and out-sourcing requirements, and commit the budget. This is the time to get creative, run pilot projects to look at ROI, and educate the whole team on objectives and activities.
  5. Implement metrics and analytics. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Determine the proper measurement tools and set up the measurement process. Only then can you determine your ROI. Manage your expectations, and analyze every marketing channel. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The above was published by Lon Safko, who just published his Second Edition of the bestselling book, “The Social Media Bible.”

To read the full article, click here