“INTERNal Input”

By Ashlee Bishop

As a returning Intern in GRAEF’s Corporate Marketing group through the Earn and Learn Initiative, the importance and effectiveness of my position are often issues of concern, for me personally. In an Intern position, one may find they are assisting others more than actually shadowing a specific position per se or learning independently rather than matching class based instruction with on-the-job application. So to the weary intern, entry level employee or self-proclaimed stagnant, veteran employee I have a few things you can do to increase your “range of reach” on the job:

First things first, take an inventory of your skills and talents. This may seem easy and it is; however, there are some things you should keep in mind; Skills and talents are two different things. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines talent as “natural endowment(s) of a person.” This is something you really don’t have to try to have to accomplish while others do. Skills on the other hand are “developed aptitudes or abilities.” Slightly different from a talent, these attributes can be picked up along the way from any aspect of life and development. Both of these qualifications are vitally important to this professional appraisal.

Next, practice perfecting said professional attributes.  Once you made your list of things you can do and the things you do well; use them! Whenever, wherever and with whom ever; practice, practice, practice, this the only way you can surely mature an expertise. Plus the added experience, I think adds to your work-related worth. Now as my grandma would say, “Now, you’re cooking with grease!” Not only have we uncovered your skill set but we are using them often.

Then, I want you to lend a helping hand! Help any and everyone, where applicable. Offer up your assistance frequently but not to the point where it becomes bothersome. Go off the feedback you are receiving, if the person appreciates your help, is always happy to have you and usually has something for you to do then, very well carry on! But if their facial expression changes when you enter their presence, even though you are only looking to help, ask that person a little less. While you are “on the job” with each person and their project you’re assisting with, go above and beyond even if you are not being paid. This way, you can let your work reflect your worth!

In addition to now knowing your professional capabilities, so do the people you work with. One last thing, don’t be afraid to inform or remind others of what you can do or have done. This way the things you are allowed to do may expand. If people don’t know of your mentoring abilities or the team-oriented attitude even when you are not the leader, then perhaps they will not consider you for projects that call for these attributes. So go ahead, when your team/ department is discussing upcoming tasks, mention your “outside of the office” experience with something similar and don’t forget to mention the results. This can cause others to become more flexible with your work assignments and in essence value your skills and assistance.

Hopefully these tips allow you to define your standing in your current position, increase your status/organizational prestige, and augment your responsibilities within your organization!

Incentives – The Catalyst to 100% Energy Independence

By Gino Bernardi

PV Solar

PV Solar

 

There is no doubt that government subsidies increase the adoption rate of sustainable construction.  Everyone is attracted to “free money.” Some subsidies can significantly affect the financial outlook on projects such as photovoltaic (PV) solar installation. For example, there are some reports of PV solar projects achieving internal rate of returns greater than 20%, which would not have been possible without the subsidy. The most exemplary government subsidy in this regard is Germany’s Feed in Tariff program. Germany’s policies became the status quo of the PV industry. They were so powerful that many financial analysts and economists believe that the financial collapse of the PV manufacturing industry was triggered after Germany began scaling back their Feed in Tariff program in 2010. That is an extreme example of a government subsidy which had such a profound effect on adoption that it created an artificial and unsustainable glut of global PV modules.

From data collected up to 2010, the volume of PV solar capacity in Germany was 17 gigawatts (GW), while Spain’s volume was 3.7 GW (2010 Solar Technologies Market Report). Most surprising, is that Germany’s total level of solar radiation is comparable to that of Alaska. Surely, Germany would not have achieved such a huge level of PV capacity without their popular Feed in Tariff program. All of these facts are important because they clearly demonstrate the power that regulatory action has over adopters of clean technology.

This particular example has shown how incentives do speed up the adoption rate of sustainable technology, but would a slower adoption rate be fast enough without incentives? The answer to that question requires a step back in history at least 10 to 20 years ago.  Sustainability is not a new concept. We have had an understanding of sustainability for quite a long time now. It was once referred to as socio-environmental-economic impact. Furthermore, we have been well aware of the global warming trend (a likely derivative of unsustainable construction) for the last 20 years or so. Yet, 10 – 20 years ago solar panels were more like tech toys for scientists, while the US was spending a huge amount of time, money, and focus on securing unsustainable foreign energy. Developing energy “at home” was not on the priority list.

The result of this lack of regulatory incentives demonstrably led to slower adoption of clean technology relative to today’s adoption rate. Whether it be considered too slow is likely still up to debate by critics on both sides. Personally, I find the improved quality of sustainable technology a major improvement over the past alternatives. I would like to see a future of 100% energy independence and until that day happens, the adoption rate will never be fast enough.

Alabama Crimson Tide

By Joe Pepitone

Aerial View of the University of Alabama’s Newly Designed Track & Field and Practice Facility

Alabama just won a national championship, not only was it back-to-back with last year’s, but it was their 15th championship! Thousands just gathered over the weekend to celebrate with a parade. http://progress.montgomeryadvertiser.com/article/20130120/SPORTS0401/301200031/Alabama-football-Tide-celebrates-title-parade

With an outstanding college football team who is at the top of their game, having the best practice field possible is one of the keys to help them be successful.

Enter in GRAEF…

GRAEF was part of a collaborative design team, along with Davis Architects, Inc., responsible for the design and engineering for the replacement of the natural turf football practice fields at the home of the 2011 NCAA Collegiate football champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide.

University of Alabama’s New Practice Field

The project consisted of the replacement of three practice fields with two full size Bermuda grass practice fields along with offensive and defensive blocking areas, lighting, irrigation and a building addition to the existing training facility.

View of the University of Alabama’s Newly Designed Practice Field

GRAEF provided civil engineering, landscape architecture and irrigation design for the replacement fields. The project construction documents were completed in less than two weeks in order for the project to be constructed prior to football practice sessions which began in late summer. The project was completed in July of 2012.

GRAEF was also a part of a collaborative design team, along with Davis Architects, Inc., responsible for the design and engineering of the University of Alabama’s new NCAA Division I collegiate track and field renovation.

View of the University of Alabama’s Newly Designed Track & Field

The project consisted of replacing and reconfiguring the existing nine lane track, field event areas and infield with a new track and field complex within the Sam Bailey Track and Field Stadium.

University of Alabama Track & Field

 

Push to be a Technology Company and a Publishing Company

By Kelly Gibson

Executive Using Cell and Computer

When I was in high school, my dad plugged a phone line into our computer and, voila, we were connected to the internet. But in 1995, there really wasn’t much out there. Actually, there were 23,500 websites, but I don’t remember much more than clunky search engines and a ton of discussion forums.

In the late 1990s businesses decided they all needed a website. Most were form-based and contained a few pages of contact information and their locations. The sites weren’t pretty – lots of bright colors, many different fonts, pixilated images – all competing for your attention.

In the 2000s, businesses decided their websites needed to stay updated. The downside was most companies made longer websites with more tabs and just added to their many pages of information.

Around this time the first smartphone came out. The first BlackBerry was released in 1999, followed by Android in 2003. Larger companies began to develop a second website, a simpler mobile site that could be viewed on a much smaller screen. Other companies began to follow suit as smart phone and tablet usage continued to rise. This year, in fact, marked an information access shift. Smartphones are now the primary access point for people to the internet.

Social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter began entering the mainstream business climate in the mid to late 2000s. Social media conferences began popping up everywhere to teach marketing, communications and sales professionals the business case for using social media. I was able to attend a few of these seminars. At one such program earlier this year the speaker said, every company must be a technology company and a publishing company. Not only does a firm need to have a strong website, but they need to be writing and posting articles. Expectations are high. Smaller firms and business-to-business firms such as ourselves are judged the same as large company sites as we are all consumers.

So I wondered, how do businesses, especially small businesses without a website or social media department, find the time to post on several social media sites in their already busy day?

Our solution at GRAEF has been to enlist the help of marketing, administration and technical staff as bloggers. Like the old adage, many hands make light work. Though many social media experts teach how important it is to have one company voice, having representative voices from different areas of our firm really does speak to the full service of our firm.

At GRAEF, we are still learning about social media and how to best connect with clients and potential clients. Technology will continue to bring us to new ways to communicate and reach clients and we must adapt to stay relevant.

Ten years ago, I didn’t have internet at my house. I didn’t order anything online. I didn’t have the consumer confidence. Whereas today, I do the majority of my shopping online- clothes, shoes, books, and even food.

Technology changes, people change and business development changes in a cyclical fashion. And while I probably won’t ever be the first one using the latest technology, after a little trial and error, I always enjoy using and evolving with it.

Push to be a Technology Company and a Publishing Company

By Kelly Gibson

Executive Using Cell and Computer

Smartphones are now the primary access point for people to the internet.

When I was in high school, my dad plugged a phone line into our computer and, voila, we were connected to the internet. But in 1995, there really wasn’t much out there. Actually, there were 23,500 websites, but I don’t remember much more than clunky search engines and a ton of discussion forums.

In the late 1990s businesses decided they all needed a website. Most were form-based and contained a few pages of contact information and their locations. The sites weren’t pretty – lots of bright colors, many different fonts, pixilated images – all competing for your attention.

In the 2000s, businesses decided their websites needed to stay updated. The downside was most companies made longer websites with more tabs and just added to their many pages of information.

Around this time the first smartphone came out. The first BlackBerry was released in 1999, followed by Android in 2003. Larger companies began to develop a second website, a simpler mobile site that could be viewed on a much smaller screen. Other companies began to follow suit as smart phone and tablet usage continued to rise. This year, in fact, marked an information access shift. Smartphones are now the primary access point for people to the internet.

Social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter began entering the mainstream business climate in the mid to late 2000s. Social media conferences began popping up everywhere to teach marketing, communications and sales professionals the business case for using social media. I was able to attend a few of these seminars. At one such program earlier this year the speaker said, every company must be a technology company and a publishing company. Not only does a firm need to have a strong website, but they need to be writing and posting articles. Expectations are high. Smaller firms and business-to-business firms such as ourselves are judged the same as large company sites as we are all consumers.

So I wondered, how do businesses, especially small businesses without a website or social media department, find the time to post on several social media sites in their already busy day?

Our solution at GRAEF has been to enlist the help of marketing, administration and technical staff as bloggers. Like the old adage, many hands make light work. Though many social media experts teach how important it is to have one company voice, having representative voices from different areas of our firm really does speak to the full service of our firm.

At GRAEF, we are still learning about social media and how to best connect with clients and potential clients. Technology will continue to bring us to new ways to communicate and reach clients and we must adapt to stay relevant.

Ten years ago, I didn’t have internet at my house. I didn’t order anything online. I didn’t have the consumer confidence. Whereas today, I do the majority of my shopping online- clothes, shoes, books, and even food.

Technology changes, people change and business development changes in a cyclical fashion. And while I probably won’t ever be the first one using the latest technology, after a little trial and error, I always enjoy using and evolving with it.

Giving Thanks!

by Maggie Fortmann

When the Marketing group asked if I would like to write a blog I was slightly intimidated at first. Then I realized that I had the week of Thanksgiving for my blog and thought it couldn’t be more perfect. Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday – which I’m sure might sound a little strange to some people. I love the family time, the Macy’s Parade, the Charlie Brown specials, the food, the craziness of the day after sales, and the official kick off to the Holidays. I especially love the time to reflect on what is important in my life.

Sometimes I feel with all the things I have and want to do (work, be a great mom and wife, chase here and there) I don’t take enough time to reflect on the things I am thankful for. Who doesn’t find it difficult at 2am rocking a crying baby to stop and think – No I am blessed to have a crying baby because it means I have a child? Or when you are stuck in traffic on your way to work to think – I am thankful that I have a job to go to that I get to drive through traffic for it. Or when filling up your gas tank at almost $4 a gallon to think – I am thankful for this car that I have to fill up because it means I have easy transportation.

I would think that for many people, including me, that sometimes when you are in the thick of everyday life it is hard to remember there are so many things to be thankful for – even the not so fun stuff. Thanksgiving reminds me to take stock of what is really important in my life and find the things in which to be grateful.

So today for just a minute think about what you are thankful for. And if someone popped into your head while you were reading this – tell them you are thankful for them. I am thankful every day to work with the people that I do. I am thankful for my health that I am able to serve those in my life. I am thankful for my family, my friends, and my co-workers who brighten up my life and give me purpose. I am thankful for our clients and their loyalty to us. I am even thankful for the hard times and decisions because they make us stronger and much more grateful for when times are good!

So in this week of Thanksgiving, I’d like to take a minute to thank all of you at GRAEF. Thank you for doing your jobs so well – so that I am able to do mine at all. Enjoy your four day weekend celebrating with all you are thankful for whether it is your families, hunting, the Charlie Brown special, the Macy’s Parade, or the official kickoff to the Holiday Season. Happy Thanksgiving!

Remembering our Veterans

By Heidi Grogan

Yesterday, November 11, was Veterans Day.  The origin of Veterans Day began with the commemoration of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I (Major hostilities of World War I formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice.) The day was initially known as Armistice Day, but in 1954, an act of Congress changed “Armistice” Day to “Veterans” Day in order to celebrate all veterans, not just those who died in World War I.

This summer I had the opportunity to attend an event at Miller Park called Field of Honor, A Salute to the Greatest Generation. The Honor Flight program flies veterans to see the World War II Memorial, in addition to other memorials in Washington, D. C. at no cost to them.  Time is of the essence, as World War II veterans are dying at an estimated rate of 1,000 every day.  The men and women who served in World War II saw their service as their duty; when the survivors came back, they didn’t talk about it. They just got on with their lives.  There really was never a “thank you.” The WW II Memorial – their “thank you”- was completed in 2004, 60 years after the war ended. Most of the veterans were in their 80’s and 90’s and physically or financially unable to make the trip – that’s where the Honor Flights came in.

Honor Flight film at Miller Park set a world attendance record for a film premiere.

The Miller Park gathering featured a film premiere depicting the origins of the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight organization in Southeast Wisconsin. The film illustrated how a great group of volunteers, spearheaded by Joe Dean, and assisted in public relations efforts by two outstanding veterans, the cantankerous Harvey and the soft-spoken Joe, got these flights going. The film also documented veterans’ experiences as they journeyed to Washington, D.C. to see their World War II Memorial for the first time. The turnout at the Miller Park event was inspiring, as a sell-out crowd, including many veterans, watched the documentary. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house!

The Stars and Stripes chapter has flown 2,451 veterans from Southeast Wisconsin to Washington D.C. since the Fall of 2008. Stars and Stripes features many wonderful volunteers who serve tirelessly in coordinating various aspects of these flights, some of whom assist as “guardians” and travel as companions to the Vets when they make the trip to D.C.  I found out about the program from my co-worker, Bob Warren, who is one of these volunteers. He has served as a guardian to a Vet on one of the flights; he shows up at 3:30 a.m. on the mornings of flight days to help coordinate and provide a proper send-off to the veterans; in addition, he comes back to the airport at 6:00 p.m. to greet and cheer them when they return.

Honor Flight veterans receive an outstanding welcome when they return from their flight to see the WW II Memorial in Washington D.C.

My dad was a member of the Greatest Generation. He served as a Corporal in the Army in World War II.  He was part of the 2nd wave that landed at Normandy Beach in France. As his assignment, he was part of one of three installations close to enemy lines, which intercepted German radio transmissions and tracked enemy aircraft. Speaking fluent German, he served as an interpreter, translating German intelligence.  One of the highlights of his service was marching into Paris on V-E Day at the end of the war on May 8, 1945. There was an overwhelming show of support and elation for the servicemen – all over the city people sang, kissed each other and paraded through the streets.

My Dad                             Corporal Helmund H. Wolf

I would have loved to have been my dad’s guardian on one of the Honor Flights; unfortunately, he died in 2004, the same year that the World War II memorial was completed, and he never had the opportunity to see it. As part of the “Greatest Generation,” my dad took part in World War II, not for fame or recognition, but because it was the right thing to do. This is the case for all of our veterans, not only those who served in WW II, but in all of our wars.  As the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, stated in his Veterans Day address this year: “Twenty-two million living Americans today have distinguished themselves by their service in uniform. Their devotion and sacrifice have been the bedrock of our sovereignty as a Nation, our values as a people, our security as a democracy, and our offer of hope to those in other lands, who dream our dreams of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

Many of our veterans are no longer with us, and we never had an opportunity to express our gratitude to them for making our country the great country it is today.  On Veterans Day and every day, it’s important to remember the contributions of all of the men and women who have served in the armed forces of the United States of America and have safeguarded our country for the last 236 years. Remember, when you see one of these fine people who have served our country so unselfishly, take a moment and say, “Thank you!”

For more information on the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight organization, check out their website: http://www.starsandstripeshonorflight.org/

For more information on the Honor Flight movie: http://www.honorflightthemovie.com/

TIF 101

Understanding TIFs Better

By Ron Van Straten

What is Tax Increment Finance and how can it help my business?

Tax increment finance (TIF) is a popular finance tool used by communities across Wisconsin.  There are over 1,000 communities that have used this method to help finance economic development.  At the same time, it is probably the most misunderstood and confusing term at the municipal level.

In a nutshell, tax increment finance uses future property tax revenue generated from proposed development to finance infrastructure projects that will improve a given geographic area (tax increment district).  For example, a community might identify an area near a highway interchange that has potential for new development but the cost of extending sewer and water service to the area simply outweighs the profit a developer might generate from the project, as well as the additional property tax that the community would get from the new development.  Keep in mind that a local city or village might have a property tax rate of $2-$6 per $1,000 of new property value.

If the community in the above example were to form a tax increment district for the project they would be allowed to capture all the new property taxes generated from the project until the cost of the infrastructure improvements are paid (with some limitations).  Instead of the $2-$6 per $1,000 of new property tax value, the community would be allowed to keep the whole amount of property tax paid by the new development of $20-$30 per $1,000 of new property value.  In short, this would make it feasible for a community to spend say $1 million to extend services if the project were to generate $6 million of new taxable development.  After the infrastructure costs are paid back the community dissolves the tax increment district and all the taxing jurisdictions share the additional property tax just as they do with any other taxable property.

From the perspective of a businessperson, tax increment finance can provide incentives that otherwise would not be available.  The Wisconsin tax increment finance law allows a tremendous amount of flexibility regarding what a community can offer a business for incentives.  While it is not legal for a community to offer lower property taxes to one business or group of businesses, tax increment finance allows the community to provide direct or indirect incentives to the business or businesses.  These incentives can take the form of actual cash payments or they can be in the form of improved roads, sewer or water service, or other site improvements.

In short, this entry is intended to help simplify a concept that can be confusing.  We hope that this helps you understand tax increment finance and how it can benefit you as a businessperson.  If you would like to discuss the topic further, please contact Ron Van Straten at (920) 405-3828.

From the Edge of Space to Your Living Room

Felix Baumgartner

By: Joe Avram

One hundred eleven years ago man-kind could barely get off the ground. Now, there is a man that can say he jumped toward earth from the edge of space. Not only that, but he set 5 world records including becoming the first person to break the sound barrier during free fall. On Sunday, I anxiously sat on my couch with my computer on my lap, waiting for a man to get the OK to step out into space.  Of all the sporting events I have participated in and watched, nothing has ever been as nerve racking as Sunday afternoon.  I watched with over 8 million others around the world as Felix Baumgartner took a leap out of a perfectly good capsule and calmly proclaimed to the world, “I’m going home now.”

I grew up hearing countless stories of what it felt like to see the first man walk on the moon, hear the first news of Sputnik or watch the launch of Apollo 11. It fascinated me how far science and innovation had come and left me wishing I could witness something similar in my lifetime. So now, it feels incredible to have watched a human shatter expectations and move science forward on such a grand stage. To me, the numbers are mind blowing. Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 feet, reaching a top speed of 833.9 mph during his free fall from the edge of space. So, what type of suit could withstand that force and protect the human inside? One created by the US company, David Clark, that has been making suits for astronauts and high-altitude aviators since 1941. Baumgartner’s suit was based on those worn by pilots of high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft, but it had never been used in a free fall setting until Baumgartner began testing it. It had four layers consisting Gore-Tex and heat and flame-resistant Nomex. All these layers had to keep him safe, comfortable, and mobile under such extreme conditions. As an engineer, it’s impossible to not be inspired by the innovation that made the jump a success.

In case you missed it, check out the amazing piece of history:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOoHArAzdug?list=PLnuf8iyXggLF2b7bYQU5s2FqW1sLE1ywh&hl=en_US&w=560&h=315]

Mickey Mouse Stuff Related to Engineering and Marketing

by Eileen Mack

Engineering and marketing come together quite often in the consulting design business. Thankfully for me that is the case, as marketing and graphic design is what I do for GRAEF. I began thinking about this blend of relatively divergent services, and if we’re honest, personality types, over the summer as my family and I found ourselves packing up the SUV and heading south during the truly HOT days of 2012.

My husband, two daughters, and I were taking the ultimate family vacation. We were road tripping to Disney World in our own little version of the Griswold’s National Lampoon Summer Vacation! It has been nearly 25 years since I last stepped onto the hallowed grounds, and then it was just for a day with college friends on spring break. Before that, well, let’s just say it was a smidge earlier when I was in grade school!

The comparisons between then and now are stark. My first trip to Disney World offered, well, Disney World. It was only the Magic Kingdom.  That included stuff like Mickey Mouse, the big Cinderella Castle, the singing children in a Small World, and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. There was no Epcot, no Animal Kingdom, no Hollywood Studies, no Blizzard Beach, and no Typhoon Lagoon!  Today, it is almost as stressful deciding which park to go to each day as it is routing the perfect path through the lucky winner so as not to miss a single, really good attraction!

The Tree of Life in Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Finally you arrive at your park of choice. Let’s pick Animal Kingdom, my personal favorite. Everything is perfect! The trees look real, even if they aren’t. The buildings are clearly designed to the minutest detail, and where else can you stand in sweltering 98 degree heat looking at Mt. Everest. Watching the show “It’s Tough to be a Bug” takes you on a multi-sensory entomology tour, and even waiting in lines is made tolerable because of HVAC magic and visually interesting everything. The work of the thousands of Walt Disney

Mr. Everest on a sunny day in Florida.

”Imagineers” (those responsible for the design and development arm of the Walt Disney Company, responsible for the creation and construction of Disney theme parks worldwide) is incomparable. According to one internet source (Wikipedia – I know, not a scholarly source), “Imagineering is responsible for designing and building Disney theme parks, resorts, cruise ships, and other entertainment venues at all levels of project development. Imagineers possess a broad range of skills and talents, and thus over 140 different job titles fall under the banner of Imagineering, including illustrators, architects, engineers, lighting designers, show writers, graphic designers, and many more.” Now that is a cool job! It is especially cool when you consider that the following is one of their core philosophies: “… there is the principle of “blue sky speculation,” a process where Imagineers generate ideas with no limitations. The custom at Imagineering has been to start the creative process with what is referred to as “eyewash” – the boldest, wildest, best idea one can come up with, presented in absolutely convincing detail. Many Imagineers consider this to be the true beginning of the design process and operate under the notion that if it can be dreamt, it can be built.

The iconic Epcot “golf ball” in Future World.

What is clearly evident as you travel through any of the theme parks is that in addition to the imagineers, there is a crew of equally amazing marketing geniuses at work. Every detail is thought out, making the experience both emotionally and physically wonderful. The music in each distinct park area subtly infuses you with the appropriate spirit. You bounce along the pathway to rhythmic African beats in the Animal Kingdom, patriotically stroll down Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, and hear the cosmically futuristic buzz of space travel at Epcot. To a person, everybody that we met was friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable. In Epcot’s World Showcase, they were not just costumed in ethnically appropriate outfits, but most service personnel, or “cast members,” were native to the “country” you were “visiting.”

In a seemingly simple, but demonstrative show of marketing genius, guests even get cute little towel animals in their rooms upon arrival at the resort. The cast members responsible for making up guest rooms take detail to the extreme and make everyone’s stay extra memorable.

It would be wise for us to consider how the perfect blending of engineering and marketing has combined for success throughout Disney’s mega-empire of entertainment. It has a lot to do with details, details, and more details. But those details are thought of by creative, collaborative teams that understand that technology without marketing might become just another technology.