Three economists offer their outlook on construction activity and construction spending for the rest of this year, and beyond.

Bernard Markstein, chief economist at Reed Construction Data, Ken Simonson, chief economist at the Associated General Contractors of America and Kermit Baker, chief economist at the American Institute of Architects were the featured speakers at the April 17 webinar “2014: Emerging Opportunities for Construction.” They each mapped out what they’ve seen this year and where they think the AEC industry is headed.

Where we are now: Good news

Baker noted that since 2008 the country’s economy has been on a roller coaster, but he says it is starting to become more stable, which makes a “good foundation for construction recovery.” Markstein said there was a fair amount of consensus among economists that the construction sector “appears to be improving somewhat,” but as Simonson observed, that improvement is “uneven.” Simonson cited the strength of the industry in the shale-play areas and the work at various ports that are upgrading in anticipation of a widened Panama Canal, but also noted that construction employment in the country is only up 2.6% from a year ago. (read more…)

A collection of stories from SmartBrief publications and around the web…

“One last thing before I go…”: This retirement speech by James Kidney, a former trial lawyer at the Securities and Exchange Commission, made waves this week for the shots he takes at the sometimes sheepish leadership at the Commission and revolving door ambitions of some staffers. “The revolving door is a very serious problem. I have had bosses, and bosses of my bosses, whose names we all know, who made little secret that they were here to punch their ticket. They mouthed serious regard for the mission of the Commission, but their actions were tentative and fearful in many instances. You can get back to Wall Street by acting tough, by using the SEC publicity apparatus to promote yourself as tough, and maybe even on a few occasions being tough, if you pick your targets carefully.”

Kidney’s speech includes a few more daggers like the one above. (read more…)

A collection of stories from SmartBrief publications and around the web…

Wait … Derivatives are good for the economy?: With all the bad-mouthing out there about derivatives, you might be surprised to learn that the very smart people at the Milken Institute have completed a study that found derivatives are actually a net positive for the economy. “This study charts the benefits to the wider economy from the use of financial derivatives and is a first-of-its-kind examination of derivatives’ quantitative impact on economic growth. It charts the positive effects in the U.S. economy from their use, both in the financial and non-financial sectors.”

Explaining last year’s Nobel winners: Count me among the people who struggled to connect the dots between the work of the three winners of last year’s Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences – Eugene Fama, Robert Shiller and Lars Peter Hansen. This Harvard Business Review blog post nails it. (read more…)

Wells Fargo recently unveiled a “command center” aimed at monitoring and responding to mentions and trends on various social media platforms. Renee Brown, SVP and Director of Social Media, spearheaded the initiative and recently chatted with SmartBrief to share some of the details. What follows is an edited version of that conversation.

What are the goals of the command center?

This is a capability that we have been developing for about 18 months. It is something that was one of the first items on our strategic agenda for social media for Wells Fargo. We’ve been pulling together the right infrastructure to enhance our social media capabilities for many years, so now we are building this like a business to get really serious about understanding the importance of context. Just like any other type of business, you have to understand the relativity of what is happening. You have to gauge the degree of sentiment and the degree to which a topic is trending. (read more…)

In 2011, the oldest baby boomers reached the traditional retirement age of 65, and through 2029, about 8,000 boomers will reach that milestone every day. This aging of America will result in a significant shift in mature industries such as financial services because the average financial planner is currently 57.

As they reach their “golden years,” many of these professionals, who have worked hard to build successful practices, will choose to leave them — ideally in the capable hands of colleagues who’ve been trained to step into their shoes. While there’s no substitute for experience, building a strong team and ensuring clients are taken care of over the long term are two responsibilities all professional services providers must take very seriously. In the midst of running a successful practice, succession planning may not be something high on priority lists — but it should be.

Identifying younger team members who fit the future leader mold is an important step for all practice owners. (read more…)