Ann Arbor’s construction boom: Demand prompts city to hire more development inspectors

Ann Arbor is in the midst of a construction boom, plain and simple.

And city officials are responding to the demand with plans of hiring a new building inspector and a new plumbing inspector within the next couple of weeks.

“It’s evidence of the rebounding Ann Arbor economy — large projects, as well as homeowner projects,” said City Administrator Steve Powers.

With a number of new luxury apartment high-rises going up downtown, and new homes and renovations under way, the city’s building department has seen an increased workload. There also are a number of commercial projects under way.

“We were monitoring the performance of our building inspection department for a period of time and the inspection wait had become unacceptable to our customers,” Powers said. “We were one to three weeks out, overtime was being used, and we still weren’t able to put a significant dent in the length of time for inspections and plan reviews.”

Powers said the city looked at alternatives such as contracting out the work, but city officials don’t see building activity slowing down, so hiring more inspectors makes sense.

Steve_Powers_headshot_July_12_2011_b.jpgSteve Powers

Ralph Welton, the city’s chief development official, said the two newest hires will bring his construction inspections staff up from eight to 10 full-time employees, which includes mechanical, electrical, plumbing and building inspectors.Rental housing inspections and fire inspections are handled through separate city departments.

Welton said he’s cautiously optimistic the increased development activity in Ann Arbor isn’t stopping anytime soon.

“We wanted to make sure we weren’t just spiking, but we’re not — this is a steady climb that’s been going on for over a year now,” he said.

In addition to residential high-rises like The VarsityZaragon West,Landmark and Ann Arbor City Apartments — projects that are bringing literally thousands of new bedrooms to downtown right now — other big projects are driving the need for more inspectors.

That includes projects like Arbor Hills Crossing, a new shopping center under way on Washtenaw Avenue, and the pending demolition and redevelopment of the Georgetown Mall site on Packard Road for a new mixed-use project called Packard Square.

The developer of the former mall site plans to construct a four-story, mixed-use building containing 230 apartment units and 23,790 square feet of retail space.

The City Council most recently approved the 618 South Main apartments projects, which promises 231 more bedrooms on South Main Street. City officials also are expecting to see movement soon on the Near North affordable housing project near Main and Summit.

A prime piece of downtown real estate next to Sloan Plaza at 413 E. Huron St. also sold recently and there are talks of another high-rise being developed there.

But it’s not just housing that’s booming, said Wendy Rampson, the city’s planning manager. She pointed to a number of other commercial and office construction projects under way.

That includes the Hilton Garden Inn and Townplace Suites on Briarwood Circle, the AAA Branch Office on South Main, Tim Horton’s on Ellsworth, an addition to Allen Creek Preschool on Miller, the Zahn medical office on Jackson, and the Zingerman’s Deli expansion downtown.

Welton said some of the projects on the city’s plate right now are “pretty big deals.” To put matters into perspective, he noted a mere two permits at the Landmark apartments project near South University have required more than 1,100 inspections to date.

Welton said he’s encouraged by an increase in residential permits, including a substantial amount of additions and remodeling work being done in the city. He said there also have been about three to five new home starts each month in Ann Arbor.

“The thing that impresses us the most is the residential work is really on the rise — a lot of high-end additions and remodels and several new home starts,” he said.

Powers and Welton both noted the building inspectors are funded by fees generated by building activity, so there’s no general fund dollars used to hire the new inspectors.

“Our fund balance is large enough right now that we can afford to do this, so there’s no change in fees,” Welton added, estimating there’s about $1.5 million available in cash reserves. He said the new inspectors will start at about $51,000 a year plus benefits.

Hiring new employees is somewhat of a rare move for the city, which adopted the philosophy of simply paying extra overtime to meet increased workload demands in other departments.

As the city has scaled back its work force over the last decade — once above 1,000 employees and now under 700 — many of those left on the job are working extra hours.

Records show the city paid out $31,560 in overtime to building department employees last year, but that’s a small fraction of the $3.3 million it paid out in total overtime.

The city’s planning and development services unit has a budget for fiscal year 2012-13 that includes $3,638,178 in revenue and $3,732,141 in expenses.

The budget approved in May shows 21.59 full-time employees, which is down from 34 FTEs in 2009-10, but that’s not all in Welton’s department.

The planning and development services unit handles rental housing inspections, construction inspections and permits. It also provides enforcement for building, housing and sign codes.

The unit’s stated goals for the coming fiscal year include equipping inspectors with mobile technologies, establishing an administrative hearings bureau, instituting digital plan reviews and updating the city’s housing code by Dec. 31.

The city also wants to digitize archived records for buildings, housing and planning, and switch to electronic paperless intake of construction permit applications.

Rampson said adding building staff could have the potential to shift some sign permit review and enforcement duties from a city planner to one or more of the development inspectors.

She said planners still would be involved in updating the sign ordinance and staffing the appeals board, but the day-to-day activities would be handled by a development inspector.

Originally posted by Ryan J. Stanton on

Chrysler may add third shift at Warren truck plant

Chrysler might add a third shift at its Warren Truck Plant to build the 2013 Ram 1500 pickup.

Reid Bigland, CEO of the Dodge brand and head of U.S. sales, said production of the upgraded Ram 1500 will begin in September.

“We are running the trap lines for a third shift at Warren Truck,” Bigland said today at a Chrysler event at the company’s Chelsea Proving Grounds.

Bigland said it takes about a year to plan for an additional shift at a plant. Before a final decision is made, Bigland said the company needs to be “sure the foreseeable demand is there…I think it is, and we are having discussions with our suppliers.”

Chrysler employs more than 2,300 at the plant, which opened in 1938. Typically, when manufacturers add a third shift at an assembly plant it creates 800 to 1,000 additional jobs.

Chrysler has been growing rapidly since it emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2009. The company has reported year-over-year sales increases in the U.S. for last 26 months.

Bigland said Chrysler is on track to report its 27th consecutive month of sales increases in June and its 31st consecutive month of increases in Canada for the month.

Bigland said he expects U.S. industry sales of about 14.2 million for the year. While industry sales slowed in May, they have remained steady in June, Bigland said, because of credit availability, falling gas prices, pent-up-demand for among consumers and an economy that continues to improve slowly.

Originally by Brent Snavely

Insider Secrets to Success on Your First Job

Chances are, if you are one of the hundreds of thousands of newly minted college graduates who are thrilled to be done with school, you are also now facing the prospect of entering the “real world”.  You may also be one of the many who are on the verge of starting your first “real job”.  While it’s tempting to take a well-deserved breather before your new job start date, if you want to be successful in your new job early on there’s still some work to do. Just as you prepared for your interviews, you will need to put some time and energy into preparing for your new job to make sure you hit the ground running.

To get you headed in the right direction from day one, I thought about many of the common mistakes that had been shared with me over the years and then tested these out with individuals who lead talent and recruiting organizations with Fortune 500 firms.  Here is our collective wisdom on this topic, so you can avoid many of the pitfalls that have befallen the less well prepared.

“Start” before you start…

  • Before your scheduled start date, inquire of your employer if there are materials or resources that you should review ahead of time or if there is anything else you can do to prepare before you start work.
  • Complete any hiring forms and paperwork ahead of time and make sure to bring any required documentation with you on the first day.
  • Follow your new company on various professional and social networking sites and in mainstream media to make sure you are in the know about any developments (bad or good) that might impact your new employer.  You don’t want to be caught unaware if everyone is discussing some major issue or development and you have no idea what they are referring to.

Your work reputation begins before you know it…

You’ve heard it a million times but I’ll say it again: first impressions can be lasting impressions.  In an increasingly competitive and demanding work culture your co-workers will form an impression of you quickly.  Make it a positive one!

  • Show up early and make this a habit. Dress appropriately for the job but don’t be afraid to step it up a bit for special meetings, clients, or events.
  • Be respectful and polite to everyone – especially administrative and support staff whose opinions often influence senior players.  Make everyone you work with feel important, valued, and respected.
  • Avoid the “I’m new” excuse.  Be ready to work, take on an assignment, and deliver on it.  If you can find the answers yourself, great, but if you need help or clarification, ask before you get too far into the project.
  • Know the rules.  Most companies have policies on accessing social media, phone calls, and other technology during work.  Make sure you know and abide by these guidelines.
  • Be the “go to” person.  Volunteer for projects and be willing to take on more work or assist your boss or co-workers.  Be willing to come in early or stay late. This is not the time to make extensive after work plans, as you want to have the flexibility to take on additional work if necessary.  Be sure to thank people, share credit, and give compliments when appropriate.
  • Work within the system.  If you have a great idea, think it through, anticipate the questions, and then bring it to your boss or team.  Don’t let your enthusiasm cause you to send this to the CEO and make what could be a fatal error to your career advancement.

Engage with your co-workers

  • Go to lunch, invite a colleague to coffee, or have a drink after work.  If you receive invitations, accept them if you can.  This will let you get to know your co-workers and they you. As an added bonus, you are likely to learn important information that can be helpful in your new job.
  • Avoid the drama.  Since workplaces are made up of people, every work environment has a certain amount of personal stuff going on.  Don’t get caught up in it.  Be a good listener and don’t take sides in office conflicts.

In some ways getting the job is much easier than being successful in it and in turn leveraging each workplace experience and opportunity toward the next step in your career.  Just perform well and follow the advice here and you’ll be well on your way!

Originally posted on

Eight Ways to Maximize Your Cover Letter’s Power

Like peanut butter and jelly or bacon and eggs, résumés and cover letters go hand-in-hand. Although both pieces are valuable on their own, they pack the most punch when served together. But while all job seekers know the importance of a well-organized résumé, many don’t understand the power of a strong cover letter. In addition to reinforcing key skills and experience, a cover letter demonstrates your desire to work for the employer and the specific ways in which your expertise can benefit the firm. More importantly, it helps differentiate you from other job seekers and provides incentive to contact you for an interview. Even if composition isn’t your forte, you can still create a killer cover letter.

Here’s how:

1. Know your stuff. |
Before you begin writing, learn as much as you can about the potential employer. Visit the firm’s Web site and scan industry publications to familiarize yourself with recent news about the company, such as quarterly earnings, and to learn about future plans, like expansion into new markets. The more you know about an organization, the better you can tailor your cover letter to the firm’s needs.

2. Personalize it.
Never begin a cover letter with “Dear Sir or Madam” or “To Whom it May Concern.” Correspondence with generic salutations often signal to potential employers that you lack the initiative to locate the appropriate contact. If a job listing does not include the name of the hiring manager, call the company’s receptionist and explain the position you are applying for to see if he or she can help you fill in the blank.

3. Start strong.
A good cover letter begins with a powerful opening paragraph. Your goal is to briefly describe how you heard about the position and why you’re interested in it. Skip cute introductions: “Teamwork is my middle name” or “I am smart as a whip,” for example. A “catchy” opening can appear stilted and insincere and offers little, if any, value to the piece.

4. Offer an enticement.
The body of the letter should expand upon — not simply repeat — the key points in your résumé. Highlight those skills and experiences most relevant to the job opening and provide concrete examples of how you can benefit the company. For example, if you are applying for a management position, share how turnover within your department decreased by 20 percent during your tenure. Or communicate how your attention to detail and ability to adapt quickly to new environments allow you to deliver first-rate client service.

5. Be bold.
In addition to expressing gratitude for the hiring manager’s time and interest, close your letter by outlining your next steps. Be proactive by stating when you will contact him or her to follow up. Doing so is a great way to reinforce your enthusiasm for the job. However, don’t forget to include a phone number or e-mail address where you can be reached in case the firm wants to get in touch with you first. In addition to following best practices, you’ll want to avoid common pitfalls when composing your cover letter:

6. Getting ahead of yourself.
Focusing on matters such as expected salary and title can come across as presumptuous and untimely. Wait until you have secured a meeting and become better acquainted with the hiring manager to mention these topics.

7. Goofing the proof.
Our company’s research consistently shows that one or two typographical errors are enough to discourage a hiring manager from calling you back. Utilize your computer’s spell-check function, but also ask friends and family to double-check your work. You don’t want a small mistake to call your professionalism or attention to detail into question.

8. Forgetting the format.
If you submit your application via e-mail, make sure to prepare the file as a plain text document so it is universally compatible. Remove all formatting enhancements, such as underline or boldface, and replace bullets with asterisks or dashes. If you fail to do so, your recipient may receive a bowl of alphabet soup. Also, paste the cover letter into the body of an e-mail to save hiring managers the worry of corrupt or unreadable attachments. Some job seekers spend hours assembling a résumé and only a short amount of time on the accompanying note. Submitting a thoughtful and well-written cover letter, however, can help you outshine your competition and get you one step closer to an interview.

Originally posted on

Tips that Make Resume Writing Simple

Writing a resume from scratch can be a difficult task. Even if you do have a way with words, selecting the most relevant information about you and getting is down on paper isn’t easy. The following list of questions will help make resume writing easier—answer these questions, and you will have a much better idea of what information to include in your resume.

• Outline your career history to date

• What are your professional strengths?

• What are your professional weaknesses?

• What key skills and professional habits have you learned in your career so far?

• What are your biggest professional achievements?

• What can you offer a potential employer?

• What evidence can you provide to support your answer to the previous question?

• What would your current boss and colleagues say about you right now?

• What will they miss about you when you leave?

• Why do you want a new job?

Answer these questions as fully as possible, but at this stage don’t worry too much about being word-perfect. The idea behind these questions is that you start to think about your professional skills and attributes—the things that make you a company asset. If you want to work in a specific position or industry, answer the questions in a way that would appeal to employers in that industry. Try to include only positive information. When you write down your weaknesses, for example, try to frame them in a positive way, or write down things you can do to minimize your weaknesses.

With these questions answered, you have a good framework for writing your resume. You’ll know what skills you want to emphasize, and any weaknesses you want to avoid mentioning, as well as how your skills will make you an asset to a potential employer. In addition, you’ll be better able to pinpoint how your skills and achievements you the best person for the job. In short, you can use the answers to these questions to sell yourself on your resume.

Answering these questions will not only help you write a great resume—they’re also helpful for interview preparation. If you can write and memorize well thought out answers to these questions, you’ll be able to answer these and similar interview questions without having to search for the words. Good verbal communication skills can help you stand out from other candidates, and being well prepared for interview questions will also help you stay relaxed.

Originally posted on

Satisfying Careers

Survey reveals 61 percent of US workers satisfied with current job

Satisfaction.Some people can’t seem to get any. Others are overwhelmingly content. But how happy are people at their current jobs?

A new CareerBuilder survey revealed some surprising results on just how much workers enjoyed their position, whether they felt underemployed and if their current employer had ample career advancement opportunities for them. The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive from Nov. 9 to Dec. 5, 2011, of more than 7,700 full-time workers across industries and company sizes.

Let’s get to the results.

Sixty-one percent of workers reported that they were satisfied with their job overall. Workers in health care, transportation and utilities had the highest rate of job satisfaction, at 67 percent. Those least happy? Retail workers. Only half (48 percent) of workers in that industry found their job satisfactory.

But what does satisfaction really mean to workers? Stacey Hawley, principal at government relations firm The Credo Co., says that satisfaction is based on an individual’s preferences and career level. Entry-level workers have different needs than those at the executive level; therefore, their job satisfaction is based on different elements.

“Employee satisfaction is not just money and benefits,” Hawley says. “It is from overall job satisfaction, which includes career development opportunities and a positive view of both immediate management and senior leadership. All else being equal (e.g., money and benefits), if a job is challenging, career opportunities seem plausible and present — aka no one has to die to get promoted — and senior leadership is perceived positively, employees are much more likely to stay with a company.”

When it comes to career advancement, 30 percent of workers said they were satisfied with the opportunities to move up in their current workplace. However, 32 percent responded that they thought there were not enough opportunities. Retail workers once again reported that advancement opportunities were not readily available; 37 percent of those workers felt dissatisfied with their current job’s career-path options.

Workers in health-care were the most satisfied group when it came to training and learning opportunities at their current employer, with 44 percent saying they were content. This group was also one of the highest to report being satisfied with work/life balance, but information technology reported in with the highest satisfaction rate, at 56 percent. On average, 53 percent of workers said that they were satisfied with the work/life balance in their current role.

For most, once the happy dance between work and personal life starts to get out of whack, the stress levels rise and unhappiness sets in. Despite a good portion of workers reporting being happy on the job, 63 percent of workers did say that they felt stress in their current job. The least-stressed workers were those in transportation and utilities, while the most stressed were retail workers. Another reported high-stress industry? Leisure and hospitality.

One of the most interesting questions asked was, “Do you feel like you are doing the job of two people?” Here is the percentage breakdown of those who answered “yes” by industry:

    • Health care — 46 percent
    • Retail — 64 percent
    • Sales — 46 percent
    • Leisure and hospitality — 57 percent
    • IT — 35 percent
    • Manufacturing — 53 percent
    • Financial services — 47 percent
    • Professional and business services — 36 percent
    • Transportation and utilities — 40 percent
    • Government — 50 percent

An important thing to remember is to figure out what’s most important to you overall in your professional and personal life and how you can make everything come together. When it comes to satisfaction, as Hawley stated, it all comes down to you.

Originally posted on by 

Career boosters: 5 ways to set yourself apart

The phrase “There’s plenty of fish in the sea” may comfort a recently jilted friend, but it is one of the most intimidating realizations for today’s active job seekers. For years you’ve been pinched on the cheeks and told you’re special, but when it comes time for a job interview, you may find potential employers a bit more difficult to impress than your Grandma.

So how can you set yourself apart from the hordes of starry-eyed, gown-wearing, degree-clutching graduates that you’re competing with? In her book “The Wall Street Journal Guide to Building Your Career,” author Jennifer Merritt offers several career boosters to transform your run-of-the-mill résumé into a job-magnet jackpot.

Industry and professional associations
Many young professionals underestimate the potential payoff of industry and professional associations. Some are convinced they’re outdated and redundant, while others are just afraid of the price tag. However, when used properly, these groups can be helpful in expanding your network, staying on top of industry trends and furthering your education.

Once you’ve signed up, paid your dues and gone through the elaborate hazing process (just kidding), it’s up to you to make the whole thing worthwhile. Get involved by attending meetings and mixers, running for positions and joining committees or sub-groups of young professionals. “But don’t just stick with the youngsters,” Merritt says. “You want to meet people who’ve been there and done that and whose experiences you can learn from.” Don’t be intimidated by high-ranking professionals in fancy suits — chances are they’d love to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.


You may have participated in some charity events through a high-school sports team or a bake sale your mother threw so you’d have volunteer work on your college résumé, but volunteering can benefit you in more ways than merely making you appear charitable.

While it is true that companies like to hire charitable individuals who can help the company’s image, there’s actually more in it for the company than just saving face. In fact, many companies offer volunteering opportunities to their employees, because a number of studies have shown that giving people time off to volunteer improves worker retention and recruiting.

But you’re not here to hear about how much companies like charitable people. You probably know that. What you want to hear is how volunteering can benefit you by expanding your professional network, offering you leadership experience and giving you the opportunity to enhance skills outside of your everyday repertoire. Plus the people you meet while volunteering will know you as passionate and full of character. That can lead to a referral in the future.

Alumni networks
Most recent grads are of the opinion that alumni networks are their alma mater’s thinly veiled attempt at squeezing more money out of former students who are no longer paying tuition. For some time that was actually true, but due to the economic downturn and the snail-paced recovery, many alumni networks have started offering other services. Many now offer expert seminars, advanced education opportunities, mixers and dedicated alumni career services. That’s a lot better than a yearly magazine and some dinnertime phone calls asking for donations.

Meet-and-greets and seminars hosted by alumni associations are also great opportunities for you to add to your contact list. These can be especially helpful, because people often like to hire and promote other people like them, and sharing an alma mater is a great similarity to have. Plus it’s an easy-yet-effective ice breaker.

Skill-related classes and certifications
Employers generally prefer candidates who have demonstrated their ability and willingness to go above and beyond the bare-minimum requirements. So while having a hot-air ballooning license may not help you land a job in marketingtaking classes and earning certifications that are not only interesting to you, but are also related to your field, could prove advantageous in the long run.

In many professions, optional certifications can help you get promotions and stay on track with your career goals. Additional certifications and classes can indicate a deeper level of understanding of your field and convey a strong commitment to your career path. Investigate what certifications your mentors have or the titles of individuals whose jobs you may want in a couple years.

Of course, furthering your education doesn’t necessarily have to be career related. Taking classes is a great way to stay active and an excellent answer when potential employers ask, “What have you been up to since graduation?” Plus outside-work interests can potentially create strong connections with a boss or supervisor.

Speak up and become an expert
As Merritt puts it, “You don’t need a decade of experience to be considered an expert.” Experience doesn’t necessarily lead to expertise. Of course it contributes, but so do earning certifications, networking with industry players, being a strong communicator and staying up-to-date on industry trends.

As you grow your professional network, it’s likely you’ll meet people who host speaking events that are perfect for a budding expert or an eager first-time public speaker. Proving your knowledge and communication prowess at smaller venues can lead to larger platforms, such as guest blogging or spots on industry panels. Bottom line: If you want to become an expert in your field, go out and become an expert in your field.

Originally posted by Matthew Tarpey, CareerBuilder Writer on

Reliance One Receives Corp! Magazine’s Michigan’s Economic Bright Spots Award

June 13, 2012, Auburn Hills, Mich. – On June 12, 2012 Reliance One attended Michigan’s Economic Bright Spots Breakfast Award Ceremony in Troy, MI. James Beath and James Paquette received the Michigan’s Economic Bright Spots Award on behalf of Reliance One. Bright Spots nominees range from small businesses to multinational corporations. These companies have a willingness to innovate, diversify, and adapt to the ever-changing economy, which fosters an environment for growth. Contenders are focused on their customer’s needs while building and maintaining relationships that furthers expansion and prosperity.

Reliance One was delighted to be in contention for the award, and felt privileged when they were announced a winner. Along with winning the award, Reliance One is featured in the Corp! Magazine’s monthly newsletter and will be featured on their website as a Bright Spot winner for 2012. “It was certainly an honor to be included with the other great companies who were also awarded the Corp! Magazine’s – Michigan’s Economic Bright Spots Award.   It is our goal to work alongside our clients and other partners to help Michigan achieve the goal of being a “Top 10” state for job, economic and personal income growth,” said James Beath, Owner.

A-Z career tips for the class of 2012

It’s that time of year again: notable speakers deliver rousing words to college grads across the country. Whether it’s philosophical musings from ex-presidents or career tips like the one Dustin Hoffman got in “The Graduate” — “One word: plastics” — there’s no shortage of free advice.

This year, however, we asked regular Americans what one piece of wisdom they’d pass on to someone starting a career today. More than 14,000 people offered their insights. The tips ranged from the inspiring “Dream big, work hard, and don’t be afraid to succeed”  to the reality check, “Contrary to popular belief, no one owes you anything.”

Care to add your thoughts? Tell us how you view your job, work culture, career priorities and prospects.  Would you fire your boss if you could?  If you could start over, would you pick the same field? Take the survey now.

Here’s an A-to-Z sample of the best career advice America has to offer its young generation of workers.

Aim higher than what you give yourself credit for.

Be on time.

Change jobs early in your career — as many times as necessary to find the best fit.  It’s much harder to change when you’re older.

Dig in, work hard, listen more than you speak, and soak up information like a sponge.

Everything happens for a reason. Hang in there.

Follow the rules and follow the money.

Give 110 percent.  Show up early and be willing to stay late.

Hold your cards close with co-workers, they can’t always be trusted.

If you don’t respect your boss, leave.

Just do your job.  Stay out of office politics.  Don’t imagine that anyone at work cares about your personal life. They don’t. Be professional and friendly, but never personal.

Know the difference between a job and a career. Pursue your career always, but take a job only when you have to.

Laziness is the worst thing you can possess on the job.

Money doesn’t really matter, and actually neither does happiness. Your goal should always be self respect.

Network like crazy.

Office romances can be poison. Be very careful.

Pick something you enjoy, working a job you hate will kill your soul.

Quit texting, quit checking your phone, and look your co-workers in the eye when they talk to you.

Remember: It’s just a job

See the big picture. Being a buggy whip salesperson may be your life-long dream, but being realistic is the key.

Take the job you are offered, then work toward the job you love.  It’s much easier to find the ideal position when you are already paying the bills.

Understand that your are being paid to do the work you were hired to do. This is the minimum that is expected of you. Your employer is not there to make your life interesting.

Value your family and friends! No career is worth it if you’re alone in the end.

Work hard and stay engaged. Boredom is the sign of a small mind.

XBox? Throw it out the window.

You will have many careers during your lifetime, so don’t be pressured into thinking you have to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life. Just decide what you want to do first.

Zero in on your real talents, don’t waste time on your weaknesses. Always play your strongest hand.