Monthly Archive for April, 2011

Siege Of Tuscaloosa Alabama

Photo by Mike Merck

Thank you for caring and for your prayers, they certainly must work because we’re still here and have not suffered any damage. I was on the phone when the sirens started whaling and were then suddenly joined by the unmistakable rumbling freight train–like roar of what was an F5 tornado. The twister had just finished grazing in Arkansas and Mississippi before feasting on Tuscaloosa.

I commented, “OMG, we’re getting hit with another tornado,” when suddenly the phone went dead, the lights blinked on and off and joined the phone service in a state of suspended transmission. I waited. Usually the power is off for a few minutes and then comes back on but not on Wednesday. It was down for the count. I decided that since I couldn’t work or talk or watch an episode of Bones I’d go to the gym. I left and up to the point where I make a right onto a residential street named Kicker, everything seemed quite normal. Once on Kicker every thing changed and I suddenly found myself on an excursion down the River Styx into Hades.

Treetops were missing; telephone poles were gone, power lines were snaked across the pavement in an array of twisted confusion. Police were directing traffic deeper into the pits of hell. As I slowly passed the intersection I would normally have turned left onto for the gym, I saw ancient trees humbled and forced by 163 mph winds, to expose their now-naked root systems. Tuscaloosa’s underground had been uprooted. As far as I could see there was nothing left standing, either manmade or nature grown.

Carried by a current of chaos, I mindlessly meandered through this now new underworld, observing rescue workers cutting the serpentine power lines from their energy source to render them harmless; others were dismembering trees to clear the way while others were sawing power poles into manageable lengths. Overriding this cacophony — saws, machines, the crackling of still-live power lines, the blaring of horns and straining of engines — was the screeching shrill of sirens screaming for everyone to clear the way; amplifying the fact that theirs was a life or death mission. Over the next two hours I counter 35 ambulances…

If this wasn’t enough to traumatize my senses there were the reeking smells of disaster — burned lumber, rubber, plastic, garbage; gas rushing from ruptured lines; the unmistaken ozone smell of unleashed electrical energy.

Water escaping from broken waterlines celebrated its freedom by spewing a hundred feet into the black foreboding sky then crashing down, adding to the ever-growing mess accumulating everywhere. The trek down Tuscaloosa’s version of the River Styx finally brought me back to the upper world and onto University Boulevard. MY lightened mood suddenly darkened when I discovered that I had escaped from one hell only to find myself in another. I knew that I was leaving Homer’s Hades and descending into Dante’s Inferno.

I would go a few hundred feet and be instructed to turn around only to find myself moving into even more disastrous realms. Tuscaloosa became a labyrinth. I found my self trapped in a maze of growing terror. Remember, I was not alone; I was alone in my car but a member of the mass that moved with me looking for an escape from this nightmare. I kept shouting to myself, “Wake up! Wake up! Wake up so tis can end.” It still hasn’t…

After two hours I finally was able to get onto the interstate and creep for home. Tractor-trailers were the new debris that littered the medium and right hand embankments.

After exiting the Interstate I got home traveling though dark abandoned streets. As I opened the door to my house my ever-faithful staff, Remus and Milli, greeted me. We shared the dark house and the silence that only a disaster can create. Although none of my clocks worked, time still moved ahead; after 26 hours the power blinked itself back on; slowly electronic life was restored to my TV, my phones, my computer and the Internet.

This saga continues. I am fortunate, blessed, lucky because I had no damage and more significantly suffered no family or friend losses. I suffered only inconvenience. For thousands of my neighbors the journey through Hades will last days, weeks, months, years and even forever. Pray for them, please…

West Bay Builders Announces New Board of Directors

West Bay Builders, a general contractor specializing in building and retrofitting projects for the public and private sectors, has established a new board of directors.  Richard (Dick) Farnsworth, a surety business veteran and former senior vice president of surety operations at Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, and Gary LaBonte, formerly Bay Area Rapid Transit’s (BART) executive manager for development, join West Bay Builders’ management team of Paul Thompson, president, Joseph Haas, vice president, and Vicki Fowler, controller.  Farnsworth and LaBonte’s additions that round out the five-member board dovetail with West Bay Builders’ strategic business direction of expanding its government construction and heavy civil work.

“We have steadily grown and expanded our capabilities in public works and heavy civil.  In addition to several BART contracts, the Red Bluff Diversion Dam, City of Millbrae Waste Water Treatment Expansion and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s San Joaquin Pipeline Crossovers projects, we are prequalified to bid on the first phase of the SMART train,” said Thompson.  “Gary will help guide our pursuit of more transportation – rail, road, bridges and the like – and other heavy civil projects.  Dick will provide unprecedented expertise in surety bonding, which is the linchpin to securing and carrying out government contracts.”

Farnsworth brings more than 40 years of surety bonding experience, including managing all aspects of nationwide surety underwriting and marketing for Fireman’s Fund.  He is a sought-out consultant on underwriting customs and practices in the surety industry, served on the Board of Directors for the Surety Association of America, and was chairman of the National Association of Independent Sureties.  He also sits on the boards of Bay Area infrastructure builder CC Myers, Inc. and leading California marine contractor The Dutra Group.

LaBonte, a civil engineer for 30 years, headed BART’s development efforts, managing its multi-million dollar construction programs consisting of new and renovated stations and rail lines.  Previously, he was director of engineering for American President Lines, LTD, a $2 billion integrated transportation and distribution company.

Are There Jobs On The AEM Job Board? You Betcha!

Greg and staff

Earlier today I posted an announcement from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, New AEM online “job board” targets industry workers and employers – 
Job posts are free through June 30, 2011. I was glad to see that the association was taking positive steps to help get more jobs information out to the people looking for work. I e-mailed them asking that they let me know when jobs started getting posted on the new job board.

Well, as fast as emails can travel on my computer, I heard from Liz Stock at AEM advising me that there were 155 jobs already posted. Her e-mail said, “We already have about 155 jobs posted.  You can search for jobs by keyword, location or job type.  You can find the list of jobs that are currently posted here:”

I didn’t doubt Liz for one second but was curious to see what kinds of jobs were posted, who was posting them and where they were located geographically. Let’s face it. There are some jobs that are available no matter how bad the economy is; there are some operations that scare employees away rather than attracting them; and of course there are places in the country where no one wants to work. I had to see how many of the 155 jobs fit into these three categories.

None. That’s right, none. They all look like good jobs and there were many that I found to be tempting for myself…

These jobs do represent good opportunities and also indicate that things are getting better and will continue to do so. Everyday I get announcements about new projects being started, some being negotiated, and others still on the drawing board. Need a job? Look here! Have opening for employees? Post here!

Thanks AEM for taking that giant step for the industry.

Greg Sitek

Titan Machinery Appointed Leica Geosystems Machine Control Dealer for Montana and Wyoming

Titan now sells and supports Leica Geosystems machine control products in 7 states

Titan Machinery, a construction and agricultural equipment dealer, has been appointed as a Leica Geosystems dealer for machine control products in Montana and Wyoming.

The addition of Montana and Wyoming makes 7 states in which Titan sells Leica Geosystems construction products, the others being North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, and Minnesota. Leica Geosystems is the only brand of machine control products Titan sells, services, and rents for construction sites.

“Machine control is the direction the industry is moving towards because of the efficiency and cost savings,” says Mike Hall, Senior Marketing Manager, Titan Machinery. “Anything that provides good value back to our customers is something we want to be in.”

Titan’s best-selling Leica Geosystems product is PowerDigger 2D. Titan has a particularly effective sales approach: the company goes to the job site, installs a PowerDigger 2D on the customer’s excavator at no charge, and lets them use it for a couple of days. “Once the customer sees what it can do for them – saving time and not over-digging the hole — very seldom do we take it off once installed,” says Hall.

“Our goal is to be machinery experts for the construction industry and provide a complete equipment solution across seven states,” says Hall. “Leica Geosystems has been a very good partner, providing value to our customers. It’s easy to go to the job site and show how to make money or do the job quicker or more efficiently with Leica Geosystems machine control technology.”

“We are pleased and proud of our relationship with Titan Machinery,” says Mike Reed, Business Manager, Machine Control, Leica Geosystems. “With machine control technology from Leica Geosystems, they can offer a more accurate and precise solution to their construction customers.”

“Leica Geosystems’ slogan is ‘when it has to be right.’ Its products are a great value and fit for our customer’s machinery,” says Hall.

New AEM Online “Job Board” Targets Industry Workers And Employers – 
Job Posts Are Free Through June 30, 2011

A new online “job board” focused on the off-road equipment industry is now available from the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), created specifically to connect qualified job seekers with employers in the agriculture, construction, forestry, mining and utility sectors. Visit the AEM Career Center at for more details.

Employers: post jobs for free through June 30, 2011 with code AEMJOBS11; thereafter a modest fee applies that is very competitive compared to traditional broad-based job boards. Job listings can be posted in multiple areas in the job board network to increase visibility and attract the most qualified candidates.

For job seekers, the AEM job board offers free personalized “job alert” emails of new postings that match candidates’ search preferences. There are 40 job categories from A (accounting) to almost-Z (welder) and include positions in both manufacturing and service-related, office and in-the-field, private and public sector, from entry-level to executive positions, and located in the U.S., Canada and worldwide.

The AEM job board includes a career resource center with an online library of helpful job-search information and links to related sites. The career resource area also features a “career coaching” option with the site’s career experts available for personalized coaching sessions, and they respond to individual questions in an “ask the experts” section.

“While there have been significant job losses in the recession, there are still skilled positions available that need to be filled as our industries continue to fight back. This specialized service helps match up the companies and workers that ‘make’ America and the world,” stated Al Cervero, AEM senior vice president.

For more information, contact AEM’s David Bannister (, phone 414-274-0657)