Tag: Training

Competitive Grant Writing 101: 6 Tips to “Show You the Money!”

Photo of papers on desk with person writing on them

Competitive grants can be a big help for project owners who are responsible for large, complicated and expensive infrastructure improvement projects.  Whether potential grants originate from federal agencies, such as the USDOT or the EPA, state agencies, or local entities, the competition can be fierce and funding requests typically significantly outweigh what is available. So, you have a great project in mind – what do you have to do to position your project over the tens, hundreds or thousands of others that are pursuing the same pot of gold? Here are some opinions and helpful hints that may guide you to success!

Be Prepared and Get Started Early.

Competitive grant applications require extensive and detailed information and the submissions may have short turnaround times.  If you wait to do your conceptual planning or develop a convincing “purpose and need” for the project until the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) is issued, you may be too late. For example, the recent $900 million BUILD Grant from USDOT was released on April 23, 2019, and applications were due no later than July 15th – a 12-week turnaround. This may seem like a lot of time, but it disappears quickly considering what needs to be included in a solid application, even if you retain a consultant to assist and do the heavy lifting.  In anticipation of a NOFO being issued, having a completed feasibility study, conceptual plan, project cost estimates, public support and other elements of a strong application can go a long way – there just isn’t time to prepare and collect the information once the NOFO is issued as the application preparation itself can be intense.

Be Objective about Your Project.

Does your project truly check off the boxes that the funding agency is looking for with regard to safety, socio-economic benefits, state of good repair, improvements to quality of life, life cycle analysis, benefit vs. cost analysis, and other important elements? Competitive grant applications such as TIGER, BUILD and others can be time-consuming and expensive to prepare. Make sure you are looking at your project objectively against the required criteria and not simply justifying its worthiness by your personal attachment to its local importance. Answer this – why would the funding agency want to participate?  The funding will only buy so many ribbon-cuttings — so why yours?

Tell the Story of the Project.

Picture this – you are a reviewer of applications in Washington, D.C. and you have a stack of 500 applications to wean down to those deserving further review to eventually make a recommendation of a certain number to the ultimate decision-maker, maybe the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.  The recent BUILD grant application had a 30-page limit for the project narrative – for 500 applications that could total over 15,000 pages of project content to review!  Make it interesting – don’t make it read like an engineering report cluttered with facts and data (not that those aren’t important).  The reviewers aren’t all engineers – some have business backgrounds, while others may have a pure administrative or political background.  Use graphics and maps wherever possible. Sell your project in a way that it meets the funding requirements and tells an engaging story of the positive impacts of local, regional and possibly national importance.

Be Invested and Don’t Just “Take a Shot” and Hope for the Best.

If it looks like the application is presenting a project that will die a quick death without grant funding maybe it isn’t really all that vital and you are only presenting the project for the money. Funding agencies (and politicians) hope your project is important enough that somehow it will move forward even without the grant funding – grant funding would simply accelerate the benefits to the taxpayers.  Your application must demonstrate that there is significant funding in place, or debt service, to be able to fund the project and the grant funding will help that much more to defray local costs.

Don’t Ask for the Moon.

Request the real amount that you need for the project after significant investment from other sources. If 95% of the project costs are proposed to be through the competitive grant funding that may not inspire a lot of confidence in the preparedness of the project owner to be able to move the project forward. For instance, with a set amount of funding to spread around, two $10M ribbon cuttings creates more photo opportunities than one $20M ribbon cutting.  There should be a strategy in the amount requested compared to your other competing interests and funding commitments. Answer this too – if you got the grant funding to offset costs, what would you do with the money that was offset?  What other problem could you / would you solve for the taxpayers?

Last but not Least – Check and Double-Check the Format for the Submission.

Most competitive grant applications have very strict composition requirements including the table of contents, page limits, and font types and sizes, just to name a few. Make sure you are thoroughly familiar with each of these requirements and you are adhering to them during the preparation of the application – not as a final task right before the submission is due.

Submit Early if Possible.

Don’t let technological glitches, like an internet failure, get in the way of your million-dollar request being accepted. Many grant application processes allow the applicant to submit their application electronically and update it or resubmit components up to the deadline published in the NOFO. There may also be registrations, passwords, user accounts or other things like that which should be set up early – make sure those tasks are done well in advance. Nobody wants to be sitting at the keyboard being denied access to the submission website or during a power outage within the hour the submission is due.  Plan days ahead and rest easy.

Grants can make a big difference in the success of your project – but competition can be fierce. NOFO’s are issued throughout the year so know in advance what funding may be available and when.  Being ready and preparing a quality grant application can make all the difference.

How Hoyle, Tanner is Saving Time and Money with Drone Flights

img_3067-landscape-1

Clearing the air! This is what our small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS – commonly referred to as drones), operators Evan McDougal, CM and Patrick Sharrow, AAE are incorporating into airspace analysis. Evan and Patrick are just two of Hoyle, Tanner’s professional Part 107 remote pilots who are utilizing photogrammetry and advanced autonomous sUAS technology to analyze and access airspace obstructions. With recent media highlighting the challenges of integrating sUAS operations into the National Airspace System, it is an exciting time to focus on the safer, less expensive, and expedient capabilities that these vehicles make possible.

Many organizations, both private and government, are interested in what these small flying sensor system platforms can do. For instance, many state aeronautics agencies that oversee the safety and operation of multiple airports can spend weeks with multiple survey teams and inspectors traveling from airport to airport assessing tree canopy and surrounding buildings – all in an effort to determine if there are obstructions to FAA approach and departure surfaces and pilots utilizing the runway.

In contrast, a drone can be flown by a trained and qualified pilot to collect accurate obstruction data. The three-dimensional results can show the entire area in many formats in a fraction of the time and cost it would take a ground survey crew or aerial survey.

Hoyle, Tanner is passionate about increasing safety and efficiency in aviation. During the September 2018 National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) Annual conference in Oklahoma, Evan McDougal demonstrated his enthusiasm for the emerging technology and the airspace analysis applications we have developed.

Evan showed interested State Aeronautics Department Representatives how they could benefit using sUAS systems for obstruction analysis. Bryan Budds, Transport and Safety Section Manager at the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), was quick to recognize the benefits of this capability and the opportunity to advance the MDOT existing drone program. He arranged for Hoyle, Tanner to spend three days training DOT employees on how to collect accurate obstruction data using drones as well as process it into meaningful deliverables.

The information gathered in the sUAS flights is used to create detailed 3D models of the airport including trees, pavement condition, ground contour elevations, and surrounding land development. Once collected, the data can be used to graphically depict airspace approach corridors that are not able to be seen with the naked eye. Obstructions are clearly shown protruding into protected airspace making it much easier for the airport and responsible landowners to agree on obstruction removal alternatives.

With the proper coordination of sUAS data collection and software processing systems, “clearing the air” can be done economically, accurately, and efficiently. The exciting reality of the sUAS market is that the sky is the limit! Hoyle, Tanner is committed to continually evolving and developing new opportunities to increase safety and efficiency in aviation moving into the future.

Curious about how you could use drones on your next project? Contact our experts Patrick Sharrow, AAE, psharrow@hoyletanner.com or Evan McDougal, CM emcdougal@hoyletanner.com

The Value of an Internship

sticky-notes-to-do-list-Edited

Navigating through college can be a tough endeavor for a lot of people. There is only so much that high school can do to prepare a student for what they can expect from college life and even less where career preparation is concerned. Luckily, in every college, exists the opportunity to gain real world experience and knowledge in whatever academic field a student chooses and often these opportunities can, when approached with the right attitude and with the right timing, lead to a potential career after college. I am talking of course about internships; often stereotyped as a position involving coffee runs, slave labor, underappreciated efforts and a general sense of hopelessness that the experience will lead to nothing but a few credits and a lot of wasted time. Fortunately for the most part, these stereotypes are nothing more than exaggerated tales from a few bad experiences and these days more and more students are realizing the importance of an internship, paid or unpaid in their respective field.

The benefit of an internship in the field of engineering is exceptional in what can be gained from it for the both the intern and the firm alike. Participating in an engineering internship allows the student to fully immerse themselves into their chosen career with real world applications through hands on projects that they may or may not be exposed to in their classes, as well as allowing them to explore other disciplines they may have never knew they were interested in. The firm on the other hand can not only gain additional manpower for arduous projects, but can benefit from a fresh mind with new ideas that is likely eager to learn and put classroom theories into practice.

We at Hoyle, Tanner believe in the value of an internship and what the experience can provide young and aspiring engineers. We regularly take on interns for summer positions as they near the end of their college career in an effort to prepare them for a long and successful career in civil engineering.

Hoyle, Tanner currently has two interns working in our Manchester headquarters this summer. Katelyn Welch, who is working with our bridge group and Amy Johnson, who is working with our environmental group. I recently talked with both of them to get a better understanding of what they feel are the benefits of an internship in the engineering field, and what I found out was that engineering students who seek out an internship have more than a few things in common; the main aspect being that they want to be challenged. The challenge seems to be the driving force behind the decision to pursue major in engineering in the first place as those in the field tend to have a curiosity in new ways to approach a problem as well as a desire for growth and continual education.

The value of the internship really shines through when they are given the opportunity to work in the field and experience what the job is really like. Both Katelyn and Amy noted that the work they have done so far has exceeded their expectations. Since engineering is very much a team effort, they have both been given the opportunity to collaborate with our full time staff on a wide variety of projects and have been fully involved throughout the process. Aside from their direct involvement with Hoyle, Tanner projects, both Katelyn and Amy are gaining insight into a lot of aspects of engineering in the real world that will surely give them a leg up in the future, such as countless terms, procedures, tasks and calculations that they feel they wouldn’t learn otherwise as well as gaining a better understanding of their chosen major/field is the right fit for them.

The other value they feel an internship provides is the anticipated ease of transition that comes when they enter the workforce after college. This much should be obviously evident, however, so many college graduates find out that they are either underqualified and need to take an entry level position at low pay when they need to actually make a paycheck, or that they are severely underprepared for what lies ahead of them. While many colleges have opted to make an internship mandatory to graduate, this is not always the case. With internships typically paying little to no money, many of them forego the opportunity to take on a low paying internship that would provide real world experience for a full time job on top of being a full time student. What we find with this recurring trend is a growing number of students who are graduating with little to no experience in their chosen field and without the connections that an internship provides, they are often left to fend for themselves in a sea of jobs with increasing standards and expectations for incoming applicants for entry level positions.

Fortunately, with this realization, many internships are either offering some form of pay or those who can’t afford to pay are working with local colleges to offer substantial credits towards the degree and in turn, more and more students are willing to take on an internship and more of these opportunities are leading to full time careers for the student at that company after graduation or it could lead to networking opportunities for those students that they may have not had before.

It is clear that the field of engineering is one that requires real immersion and involvement to really understand what to expect and can’t be mastered through books and classes alone. Internships like the ones we offer here at Hoyle, Tanner provide students with the real world knowledge and experience that is necessary to a successful career in the civil engineering world. If you are interested in an internship with Hoyle, Tanner visit our careers page or contact our Human Resources Department.

Asset Management – Inventory

As part of our Asset Management Series, today we discussed – Inventory. To share their knowledge on the subject, John Jackman, P.E. and Heidi Lemay present the process; associated questions; available data; organization, data management and collection tips; and project examples of how inventory has been collected on our various asset management projects.

Click here to view the Introduction to Asset Management presentation completed last week.

Introduction to Asset Management

Recently, John Jackman, P.E. and Carl Quiram, P.E. administered the Introduction to Asset Management presentation discussing the basic principles presented in our Continuum of Asset Management post, as it relates to public works. This presentation will assist viewers in understanding the basic steps of a successful Asset Management program to help develop the process. A basic understanding of the asset management principles can assist decision makers in creating a successful and supported program.

This presentation is the first in our asset management series discussing each of the principles in depth.

Planning Your Assets – Part 2

Top view of a group of busy business people sitting at a desk in a meeting

As outlined in the ‘9 Steps in Starting Asset Management’ and ‘Planning Your Assets – Part 1’ we have shared the process of starting asset management as well as an in-depth look at the first four of those steps. This post will round out the original nine steps covering the last five:

Framework:
With the needs identified, goals agreed upon, team building complete, and inventory and assessment finished, the development of the asset priority can begin by analyzing ‘Risk’. Risk of an asset is calculated by multiplying consequence of failure by probability of failure (or condition). Some organizations use strictly age-based assessment which focuses on the service life of the infrastructure versus the current condition and risk associated with that asset. Instead, age of an asset should be merely a factor in the overall risk of the asset when incorporating it into the plan.

The Plan:
Organizations make decisions about asset management based to the requirements placed on them by governing agencies as well as their own stakeholders. By developing an Asset Management Plan that will be utilized by all staff, a systematic approach to the implementation and future use of the program can be outlined. The plan will include a listing of all assets that are managed including buildings, utilities, roadway infrastructure, vehicles, equipment, etc. This plan will clearly describe the assets, policies and procedures for maintaining the currents, and the procurement process of future assets.

Training:
The use of an asset management database will not only empower organizations with knowledge, but can optimize their maintenance and operations. In order for the database to be maintained training will need to happen to ensure comparison of assets are on a standard form of measure and not subject to individual opinions.

Presentation:
Developing and giving a presentation to management or a governing board in critical in the acceptance and understanding of the asset management program established by the organization. By presenting a high-level of understanding and functionality in the

Implementation:
Setting the implementation into progress with all program participants will allow for the plan utilization for repair efficiencies, project scheduling and budget planning will allow for a seamless process in assessing all assets to ensure adequate service as well as reduce the risk of failure.

Continue reading about our asset management capabilities and the services we provide on our blog.