Raising the Bottom Line

6 Personnel Development Trends Maryland Construction Contractors Should Know [Infographic]

Posted by Steve Ball on Mon, May 15, 2017 @ 11:16 AM

Over half of Maryland construction contractors say finding and retaining good employees is their top concern for 2017. Personnel development has long been an issue in the construction industry, but as the economy continues to recover, competition for experienced labor is expected to get fiercer.

In early 2017, we surveyed Maryland construction contractors to get their take on personnel topics like:

  • The #1 reason employees leave their company
  • Top benefits offered to employees
  • Where they find new employees

The following infographic highlights results from the 2017 Maryland Construction Industry Survey. If you'd like to view a larger copy of the infographic, click here. (Psst…to get more data, download your free copy of the executive summary of the survey results.)


Get more data

For more data and insights from the 2017 Maryland Construction Industry Survey, download a free copy of the executive summary of the survey results.


Tags: construction, Maryland, 2017 Maryland Construction Industry Survey

3 Types of Construction Contracts: Their Pros and Cons for Owners and Contractors

Posted by Steve Ball on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 @ 09:06 AM

construction blueprints.jpg

A new building project is taking flight: design plans are finalized, a budget is approved, and an award-winning contractor is selected. It’s an exciting time in the construction process. While construction contracts are significantly less exciting than design decisions, they are a necessary component of the construction process for both owners and contractors. It’s essential that owners and contractors understand the types of contracts available to them.

Let’s look at three common contract types and the risks that each holds for the owner and contractor. 

1. Fixed Price

The most common type of contract is the fixed price contract, also known as the lump sum or stipulated sum contract. Fixed price contracts carry more risk to contractors than owners. They minimize the owner’s (or GC’s in contract with a subcontractor) construction cost risk and obligate the contractor to perform their work for a fixed dollar amount.

2017-maryland-construction-survey-executive-summaryThe price in a fixed price contract is based on a detailed estimating of the various segments of the contract, making it imperative for the contractor to get accurate detailed plans and specifications from the owner as they prepare their bid. Good estimating skills are absolutely critical because if done poorly, inaccurate bids can lead to a contractor’s demise. The contractor should seek some protection in the contract against uncontrollable conditions, such as unanticipated soil conditions or delays caused by extreme weather conditions.

Payment under fixed price contracts is generally based on a percentage completion basis as defined in the contract. The contractor and owner have different goals in the payment process. The contractor wants to have the highest value associated with the work done earlier in the process to provide for positive cash flow against expenditures. This practice, also known as front-end loading, offsets the contractor’s costs against the normal delayed billing cycle and retainage typically required by the owner. Retainage withholding helps protect the owner against contractor defaults and provides an incentive to for the contractor to complete the project. The contractor will likely have to agree to some percentage of retainage but may attempt to have the amount lowered as certain milestones are met.

2. Cost-Plus Fee 

Under a cost-plus fee contract, the owner agrees to pay the contractor for their incurred costs plus an agreed upon fee, typically a fixed fee amount although variable fees based on total costs are sometimes used. It is imperative that the contract clearly address how indirect and general overhead costs are provided for to arrive at total incurred costs. In the government contracting sector this is typically based on allowable and unallowable costs as laid out in the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR).

This type of contract is often used in situations where adequate estimating is impossible due to unpredictable site conditions or other factors. As such, a cost-plus fee arrangement places more risk on the owner and requires a high degree of trust in the contractor. I recall when a client was forced to utilize this contract type to renovate an old building. When I dropped by to see the progress and joked that it looked like every employee of the contractor was on site, he was not amused.  A variation of the cost-plus fee contract is a guaranteed maximum contract, which helps protect the owner from incurring a significantly higher price than expected.

3. Unit Price

Under unit price contracts the contractor is paid for the amount of units delivered at a fixed price per unit. This type of contract is used when the number of units cannot be accurately estimated at the beginning of the contract. Unit price contracts are typically used for highway or utility work. Although the number of units might be unknown, the contract typically provides an estimate so the owner can compare bids. It is common to have some change in price per unit based on economies of scale.

Understand the Pros and Cons of Each Type of Contract

There are pros and cons to each type of contract. Certain contract types carry more risk to the contractor while others hold more risk for the owner. It’s important to weigh all the options as you determine which type of contract is right for you and your project.

For Help

Talk to us. We can help you understand the pros and cons of the contract types you are considering. Call Steve Ball, CPA, CVA, CCIFP, at 800.899.4623, or contact us here.

Tags: Steve Ball, construction, indirect costs

Quick Guide: Maryland Commuter Tax Credit

Posted by Todd Wilcom on Mon, Jan 16, 2017 @ 09:29 AM


Maryland businesses (including nonprofits) who already provide or plan to start providing commuter or transportation benefits to their employees may be entitled to state income tax credits.

1. What Are the Credit Details?

The Maryland Commuter Tax Credit allows employers to claim half of eligible commuter expenses made by an employee as part of a workplace commute transportation benefit up to $50 per participating employee per month.

The credit can be applied to personal or corporate income tax or insurance premium tax. Credit can be applied up to the total of the tax liability ($50 per employee). If the credit is greater than the tax liability, the overage is not eligible to be applied to any other tax year.Employers may only claim employee transportation expenses if the expense meets one of the following eligibility requirements:

  • Transit instruments, including MTA passes, tickets, fare cards, or vouchers to ride publicly or privately owned transit systems not including taxi services
  • Expenses associated with a qualified company van pool program (learn what constitutes a “qualified” van pool), including van purchase/lease, fuel, insurance, maintenance, safety and equal access upgrades, and taxes and licenses
  • Company guaranteed ride home program, including expenses to provide to an employee currently commuting home by transit or vanpool transportation due to an unexpected circumstance
  • Company cash in lieu of parking program, including the expense of providing a taxable cash amount that is equivalent to what the cost of providing parking to the employee would be

 2. How Do I Know If My Businesses Is Eligible?

To be eligible for the credit, your Maryland business must fall under one of the following entity types:

  • Sole proprietorships
  • Corporations
  • Pass-through entities (e.g., partnerships, S corporations, limited liability companies and business trusts)

 3. How Do I Claim the Credit?

In order to claim the Maryland Commuter Tax credit, you must:

  1. Complete and submit the Maryland Commuter Tax Credit Registration Form to the MTA for each taxable period
  2. File your business’s Maryland income tax return electronically and complete Form 500CR (get instructions on how to fill out Form 500CR)

For insurance premium tax, documentation of the credit must be maintained by the taxpayer and available for review if requested by the Insurance Commissioner for three years after claiming the credit. Documentation includes: approval from the agency granting the credit and a list of the names and telephone numbers for the taxpayer's staff who are directly involved in granting the credits.

4. Can You Give Me an Example?

Let’s say you decide to offer commuter benefits at your business. One of your employees, Karen, has a monthly bus pass that costs her $68 each month.

You reimburse Karen for her commute costs and after deducting the Maryland Commuter Tax Credit, and federal and state regular business expenses, your business will end up paying $11.39 for Karen’s commute expenses each month. This provides Karen with a $816 yearly benefit at a cost of only $136.68 per year for your business.

Here are the numbers

Karen’s bus fare


Maryland Commuter Tax Credit (50%)          


Federal deduction as a regular business expense (25%)


Maryland deduction as a regular business expense (8.25%)

    $  5.61

Net cost to your business


Remember, if Karen’s monthly commute expenses were to exceed $100, your business would still only be permitted to claim a maximum of $50 as stipulated under the Maryland Commuter Tax Credit.  

If you have any questions about applying the credit, or if your business is eligible, contact us online or call 800.899.4623.

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Tags: income tax, tax, healthcare, nonprofit, construction, manufacturing, tax deduction, business owners, tax credits

19 Things Maryland Construction Contractors Are Saying About the Construction Industry [Infographic]

Posted by Steve Ball on Thu, Dec 15, 2016 @ 08:11 AM


Even in a closely knit community like the Maryland construction industry, most Maryland construction contractors remain in the dark as to how other businesses like theirs are performing. To help, we partnered with Maryland Construction Network and surveyed over 200 Maryland construction contractors to gather their thoughts and perspectives on hot-topics like: 

  • Personnel issues, including the number one reason good employees leave
  • How optimistic they are about the future of their business and the industry
  • Whether they expect their revenue to increase or decrease
  • Tax deductions and credits they are (and aren't) taking advantage of

The following infographic highlights the results of the 2016 Maryland Construction Survey. If you'd like to view a larger copy of the infographic, click here



Want More Data from the 2016 Maryland Construction Industry Survey? 

If you would like to get more data and insights from the 2016 Maryland Construction Industry Survey, join the 90 other construction contractors who've downloaded the executive summary so far, or check out some of the blog posts we've published featuring the survey results:



Tags: Steve Ball, construction, 2016 MD Construction Survey

3 Things You Must Know to Qualify for Maryland’s Job Creation Tax Credit

Posted by Jerry Housand on Tue, Dec 13, 2016 @ 09:03 AM


If your business is creating new full-time jobs in Maryland, you may be entitled to state income tax credits. The Maryland Job Creation Tax Credit rewards businesses that create a minimum number of new full-time positions in Maryland before January 1, 2020.

1. What Are the Credit Details?

The Maryland Job Creation Tax Credit amount varies based on the location of the jobs created.

Revitalization Areas

In revitalization areas, the credit allows for a 5% credit of total annual wages for all newly created, full-time jobs, with a maximum of a $1,500 credit per new job. Businesses must create at least 60 new, full-time jobs or 30 new, high-paying (aggregate annual salary exceeds 60 multiplied by the state’s average annual salary), full-time jobs to qualify for the credit. Revitalization areas include: 

Priority Funding Areas

In priority funding areas, businesses who create more than 25 new, full-time positions can receive up to $1 million in income tax credit per year, with any unused credit being carried forward for five years. Priority funding areas include:

  • Incorporated municipalities
  • Areas inside the I-495 (Washington, D.C.) and/or I-695 (Baltimore) beltway
  • Baltimore City
  • Growth areas designated by each county for the purposes of the credit
  • Areas already designated as enterprise zones

The Rest of the State

Outside of revitalization and priority funding areas, businesses can receive an income tax credit up to 2.5% of total annual wages for all newly created, full-time jobs in Maryland, with a maximum of a $1,000 credit per new job. Businesses must create at least 60 new, full-time jobs or 30 new, high-paying, full-time jobs to qualify for the credit.

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2. How Do I Know If My Businesses Is Eligible?

In order to be eligible to receive a Maryland Job Creation Tax Credit, the following eligibility requirements must be met:

  • You must notify the Maryland Department of Commerce of your business’s intent to seek certification for the credit
  • Your business must be certified as a qualified business and engage in an eligible activity
  • Your business must create 60 new, full-time jobs or 30 new, high-paying, full-time at your facility during a 24-month period, with the following exceptions:
    • In designated priority funding areas, the minimum is 25 new jobs.
    • Outside of priority funding areas, the requirement may be reduced to as few as 30 new jobs if the aggregate annual salary of the new employees exceeds 60 multiplied by the state's average annual salary.
  • The qualified positions your business creates must be:
    • Full-time
    • Filled for 12 months
    • Pay at least 150% of federal minimum wage ($7.25) for a total of $10.88 per hour (as of December 2016)

 3. How Do I Claim the Credit?

Once you have received approval from the Maryland Department of Commerce, the credit may be taken for your business. Half of the allowable credit is claimed in the first year, and the remaining half in the following taxable year. If at any time during the three tax years after the year the credit was earned, the average number of qualified positions falls more than 5% below the average number of qualified positions during the year in which the credit was earned, a portion of the credit will be recaptured for the tax year in which this occurs.

To get application materials for the Maryland Job Creation Tax Credit, visit the Maryland Department of Commerce website. If you have any questions about applying the credit, or if your business is eligible, contact us online or call 800.899.4623.

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Tags: Manufacturing & Distribution, healthcare, construction, manufacturing, Maryland, business owners, Jerry Housand, government contractors

What Construction Contractors Need to Do to Comply with New Lease Accounting Rules

Posted by Reid Roberts on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 @ 10:06 AM

new lease accounting rules.jpg

Changes to the way your construction company accounts for leases are on the horizon. Are you ready?

The use of leases in the business world is widespread. Businesses can lease land, buildings, rail cars, airplanes, large machinery, office equipment … the list goes on and on. Chances are, your business uses leases in some way.

The reasons businesses use leases vary, but the bottom line is that all leases have to be accounted for in financial statements.

Why the Need for the New Rules?

The current accounting standards governing leases have long been a topic of discussion by financial statement users.

Many users criticize the rules for not requiring enough information about a company’s leasing transactions in financial statements. Also, the application of current standards results in various interpretations of the rules and how businesses classify and present leases in their annual reports. It is often difficult to determine the true financial impact of a company’s leasing activity.

In response to the issues raised about accounting for leases, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), the rule-setting body for accounting standards, sought to identify the problems with the current rules and develop new guidelines for improved lease reporting.

The result was a new accounting standard, issued in February 2016, which covers both lessees and lessors.

Who Do the New Rules Apply To?

While the accounting rules for lessors will remain generally unchanged, the rules for lessees will change significantly.

If your business currently leases property or equipment, then your financial statements could be significantly impacted by the upcoming changes in the accounting standards.

The Nitty Gritty of the New Lease Accounting Rules2017-maryland-construction-survey-executive-summary

Under current lease rules the accounting treatment of a lease may be different depending on how the lease is structured. Business owners are probably familiar with the terms “capital lease” and “operating lease.”

If the terms of the lease basically transfer ownership of the property to the lessee by the end of the lease term, or if the lease term is approximately equal to the economic life of the asset, the lease is known as a capital lease, and the value of the leased asset, along with the related lease obligation, are shown on a company’s financial statements. The asset is then depreciated similar to other assets owned by the entity.

Generally, if the lease is not a capital lease, then it is classified as an operating lease. Payments under operating leases are usually expensed as incurred, with little or no impact on a company’s balance sheet, but are normally included in the notes section, sometimes referred to as disclosures, of the financial statements. Additionally, leases with a lease term of less than 12 months do not fall under the current lease rules.

What’s a Contractor to Do to Comply with the New Rules?

The new lease standard brings with it many changes, from accounting requirements to terminology.

Most importantly, lessees will be required to recognize lease assets and related lease liabilities on their balance sheet, regardless of the type of lease. Recording of both financing leases (the old capital lease) and operating leases will result in the recording of a “right-of-use” asset and a lease liability that will be measured at the present value of the lease payments called for under the lease.

On a company’s income statement, the payments on a financing lease will be reflected as depreciation of the right-of-use asset, and interest expense on the lease liability, while an operating lease will be reflected as a single lease expense.

The new rules also require expanded note disclosures in the financial statements. For leases with terms of less than 12 months, the business can elect not to report lease assets and liabilities.

Consideration should be given to the new definition of a lease, which is now defined as a contract, or part of a contract, that conveys the right to control the use of identified property, plant or equipment for a period of time in exchange for consideration. Right to control is generally defined as the lessee’s right to the economic benefit from the use of the asset, and the right to direct the use of the asset. An identified asset is defined as being explicitly specified in a contract or implicitly specified at the time of the initiation of the lease term. Contractors might find that some of their current leases no longer meet the new definition of a lease.

Upon adoption of the new standard, you will need to use a “modified retrospective approach” where your business is required to apply the new standard and reporting to all of its current leases and any future leases.

There are several elections that can be made and reliefs available in the standard relative to initial adoption, and you should be aware of your options in the period of transition to the new rules.

What Is the Deadline for Adopting the New Rules In Your Financial Statements?

The new lease rules will impact your business through the use of something called the “effective date" – the date by which your business MUST adopt the new standards and present leases in financial statements under the new rules.

For non-public companies, which covers most small businesses, the effective date is for the year starting after December 15, 2019. For most construction companies, it’s the 2020 calendar year.

Keep in mind that the new standard will be required for all years presented in your company’s financial statement. Therefore, as many contractors present multiple years in their statements, any prior periods presented must reflect leases under the new rules.

Why Should You Start Thinking About the New Rules NOW?

At first glance you might dismiss the impact of the new standard, at least for now. After all, it’s still a few years away. However, NOW is the time to start thinking about how the new rules will affect your business.

Upon adoption of the new rules, you might find that you suddenly have additional assets and liabilities on the books that were not there before. Additional liabilities can directly impact ratios and other financial covenants for banking and bonding purposes.

Keep in mind that some of the new leases that your company enters into in the next few years will be impacted when adopting the new rules. As an owner or financial officer of your business, you need to be aware of these changes in order to plan for the future and eliminate the surprises this new standard might bring.

Contractors can proactively plan for implementing the new standard by charging someone in the business with learning the new rules and requirements, identifying all of the leases your business has, and evaluating those leases for conformity with the new standard.

Once the leases are identified, you can calculate the effect on your company’s financial reporting, and develop a strategy for adopting the new standard.

Need Help?

Now is the time to plan for the changes. Our Construction Group can help you sort through the changes and determine exactly how your company needs to prepare. Contact us here or call 800.899.4623.

Tags: Reid Roberts, construction, financial statements, accounting, lease accounting

Audited Financial Statements for Construction Companies: Are They Necessary?

Posted by Steve Ball on Thu, Nov 03, 2016 @ 10:16 AM


Our 2016 Maryland Construction Industry Survey revealed some interesting news: Only 26% of construction company CFOs report that they do a financial statement audit.

Under current accounting rules, accountants are allowed to prepare compiled, reviewed and audited financial statements. Each service provides a different level of assurance, and as you move up the level of assurance, the cost to the business owner increases. You can read more on compiled, reviewed and audited financial statements here.

But if you’re looking to hitch your wagon to the expected increase in construction business, and need financing or bonding to do so — a topic discussed in our blog post, Financing Opportunities Improve for Construction Companies: Time to Shop for a New Bank or Surety? — you might need to reconsider whether or not you need to have an audit of your financial statements done by your CPA.

What Does an Audit Do for You?

At a fundamental level, a financial statement audit gives lenders and bonding authorities a level of assurance that your financials and the way that you are managing the financial life of your company are in line with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). An “unqualified opinion” means that the CPA firm that did your audit has given your financial statement a passing grade. On the other hand, a “qualified audit” means that your financial statements are inconsistent with GAAP reporting requirements, or that there’s something in your financial systems or financial operations that needs fixing.2017-maryland-construction-survey-executive-summary

Lenders and surety companies may require an audited financial statement before making a loan or giving a bond. But there are a couple of other reasons why you may want to go down this road.

First, studies show that firms that present a clean audit are more likely to benefit from lower interest rates.

Second, state and local governments tend to treat companies who bring an audited financial statement to the table with greater respect, leading to more work.

Third, an audit will catch accounting mistakes or even identify internal control issues that need fixing. Ultimately, those fixes will make the company a better run and managed entity.

The Downsides of an Audit of Your Construction Company

Audits can be costly and will require time and resources from your company for data collection, interviews, and in general, other costs associated with a disruption of your finance department’s normal routines.

In fact, you might not need an audit, particularly if your lenders and surety providers don’t require one. A review or compilation done by your accountant may be sufficient for your situation. But as the 2016 Maryland Construction Industry Survey shows, the increase in opportunity may come with an increased demand for an audited financial statement.

For Help

Talk to us. We can review your situation and recommend the best option for assessing your financial statements. Call Steve Ball, CPA, CVA, CCIFP, at 800.899.4623, or contact us here.

Tags: audit, Steve Ball, construction, Maryland, 2016 MD Construction Survey

Do You Know How Much Your Construction Business is Worth?

Posted by Steve Ball on Thu, Oct 13, 2016 @ 05:55 AM

construction_excavator_blog_post.pngIf you own a construction firm, what we uncovered in our 2016 Maryland Construction Industry Survey does not bode well for you.

Owners are largely ill-prepared to exit their business, with less than 30% saying they know how much their business is worth. About half say they could make an educated guess, but this isn’t encouraging. Even more disheartening: 70% of survey respondents say a successor has not been identified at their firm.

When it comes time to exit your company, will you know who’s taking over and what it’s worth? Or will you be guessing, too?

Exit Planning EssentialsClick here to download our free exit planning whitepaper combo!

Exit planning, also known as succession planning, involves significantly more than just listing with a business broker. In addition to the fact that you can’t sell a business until you know its true value — a business valuation that should be provided by a credentialed expert — there are tax, estate, and family issues at play.

Also consider this: At the same time you will be putting your business on the market, likely so will many others. That means it is imperative to get your financial and operational house in order before the sales process begins in order to make your company as attractive as possible to potential buyers.

Start Planning Early

Planning for the sale of your business shouldn’t begin when you enter negotiations to sell. The construction industry specialists at Gross Mendelsohn can help early on with exit planning guidance and resources, like our whitepaper, “14 Lessons for Selling Your Business Easier, Faster and Smarter.”

For Help

For a personal, confidential discussion of your situation, call Steve Ball, CPA, CVA, CCIFP, at 800.899.4623, or contact us here.

Tags: business valuation, exit planning, Steve Ball, construction, business owners, succession planning, 2016 MD Construction Survey

Construction Accounting & Project Management Software: A CPA's Musings

Posted by Steve Ball on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 @ 10:04 AM

construction accounting software CPA considerations

Chris Haiss of our Technology Solutions Group recently wrote an article called “What Maryland Contractors Want from Their Accounting Software Systems.” Read the article here.

She was inspired to write the article after we analyzed the results of our 2016 Maryland Construction Industry Survey. (Download the results of our survey here. It's a really great resource for contractors.)

The survey confirmed what we already knew. To say that there is a plethora of accounting and project management software choices available to contractors is an understatement. So where does a contractor start? 

While QuickBooks, ComputerEase and Sage 300 CRE (Timberline) were the top three tried-and-true brand names identified by contractors as the preferred packages, there are many, many others on the market. It is no doubt a daunting task for a contractor to choose the best system for his or her business.


Even when a contractor chooses a good system for his or her business, they are challenged with using all of its features to gain maximum benefit and efficiency.

Our recommendation is that you work with a CPA who is also a construction accounting software guru. You'll want to get the advice of a knowledgeable professional who works with construction companies daily and has a clear understanding of exactly how they should use technology to be more efficient.

Sign up for a free construction accounting software assessment here.

I encourage you to hop over to our technology blog and read Chris’ article here. In the article Chris poses a wish list for construction accounting systems, and suggests why many systems fall short.

Let’s Talk

If you’re unsure which accounting and project management system is the best fit for your company, or just want to talk about how your current system is working for you, we can help. Sign up for a free, no-obligation accounting software assessment here.

Free Construction Accounting Software Assessment

Tags: accounting software selection, Steve Ball, construction, technology, Chris Haiss, 2016 MD Construction Survey

Financing Opportunities Improve for Construction Contractors: Time to Shop for a New Bank or Surety?

Posted by Steve Ball on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 @ 06:19 AM


Over the last couple of years, it’s been easier for construction companies to secure financing and bonding. In our 2016 Maryland Construction Industry Survey, we found that 9 out of 10 contractors believe availability of financing will remain the same or increase.

I’ve seen this shift as I work with my clients. The challenge is no longer simply getting financing, but getting it on better terms.

The Scary Nature of Personal Liability

If you’ve been in the industry for some time, you know that banks and sureties have historically asked for the moon when it comes to guarantees — because they could. For instance, if you are going for a project that is going to need bonding the default setting of the surety contract is certainly going to include language about personal assurances in the event that you fail to fulfill your end of the contract.

2017-maryland-construction-survey-executive-summaryThese requirements can mean potentially frightening outcomes. Whenever you personally guarantee a financial instrument, it exposes the personal assets you have worked hard to acquire, not just the company’s. It is often a reality that can’t be avoided but nonetheless, causes frustration since to some extent it makes null and void the primary reason you established yourself as a corporation or LLC, and not a sole proprietor, which is limited liability.

As the economy improves and contractor equity is up, banks and sureties are getting more competitive in pricing and interest rates — because they have to. As the competition heats up, are you taking a closer look at personal guarantees and whether they can be removed?

Time to Push Back on Banks and Sureties

I've been working with clients to initiate conversations with their lenders and sureties to peel back on personal guarantees. If there’s enough in the company, you shouldn’t need to have such assurances but unless you speak up you can bet they will not be automatically removed. If your current financial condition is such that you are not able to get personal guarantees removed, find out the targets you need to hit and begin working toward that goal. Hold your lender and sureties accountable when you achieve those goals.

Need Help?

Our Construction Group is experienced in reviewing and managing contractor finances. Call Steve Ball, CPA, CVA, CCIFP, at 800.899.4623 for a confidential discussion about your construction company's situation, or contact us here.

Tags: Steve Ball, construction, Maryland, business owners, 2016 MD Construction Survey