CRE Midwest

Englewood constructs award-winning blog

| markt

William Di Santo may joke about his less-than-stellar prowess with a computer, but this 30-year construction veteran gets the last laugh as he can now claim the legitimate title of “award-winning” blogger.

William Di Santo may joke about his less-than-stellar prowess with a computer, but this 30-year construction veteran gets the last laugh as he can now claim the legitimate title of “award-winning” blogger.

Two years ago, Di Santo, president of Lemont-based Englewood Construction, didn’t really know what a blog was. Evidently, he catches on quickly as his firm’s blog, Hard Hat Chat, recently received the 2011 Website & Electronic Communications Blog Award from the Construction Writers Association.

The construction market has been historically slow in recent years.  When the opportunities dwindle, smart firms find a way to remain dynamic and engaged with clients. With this in mind, Di Santo and Chuck Taylor, director of operations at Englewood and co-author for Hard Hat Chat, decided to take to the Internet and create a topical blog addressing issues related to what they know best, the construction industry.

“We wanted to differentiate ourselves from the competition,” says Taylor. “We wanted to provide a value-added service for clients. We didn’t want this to be a self-serving endeavor.”

Topics are always construction-based, but they range from professional advice to personal takes on industry trends. Past post titles include: “Lessons from BP: The Ultimate Checklist for Commercial Construction Preventive Maintenance” and “Commercial Construction Development: Red flags retail developers should look for in vetting a general contractor.”

The endeavor did not come without challenges. In order for the blog to be a success, Taylor knew that he needed to dedicate ample time to making the site easily searchable on the Web. He went to school on the nuances of search engines and learned about things such as meta data and key words.

His efforts have paid off and since Hard Hat Chat’s launch in October of 2009 the blog has received 22,000 pageviews.

The site has done more than just attract readers and impress clients. It’s also become a useful tool, albeit indirectly, in winning business.

The firm recently received a contract to complete an office for Next Door, a new financial services concept, at the corner of Diversy and Clark in Chicago.

“Multiple firms bid for that project,” says Taylor. “When the client selected us, they said that we appeared like experts because of our on-line presence.

Building onto the blog’s momentum, Englewood will continue to make Hard Hat Chat a focal point of what it does moving forward. However, as the site continues to grow, readers should expect many of its hallmarks to remain the same: thoughtful perspectives on the industry, helpful advice, and, most importantly to Taylor, the site’s integrity.

“This is never going to be a direct revenue stream for us,” says Taylor. “We turn down offers all of the time from firms that want to advertise on the site. That is not what this is about for us. It’s not a business.”

That helps when Englewood’s actual business side is doing well and improving with the market. The firm has recently been tapped for six new projects throughout the Midwest, including two in Chicago. All projects are slated for completion between now and the end of the year. Locally, Englewood will be completing the expansion and renovation of the Children’s Creative Learning Center (CCLC) located at 446 E. Ontario St. in the Onterie Center in downtown Chicago. CCLC provides employer-sponsored early childhood education and care.

“The amount of bids we are doing now is back up to 2008 levels,” said Di Santo. “It’s still tough to get projects, but I think we are through the worst of the downturn. I’m encouraged by the market right now.”