Some of the people who took part in this study shared comments that are particularly insightful, or were expressed with conviction or emotion that bears repeating. Below are some of these comments.
"It's a whole different world than when I came on. For one thing, there are just plain fewer of us to do the work that needs to be done."
"I think the big story here is that we used to be specialists and the next generation of real estate managers will be generalists."
"You need to know that there are some states where highway real estate workers are unionized. This adds an additional level of confusion as to how the organization is going to evolve and who you can hire."
"We used to be people who did everything. Now we hire outsiders and we really should be called 'project managers."
"It scares me more than a little to think that the world is becoming more and more computerized and some of our people are doing everything they can to avoid learning about this."
"I envision a time when every one of my people will carry laptops and do the lion's share of their work on these laptops. But I also know that it's going to take a new generation of workers for this to happen. Some of our people are very interested in this. But some just aren't having any part of it."
"It's already beginning to change some. But in the future our people are going to have to have more project management skills rather than old fashioned real estate skills."
"A lot of our people are used to doing things themselves. I'm afraid some really aren't very good at getting along with other people."
"As an outside consultant, I can only express gratitude that more states are shifting work our way. But it's also a fact that they sometimes expect us to turn on a dime and produce the work of a hundred people when they know we don't have that big a staff."
"In some states, there's a lot of animosity between State real estate workers and outside consultants. They seem to resent us even though their managers hired us. There are frequently times when they are supposed to be doing something, but out of the blue they drop it into our lap."
"My biggest issue is that our State clients haven't learned how to write very specific RFPs. After they award a contract, they come back and add all this extra work that was either not specified in the contract or will not be paid for by the contract."
"Our highway department is only begrudgingly coming to terms with outsourcing in this area. We're still trying to keep as much in-house as we can."
"I imagine that the majority of the work that our highway department does in the area of real estate acquisition, appraisal, real estate management and all these other things we do will be done entirely by consultants within five to ten years."
"We're finding it harder and harder to find people who can come into our agency and just start working. You just can't find people who have the experience we need. The only people who can do what we want are our people."
"There are all kinds of university real estate degrees. But kids graduating with these degrees still don't have the training they need to take over the day-to-day work, much less the management of that work."
"Our new people need training, especially when they start with us. And our more experienced staff needs training, too, to keep up-to-date. But when you're in this consulting business, you can't afford to have your people away from their desks very much."
If you were to observe our training, you would find that it hasn't changed much from 1965."
"We tend to think in terms of 'classes' because that's what we've always done."
"My guys don't have any problem with attending classes as long as they're not too long. But these young kids expect to be entertained. They won't sit through a two-day training class. And if they do, you'll lose their attention."
"Although I can't say it's not working per se, you won't find anything snazzy going on in training in our field. We're doing it today pretty much the way we've always done it."
"Although we don't have any trouble pulling together a class when we're ready to do training, we also have a manual that allows people to do some learning on their own. It includes information, as well as practical exercises."
"We don't use any of the new things you see in training in other places. I guess you'd have to say we're pretty far behind the curve in terms of our training technology."
"I know this sounds silly, but it isn't uncommon for the Director of Highways or the Governor to tap into our training budget for operational needs."
"In our State, it's not uncommon for the Highway Department Director to reach over into our training budget for money for engineering or construction."
"I've sometimes said our training budget sometimes gets "turned into a bridge."
"Although it might seem like small potatoes in the big picture, our training budget at least looks like a sizable amount of money on paper. And amounts like that don't go overlooked by those who are trying to balance State budgets or find creative ways of doing other things."
"We train our people. But I can't say there's a formal training program or that if it's September we'll be conducting a specific kind of training."
"In our State we try to do the best we can to train our people. But sometimes it's catch as catch can."
"I'm embarrassed to say that the mail clerk sets the training agenda. Essentially, we react to brochures that the mail clerk delivers."
"What our new people need mostly is some good old 'right-of-way 101."
"We look at the IRWA courses each year and decide what our people want to take."
"We do the same thing with the NHI catalog. As soon as it comes out, we pounce on it."
"The states need help in learning how to design contracts that are clear and specific."
"In consulting firms, you'll find that we have to do a lot of on-the-job training. I can't spare people for training. If they go for training, they expect to be paid. But I can't bill for those hours."
National Highway Institute
4600 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 800
Arlington, VA 22203 USA