Very few of us expected a global pandemic to shut down our state, bring our country into the throes of recessionary territory, and cause the national unemployment rate to jump from around 3.5% up into the double digits and reach as high as 15%.
The shelter-in-place order affected WAM by shutting down many of our jobs, causing lost hours for many of our loyal employees. Even tougher, this occurred at a time when we enjoyed our biggest backlog in history. March 16, 2020 will always be remembered internally as the day WAM went from running at full speed to completely idle.
I have heard it said that when the going gets tough, the tough get going, and these past six months have shown that the people at Western Allied are incredibly tough and resilient. Kudos to our project management for working with general contractors and owners to manage job shutdowns. Thanks to our loyal field employees who hung in there with us until we could get our head above the water and start working again. Finally, a BIG thank you to Matthew Schmuck and Eric Bartolome who commissioned countless laptops and desktops to enable office staff to work from home.
Our Safety Committee immediately starting planning for the return to work by developing safety protocols, including retrofitting our office cubicles with high plexiglass partition extensions.
Ownership jumped into action by applying for the Paycheck Protection Program on April 8, just five days after the bill was signed into law. Receiving approval and funds on April 20, we immediately offered our employees paid hours for sitting at home, completing safety training, and working at jobsites that were deemed essential. Our office staff ‑ some of which were saddled with unexpected childcare issues – were still able to earn normal wages.
Irrespective of politics, this program was life blood to us at this time of disruption and uncertainty. Our bank has been an important partner helping us navigate through these tumultuous times. We have also had great guidance from both SMACNA and MCA helping us through the various steps of the loan application process.
Fortunately for us and the Bay Area, construction opened again with a directive on May 4th. We were able to ramp up processing again, miles ahead of some other contractors, due to the diligent work for virus protocols by our Safety Committee.
Financially, we are still blessed with an abundant backlog and a busy workforce. Jobs are still being estimated and received, and the work we have is processing at a rate that could be a record for our last fiscal quarter of the year (Aug. 1 to Oct. 31).
Thanks to all the WAM family for making the best of a trying situation. In the months ahead, the lessons learned from remote work and safety protocols will stay with us and will make WAM a better company.
Stay safe out there!