A licensed building inspector and member of several industry organizations, Michael Spreckelmeier's (front row, center) affiliations require that he get a dozen or so continuing education credits every two years. How many does the president of Progressive Builders actually get? “About 100 hours a year,” he says. “It's not required, but I really enjoy it.”

It's no surprise, then, that education for the rest of his staff is also a priority. In 2006, more than three-quarters of Progressive Builders' employees traveled out-of-state for educational events. Often, expenses such as airfare, hotel, and event registration can cost more than $1,000 per attendee.

What makes it worthwhile? “Employees have to come back and teach the rest of us about what they learned,” Spreckelmeier says. “That helps attendees absorb the education they receive while they're on the road. They pay closer attention and really look for the ways different business solutions or production techniques apply to our company.”

In addition to off-site education, Progressive Builders has invested in computer training to get the staff up to speed on the laptop computers recently purchased for superintendents. “There's a spread of computer knowledge here,” Spreckelmeier says. “The youngest employee had a computer in his kindergarten classroom, while some of the older employees just started using computers 10 years ago. Now all our timesheets and change orders are filed electronically and we keep daily jobsite logs. This lets our company run much more efficiently.”