• 03/14/2019 7:45 AM | Kerri Barile

    Have an idea for a session for our 2019 conference in Spokane? Submit a proposal! The best programs come from our members, and we are seeking participants to join us in planning our next event. Session topics can range from running a business to technical best practices and include a single speaker or a panel. See the ACRA 2019 Conference webpage for more information. Proposals are due March 15th so don't delay!

    Questions? Email the Conference Chair, Kerri Barile, at kbarile@dovetailcrg.com. We are looking forward to getting you involved!

  • 03/12/2019 8:00 PM | Deleted user

    Image source 401kcalculator.orgThe Internal Revenue Service recently released new regulations interpreting tax reform provisions with the potential to affect many ACRA businesses. The regulations are good news for CRM firms because they support arguments that CRM firms should be able to use the new 20% pass-through deduction without a cap.

    In December 2017, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, 500+ pages of statutory language that the IRS was left to interpret and apply through new regulations. Of particular interest to CRM firms is Section 199A, known as the 20% pass-through deduction. As Burr Neely explained in an email blast to members at the time, Section 199A gives pass-through businesses a 20% deduction, but that deduction phases out after a particular threshold for specialized service trade or businesses (SSTBs).

    Because many CRM firms are organized as pass-through businesses, they stand to be dramatically affected by these regulations depending on whether they are defined as SSTBs:

    • If a business is NOT an SSTB, its income generally IS eligible for the Section 199A Deduction and the deduction is NOT subject to the cap.
    • If a business IS an SSTB, its income generally IS eligible for the Section 199A Deduction. eligible for the deduction, but the deduction is CAPPED after a certain level of income (when the business owner’s taxable income exceeds $157,500; if married filing jointly, $315,000).

    The tax reform bill explicitly excludes architecture and engineering firms from the definition of SSTBs, but includes any trade or business involving the performance of services in several categories, including “consulting” – a broad and vague term.

    While the waters are still a bit murky, the new Section 199A regulations weigh against treating CRM firms as SSTBs – therefore maintaining their eligibility for the Section 199A deduction without a cap. The regulations state that while “consulting” includes “the provision of professional advice and counsel to clients to assist the client in achieving goals and solving problems,” it does not include the performance of services other than advice and counsel, nor does it include consulting that is embedded in, or ancillary to, the sale of goods if there is no separate payment for the consulting services. As a recent article from Forbes (link below) explains, “you are a consultant if you are paid ONLY for providing advice and counsel. To the contrary, if you get paid only upon the ‘consummation of the transaction your services were intended to affect,’ you are NOT a consultant.” The consummation of the transaction your services were intended to affect. In the CRM context, you likely get paid when you perform a CRM investigation or deliver the report. That means that you can argue you are not a consultant under this definition.

    Some examples the IRS provided:

    • Government lobbyists: they provide professional advice and counsel to clients to assist in achieving goals and solving problems, and therefore qualify as SSTBs.
    • Staffing consultant: if the company comes into a workplace, identifies the staffing needs, tells the employer what to do, then gets paid and leaves, the company is a consultant and an SSTB.
    • Staffing consultant: if the company comes into a workplace, identifies the staffing needs, tells the employer what to do, then actually provides the staffing, the company is NOT a consultant and NOT an SSTB: it is paid for providing employees (not just for the advice and counsel).
    • Building contractor: while a building contractor inevitably provides advice and counsel as part of its job, those services are ancillary to its central business (e.g., building a new office space). As long as there is no separate fee for the consulting services, the contractor should not be treated as an SSTB.

    These analyses appear to exclude CRM firms from the definition of an SSTB and preserve their eligibility for the full Section 199A deduction, without a cap – which is great news for ACRA members.

    This blog post is not intended to provide legal advice to any particular company or entity. Be sure to discuss your entity’s specific tax situation with your tax counsel and accountant.

    For more information:

    IRS final rules

    Forbes: IRS Publishes Final Guidance On The 20% Pass-Through Deduction: Putting It All Together

    KPMG: What's New in Tax

    BDO: Tax Reform’s 199a Redefines “Consulting” for Government Contractors

  • 03/07/2019 4:00 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    In January we announced that the call for nominations for the 2019 ACRA Awards is open. The ACRA Awards recognize private and public sector clients of member firms for CRM accomplishments and commitments exceeding those required by various laws and regulations. ACRA Awards also recognize ACRA member firms or employees thereof who have made a long-term and on-going public service commitment to CRM.

    Want a better idea of the projects that have won these awards in the past? Take a look at last year's winners below!

    2018 Industry Award - Private Sector

    Winner: Calpine Corporation, for Cultural Heritage Management at the Garrison Energy Center Project (nominated by RGA, Inc.)

    James Klickovich of Calpine Corporation is presented the Industry Private Sector award at the 2018 ACRA Conference in Cincinnati.

    In advance of the project, Calpine Corporation sponsored an Intensive-level historic architectural survey and various phases of archaeological surveys, including a robust and far-reaching public outreach effort associated with the archaeological data recovery. Calpine Corporation took a proactive stance in cultural resource management by funding this work without any requirement to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act or other local, state, or federal regulations that necessitate consideration of project impacts on historical and archaeological resources. Through generous support and funding, Calpine Corporation sponsored the archaeological identification, evaluation, and recordation of a 1770s to 1820s free African American tenancy associated with the Cooper family. As a private sector energy company, Calpine Corporation has set a high bar in its support of cultural resource management.

    2018 Industry Award - Public Sector

    Winner: City of Wilmington, for Cultural Heritage Management associated with the Brandywine Raceway Rehabilitation (nominated by Commonwealth Heritage Group)

    Don Weir of Commonwealth Heritage Group accepts the 2018 Industry Award - Public Sector on behalf of the City of Wilmington.

    The City of Wilmington planned to rehabilitate Brandywine Raceway, the main conduit of fresh water for the city’s public water system, and determined that there would be an adverse impact on the Brandywine Village Historic District. The City seized upon the opportunity to broaden the scope of historical documentation to address the entire public water system, including the raceway. This scope expansion was an entirely voluntary and altruist act, and from the start, the historical documentation was conceived as an engaging book, accessible to readers of all ages.

    Need further inspiration? Check out the rest of the previous award winners, and make sure to submit your nominations by FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2019 at 5:00 PM EDT. Awards will be presented during the ACRA Conference October 24-27, 2019, in Spokane, Washington.

  • 03/05/2019 1:16 PM | Duane Peter

    As noted in the ACRA February Monthly Member Update (MMU), the ACRA Board approved the white paper, Digital Data Curation and Access:  Why You and Your Organization Should be Involved (Peter et al. 2019). The ACRA 2018 conference session and board meeting indicated that the subject of data sharing and synthesis efforts was received with a degree of skepticism on the part of some CRM professionals.  There was obvious concern regarding the logistics of data sharing and synthesis studies.  Nevertheless, the ACRA board realized that increased communication between our industry and the academy is essential for the future of our profession and our ability to address the grand questions (Kintigh et al. 2014).  The detailed logistics of achieving data sharing and digital curation for the advancement of archaeological synthesis remain to be determined. 

    The concepts of archaeological synthesis, data sharing, and digital curation are not new to our profession, but if we are to address the grand questions as Kintigh et al. (2014) and Altschul et al. (2018) advocate, we must rethink our research strategies and how data access affects the process.  As Altschul et al. (2018) note, archaeologists must do more than analyze and interpret data on a project-by-project basis.  Synthesis of large databases must be accomplished and transformed into scientific knowledge of value to society.  The need to address the pressing social issues of today requires an interdisciplinary approach using the domains of anthropology and other social and natural sciences.  As Altschul et al. (2018) note, past interdisciplinary efforts have been costly, multi-year efforts in which the team had to find, transform, and analyze large complex data sets on its own.  The Coalition for Archaeological Synthesis (CfAS) was created to provide institutionalized support for collaborative synthesis research. 

    CfAS is using a model for collaborative research that was previously designed by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.  Under this model 8-12 people from multiple disciplines are funded for a two-to-three-year period to address complex problems. This team meets 3-4 times during that period.  Some personnel within the CRM industry question how this model is feasible when they are expected to be billable throughout most of the year.  I would note that  most researchers within the CRM industry spend hundreds of hours each year conducting research that is outside the expectations of the average single project. This effort is usually incorporated into subsequent projects, but the level of effort is far beyond the normal hours of the work year. Our industry has been proactive in recent years by incorporating synthesis studies as an integral part of mitigation studies; nevertheless, we likely need to rethink the temporal and spatial scale of our synthesis efforts and include other relevant disciplines. 

    Of course, large synthesis studies need access to multiple data sets from multiple regions and the academy obviously wants access to the voluminous data sets collected by the CRM industry. To ease the level of effort, CfAS is promoting the curation of digital data in a responsible digital data repository, specifically, tDAR.  The curation of both current and legacy data is encouraged. This need has raised a variety of concerns within the CRM industry.  One reaction is:  “Why can’t they go to the State Historic Preservation Office files or the state archives like we do?” Unfortunately, such an approach is not cost-effective for either the academy or our industry when a large portion of the nation does not maintain digital access to site forms, reports, or primary data sets.  Our industry, the academy, and our clients would benefit from multiple databases from multiple regions, and multiple time periods being curated in one location. 

    The import of legacy data into tDAR definitely presents challenges for the CRM industry.  First, the industry does not own the data.  Clients and agencies would need to approve such curation. Secondly, personnel time and money are needed to gather legacy data, and finally, legacy data may be in an outdated medium.  Admittedly, much of the data currently held by tDAR is legacy data; however, that is largely due to a very few enlightened agency individuals who have been willing to fund the collection of legacy data.

    Another issue is the emotional and psychological baggage of the divide that existed between the academy and our industry for a number of years. CRM industry personnel were frequently viewed as second-class citizens within the profession and not capable of the same level of research practiced by the academy. Unfortunately, remnants of this divide remain; consequently, some CRM researchers are reluctant to share and are wary that their contributions would not be acknowledged.  I believe that increased communication between the academy and our industry can overcome these fears. 

    I firmly believe that our industry has come of age; however, we need to be aware of the challenges before us.  Our clients want more for less and we must demonstrate our relevance to society if our industry is to survive.  Therefore, we need to discard any historic baggage and collaborate with the academy to provide synthesis studies that demonstrate the relevance of our profession.  Having digital data from thousands of projects in one or a few institutions that will provide access for the future will provide the following efficiencies:

    v Reduction of time and travel in conducting background research,

    v Better knowledge of previously collected data will reduce the collection of redundant data,

    v Reduction of some of the need for costly mitigation; and

    v Enhanced understanding of the social and environmental dynamics that have contributed to the present human condition.


    The achievement of such efficiencies and the use of those data in ways that the public sees as benefits will satisfy the goals envisioned by the creators of the NHPA, ARPA, and associated regulations.  Our industry could develop its own competitive structure for synthesis studies, but I feel that such an approach would be counterproductive; let’s invest in a strategy that benefits the entire profession.

    If you have a different perspective or support archaeological synthesis, data sharing, and digital curation, please use ACRASphere to share your ideas. 


    References Cited

    Altschul, Jeffrey H., Keith W. Kintigh, Terry H. Klein, William H. Doelle, Kelley A. Hays-Gilpin, Sarah A. Herr, Timothy A. Kohler, Barbara J. Mills, Lindsay M. Montgomery, Margaret C. Nelson, Scott G. Ortman, John N. Parker, Matthew A. Peeples, and Jeremy A. Sabloff

    2018     Fostering Collaborative Synthetic Research in Archaeology. Advances in Archaeological Practice 6(1): 19-29.  DOI:10.1017/aap.2017.31

    Kintigh, Keith W., Jeffrey H. Altschul, Mary C. Beaudry, Robert D. Drennan, Ann P. Kinzig, Timothy A. Kohler, W. Fredrick Limp, Herbert D.G. Maschner, William K. Michener, Timothy R. Pauketat, Peter Peregrine, Jeremy A. Sabloff, Tony J. Wilkinson, Henry T. Wright, and Melinda A. Zeder

    2014     Grand Challenges for Archaeology.  American Antiquity 79(1): 5-24

  • 03/01/2019 8:00 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Readers can now find relevant news items compiled all in one place! In our CRM Firms in the News series, we feature recent mentions of ACRA member firms and their projects across the country. Was your firm recently featured in a news article or on social media? Send it to us to be included in our next volume of the series!

    • In our last volume we featured a story about the creation of a scholarship at the University of Mary Washington funded by Dovetail Cultural Resource Group. A new piece in Fredericksburg Today goes into further detail about the scholarship and Dovetail's connection to and support of UMW. Learn more about this unique way of giving back to the community (and potentially your alma mater!).
    • A regional airport in Arkansas received its place on the National Register thanks in part to the work of ACRA member firm Cultural Resource Analysts, Inc. Read more about the firm started the process a year and a half ago in the El Dorado News-Times.
    • "Genealogy meets Archaeology:" Many of our firms donate their valuable time to pro bono opportunities in addition to contract work. Staff from ACRA member firm Open Range Archaeology, LLC are donating their time and resources to help improve the records for Ninnekah Community Cemetery in Grady County, Oklahoma. Read more about how they are using grand penetrating radar to help their community on this project in the Express-Star.
  • 02/27/2019 4:00 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    At the end of last summer, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) announced their decision to waive the National Historic Preservation Act and other federal laws in order to expedite construction of border fencing in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. As a part of the Coalition for American Heritage, ACRA sent a letter to CBP opposing this decision and urging officials to reconsider.

    This effort to protect sensitive cultural resources that would be potentially endangered by the waiving of such laws is one of several made by ACRA in the latter half of 2018. A few weeks ago, we received a response, which we now want to share with all of you!

    The ACRA lobbying team received the following email in response to the Coalition letter. Notably, CBP commits to conducting environmental surveys to identify sensitive areas that have the potential to be impacted - including "biological and cultural resources on land within the border wall alignment." Read the full text of the email below, and stay tuned to the ACRAsphere for updates on this issue (and many more!).

    American Cultural Resources Association,

    Your feedback is appreciated, and we understand your concerns regarding the waiver of environmental laws in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) sector and the potential impacts to historical and cultural resources. Your feedback, along with information about how it was incorporated into U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP)’s environmental planning, will be detailed in a report that will be made public once all stakeholder comments have been reviewed and analyzed.

    Regarding your comments related to the waiver of environmental laws, CBP is conducting environmental surveys of the project areas, coordinating and consulting with resource agencies and other stakeholders, evaluating possible environmental impacts from the projects, and identifying mitigation measures to avoid or minimize impacts. While the waiver eliminates CBP’s obligation to comply with certain environmental laws for this project, CBP remains committed to environmental stewardship. In doing so, CBP creates an Environmental Stewardship Plan which identifies areas of potential impacts and establishes construction best management practices that avoid or minimize impacts to the environment during construction. Additionally, CBP intends to continue outreach and consultation with stakeholders in an effort to capture and address their concerns.

    Regarding your comments related to surveys, CBP is working with experts in the field to conduct surveys that will identify sensitive environmental areas that have the potential to be impacted during construction. The scope of these surveys will include biological and cultural resources on land within the border wall alignment.

    For additional information, please use the following link to frequently asked questions (FAQs): https://www.cbp.gov/border-security/border-wall/border-wall-system-frequently-asked-questions.

    Thank you again for your feedback.


    Wall Program Manager Office Directorate Team

  • 02/26/2019 4:52 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team
    This post is authored by Brandon M. Gabler, PhD, RPA, Regional Director and Vice President of Operations, and Alison Haller, MS, Director of Marketing and Communications, with Commonwealth Heritage Group.

    Finding relevant content and project examples to share on social media channels is a struggle. We all acknowledge the benefits of creating and sharing relevant, interesting, and timely social media content…like this blog! Social media posts constitute relatively low-cost and high-visibility marketing when done well. Social media is also a great venue for short, pithy updates about a realm of resources in which the public is generally interested (cool bridges and archaeological sites are easier to sell to the public than wetlands and overpass inspections). But to get the benefits, firms must overcome—or at least keep pace with—multiple challenges. Below are thoughts about the perceived top three challenges: 1) social media channel selection, 2) developing content, and 3) negotiating approvals to post content.

    The challenges start with the social media outlets themselves: there are so many from which to choose, each has its own audience and purpose, and each has a lifecycle (Google just terminated its own social media channel, Google+; see also the rise and fall of MySpace). Commonwealth heavily uses three social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Of the three, Facebook—known primarily as a business-to-consumer (B2C) platform—claims the vast majority of our interaction with the public. One recent study stated that 42% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers admit that Facebook (with over 2 billion users) is the most effective B2B social networking platform for their companies because it is heavily customer-satisfaction centric, cost-effective, provides the chance for companies to interact with existing and potential customers, and more.

    For most ACRA member firms, most sales or leads are generated outside of social media (also known as “offline sales”), meaning that the main goal with social media is to build brand awareness by driving traffic to the firms’ websites and generating direct contacts with their teams. We want the people (the C in B2C) who work for other businesses (the second B in B2B: project proponents, designers, constructors, agencies, etc.) to know about our company’s capabilities so they think of us the next time they need a heritage management consultant. One ACRA member firm’s website data tells us that of the three social media channels they use, Facebook is the most useful in driving that goal with over 20% of website traffic coming from a Facebook click.

    The bigger problem is developing and sharing relevant and interesting content. A firm’s goal is to boost brand awareness and drive traffic through raw and authentic content. The most exciting thing about a heritage management firm is the suite of projects in our portfolio, and therefore the best way to generate buzz is to share content about those projects! However, once channels are chosen, two primary challenges remain.

    First, there are limited resources (human, financial, temporal) to develop and post content because there are strains on technical staff to produce required deliverables, let alone content worthy of sharing on social media. Staff are commonly stretched thin because of balancing multiple simultaneous projects, the need to transition to new projects immediately, and trying to find something interesting and/or relevant to share when it may be just another negative survey.

    Second, there are strains on management and administrative staff to manage the business and legal aspects of our contract requirements, along with an associated web of approvals and clearances to post newsworthy project-related information via social media. Occasionally, contracts contain explicit clauses about confidentiality, social media sharing, or what constitutes dissemination of work. More often, nothing is explicit in the contract. Yet as business operators, project and client managers, and ethical professionals, we know we need to exercise caution. Things like sensitive archaeological data and the perception by our clients that we’ve over-shared are tough to manage—the latter of which can seriously risk our ability for repeat business (just because the contract isn’t explicit doesn’t mean they would rather we stay quiet!). The time and effort associated with reaching out to clients to ask for explicit permission and sharing a rough draft of the post is often met with either no response or a rejection. Other times, clients perceive it as their product (“We’re paying for it!”), so they’d rather not have us market the material, at least until the final report is on file in a state office or in some cases not even filed (e.g., private-sector due-diligence work).

    So, what are strategies you use to manage these challenges? Are there ways to create vague social media posts that are relevant, but protect your company from breaking written or unwritten rules? Do you provide staff with administrative or overhead time to develop social media content at the conclusion of projects? Do you have a method for requesting permission from clients that seems to work more often than not? We’d love to hear from you!

  • 02/22/2019 9:00 AM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    The appropriations bill passed by Congress last week helped stave off another government shutdown. This ensured that CRM professionals across the country are able to continue to working on important federal projects without interruption or delayed payment, experiences reported by many firms at the beginning of the year. However, that is not the only positive development associated with the bill!

    Another win for the CRM industry in this legislation is an increase to the allocations for the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF). This represents a strong commitment by Congress to preservation efforts across the country. ACRA has been working diligently with its partners in the Coalition for American Heritage to ensure that Congress understands the value of the heritage programs that our member firms work on daily, and this increase shows that those efforts have made a difference.

    You can read more about the funding increase on the Coalition's website, which includes allocated amounts for specific programs and how this budget compares to what was requested by the administration. Let us know your thoughts on the increased appropriations in the comments below!

  • 02/21/2019 9:00 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    This post is sponsored by the Center for Applied Isotope Studies.

    The Radiocarbon & Archaeology 9th International Symposium will take place in Athens, Georgia, USA, at the Classic Center in downtown Athens from Monday, May 20 through Friday, May 24, 2019.

    The symposium will showcase current archaeological research that employs radiocarbon, as well as recent developments in the radiocarbon technique. Special thematic sessions will be held in honor of the 70th Anniversary of Libby’s publication of the application of 14C for age determination.

    The Symposium will include a full range of academic sessions, invited lectures, social events, and field trips within and beyond Athens.

    The Symposium organizers have extended the deadline for abstract submissions associated with the conference sessions. The deadline is now February 25 - so you need to hurry!

    The full list of sessions is available here - please consult the session list  to find the right fit for your presentation. Organizers have made it easy for you to submit your abstract with the creation of an online portal.

    Don't miss this opportunity to showcase your work - submit your abstracts by February 25.

  • 02/20/2019 2:00 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

    Whether you are negotiating with a potential client, your project team, or embarking on the Section 106 consultation process, CRM success requires agreement and collaboration with other people. The first webinar in ACRA's 2019 series will help CRM practitioners of all levels potentially improve their business outcomes through the art of negotiation.

    Join us on March 21, 2019 at 2:00 pm Eastern to gain more insight into this skill that is vital to the business world (and beyond!). The Art of the Negotiation and Conflict Management will equip you with strategies and frameworks that will help you become a better negotiator.

    Expert provider Anna Schneider of Heritage Business International holds both an M.A. in anthropology and an M.B.A. in business administration. Anna is passionate about using this unique degree combination to bring both archaeological expertise and business know-how to the CRM industry.

    One thing to note: this webinar will only be offered live - meaning you won't be able to access the recording in ACRA Webinars on Demand - and spots are limited, so you need to register TODAY to save your virtual spot.

    Whether you are new to the industry or consider negotiation an integral part of your daily tasks, The Art of Negotiation and Conflict Management will improve your skill base to grow your business. Register today!

Become an ACRA member to get exclusive benefits including vendor discounts, premium access to online learning opportunities, and much more.

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