Social networking is coming to construction. So far, it is not a Twitter-like feed of 140 characters or less, nor is it free of charge. But it could be a highly useful tool to help firms engage each other more openly, cut risk and ease tension in a time of economic distress. One such innovator, Textura Corp., appropriately derives its name from the Latin words for “build” and “intertwine.” In just three years it has built a base of 38,000 users—and 25% of ENR Top 400 general contractors—into an innovative bill-pay site. Textura has turned the tedious business of bank draws, invoices and lien waivers into a click of a mouse with a widely used, patented electronic signature process. In other words, instead of “rowing harder” to close out draws, transaction have become “a speedboat,” says Kevin McDonnell, CFO of Chicago-based Kenny Construction.
Now, the e-commerce site is about to expand with Facebook-like flair. In October, a new prequalification feature will allow contractors to distribute their resumes, balance sheets and other supporting documents online. Owners and general contractors will be able to browse the information to determine whom to invite to bid on a project, and whom to show the door. Accurate information and data security will be key to Textura’s success here, but it hopes the openness eventually weeds out the bad apples.