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WAYLAND, MASS. — Despite the languishing economy, CFOs at architecture and engineering firms across the country say they have extra cash available for capital improvements such as IT systems and even to consider making a deal or two.

In an article in the August issue of AEC Finance News, Wendy Raffaeli, vice president and controller at The RMH Group, Inc., a consulting engineering firm in Lakewood, Colo., said the company has a solid pipeline of excess cash.

"Several years ago, we set up a separate fund to repurchase shares of stock from our shareholders, both now and in the future," she said. "This fund provides both an emergency reserve in case we need it for operations (requires board approval to use funds for operations) and also provides some assurance, although not a guarantee, to our shareholders that when they retire, the company will have cash to repurchase their shares and the shareholder won’t have to worry about selling their shares to other shareholders, etc."

Candace Tobin, CFO at Cambridge Systematics, Inc., a policy, planning, and analytical consulting firm in Cambridge, Mass., said the firm’s conservative approach has helped grow cash reserves. The firm builds its cash up over time as it looks for growth opportunity and plans for its sustainability, Tobin said. That plan has worked well and is helping the company these days, when many firms are looking to sell as their bottom lines get worse.

"We do have excess cash and we’re looking for ways to put it to work," Tobin said.

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