Brothers follow father’s example in tree-service business

When your dad instills values in you such as honesty, a strong work ethic and integrity, it’s not so difficult to work alongside your brother.

Brad and Jon Bielen have discovered just that as co-owners of owners of A Cut Above Tree Service Inc. in Longmont, which provides trimming/pruning of trees, tree removal, stump grinding, fire mitigation, log milling, lot clearing/demolition and firewood. The brothers plan to expand their business in the spring by buying two spray rigs to spray trees for bugs and provide deep-root feeding, so they will offer every tree service available. They also plan on hiring four to six new employees as their business grows.

“We have our battles, but for the most part when we’re at work, business is business and being brothers takes a back seat,” Brad says of working with his brother, adding it helps to know that they can count on each other.

The Bielen brothers have been working in the tree industry since 1988 and opened their own business in 1991 to pursue the American dream of working for themselves, setting their own hours and days, Brad says. Their father, who passed away 2006, was an inspiration to them both.

“In my eyes, he’s probably one of the greatest men I’ve ever known,” Brad says, noting his father had a great work ethic and his responsibility for family was of the utmost importance. “I wish I could be half the man he was.”

The example their father set and the values he taught his sons have translated into how the Bielen brothers run their business, treating customers with honesty and integrity, doing their part to preserve the environment and helping others in any way they can.

The brothers do a fair amount of charitable work, doing trimming and tree removal for those who are unable to do it themselves and unable to afford to pay someone, as well as providing wood chips and even firewood at no cost to those struggling to make ends meet. “We give away a huge amount of firewood every year to people who just can’t afford to buy firewood,” Brad says.

When A Cut Above trims or removes a tree, none of it is wasted. “What’s nice is every little bit of material from a tree is utilized,” Brad says. “If we cut a tree down, we use the branches as woodchips that we give to customers for free; the logs are turned into lumber at the two saw mills we own and are used for everything from furniture to fencing; and the smaller pieces are used as firewood.

“Environmentally speaking, it’s important to not let anything go to the landfill. It’s just the way we’ve developed our business around making sure nothing goes to waste.”

The brothers have lived in Colorado for 40-plus years – Brad, a father of 3-year-old fraternal twins (boy and girl), is a native – so this is where their family and friends as well as their livelihood are. “We worked in Arkansas for a few years and came back,” Brad says. “We know trees – we know these trees. We’ve seen trees that we planted that are now mature. This is home. It’ll always be home.”

To contact A Cut Above Tree Service Inc., visit or call (303) 682-5678.

GDP stats indicate that Colorado metros' economies are expanding

According to the latest statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the local economy has indeed expanded since 2005, though many cities throughout the nation haven’t been so fortunate.

Statistics released last month show that the slowdown in U.S. economic growth was widespread from 2007 to 2008: 60 percent of metropolitan areas saw economic growth slow down or reverse. Real GDP growth slowed in 220 of the nation’s 366 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in 2008 with downturns in construction, manufacturing, and finance and insurance restraining growth in many metropolitan areas. Growth in real U.S. GDP by metropolitan area slowed from 2 percent in 2007 to 0.8 percent in 2008.

According to the BEA, growth accelerated in 146 metropolitan areas, especially where natural resources and mining industries are concentrated, such as Casper, Wyo., and Grand Junction, Colo. Grand Junction had the fastest real GDP growth (12.3 percent) of any metropolitan area in 2008 due largely to growth in natural resources and mining. The professional and business services industry group also showed strong growth in 2008, contributing the most to real GDP growth in 112 metropolitan areas.

The more significant growth is shown between 2005 and 2008. Here’s a look at how Colorado’s metro areas performed compared with the nation’s 366 metropolitan statistical areas during that time:

Signs of stabilization mean growth could be around the corner

While year-to-date home sales in the Boulder market were still down through October, sales for the month were better than they were in October 2008 – good news for the local real estate market.

In total, 276 single-family homes and 96 attached homes in Boulder County sold in October, compared with 250 single-family and 86 attached homes in October 2008. During the first 10 months of the year, 2,942 single-family homes sold, compared with 3,750 in the same period last year; 1,145 attached homes sold this year, compared with 1,395 through October of 2008.

Ken Hotard, senior vice president of public affairs for the Boulder Area Realtor Association, called the statistics “good news.”

“We’re seeing really good signs of market stabilization when we look at sales in October 2009 compared with October 2008,” he says. “It’s up about 5 percent marketwide on single-family homes. From September to October 2009, we’re right on track – there’s no decline. We’ve seen stabilization of the year-to-year data in sales volume decline.

"We are looking to turn the corner on growth before heading into the second half of 2010."

In September, 274 single-family homes sold and 108 attached homes sold. Sales prices, though still down, held steady in October, as well. In fact, Erie and Louisville saw slight increases in median sales prices, while Boulder saw only a 0.9 percent drop in its median price.

He says he expects the extension of the first-time homebuyer tax credit to have a positive impact on the Boulder County market. Congress recently extended the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers through May 1, as well as added a $6,500 tax credit for buyers who have been in their homes for five consecutive years in the last eight years, and increased the income limits for a qualifying single individual to $125,000 and for a couple to $225,000.

“Those are all signs the stimulus will continue to support market stability, as the economy begins to recover,” he says. “Hopefully that will be a launch to a healthier overall market and economic condition for the second half of next year.

“There’s no question about it; affordability is at an all-time high,” Hotard adds. “There are a lot of people who have been sitting on the fence and this will be exactly what they need to move off of the fence and into the game.”

However, two things could dampen progress: continued tight credit, particularly in the jumbo loan area, and weak job growth, he says. “Those could be factors that hold us back a bit."

And through the first half of 2010, the market will favor buyers, Hotard says.

Real estate experts: Boulder housing market improving

By Peter Budoff
Camera Staff Writer
Posted: 11/19/2009 11:14:24 PM MST

The national and local real estate market is showing signs of improvement, but a full recovery will depend on restoring consumer confidence, housing experts said at a Boulder forum Thursday.

Boulder remains somewhat insulated from the national economic struggles, Scot Smith, a broker with The Colorado Group, told the crowd at the second annual Boulder Valley Real Estate Conference and Forecast at Boulder's Millennium Harvest House.

"This is a good place to be," Smith said. "When the full recovery begins, it will probably begin here."

Smith said that the presence of large local companies and continued strength in the energy industry and others will continue to help stabilize the Boulder economy.

Commercial occupancy should increase slightly throughout Boulder Valley in 2010, while the area should remain relatively insulated from the national wave of foreclosures, Smith said. Office vacancies fell to low of 12 percent in 2009, not as high as some predicted.

Smith noted that in addition to governmental agencies -- which were the largest purchasers of commercial property this year -- the Boulder commercial real estate sector has been boosted by an unlikely industry: medical marijuana dispensaries.

"We can only hope marijuana never gets regulated, so it can lead us out of this recession," he joked.

D.B. Wilson, managing broker of ReMax, said the residential housing market through the beginning of 2010 will continue to favor buyers, with affordability at an all-time high.

But prices, interest rates and mortgages are still likely to fluctuate through next year, and true market stability won't come until consumer confidence is restored, several speakers said.

Sharp declines in wealth and increases in unemployment have dropped consumer confidence to near-historic lows, said Patti Silverstein, the chief economist of the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation.

Confidence should improve as the economy does in 2010, but the improvement will be slow, Silverstein said.

"The recession from a technical standpoint probably ended in the third quarter of the last fiscal year," she said. "We will keep moving out of the recession but at an anemic pace."

Denver-Aurora makes top 10 for safety recently named Denver-Aurora 10th on its list of America’s 10 Safest Cities.

The magazine compared the country’s 40 biggest metropolitan statistical areas across four categories of danger – violent crime rates according to the 2008 FBI uniform crime report; workplace death rates in 2008 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; traffic death rates in 2008 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; and natural disaster risk, using rankings from green-living site
Denver-Aurora, population 2.5 million, tied with Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, Ohio, for 10th place with a total score of 59.

Here’s a look of the top 10 and how they scored in the different safety-factor categories:

Tax-credit extension: now is time to buy

Existing homebuyers now have a rare opportunity to sell their current homes and get a break on an upgrade under the latest extension of the homebuyer tax credit.

Not only has Congress extended through May 1 its $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers (who haven’t owned a home in at least three years), it has included a $6,500 tax credit for those who have lived in their homes for five years or more and looking to move up.

Buyers are subject to income limits. And to qualify, they have to sign purchase agreements before April 30 and close before July 1.

If people are interested they should consider buying now, because the rumor among real estate professionals is that interest rates will go up around March 2010, when the federal government stops directly buying mortgages.

The credit is available for the purchase of principal homes costing $800,000 or less, meaning vacation homes are ineligible. The credit would be phased out for individuals with annual incomes above $125,000 and for joint filers with incomes above $225,000.

The hope is that by expanding the tax credit time limit as well as to whom it’s offered will help stabilize housing markets during what is normally a slow season of the year for home sales.

Today, many would-be buyers are still worried that home values could drop further, Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, told the Associated Press.

"Once the consumer fear factor disappears, then housing can move into a sustainable recovery," Yun says. "I think we will be there by the middle of next year."

Yun says the tax credit has helped to increase demand and reduce inventory, enabling sellers to get higher prices than they would have otherwise.

About 1.4 million first-time homebuyers had qualified for the credit through August, according to the Associated Press. The National Association of Realtors estimates that 350,000 of those buyers would not have purchased their homes without the credit.