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REGIONALREPORT Charlotte

App-etite for construction

 When Julian Clayton was a kid, the family computer was so heavy and bulky that the only place to put it was the granite countertop of a bar in the basement. Now, his company’s future is tied to a device that weighs less than 2 pounds.

Clayton, 37, is vice president of research and technology at Salisbury-based Crescent Construction Services LLC, which inspects building sites. After business slowed during the recession, he thought it could save money and manpower by using the latest technology. As soon as the iPad came out in 2010, all of its 15 employees got one. He developed mobile applications — apps — compatible with Apple Inc.’s tablet that streamlined inspections and, in doing so, created a new revenue stream.

His PunchList app digitizes blueprints and allows inspectors to make notes on them at construction sites. In seconds, these can be sent to clients, erasing hours of paperwork. “Any plumber can stick a camera down a sewer line and tell you if something’s wrong,” President Traci Williams says. “It’s the way we do it and the way we report it that makes us different.”

The company isn’t keeping its app to itself. In less than a year nearly 6,000 have been sold on Apple’s App Store website. Foresters building a park in California are using it for drainage issues, as are fire marshals determining where smoke detectors should be installed. Clayton developed a version for New Jersey-based Skanska USA Building Inc., which is helping rebuild the World Trade Center complex. In all, he has made seven customized apps, priced from $5,000 to $35,000 depending on customer specifications.

The company would not disclose revenue, but its profit margin has increased 37% since the iPad was released. Inspections still generate the bulk of its revenue, but that could change, Clayton says. After all, the worldwide market for apps is expected to reach $4 billion this year, up from about $1 billion in 2009.

Briefs

CHARLOTTE— Bank of America plans to lay off about 30,000 employees — a little more than 10% of its workforce — during the next few years as part of an effort to reduce expenses by $5 billion annually. It didn’t say how many of its 15,000 local workers would be let go. The company also will close an unspecified number of branches and institute a $5 monthly fee for debit-card customers. In an unrelated matter, BofA promoted Tom Montag, who led global banking and markets, and David Darnell, the former head of global commercial banking, to co-chief operating officers

MATTHEWS — New York hedge fund Trian Management withdrew its $7.6 billion hostile bid to buy discount retailer Family Dollar Stores. In return, Family Dollar appointed Ed Garden, Trian’s chief investment officer, to its board.

CHARLOTTENorth American Financial Holdings completed its sixth acquisition. The bank holding company, based in Miami but led by two former Bank of America executives who live here, invested $217 million in Greeneville, Tenn.-based Green Bankshares and merged it into its Capital Bank subsidiary, based in Raleigh.

CHARLOTTE — After five years in the position, O. Edwin French, 64, retired as CEO of MedCath, which builds and operates heart hospitals. Chief Financial Officer Art Parker, 46, replaced him. The company also sold two of its remaining four hospitals after shareholders approved a plan to divest assets and dissolve.

KANNAPOLIS — The N.C. Research Campus named former N.C. State University Chancellor James Oblinger president of the David H. Murdock Research Institute. He replaces Michael Luther, who resigned in June but is still on the staff as a business-development officer.

CHARLOTTE — Apparel retailer Cato launched an upscale accessories store here. Versona Accessories sells jewelry, handbags and shoes. It will open Versona stores in Columbia, S.C., Baton Rouge, La., and Louisville, Ky.