Local Construction Industry Adds New Leader

One of the most influential industry organizations in the region has new leadership. The Home Builders Association of the Grand Traverse Area (HBAGTA) recently hired Caroline Kennedy as its executive director. The TCBN caught up with Kennedy to get her thoughts about a construction industry on the rebound.

YOU’RE NEW IN THIS POSITION. WHAT’S YOUR BACKGROUND?
“I served 17 years with an award-winning association, the Michigan Municipal League, which represents city and village government statewide. I began my stint there as a lobbyist, having worked a previous 10 years on staff at the Michigan State Senate. More recently for the League I was the Manager of Field Operations, providing outreach services to 104 cities and villages in the Upper Peninsula and northern lower Michigan – including the five-county area I now serve for the Home Builders Association of the Grand Traverse Area. I have a master’s degree in public administration, a bachelor’s degree in the communications arts and an associate’s degree in business management that I attained right here at Northwestern Michigan College.”

WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU ABOUT THE POSITION OR ORGANIZATION IN YOUR FIRST SEVERAL WEEKS?
“I have to say that I have not come across anything too startling. I’m familiar with association work and the area; I did the research and this organization has phenomenal growth potential. Maybe if there is a “surprise” it’s that more companies within and related to the industry don’t fully realize what HBAGTA membership can do for them. A membership with HBAGTA more than pays for itself and most often, many times over. Providing this educational piece to non-members and recruitment will be a primary focus for us.”

WHAT IS THE HBAGTA’S MISSION?
“We are a professional association of industry leaders who are committed to excellence through our support of legislative, educational and economic initiatives to promote home ownership in our community.”

HOW IS THAT MISSION EVOLVING NOW?
“The association is expanding its outreach into the community. We would like to partner more with other community organizations. HBA is the imprimatur association for industry professionals. The association provides value to consumers who can be confident that our members are licensed, insured professionals. This, in turn, is a value to reputable builders and other professionals in the industry, and home builders can have a significant impact on a community. Quality housing, just like quality schools, is a key component of a healthy community. Our industry leaders are crafts people who strive to leave a legacy of which they can be proud, whether that means new individual residences, remodeling or multi-unit buildings.”

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST ISSUES FACING THE LOCAL CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY?
“A healthy, stable economy on the national, state and local levels is a key issue for the industry. The recent upswing is encouraging. Also, keeping pace with the changing demands of the key demographic groups – the baby boomers and the millennials – will be a challenge, but a good one. There’s a distinct shift in the lifestyles of these powerhouse population groups that needs to be accommodated. Green building and sustainable housing, often with a smaller footprint, with access to alternative modes of transportation and quality-of-life amenities are high on their list of priorities. We have an active Green Build Committee and others involved with new technologies and innovative practices.”
IT SEEMS LIKE FEAST OR FAMINE IN THIS MARKET. EITHER PEOPLE CAN’T FIND WORK, OR THEY CAN’T FIND LABOR BECAUSE THEY’RE SO BUSY. ANY SOLUTIONS?
“Training and retraining the workforce is a statewide priority. Working with high schools, vocational education and higher education institutions to promote the construction industry and train building professionals is essential. We need to cultivate a next generation of builders who understand these are valuable, lifelong skills and that the supply and demand market is driving up the income of the profession. As well, internships could provide more experience for the intern and significantly more value to the builder with some reasonable regulation revision.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE PARADE OF HOMES TO YOUR ORGANIZATION?
“There is no better way to sell a home or generate leads than the Parade of Homes. The number of homes in the Parade has varied over the years, depending on the economy. In the recent past, builders were not building spec homes, which were the genesis of the Parade. Timing then becomes a more significant factor of whether or not a home can be featured. Either it needs to be completed just prior to the Parade or a new homeowner must agree to allow the home to be featured.

Homeowners frequently will grant permission based on a strong relationship and respect for the builder. This year we also included developments in the Parade of Homes and I think you’ll see continuing interest in that. As the economy improves we expect to see an increase in spec homes again as well. From a community standpoint, there are certain groups who enjoy going every year and we would like to foster more of those groups. Also, what many people don’t realize is that the volunteer workers at the homes are volunteering on behalf of local charitable organizations which are paid by the HBAGTA for that volunteer work. It’s a wonderful partnership that provides us with a strong volunteer base and provides local charitable organizations with a modest cash benefit.”

HAVE AN EXAMPLE OF A MEMBER DOING GREAT THINGS?
“The HBAGTA recently honored Ryan McCoon of Endura Performance Homes as the 2014 HBA Humanitarian of the Year.

HBA GTA Board President Bill Packer presents builder Ryan McCoon with a humanitarian award.

HBAGTA Board President Bill Packer presents builder Ryan McCoon with a humanitarian award.

McCoon is recognized for his leadership, determination and dedication to the 21-family, net-zero Depot Neighborhood that is a partnership of the Habitat for Humanity-Grand Traverse Region and Homestretch Nonprofit Housing Corporation. Net-zero means the development will not consume more energy than it produces. A net-zero product requires a completely different kind of construction. The Depot Neighborhood is the only project of its kind in the state and there are only a handful of these projects in the country. This project is not only a personal triumph for McCoon, but a triumph for all the other partners involved and the Traverse City community. More importantly, it’s a blessing for real people.”

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