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Cleveland HBA ensures an exciting 2012 for homeowners and builders

Next year will be an exciting year for homeowners, builders and contractors in Northeast Ohio. With the induction of the Home Builders Association of Greater Cleveland’s 2012 Board of Directors, some very exciting initiatives are on the horizon to promote home ownership and help builders and contractors achieve excellence in their trade.  The 2012 Board of Directors  On December 9, the following industry leaders were inducted into the 2012 Board of Directors: • President: Enzo Perfetto, manager of Enzoco Homes in Munson. • Vice President: George Davis, owner of ProBuilt Homes in Mentor. • Treasurer: Rick Colwell, owner of Little Mountain Homes in Painesville. • Secretary: Mike Payne, vice president of operations for Payne & Payne Builders in Munson. The home building industry According to Perfetto, every home that is built typically utilizes 150 to 170 individual tradesmen and women in various capacities. Whether they are excavators, surveyors, individuals who clear the land, or masons, they have a pretty significant impact on the local economy. When you multiply that number by the number of homes that are being built in Northeast Ohio and across the United States, it has a significant impact on the national economy. And that does not include the dollars that are spent on work trucks, boots, work tools, meals, and more that the tradespeople spend while they are on the job. There’s also all of the factory workers who make products for the home, as well as the shippers who ensure delivery of the goods. In the end, it has a huge economic impact. Perfetto does feel that the economy and home building industry is beginning to turn.  “Barring any major occurrences overseas, it’s a typical recovery of the economy. Because Northeast Ohio and Ohio went into it first, I think that we will work our way out of it first. In some instances, you are seeing that already. If you talk to local builders, many have a good handful of homes that are under construction and that are in the pipeline. “A lot of great things are happening in Cleveland. From the Casino to the Aquarium and more, there are signs of life. People are investing in downtown. And every time the nucleus grows, which is Cleveland, it’s eventually going to have an impact on the suburbs where we do our building. I think that Cleveland’s leadership is on the right track. “One of the real assets that Cleveland has is its access to fresh water. It’s something that so many people take for granted. The fact that we have Lake Erie is so valuable and rare. There are states in the Midwest that pay exorbitant fees for fresh water. On a geographical level, we have a great advantage here,” he said. “It’s also interesting to know that Ohio is the seventh most populated state in the United States.  We have a great population.  And, Ohio is within 500 miles of roughly 60 percent of the country’s population and manufacturing areas.  Because Interstate 90 runs through the state, we have one of the highest rates of travel through the state as compared to other states. Geographically, we are well positioned,” he said.  Perfetto said that there is a lot of enthusiasm by builders who are putting together land packages of available lots, and the builders are looking forward to the future. 2012 Initiatives According to Perfetto, the HBA wants to be a conduit for builders and the general public in 2012.  “If builders and the public have questions about the direction of the economy and building, we want to be their information source. It really is going to be a week-by-week, month-by-month analysis of where we are going. We want to make sure that the HBA is a very unbiased accurate voice, based on quantitative data, of what is going on,” indicated Perfetto. Education According to Perfetto, one of the areas of focus for the Cleveland HBA in 2012 will be to raise the level of awareness about educational offerings for the construction industry. “Whether we are talking about brick layers, electricians, plumbers, or general contractors, we want to address their needs. What we are seeing is a big void in high schools and colleges of degrees and formal education for home building. It’s such an important part of our economy,” said Perfetto. “I started by being in business with my parents, who basically started like most small building companies. They took a chance, put up a home, sold it, and started another one. That was the inception of many small building companies. But what about the young men and women who aren’t from a building family? How do they learn the business and a trade?” According to Perfetto, the HBA is reaching out to some of the vocational schools and colleges that lean toward vocational education to partner and develop programming for the building industry.  “What we are seeing is that there are a lot of kids who want to go into the construction industry. In the next 10 to 15 years, there will be a dwindling pool of masons, carpenters, and skilled trades people because so much of the new generation is going into the service sector and white collar industries. But there is still a strong demand for tradesmen and women. We saw it at our recent Economic Forecast meeting. There were 18 Cleveland State University students in attendance who were very interested in pursuing an advanced degree in construction and home building. I had the opportunity to talk to some of these students, and they were really interested in both home building and the direction that the HBA was going in terms of political involvement and more,” said Perfetto.  Student HBA membership The Cleveland HBA is currently working to establish a student membership program. For a reduced fee, students will be quasi members and be able to sit in on educational programs and more.  “This is extremely relevant given the Green Movement and all of the new Green technology that is emerging in the industry,” he said. “Our goal is to get the students involved and to try to pique their interest.”  The focus is on students who have an interest in the housing industry, not just home building. That includes overall and regional development, construction, political advocacy, finance, and more. Advocacy The real strength of the HBA, according to Perfetto, is what goes on behind the scenes at the local, state and national level. “There are constant threats against our industry. It could be lobbyists from the other side who want to put restrictions on development or home building. It could be manufacturers who come out with new products. They may feel that a way of getting their product implemented into construction is to go the political route and say that a given product is mandated or needed,” indicated Perfetto. “We try to keep a balance. We say, ‘We are open to new ideas, but give our side a chance to analyze whether this product is needed or imperative to make homes better.’” All of this goes on behind the scenes, according to Perfetto, and this is where the HBA is integral in serving as a voice for both the industry and consumers.  The Cleveland HBA’s board takes trips to Columbus and Washington, D.C. every year to talk to both state and national representatives about the state of the home building industry. “You have to be actively engaged and hands on,” he said.  According to Perfetto, the rhetoric is starting to pick back up and legislators are starting to focus more on getting housing going again. “The political debates are starting to focus on housing because it has such an impact. Fifty percent of our Gross Domestic Product is fueled by new home construction. It’s huge. We’ve always had a regular attrition process of about 1.3 million homes a year nationally, whether that’s through homes that become obsolete or new family formations. Northeast Ohio has been under 500,000 homes for about the last five years. It’s just natural to assume that this ground swell of demand will eventually pick up, but it has a lot to do with the economy,” Perfetto indicated. “Doing Business with an HBA Member” The 2012 mantra of the HBA is “Doing Business with an HBA Member.” “Back in the early days, when my Mom and Dad ran the business, it was unheard of to be in the homebuilding business, whether you were a title company or a supplier, and not be a member of the local Home Builders Association. As the market slowed down, that focus kind of changed. What I really want to do is rekindle that awareness that it is very important to be a member. There are benefits from a local, state and national level that are integral to supporting the industry,” he indicated. Consumer initiatives The Cleveland HBA has a new and exciting event coming up in February at The Great Big Home & Garden Expo.  “The Cleveland HBA will have a large wing and we will have a great big kitchen and interactive theater room. We will also be raffling off an Extreme Home Renovation. That will be really exciting and it will be really interactive for the public. Consumers will see the latest products for 2012. It will raise the level of awareness of what the HBA is all about and the fact that we are here to educate the consumer on home building. It will be a great venue to meet builders and ask questions about building and warranties. It will be our kickoff for 2012 in terms of opening our doors up to the general public,” he said. The Cleveland HBA plans to offer educational seminars for consumers on home building.  “We want to have open houses that will feature a panel of experts on home building and remodeling. Home building is a daunting process. We do it everyday, but if you are on the other side of the fence, where do you begin? Our panel of builders will not be soliciting their services. They will be offering advice on how to go about building from picking a lot to selecting a builder, products, and more. It will be a forum where clients can talk directly to builders, but they don’t have to feel like they have to make a commitment because they are in a builder’s model,” said Perfetto. Moving forward Perfetto really feels that 2012 will be an exciting year for the Cleveland HBA.  “The past board and HBA team have done a phenomenal job. We are not going to be reinventing the wheel. We are going to take what they have in motion and enhance it to make it that much better. If the market holds up, we are really going to see a great 2012.”