Each year, the North Carolina Home Builders Association, (NCHBA), the Senior Officers and Staff conducts a meeting in each of the 10 regions of the state allowing local home builder leaders to gather together to learn more about what is going on at the state level and to discuss issues facing the local organizations in the home building industry. NCHBA has been conducting those regional meetings since the late 1990’s. North Carolina is the only State HBA in the country that does this.
In the past, the Senior Officers and Staff split the state in half. One group traveled west, and one group traveled east from Raleigh during a weeklong blitz of North Carolina. Each team held one meeting per day. The format had turned into basically a 90-minute lecture about the value of HBA membership and 30 minutes of the hot topics of the day. Usually, the hot topic was the same topic as the year before. There was so much to cover that there was little time for interaction among the participants.
Over the last three years, our Senior Officers, Brian Pace, Gary Embler, Alan Banks, all from the Charlotte area, Phil Warrick, from Greensboro, and Kathy Craven Snodgrass, of Winston Salem had been discussing ideas about how to revamp the regional meetings. The meetings had gotten a little stale and the attendance had dropped off. This year, our State President Alan Banks of Evans Coghill Homes in Charlotte challenged this year’s leadership and staff to take a different approach to the regional meetings. Alan wanted us to look at our message. What is our message? What do we do and why do we do it? More importantly, does anyone know what it is?
The message needed to be clearer, the HBA is so many things to many different people. When you ask 10 people about what does NCHBA do? After all, we do lots of things and offer many programs for our members. When you break it all down and clear out the membership benefits and programs, legislative efforts, lobbying efforts, networking opportunities, educational classes, and seminars, they all relate to the core principle of what we do. That core principle is to protect housing affordability. Not to protect affordable housing, but housing affordability. They are two different topics. Our legislative, lobbying, and Build Pac efforts, and everything else we do is done to protect housing affordability. The bottom line is that if the home builder’s associations do not protect housing affordability then no one will. That is the message.
How do we explain the message? What does it mean to protect housing affordability? Alan Banks knew exactly what that meant. Homebuilders don’t just build houses, condos, and apartments. We build incubators. Incubators help the family grow and flourish. Without homes, the family structure starts to break down. When the family structure breaks down, so do our communities. That’s why we do what we do.
How do we take that message to the members?
It needed to be consistent. The only way to keep the message consistent was to keep the entire Senior Officers and Staff together on the tour. That hadn’t been done before. None of us could be away from our businesses and stretch this out for two weeks by doing one meeting a day. Staff created a plan that allowed us to meet in Asheville on Sunday evening to make final preparations. We would do 2 meetings on Monday, Asheville, and Conover. There would be 3 on Tuesday, Rutherford College, Winston Salem, and Charlotte. Greensboro and Moore County were scheduled for Wednesday. Back to Raleigh for Thursday morning and on to Greenville Thursday afternoon. The final meeting would be held on Friday in Wallace. That was an aggressive schedule and was going to be difficult to coordinate. We all needed to stay at the same hotel, eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner together, and somehow squeeze in some time to take care of some of the more pressing items at home and work. Our Director of Membership Services, Maureen Mullin, pulled it off. She kept us on schedule, well fed, rested, so much so that the day after the Tour none of us knew what to eat and what we should do for a few hours.
What to name the Meeting?
The meeting needed a name. There never really was a name. It was the regional meeting and that stuck for a long time. If we are going to change things up, we needed to come up with a name. This was more than a lecture to the members about the value of membership. The people showing up to these meetings already knew a lot of what NCHBA did and had to offer. Alan said, This needed to be an experience. We needed to invite not only local HBA leadership but members of the community within the region as well. Mike Carpenter, NCHBA’s Executive Officer and Council, and Tim Minton, our Lobbyist, wanted to bring in a legislator to speak at each meeting. Let them tell us what they are working on and talk about the challenges they face. In turn, we can tell them what the home builders association is all about and why we do what it is that we do. What were we doing with the new format? We were talking about Home Building and why it should be the first thing on the mind of a legislator when they consider any legislation that could potentially affect the industry. How about Home Building First Tour? It sounded catchy and was appropriate for what we wanted to do.
How can we tell the audience about NCHBA in an informative, fun, relevant, and exciting way?
Tim Minton, Jeff Turner, our Communications Director, and Maureen Mullin came up with the idea of playing a version of the game show “Family Feud.” Who knew you could get the home powerpoint version of Family Feud. We would ask a few fun questions and a few questions of the audience about NCHBA and give them the opportunity to answer for prizes. Gary Embler, our immediate past President, had a very colorful, wild looking jacket, and is a very funny guy. He would be our “Steve Harvey.” It was one of the highlights of the program.
Build Pac Component:
Also, part of the original meetings was to ask for contributions to our political action committee. The housing industry is being constantly bombarded by outside forces including local, state, and the federal government that sees our industry to pay for their programs and policies. Our Build Pac contributions allow us to help pro-housing candidates get elected to public office. Candidates that we support must understand the importance of protecting housing affordability. The regional meetings had been a way to kick off our fundraising efforts each year for Build Pac, our political action committee. Real world, personal stories tend to put into perspective how important Build Pac is to the industry. Tim decided to tell his experience about buying his first house and how a $1,000.00 increase in the cost of building a home would have kept he and his wife from purchasing their first home to raise their family. That’s what NCHBA strives to protect daily.
We believe the new and improved “Home Building First Tour” was a success. Not only did we deliver a more consistent message, the number of participants was up by almost 75 new attendees and Build Pac contributions were up over 40% than the previous year. We are already looking forward to next year’s tour under the leadership of next year’s President Phil Warrick.