A Lesson on the Value of Membership

Filed in Codes and Standards, Membership by on December 10, 2014 1 Comment
Mari Smith

Mari Smith

Two Utah HBAs are demonstrating exactly why home builders are better off when they belong to their locals – because they’ll save money, time and aggravation on their jobs.

Mari Smith was a brand-new EO with a long-time problem: The members of the Southern Utah Home Builders Association were getting the runaround from the building department in one of the cities in her market area.

“The inspectors had attitudes that they were bothered by contractors, not willing to listen to find solutions that were win-win, imposed restrictions that did not make sense, and were taking advantage of contractors. They were not treating them like paying customers. Contractors could not contact inspectors and would have to wait all day for inspections, which resulted in much higher costs,” she said in an email to her fellow EOs.

Meetings with city staffers were getting them nowhere. “As a last resort, we requested a meeting with the building department, the city manager, and the entire city council and mayor. We worked hard to make sure we had a huge turnout and we had about 50 members at the meeting,” she said.

But Smith also knew that a roomful of frustrated contractors and city employees – who would likely be embarrassed by being called out in front of their bosses, “could have gone south very quickly.”

So she collected all the complaints and issues, sprinkled in a few complements, and read them at the meeting – along with the HBA’s recommendations on how to fix the problems.

“The meeting went extremely well and we received comments from city council members how appreciative they were that these issues were brought to their attention. Even the city representatives commented that it was a very productive meeting and were impressed with the number of people in attendance,” she said.

Soon after the meeting, Smith got a letter from the city “with bullet points of all the changes that will be implemented based on our recommendations,” she said, and the city invited the HBA’s participation to discuss the pluses and minuses of potential impact fees.

geri strand

Geri Strand

Geri Strand, EO for the Park City Area HBA, had a similar problem eight years ago as a newbie association leader. “I invited one key inspector to lunch who was willing to help me work things out between the contractors and inspectors,” she said.

The solution: Twelve city and county inspectors were invited to be panelists for a code update information class. More than 150 contractors attended. “It turned out great.  From that day on we have been holding an annual meeting with everyone where issues can be laid out and resolved,” she said.

Strand also offered complimentary HBA memberships to officials in the municipalities where her members do business. “They can see what our association does and can be up to speed with who we are and what we do. That too has helped a lot,” she said.

“This is what being an association is all about,” said Smith, “Having a group of people come together to resolve issues more effectively than doing it alone.”

Now, she’s working on a letter to send to builders and remodelers in her market area who are not yet members. “We want to show them we work together to resolve issues,” she said. “Our goal is to represent the contractors, but yet maintain a good working relationship with our local municipalities so we can have continued success long-term.”


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  1. Robin Ward says:

    Our Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Cape Cod attends the Southeastern Building Official’s monthly meetings. We can bring up issues that we might be having, but also we can get answers to questions concerning the code. It’s funny to hear the responses to the questions–we can get various answers from the officials.

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