Gary E. Lenker, Vice President of Donco Construction Inc. in Dauphin, PA has been appointed to the Board of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA). Gary is a Life Director of the Pennsylvania Builders Association (PBA), serving as its President in 1991, and having previously been awarded the organization’s Distinguished Achievement and Builder of the Year Awards.
The 14 members of the Board of PHFA set policy and oversee the organization's operations. Four members are named to the Board by the majority and minority leaders of the State Senate and House of Representatives. Six members are private citizens and appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate. The other remaining members include the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Banking and Securities, Secretary of Community and Economic Development, Secretary of Human Services, and the State Treasurer.
In addition to his role as V.P. of Donco Construction, Gary also serves as Executive Director of the Tri-County Housing Development Corporation, a not-for-profit Certified Community Housing Development Organization that serves the City of Harrisburg, Dauphin, Cumberland, and Perry Counties. He also serves on the Dauphin County Redevelopment Authority, Land Bank, Affordable Housing Trust Fund Board, and Dauphin County Planning Commission.
Gary served as President of the Home Builders Association of Metro Harrisburg on multiple occasions and is a Senior Life Director of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a Vice Chairman of NAHB’s Housing Finance Committee.
Leadership, Credibility, Prestige: The Value of Designations
One of the many advantages of belonging to the Pennsylvania Builders Association as part of the 3-in-1 membership is the readily available . The NAHB Education Program offers professional development designations to building industry professionals that enhance their business savvy, broaden their areas of expertise, and increase their marketability. In today’s growing housing market, what better way to get ahead or maintain your edge on the competition than a professional designation? Designations can lead to higher income, increased credibility, and prestige for members and their companies.
Holding a professional designation indicates that the designee is up to speed on the latest developments in business, building methods, and technology while showing clients they have the know-how and dedication to earn a professional designation. Potential clients can use designations to help identify and select professionals with superior training, real-world experience, in-depth knowledge of their afield, and a commitment to continuous improvement. Designees are listed in The Professional Designation Directory on nahb.org, making their contact info easily accessible to consumers.
Students develop a nationwide network of colleagues that they consistently can use as sounding boards for challenges and ideas long after their courses have concluded. This chance to network with so many fellow industry pros often brings people back to obtain more designations.
“A designation requires us to study and learn more about our industry. It says to our clients, I am continually improving myself as an industry professional by studying the best practices of our national industry,” says Kert Sloan, PBA President and holder of the Certified Graduate Remodeler, Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, and Certified Green Professional designations. “It also says that I am using that knowledge gained from the collective experience of our industry to give my clients a better end-result in their project."
NAHB’s commitment to offering industry professionals the best, the most-extensive continuing education program is evident in the diverse array of programs.
Through NAHB Education, industry pros can earn professional designations in any one of 13 areas. Get more information on specific designations at nahb.org/designations.
· Certified Graduate Associate (CGA): Developed specifically for NAHB associate members (including suppliers of materials and financial services), the CGA program offers participants an opportunity to enhance their knowledge of home building industry fundamentals.
· Certified Graduate Builder (CGB): An overview of key areas in today’s home building industry, the CGB curriculum covers business management, financial strategies, marketing techniques, construction technologies, and more.
· Graduate Master Builder (GMB): The GMB program allows industry professionals who already have completed either the Certified Graduate Builder or the Certified Graduate Remodelor course to more fully develop their skills and provides in-depth instruction geared for experienced building professionals.
· Certified Green Professional™ (CGP): NAHB’s CGP designation teaches builders, remodelers, and other industry professionals techniques for incorporating green building principles into homes—without driving up the cost of construction.
· Master Certified Green Professional (Master CGP): The Master CGP designation comprises a more in-depth study of green building science and methods. The courses required for the designation cover topics like building science techniques, the high-performance home, and marketing strategies for selling green.
· Certified Graduate RemodelerTM (CGR): An exclusive professional designation that emphasizes business management skills as the key to a professional remodeling operation, the CGR designation trains remodelers in project management, design estimating and job cost, along with other core skills relevant to the remodeling industry.
· Graduate Master Remodeler (GMR): The GMR program includes advanced and updated courses geared toward experienced remodeling professionals.
· Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS): Developed by NAHB Remodelers in collaboration with the AARP, NAHB Research Center and NAHB 50+ Housing Council, the CAPS program provides comprehensive, practical, market-specific information about working with older and maturing adults to remodel their homes for aging-in-place.
· Certified New Home Sales Professional (CSP): The CSP program is designed to help specialists in new home sales to enhance their professional image, increase their marketability in the home building industry, and sell more homes.
· Master Certified New Home Sales Professional (Master CSP): A more advanced designation that acknowledges additional educational achievements of CSP graduates, the Master CSP program is open to professionals currently holding a CSP designation. Advanced courses such as “House Construction as a Selling Tool” and “Essential Closing Strategies” are targeted toward improving participants’ sales and marketing skills and providing increased marketability in the industry.
· Certified New Home Marketing Professional (CMP): IRM’s mid-level professional designation, the CMP program recognizes the achievements of students who have completed four marketing-intensive core IRM courses: “Understanding Housing Markets and Consumers;” “Marketing Strategies, Plans, and Budgets;” “Lifestyle Merchandising, Advertising, and Promotion Strategies;” and “Challenges of New Home Sales Management.”
· Master in Residential Marketing (MIRM): The most prestigious designation bestowed by the Institute of Residential Marketing, the MIRM represents the highest level of achievement for professionals in new home marketing. MIRM graduates are required to complete all mandated coursework and submit a case study for approval before graduating from the program.
· Housing Credit Certified Professional (HCCP): A specialized designation for developers, property managers, asset managers, and others working in the affordable housing industry, the HCCP program is the industry benchmark for education, experience, and ethical standards for Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) professionals. The HCCP designation is the only nationally endorsed credential of its kind and was created through a partnership of NAHB and the National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA).
There are 55,464 graduates of NAHB’s Designation Programs nationwide, and in 2017, more than 500 NAHB Education courses were offered to its members. NAHB Education is an extremely valuable tool that savvy contractors, remodelers, and associates know will boost their careers and business.
Click here to view Ray’s full obituary.
Tax Reform & Housing Seminar
Members gathered the afternoon of February 23 for a seminar entitled “Tax Reform & Housing” moderated by NAHB’s Chief Lobbyist Jim Tobin. Jim provided a glimpse into the negotiations surrounding the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 highlighted how the legislation is and will continue to affect Pennsylvania housing.
PBA 2018 Installation & Awards Gala Reception
PBA 2017 Builder Awards
PBA presented five major awards to builders, members, and local associations during its Installation & Awards Banquet at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Reading on February 23. The awards were presented to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of PBA’s members and local associations.
Awards presented were: Distinguished Achievement Award – Loudon “Hap” Campbell; Builder of the Year Award – Dion McMullen; Hammer & Gavels Award – Betsy Dupuis; Best Community Service Project Award - Lebanon County & Landmark Homes; and the Builder & Shaker Award – Rich Carroll.
Also during the gala reception, PBA installed its slate of officers for 2018, including new President, Kert Sloan of HBA Berks County. Other senior leadership inductions included Maria Coutts from Wayne-Pike BA as Vice President, PBA Treasurer Joseph Harcum (also from Wayne-Pike), Jon Sukonik from the HBA of Bucks/Montgomery as Secretary and Betsy Dupuis, BA of Central PA, as Associate Vice President. NAHB Chairman Randy Noel installed the officers including Regional Vice Presidents and Regional Legislative Officers from each of PBA’s eight regions.
The newest event for PBA’s Winter Board Meeting was the Pennsylvania Foundation for Housing’s silent auction held during the Gala & Installation Reception. The event raised over $6,000 to underwrite student scholarships and other programs through PBA’s Endorsed Trade Program.
PBA was honored to have several prominent guests in attendance during the Winter 2018 Board Meeting, including NAHB 2018 Chair Randy Noel. Other VIP’s included Jim Tobin, NAHB EVP for Government Affairs, 2012 NAHB Remodeler Council Chair Geep Moore, 2018 PA Association of Realtors (PAR) President Todd Umbenhauer, PAR CEO Michael McGee, State Rep. Thomas Caltigirone (127th), State Rep. Mark Gillen (128th), State Rep. Barry Jozwiak (5th), State Rep. David Maloney (130th), and Berks County Commissioner Christian Linebach.
Finally, a huge thank you to our partners EK McConkey, and BDX for networking with our members and assisting them with questions over the weekend. We also thank the law office of Eckert Seamans for its sponsorship of the Reception.
PBA Summer 2018 Board Meeting
Mark your calendar for the next Board of Directors Meeting on August 4, 2018, at the Nittany Lion Inn – State College, PA. We look forward to seeing you there!
Owning and operating a residential construction/remodeling company requires a lot of time and energy. Between managing your employees, getting projects set up, keeping the books up-to-date takes a herculean effort all by themselves. Even though marketing may be far down on your list of priorities, those efforts can be the difference between success and failure.
Establish Yourself as a Niche Specialist
Research shows that businesses with a specific niche in the market are best for generating buzz. From a strategic business sense, having a niche can streamline operations, finances, and productivity. Niche expertise wins over a commoditized generalist because your expertise means you’re a safer bet than someone cheaper. You can promote your niche via thought leadership (blog, presentations, articles, etc.). For construction companies, this might mean marketing yourself as a specialist in historical residences or a specialist in floor or plumbing installation instead of as a genera
Create a Brand Strategy
Your brand is your reputation. It is all about building the perception of who you are in the minds of your customers and telling them who you are. The construction industry is highly competitive and it’s essential to build a strong reputation that people will trust to get the job done. Whether you are starting from scratch, or getting a brand refresh, it’s important to take the time to create a strong brand that your customers will recognize. Most important - incorporating an arresting logo and color scheme will help attract the right kind of clients by giving continuity to your various business components.
Show Customers you’re Cutting-Edge
Savvy potential customers are looking for companies that are forward-looking and contemporary. In the construction field, that means appearing up-to-date with the latest building methods and products. Using proven marketing methods like websites, so
Using visual media like photos and video (from you or industry-associations like NAHB) to showcase past projects and educate potential clients about contemporary building and renovation techniques can instill confidence that you’re an industry leader and gives you the opportunity to show some personality. Use those same photos or videos to show current progress on a job. It will assure clients that your company is all about action, progress, and hardworking people while providing fresh content for your website and social media pages.
Use Non-Competing Businesses for Referrals
We all know the importance of referrals in the building industry. They are touted as the number one factor in potential clients selecting one company over another. One of the best sources of referrals comes not from other customers, but other businesses that sell to the same target customer. Non-competing businesses like sub-contractors, electricians, plumbers, and architects are great sources for continual referrals. How about the local paint or hardware store? Consider investing some of your precious time to engage these non-competing industry colleagues and business peers to form a mutual referral network.
Community Engagement for New Customers
Do you want to do good works and grow your business at the same time? Working in your local community with organizations that showcase your company’s construction skills like Habitat for Humanity will build awareness in the community, bring you like-minded do-gooder prospects, and create feel-good stories you can share on your marketing platforms like social media.
Ask your crew and their families to join you to create a team-building-building exercise! Other potential promotional prospects to showcase your philanthropy include your local newspaper or television stations, which could generate free publicity and more recognition. Finally, your company’s marketing materials and “about us” will have timely examples of your generosity.
Get Listed in a Directory
We all know about the internet as a tool for potential home buyers and remodelers. Studies show that unless they have a specific company in mind, they’ll end up at directories such as Angie’s List or Home Advisor to help them find construction companies in their area. Your company must be on those sites and have a complete and up-to-date online presence. Your content should be direct and compelling enough to want the potential customer to check you out for more information.
Solicit Customer Reviews
One practical marketing strategy is to solicit reviews of your work online through the aforementioned Angie’s List and Home Advisor, and among others like Yelp and Google. Positive word-of-mouth is one of the major drivers of business for construction companies. Because home building and remodeling projects can be time-consuming and expensive, using online reviews of happy customers alleviate doubt in prospects. The downside to these types of platforms is potential negative reviews. However, monitoring these sites diligently, and using one of the many cost-effective reputation management programs can stop negative reviews from harming your brand.
Host a Reception
Set up a dinner and cocktail reception for your current or former clients and encourage them to bring their friends along. Use a fun theme like the first day of spring or Independence Day to create some buzz. Add some kid-friendly games and rides to attract families. Offer giveaways and raffles to sweeten the attendance pot. Have the local radio station do a remote broadcast, or have your reception within a larger festival or community event.
Use your PBA Membership
The last but not least idea on this list is to reach out to your local, state, and national building membership organizations for helpful ideas and tools. Your local builders association will have a pulse on what’s happening in the market and can direct you to those non-competitive referrals and other groups to network with. The PA Builders Association has an opportunity to list your business in its directory and provides many member-benefit programs, some of which help members market their services. Finally, NAHB provides some excellent marketing materials for their members to use and has great content for your social media pages like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.
Yet with all this residential housing growth, both in new construction and renovations as younger buyers start to buy rather than rent, the industry continues to suffer significant shortages in skilled workers in all phases of development and construction.
The lack of skilled professionals in the industry is now a recognized economic problem and one point of concern for future growth. An Associated General Contractors’ survey shows that 75% of firms expect to add headcount this year and that 78% of them are having trouble finding qualified workers. In addition, 82% of firms expect it to remain difficult, or get even harder, to find and hire qualified workers in 2018.
Indeed, according to the Master Builders' Association of Western Pennsylvania, their members expect they will need to replace 41,000 retiring workers - about 40 percent of that area's construction workforce in the next five years, in addition to accounting for new industry growth.
Employers in the Industry
Employment in the residential construction industry is usually categorized into three broad categories. Within each category, there are dozens of specialties involved as full-time employees, contractors, and sub-contractors.
Employers are broadly categorized as:
Where’s the Growth
It’s true that most jobs within the residential construction industry are experiencing a labor shortage. However, those that are looking to enter the construction field, and according to Pennsylvania and U.S. government statistics, these are the most in-demand and fastest-growing careers:
Construction or Project Manager
Construction managers oversee the overall construction project. They act as an interface between the owners or architects and the construction workers. They take responsibility for the day-to-day work and report back on progress, costs, and issues. According to a recent ACG of America survey, 82% of Pennsylvania construction firms are in need of construction and/or project managers.
Construction Equipment Operators
Construction equipment operators use a wide range of equipment at job sites: bulldozers, road graders, trench excavators and more. Operating engineers typically learn through on-the-job training, apprenticeship programs, and union sponsorships.
According to the same ACG of America survey mentioned above, 90% of Pennsylvania construction companies find these positions difficult to fill.
Solar Photovoltaic InstallersAs the U.S. moves away from fossil fuels, solar energy has become more efficient and cost-effective to deploy in homes. Solar Photovoltaic Installers focus on the installation and maintenance of solar panels. Specialized training is necessary to become proficient at this vocation. It’s expected that the number of jobs in this field will double through 2026.
Construction laborers are in demand across the entire construction industry – both residential and commercial. Typically this is the “grunt work” at a construction site, including digging trenches, operating or tending machines such as concrete mixers, loading and unloading materials, and cleaning or preparing a site before and after construction.
Information from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry shows brick masons and block masons within the laborer category are two of the fastest growing jobs in the Commonwealth – projecting 33% growth over the next five years.
Two notable programs in Pennsylvania are attempting to stem-the-tide of these losses in the industry and reignite the pipeline of skilled construction professionals available to contractors.
Pennsylvania’s Department of Labor & Industry’s Apprenticeship and Training Office (ATO) recently added five new apprenticeship programs and two new apprenticeship occupations to its list of approved apprenticeship programs. In just two years, ATO has added 1,714 new apprentices and 66 new registered apprenticeship occupations statewide.
The Pennsylvania Builders Association (PBA) sponsors its Endorsed Trade Program that awards hundreds of students an advanced trade certification in collaboration with trade schools around Pennsylvania in fields such as building construction, cabinetry, HVAC, masonry, and plumbing. Students who complete the PBA-certified program are then tested and receive their accreditation - providing reassurance to builders and potential employers they are well-prepared for work with a residential construction company.
Pennsylvania student chapters of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) including Penn State University and Penn College of Technology were award-winners at the 2018 NAHB International Builders’ Show Student Competition on January 10, 2018, at the International Builders Show (IBS) in Orlando, FL. The Penn State NAHB Student Chapter won first place in the four-year college category entitled Residential Construction Management Competition. Penn College of Technology was awarded third place in the two-year college classification.
The Pennsylvania real estate market saw a significant increase in younger buyers in 2017, coupled with reports of first-time home buyer demand surging nationally overall means strong building growth in the Commonwealth for the first part of 2018.
Causes of this upswing include supply shortages, especially in markets like Philadelphia that make homes less affordable, reducing incentives to existing homeowners who want to upgrade. Millennium buyers cite expanding families, needing more space and relocation as their primary reasons for buying a home in recent surveys from the PA Realtors Association. Finally, recent home buyers surveyed said being tired of renting was their primary reason for buying.
Strong economies in Pennsylvania in areas like high-tech hubs Philadelphia and Pittsburgh along with growing transportation hubs like Allentown and York are contributing to the overall youthful trend and away from second or third-time home buyers that trend older.
The biggest trend that nearly all home builders are catering to is the demand for energy efficiency. Today’s home buyers are in tune with the need for a greener and more efficient home that helps them save money on their utility bills each month. Home designers and architects are working together to create layouts that utilize sustainable materials, natural light, and renewable energy sources to keep costs down for purchasers over time.
Another trend maintaining its popularity is the open floor plan. Families today prefer a home design that is less closed off and more open. Instead of separated rooms, such as the kitchen, living room and dining room, buyers today want a large open great room that performs all of these functions. This way, families can be together and spend more time with each other.
Smart homes are also evolving in their popularity and design. Homeowners today can opt for smart appliances that connect to their phone via mobile technology. Additionally, home builders are using technology to help keep homes connected and comfortable with climate control, security, and other essential features.
Homebuilders across the country are also focusing more on formal outdoor spaces. Instead of simply leaving it up to the homebuyer to figure out, more new construction plans are creating extensive outdoor gathering areas for buyers to enjoy.
Finally, for those interested in the finer details, look for design accents like bucket sinks, concrete accents, and brass décor.
The PA Builders Association is marking the end of 2017 with an end-of-year summary of important happenings in the Pennsylvania residential housing industry and within PBA. Now we look forward to an exciting 2018!
The PBA Fall Board Meeting in Hershey, PA on October 28 saw the unanimous election of 2018’s slate of officers, including incoming PBA President Kert Sloan, VP Maria Coutts, Secretary Jon Sukonik, Treasurer Joe Harcum, and Associate Vice President Betsy Dupuis. PBA also welcomed its roster of newly appointed Regional VP’s and Regional Legislative Officers. Pictured: 2018 PBA President Kert Sloan.
Governor Signs PA Builder Legislation to Fix Building Code Adoption Process
On October 25, Governor Wolf signed House Bill 409 - PBA's long-awaited reforms and updates to the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code (PA UCC). Act 36 of 2017 extensively revises the code review process undertaken by the Department of Labor and Industry's Review and Advisory Council (RAC) for future updates.
NAHB Building Systems Housing Summit
The 2017 Building Systems Housing Summit came to the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, PA from October 8 – 10. Hundreds of attendees from around the country gathered to learn about emerging trends in the systems-built housing industry. The summit also allowed for guests to network with builders, manufacturers, and suppliers of log, timber frame, modular, panelized and concrete homes.
BUILD-PAC Trustees Reception
The home of Steve and Jen Black in Elizabethtown, PA hosted a cocktail reception of the members and invited guests of the Pennsylvania BUILD-PAC Trustees on Wednesday, August 23.
Guests included Rep. Patrick Meehan (PA 7), Rep. Charlie Dent (PA 15), Rep. Lloyd Smucker (PA 16), and Rep. Scott Perry (PA 4).
BUILD-PAC, or Builders United in Legislative Decisions Political Action Committee, is the political arm of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). It helps elect pro-housing, pro-business candidates to federal office.
PBA Grassroots in Action
On June 14, PBA members gathered at the 2017 NAHB Legislative Conference and Midyear Board of Directors Meeting in Washington, DC to discuss issues vital to the home building industry. After a morning briefing on legislative issues, dozens of our members visited Capitol Hill offices to meet with Pennsylvania representatives. In total, NAHB members conducted over 250 meetings, conveying the importance of the issues currently facing the home building industry.
PBA Awards 772 Endorsed Trade Program Student Certificates
PBA awarded 772 students their certification from the PBA Endorsed Trade Program for the 2016-2017 school year in June. The program currently includes 111 technical programs from 28 different trade schools throughout the Commonwealth.
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