A Letter from 2009 COHBA President Jeff Click
December 14, 2009
As my term as 2009 COHBA President ends this week, I thought it would be meaningful to provide you with a reflective account of the year.
While my remarks are lengthy, I believe you will find them an eye-opening tribute to what the most challenging year of our industry's history has pushed us to achieve as an organization. I implore anyone who takes seriously his or her membership in our Association and industry to take time to read this in its entirety and reflect on how both blessed and challenged our Association and industry is.
When I was invited to join "The Ladder" of the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association 4 years ago, it was a time when there was more wind in the sails of business than most of us could handle. The tide was riding high enough that ordinary troubles seemed to be drowned in the sea of prosperity upon which we were nearly all floating. As we made our way into 2006 and 2007, dark skies began to emerge on the horizon, and by 2008, the waters were too rough for many to stay afloat. As the tide receded through 2009, what has come to be known as the largest downturn in the housing market's history has left some treading water, washed ashore, or shipwrecked altogether.
Amidst the earlier, better times, as I learned the ropes of COHBA leadership, it was tempting to entertain grandiose ideas of vast improvement and sweeping change. But as I observed how COHBA functioned and learned more about how it came to be what it is, I realized that COHBA is an enormous vessel with a very small rudder. It's not a vessel in which one can take the wheel and make sudden turns. As my time at the helm drew near, it also became painfully obvious that 2009 would not be a year for a little intentional wave-making. The waves were already big enough.
The irony is that while we couldn't load this COHBA ship with a new cargo of weighty ideas, it was the unloading of certain cargo that liberated us to find new ways to insure that we could stay afloat and implement many of those ideas originally planned. In looking back on 2009, many important achievements were recognized:
1) The modernization of Association communication, beginning with the weekly Monday Morning Update. Electronic communication this year has saved COHBA tens of thousands of dollars through regular dissemination of Association news and updates. It also facilitated weekly run-downs of up-coming events, which helped bolster attendance and participation throughout the year.
Our electronic initiatives are merely in "phase 1" and will continue to be developed through our next President's term and beyond, with my commitment to personally see the plan through so long as it is desired by the Association.
2) The complete re-organization of the annual Parade of Homes event, which led to a new model of fund- raising, freeing the Association from the risk of debt or the burden of selling feature homes, all of which we are now free of. This year's Parade of Homes committee, led by Todd Ehlers, and Co-Chaired by Steve Allen, were faced with the difficult task of re- engineering an event that had proven successful for years, but was no longer the proper model moving forward. The committee's performance led to a successful and important fundraising event for COHBA.
3) The addition of a specialized staff member, Government Affairs Liaison John Keefe, who capably represents our industry's interests with the municipalities over which we hold jurisdiction, as well as the utility companies we work with. With John's help, COHBA Leadership successfully reached understandings relating to charges developers and builders were facing for certain utility improvements to projects, along with numerous other code, regulatory, and policy issues that, if not addressed, would have hindered and/or made it more costly to do business.
4) The continued development of pro-active public and media relations strategy, with a record number of press releases, feature stories in various news papers, and countless interviews and magazine news stories that resulted from our efforts. With continued guidance from Preston Moon and his firm, Mason & Moon, our Parade of Homes and Bricktown Home & Garden Festival captured for the first time in recent history, 3 consecutive weeks of Feature coverage in The Oklahoman's Real Estate section.
Additionally, our Association led the movement among the State's Associations in building a presence in the social media realm, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. In tandem with our electronic initiatives previously cited, I commit to continued involvement in developing our public, media, and social relations strategy to build influence in the community and beyond.
5) The challenge of learning how to do selectively more, or as much, with less. As membership levels contracted, so did the Association's revenue levels. This meant that Leadership was forced to make wise cuts in spending, which was meticulously executed by our able staff. The frequency of committee and council meetings and events were reduced, while other superfluous activities and spending were curtailed. Our staff, led by our Executive Officer, Terri Akers, complied faithfully with the direction of Leadership, and I commend their efforts.
6) The experience of learning how to maintain a sense of organizational community despite not having a "home", as we navigated through affordably utilizing various venues for meetings and gatherings, despite budgetary reductions. While we miss having a usual- place-to-gather, we've discovered new advantages in introducing new venues to our menu of events to help stimulate new interest and participation within the Association's diverse membership. We owe tremendous appreciation to OPUBCO and Christy Mann for their hospitality in hosting a majority of our Board Meetings and larger educational events.
7) Perhaps a bit later than hoped for, our new campus plans are finally in the execution stages after 2 years of planning and a year of working through development and permitting. Through the persistence of Immediate Past-President, Jim McWhirter, as well as Mark Dale, Pat Casey, and Terri Akers, we now have a permit and construction is underway. We are merely months from being home builders with our own "home" again.
8) As we approach an election year, political fundraising becomes increasingly important. Not only are we in a challenging market, we're facing unsurpassed levels of political and social pressures affecting our industry. Our ability to influence legislation and policy is crucial. When our state was significantly short of it's fundraising goal committed to NAHB, COHBA members stepped up in one evening and and single-handedly not only met the state goal, but helped exceed it by raising thousands of dollars on top of what our membership already committed.
9) Lastly, but in my view among the most important, 2009 began a stirring within the younger generation of membership to step up and seek ownership of our industry's future. As the second youngest President in COHBA history, it was not without challenge that I found myself at the helm of a huge, important ship with a skilled crew, valuable cargo, and more importantly, a group of over a thousand important passengers.
I owe a debt of gratitude to those before me who provided council and support this year, such as 2010 President, Mark Dale, recent Past Presidents Jim McWhirter, Caleb McCaleb, and Perry Rice, along with Carter Foree, Don Chesser, Tom French, BK Turner, Harlen Core, Mike Gilles, and many others.
I also stand confidently behind COHBA's emerging leaders, 2010 Vice President Jim Schuff, Treasurer Nolan Coyle, our newest to join the ladder Secretary Kurt Dinnes, Membership Chair David Brookshire, Associates Chair Gina Cox, and 2010 Parade Chairman Steve Allen, along with the other up-coming committee and council chairs.
I challenge seasoned builder members Jason Schuff, Jeff Justice, Ken Chambers, and Jay Johnston, as well as newly-involved builders, like Tommy Crabtree, Tim Turner, Toby Watkins, and others to consider an appropriate time in their respective futures to ramp up involvement in this great Association, and in adding strength our industry through the next several decades. This goes for anyone else unmentioned who believes they have something to offer. I say sincerely, it is necessary and worthwhile. Plug in and help build equity in this industry's future.
To the Executive Board, the many hours in both deliberation and in good times I will hold in the highest regard. To the Board of Directors, it has been a privilege presiding over meetings and working with you through twelve months of interesting challenges and important decision-making. To the many who lead or participated in the numerous councils and committees, you are the life blood of this Association. Your hours of service do not go unnoticed. To the fabulous ladies (and John!) of our staff, thank you for your commitment to our cause, for your ability to navigate so many challenging dynamics, and for putting up with and responding to my hundreds of emails through this year. You are wonderful.
To each and every member, from those most-involved to those who perhaps may not be involved as you would like to be due to your own circumstances, I believe membership in this Association holds extraordinary value that you may not fully realize. In these challenging times, as you find yourself questioning whether you should incur the expense of renewal, know this: through this year as President, I have had my eyes opened to how profoundly important this organization is in protecting and furthering the interests of this industry. While the price of membership is by no means marginal in your budget, I assure you it is indeed an important contribution to the greater efforts it funds on your behalf. Please renew your commitment to this organization this year.
In looking forward, 2010, while in a now-familiar century, will bring forth a fresh decade. Likewise, COHBA will bring forth a familiar name and face, although one with a fresh perspective based on a legacy of great experience and service to this Association: Mark Dale. I have had the privilege of both calling him a friend and serving with him over the past several years and have learned tremendous things from him. I trust his leadership, his judgment, and his vision. I urge you to get to know him if you don't already. I believe you'll reach the same conclusion...that he is the right man at the right time to serve as Captain of this ship. He's assembled a superb crew to lead the Association next year and beyond.
It has been an honor serving you, great Association, this year as President. I thank you for your trust and support, and I hope I have done justice to the office. While I wish I could leave this year behind with calmer waters, it's likely they won't be for some time. But we have proven that this ship...COHBA, our market...still floats, and I believe one day in the not-too-distant future, it will sail again.
Keep your life preservers handy, your eyes open, and your Faith upward.
With prayers for each and every one of you, your families, and your businesses, and warmest wishes for this Christmas,
2009 COHBA President
Some of the best insights about OKC Real Estate and Urban Planning are found on the web! Now three very popular BLOGGERS join us up-close and in-person! This will be a candid "back room" event -- not the usual Yada Yada.
We are in urgent need of congressional action to pull housing marketing out of its economic downturn,” said Jeff Click, president of COHBA.
I think we could see something like a 3-percent increase this year, which is very modest, but the tortoise wins every time and that is what we’ve seen through the ‘80s.
I don’t think I would be that bold this time of the year*...I would hope he’s right. He’s pretty bright.