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By David Siegel, Executive Director
It’s been a very busy and productive first half of the year. I wanted to give you a progress report on our activity for the year.
Our advocacy program continues to strengthen as we strive to make our industry as vital in government and politics as we are to Minnesota’s economy. For any organization to be best in class with its advocacy efforts, we see five major areas of activity that create a modern comprehensive advocacy program. Here’s a quick update on each of these areas:
Wow, what a busy first half of the year. We’ve been deeply involved with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry as it has reviewed the 2018 codes — energy code, building code and more. Through the work of BATC-Housing First Minnesota, we’re pleased to report that the new codes will have a nominal impact on cost. In fact, the DLI has taken our recommendation not to adopt an energy code for 2018 given the dramatic cost drivers that appeared in the previous energy code.
We’ve also been heavily involved in the Construction Stormwater Permit, putting forward reforms that make the permit process less onerous and pushing against unreasonable cost impacts. Again, we’ve had outstanding success in ensuring that Minnesota’s new home buyers don’t face additional costs driven by this regulation.
BATC-Housing First Minnesota joined with Rochester developer Frank Kottschade and NAHB in filing an amicus brief in support of the Harstad v. Woodbury case before the Minnesota Supreme Court. This landmark case regarding roadway impact fees will have a significant bearing on costs to develop land, which ultimately affects home prices for buyers.
In addition to the Harstad case, we’ve formed the Housing Affordability Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), which will tackle other important legal cases on behalf of affordability in the future, and produce industry-leading research on homeownership and the cost drivers behind our growing affordability challenge.
BATC-Housing First Minnesota vetted all candidates for governor, Democrats and Republicans. In total, 11 candidates engaged in housing-focused discussions.
We’ve also begun to identify key Minnesota House races and local council and mayoral races throughout Minnesota so that we can direct our Housing First electoral dollars toward candidates who understand and support our industry. As always, our goal is to elevate housing and homeownership to create a better environment for our builders and remodelers to provide safe, durable homes for Minnesota families at a price they can afford in communities they love.
We enjoyed success in this arena as well. Our bill seeking legislative review of any code impacting homeowners over $1,000 was heard in multiple committees and made it deep into the legislative process. It undeniably elevated the issue of housing affordability. Our efforts to secure funds for Project Build Minnesota, our collaborative workforce development initiative, also advanced until the final days
of the session.
This is an area that perhaps is confusing to many. Issue advocacy involves making the public and influencers aware of the key issues facing our industry. Think of it broadly as a public awareness campaign running all year for multiple years highlighting the significance of building and remodeling to Minnesota’s economy. We engage in issue advocacy year-round, through social media, media relations, paid advertising and a variety of other channels.
Our industry-wide newspaper, Housing Industry News, which reaches every building official, every legislator, every mayor, all licensed contractors and key associates is a great example of issue advocacy. We’ve just completed our first full year of publication (four issues) and the response is outstanding.
We also enjoyed a tremendous Housing Day at the Capitol in conjunction with the Minnesota Association of REALTORS. Nearly 400 were on hand covering well over two-thirds of the Legislature talking about the importance of homeownership to our Minnesota legislators. This is one of the largest days at the capitol annually and we look forward to another great day in 2019, especially significant because we’ll have a new governor and many new legislators in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
We continue to work hard to ensure that our marketing events remain impactful and relevant. Our spring Parade of Homes was a major success and we’re excited to note the use of some new technologies to help us assess impact. In fact, we’ve dedicated funds toward research and development for the Parade of Homes so we can experiment with technology and the latest marketing tactics.
We have also modernized our approach with regard to the Parade of Homes website. Whereas in the past we might have built (or rebuilt) the site and “been done” for several years, we have adopted the agile development method wherein we are constantly making enhancements to the site. We’ve got a roadmap for site development that takes us through 2019 and beyond and we’re budgeting accordingly. This iterative process is the new world for website activity and you should know your association is in the forefront.
Lastly, I’ll mention that our PR regarding the spring tour was outstanding. We’ve been digging deeper into the stories around the homes you build and remodel and that’s helping us generate more news.
This award-winning event is one of the largest of its kind in the country and we continue to make enhancements and tweaks to ensure that it remains relevant to our attendees and exhibitors. This year’s big change was an innovative floor plan. Several changes are already in the works for 2019’s event, including a student carpentry competition, food stations throughout the show floor and a special activity for the BATC-Housing First Minnesota Foundation.
We continue to get very high marks for our Contractor University courses. This year, we launched our first online course — a seven-hour class by Peter Kulczyk. The response has been exceptional and we have plans for significantly more online opportunities in the future.
This popular leadership development program for mid-level managers and industry up-and-comers just graduated its third cohort. The program gets tremendous reviews and we’re already gearing up for the next effort. I’d really encourage young talent in your company to consider participating in the BATC-Housing First Leadership Institute.
This powerful fundraising event has grown dramatically three years straight. This year’s event at JW Marriott was a tremendous success, netting more than $200,000 for the Foundation and bringing more than 500 of our industry’s luminaries together for a wonderful night of connections.
Your industry foundation has found its north star in developing projects that serve multiple individuals over multiple years with a focus on homelessness and veterans. Already in 2018 we’ve redone eight units for Avivo that house women in chemical dependency recovery. Avivo is the only organization that allows the children of these women to live with them during this very difficult recovery work. Our build partners for that Avivo Project were The Kingdom Builders, Crystal Kitchens and Soderberg Apartment Specialists. We have also broken ground on a new house for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV), which will house unrelated female veterans facing homelessness. Our build partner for this MACV project is Lennar.
The energy around your Foundation continues to grow, and what’s most exciting is that we are now connecting the many aspects of our association — advocacy, marketing, charitable work — in a way that elevates housing and homeownership.
Although we experience changes in our industry, new technologies and workforce shortage, core membership in BATC-Housing First Minnesota remains strong. Our Ambassador Committee is doing an excellent job reaching out to current members to encourage more engagement in our association. And our Kickstart event helps bring these new members (and long-time members who seek a refresher) great content as to how to maximize their membership.
Adding to the strength of our core membership, we are growing the housing movement and adding to our advocacy network by providing the opportunity for our newly launched limited-service Advocate Membership. This unique membership provides a way for greater Minnesota general contractors, and smaller trade partners and subcontractors throughout the state to become engaged in our efforts to help achieve the vision of being as vital in government and politics as we are to Minnesota’s economy.
After more than a year of planning, organizational work, fundraising and the development of a brand and website, we’ve officially launched Project Build Minnesota as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
This is a multi-year, multi-channel public awareness and outreach campaign to showcase the attractive careers in our industry and attract Minnesota’s youth to the construction industry. It features an aggressive outreach effort to speak before schools, rotaries, chambers, and other groups as well as exhibiting at key educator conferences (such as the Minnesota School Counselors Association); a targeted digital marketing campaign and a powerful website that is the hub of action.