The Good, the Bad and the Hopeful

Back in the ’80s, remodelers began showing how important remodeling as an industry is. At that time, the size of the remodeling industry was a little smaller than the new housing industry. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry, or NARI, had some really good leaders that did a great job promoting remodeling, and so did the National Association of Home Builders’ Remodelers Council and its successor in name, NAHB Remodelers. However, for some reason, the movement lacked critical mass. What you heard was housing this and housing that and, oh yeah, the remodelers ... .

Some great friends in NARI and NAHB shared a vision. We saw the light at the end of the tunnel only to discover it was the oncoming train. NARI and NAHB Remodelers have made three serious attempts at some type of joint effort, merger, amalgamation (whatever that is), but it just wasn’t right. In 2003, Mark Brick, who was NARI president, and I, as Remodelers chair, jointly endorsed the certifications of NARI and NAHB. Several NAHB and NARI members, including Vince Butler, Alan Hanbury, Julius Lowenberg, Mike Nagel and Paul Winans, had a hand in helping the industry by having the two major associations work together.

We thought the remodeling media would run with it. However, the news was buried on page 12 instead of getting cover treatment. Back then, associations weren’t as important to the media. Did our industry magazines think it would be better to have NARI and NAHB Remodelers separate but strong? That may be OK for the associations, but it’s not OK for the industry and, ultimately, for the associations. The magazines must be industry advocates and that includes recruiting for both organizations.

At NAHB, there is little competition between builders and remodelers. It just so happens a few large companies are easier to manage than lots of smaller ones. However, the smaller company members are better contributors, volunteers and “get ’er doners.” Big outfits think they have a voice because they have fat wallets (that sometimes open); small outfits are the reason trade associations are successful. If you don’t think small companies are heard, ask Bob Bell, 2005 NAHB Remodeler of the Year, who owns one of the smaller companies within NAHB Remodelers. If you are good at managing a small company, you will always be a good manager.

The good is there is some real appreciation of how valuable remodeling is to America. Builders have backed into it to save their donkeys. The ones who stay in the business will be good competitors; the others will go back to framing. The good is that Jerry Howard, NAHB’s chief executive officer, is looking at expanding remodeling recruiting, reporting and research. NARI has had the good judgment to hire Thomas Sullivan to represent the organization’s members in government affairs. Kent Conine, Bob Jones, David Pressley, Bobby Raburn and Tom Woods are some of the remodeling industry boosters from the building side. Sandy Dunn, one of only two women to be elected president of NAHB, is the catalyst to this remodeling renaissance and the wise, strong voice to keep it going. Although none of them are remodelers, they understand the industry. Remodelers are the future for residential construction.

The bad is that we might let this bit of a jump-start get away from us. Now is the time for all of us to push for organization, membership and clout. Clout could have brought a voice of reason to the lead fiasco. We had some clout but not enough. If we let the bad win this time, it will be years before our next opportunity.

Here’s the hopeful: Can you imagine the strength we as professional remodeling contractors will have with 125,000 to 150,000 more remodeling and support members in NARI and NAHB? I can. I joined NAHB in 1970. This is my 41st year, and this is the best unified move I have seen favoring the recognition and advancement of the remodeling industry. Call Jerry Howard; Mary Busey Harris, NARI’s executive vice president; Therese Crahan, NAHB Remodelers’ executive director; your fellow remodelers and the media, and make yourself heard. Do it now, while you’re here ... .