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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Associations: Contributing to larger goals

Brian Blackmere, a senior planner with Stantec Consulting's Kitchener, Ontario office, and president of the Waterloo Region Home Builders' Association, in Ottawa for the Canadian Home Builders' Association Urban Council.

Yesterday, Brian Blackmere, the new president of the Waterloo Region Home Builders' Association, met me at a downtown Ottawa hotel. Blackmere is in Ottawa for his final meeting as a member of the Canadian Home Builders' Association Urban Council, which represents CHBA members in larger communities. (The CHBA is similar to the U.S. National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), built on state and grass roots local/regional home builders' associations.

The conversation started with Blackmere citing the current association PR mantra: Members in Ontario, especially are concerned about the impending implementation of the Harmonized Sales Tax, where the federal Goods and Service Tax is to be melded with the former provincial sales tax. The issue of exemptions, and the fact that Renovations are not exempt, is causing anxiety among many builders and renovators, who fear that the underground economy will get a boost.

I pushed back on this and other standard points. Sure, of course, the new tax will cause some challenges, but doesn't it also include built in savings through input tax credits. (Non-Canadian readers reading this blog may be utterly confused by this stuff -- this is always a challenge when reporting on specialized or regional topics.)

We discussed environmental issues, the Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) issues relating to development, the challenges of defining "affordable" housing, and the huge cost in battling local development charges when they are imposed unfairly. (Blackmere said his association's 230 members tackled a local issue where municipal authorities were trying to use residential development charges to fund the infrastructure costs of an industrial subdivision. This cost the association's 230 membership hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses -- and required significant fee levies distributed in a manner where the biggest builders/developers paid the highest costs.)

Blackmere, a senior planner with Stantec Consulting, said the Edmonton-based multinational recruited him last year from a major local builder to set up the planning division within Stantec's multi-disciplined Kitchener office.

He loves his work, and the challenges involved in juggling his association and business responsibilities. Within the association at the provincial and national levels, he gains insights and ideas about best practices and marketplace solutions he can apply in his home environment.
Relationships count, too.

So, you may be wondering, what does this reporting have to do with Construction Marketing?

Outside of the sales and marketing committees/activities at his and other associations, undoubtedly you can gain knowledge, connections, and relationships through effective association involvement and support, both within your own industry/specialty and (this is most important) that of your clients.

Consider who are the leading influencers, decision-makers, and the most connected people within your market area, and inevitably, you will find they ascend to the helm of their relevant associations, selected by their peers, and with the energy and eagerness to contribute seemingly countless voluntary hours to their causes.

You won't of course hit the jackpot immediately through association involvement. Friendship and trust never build immediately -- and you need to give, share, and contribute before you can even begin to reap the rewards.

But I sense (and my experience tells me) that you will get further by engaging and supporting relevant associations than by trying to learn how to get rich quick on the Internet.

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