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Education and Other Ramblings

November/December 2008 Issue of Michigan Builder

Pink Floyd (The Wall) said it best about education, or the lack thereof: "We don't need no education, we don't need no thought control...You're just another brick in the wall". Agreed, if you just want to be another brick, simply ignore the opportunities to better yourself through educational opportunities. However, if you want to climb over the wall and rise above others in your field of endeavors, you cannot ignore the need to educate yourself. For those of us that are making our living in this business, the opportunities are endless. Start with local membership events with timely and pertinent speakers. Subscribe to, and read the many, mostly free, trade magazines that are available. Join a committee, council, or task force at the local, state, or national level, you would be amazed at what you learn by networking with others in this business. And finally, if you really want to leap over the wall, look into the many certification programs offered through NAHB's University of Housing, ranging from Certified Graduate Builder or Remodeler (CGB or CGR), Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS), Certified Green Building Professional (CGP), just to name a few.

Unfortunately, many individuals entering the homebuilding and remodeling business have a very limited understanding of the many nuances required to run a successful business, have a limited understanding of the current residential building code, and probably don't know how to read a balance sheet, or don't fund a warranty program, and as such, some of these individuals have given our profession a less than stellar reputation. Your association hoped to remedy this by supporting a series of legislative bills, known as the "professionalism bills", which among other goals, required 60 hours of pre-licensing education, and 3 hours, per license cycle, of continuing competency or education. These bills were passed into law, and took effect in June of this year. As a result of this, the proprietary school BEST of Michigan was formed by MAHB, as a separate entity. Our goal was to be a provider of quality educational programming while fulfilling the new licensing requirements. Others in this issue will tell you more about BEST in greater detail, but salient feature of BEST is; while other providers meet the 60 hour requirement of the law, BEST's goal is to provide meaningful education to those wanting to acquire a Michigan Builder's License, so that hopefully those individuals will have the tools to be able to operate a successful business.

But the real story is not just about BEST, but rather, your State Association, whose members had the vision to form this entity. We all know that these have been tough times for our industry, that other groups, when confronted with declining memberships and revenues, would reduce their programs and outreach, retreat if you will. But I am proud to say, your MAHB has not done that, instead, we have been expanding our programming, outreach, and affiliations over the past few years. Some examples:

Green Built Michigan: MAHB members worked to develop a statewide, voluntary, green building program, that all of our members statewide can participate in, both in building greener homes and participating in a wide variety of Green Building Educational programs. This organization, separate from MAHB, currently leases office space from MAHB.

HomeAid Michigan: When Home Aid looked to start a Michigan Chapter, your MAHB was there to support their efforts. This non-profit developer of Transitional Homeless Facilities is supported by having a number of our members on their Board of Directors, and also leases office space from MAHB.

Great Lakes Green, LLC: When it was envisioned to develop a Green Building trade show for Michigan and the Mid-West, MAHB partnered with Green Built Michigan to form a separate entity to run, market, and share anticipated profits from this show. Great Lakes Green operates from the MAHB offices, and reimburses staff time spent in managing this trade show.

Other concepts are on the horizon, and we are continually looking for other areas in which to provide value to our members, as well as diversify our income stream. Current examples that we are researching are varied; such as: providing insurance services, an MAHB Credit Card, or Legal and Code assistance. As opportunities present themselves, your MAHB will research them to see if they provide a member benefit. I am proud to say that MAHB, in the last few years, has gone from what some would say a reactionary organization, to one that has become actively involved in working to better our industry.

We all understand that for our association, Legislative Affairs is our number one (some would argue, our only) priority, followed closely by code issues. But we need not only a strong, financially stable association to support these efforts, we need both strong, positively perceived builders and associates to represent (go back to the education thing), and a positive image for our association (the white hat thing, go back to Green Built and HomeAid.)

Our association is doing what it can to diversify its income, while at the same time provide quality services to the membership, and develop and partner with positive industry associates. Are you doing what you can do, both personally, and within your business to "leap over the wall"? It takes extra work, it means sometimes taking a chance or leaving your comfort zone, but remember, "If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding, how can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?"

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