Posted on November 4, 2015 by By Carol Hartzog Communications

Editor's note: This column will be published in the upcoming edtion of Oklahoma Builder magazine

By Phil Rhees
OSHBA President

I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I’m old enough to remember a time when the OSHBA offered a very good insurance program and fought the occasional battle with our elected representatives at the state Capitol, but not much else.

Oh, we could host a mean hospitality suite at NAHB board meetings, mind you. I got involved at our state association at the very end of our previous state EO’s reign, and that guy knew his way around the concierge stands and hotel bars like nobody’s business.

I’m not knocking it. We were truly a different association then. But we’ve changed with the times and I believe we are all the better for it.    

Phil RheesOSHBA’s commitment to the state membership has never been stronger.

We have made every effort to get the word out about the professionalism demonstrated by our members, and to increase the benefits that our members derive from being a part of our Association. 

Insurance transition

This year, with our friends at HUB International, we managed to steer our way through a very tricky transition when Comp Source mutualized. This threatened our long-standing, state-endorsed workers comp program, which offers the lowest rates available anywhere to our members.  In fact, premiums for some of our participating members actually went down after the transition!

Hall of Fame

We have created an Oklahoma Housing Hall of Fame this year, which will honor and celebrate men and women who have made significant and lasting contributions to the housing industry in Oklahoma, and who have promoted a positive image of the housing industry to the general public.  Our first group of nominees will be inducted on Jan. 9 at the Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City at our installation banquet.  I hope you all will join me there to honor some truly amazing people.

Summit & Expo

Of course, no conversation about the benefits of membership is complete without including the Oklahoma Building Summit & Expo.  This event has become the 800-pound gorilla that we hoped for, and now requires year-round planning.  You may have already heard that we almost doubled participation at this year’s event with the addition of the trade show component, and our sights are set even higher for next year.

We received some great feedback from our surveys of both attendees and trade show vendors, and virtually all reported they will make a return trip next year!  We certainly learned a lot from our first trade show, and we will be tweaking it to create an even better experience for our vendors and attendees.  In fact, our Summit committee has already met a couple of times to get the ball rolling. 

I hope this event demonstrates the determination of the state leadership to create the best continuing-education opportunities available.  There is no reason why OSHBA shouldn’t boast of having the best-trained builders in the nation!

Strategic plan

I can also report that we have met or exceeded most of the goals set out in the strategic plan in 2013 under Jeff Click’s leadership.  I believe we have addressed all of the issues contained in that plan, and while membership growth and state Home PAC participation have not increased as hoped, I expect that we will take a fresh look at those issues when a new three-year strategic plan is created next year.

Commitment to membership continues

While the OSHBA’s commitment to its membership has never been stronger, there is still much more we can do! 

Builders from around the state are reporting shortages in skilled trades, and we must find ways to encourage enrollment in various vo-tech training programs.  Membership at some of the smaller local associations in Oklahoma is dropping, and we need to find a way to help them in their recruiting efforts.

Most of us are beginning to feel the effects of the downturn in the oil and gas industry, and we need to identify what we can do as a state association to help our members through it.  We need to continue the battle at the Oklahoma Uniform Building Code Commission to fight the adoption of needlessly restrictive and expensive code changes.

We owe Curtis McCarty and Todd Booze a tremendous debt of gratitude for spending so much of their time representing us at the meetings. 

Leaders move forward

We are very lucky to have an exceptionally strong leadership team to lead us through those minefields next year! 

At our recent Fall Board of Directors meeting held in Tulsa, the board elected builder/remodeler David Blackburn from Tulsa to the leadership ladder as VP-Secretary in 2016.  I’ve known David and his wife Linda for quite a while, and we will benefit tremendously from his leadership and experience.  It also helps that he bleeds orange as I do, so he automatically qualifies as a good guy in my book!

The Board also elected Dan Reeves as VP/Treasurer for 2016.  I’ve only known Dan for a couple of years, but I’ve been very impressed by his business acumen and kind heart.  He will lead the charge as Chairman of the Building Summit and Expo next year, and he has some great ideas for its continued success.  Now, if we can just get him to quit faking ankle injuries to get out of travel, we’ll be in good shape. (Kidding! Kidding!)

Kurt Dinnes is your President-elect for 2016, and I can’t think of anyone better-suited (literally!) or more well-prepared to lead than Kurt.  He has built and run at least two very successful businesses, and has proven a quick-study when it comes to the issues we face in the housing industry.  He has served us well as our NAHB State Rep for the past couple of years now, and has agreed to continue in that capacity to save us some travel budget money next year.  He did a terrific job as my co-chair of the Building Summit this year, and I look forward to his leadership next year.  (Not kidding about being well-suited……..the guy has some serious clothing game!)

I have to thank Dave Sanders for doing a great job as Chairman of the Insurance Committee this year.  He came out of Insurance committee retirement as a personal favor for me for one year, and I am grateful, Dave.  I guess he loved his return to involvement at the OSHBA so much, he has agreed to get on the leadership ladder for our Associates Council, so good for us!

Speaking of our Associates Council, Steve Sullivan served us well as council President, canvassing the state to drum up support and involvement from our associates.  He had his work cut out for him this year, with the transition to Associates Council involvement with the Building Summit, and in determining a new direction and new goals for the Council.  I’m very grateful for all the hours he spent piecing everything together.  I’m grateful for all of the support Steve and OG&E have offered to the OSHBA over the years.  We appreciate it!

Dusty Johnson has kept the Certified Professional Builder program rolling right along, and I appreciate the time he has spent convincing builders, many of us who can be stubborn and set in our ways, that raising the bar on our professionalism is good for business.

This is getting a little long, but I’ve gotta thank Jeff Click again for producing such fantastic videos in support of our industry and events.  If the whole “homebuilding” thing gets a little stale for him, I think he has some nice prospects for a career in Hollywood!

Of course, no final OSHBA President’s article would be complete without thanking the glue that holds our association together.  Kathy Kastner serves as an excellent right hand to our EO, and does a great job preparing for every event.  And she’s got a great smile!  Test this and see if I’m not right.

Mike Means, at the end of this year, will have fulfilled his promise to my dad that he stick around at least until my term ended.  Not that we should be concerned that he is leaving any time soon, but my dad knew that I would count on his wise counsel this year with so many irons in the fire.  Little did Mike know that he would also serve as a shoulder to lean on when my dad passed away shortly before this year began.  You see, Mike and my dad had a great relationship based on their shared strong Christian faith, and I’ve been lucky enough to share that kind of friendship with Mike, as well.  It’s been a bittersweet year for me, but he has been a true friend, not only to me, but also to this association.  I believe we are very blessed to have him sailing our ship, and Mike, I appreciate all you’ve done.

Finally, let me say that it has been a great privilege to lead the OSHBA this year, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity!  Our membership consists of an amazing array of truly talented people, and it has been an honor to meet and work with so many.  This association cannot exist without the contributions of its members, so my hope is that each person realizes the responsibility they have to contribute something to the industry that supports them by volunteering, contributing to the Home PAC for state candidates or BUILD Pac for national candidates, or supporting your local’s charitable foundation. 

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