Maryland Building Industry Association
The building market has finally started to climb out of the rubble of the recession, although it’s been a slow and steady journey, the health of the real estate market is much more promising than it was just three years ago. In Maryland, home values increased by 9.5 percent and commercial buildings, including apartments, by nearly 16 percent in 2015.
This is good news for the building industry and organizations such as the Maryland Building Industry Association (MBIA), a not-for-profit organization representing builders, remodelers and associated professionals based in Fulton, Maryland. “Both residential and commercial markets have seen a slow, steady pick up since 2009 and 2010,” says Lori Graf, CEO of MBIA.
Graf has seen the highs and lows of the building industry after working for the Home Builders Association of Maryland as the director of finance in the years before becoming CEO. Under Graf’s leadership, MBIA has acquired new territory on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and merged with another local association.
“The building market has undergone some major transition in the last several years,” says Graf. “There’s a limited supply of green or developable space left in Maryland so many of our members are focusing on infill development, multifamily/mixed-use developments and multipurpose facilities,” she explains. “Marylanders want healthy urban communities with walkable areas for a live-work-play lifestyle. There’s also a lot of urban redevelopment going on with more custom homes.”
In 2014, The Home Builders Association of Maryland and the Maryland-National Capital Building Industry Association merged to form what is now MBIA, but both organizations have a long running history in the industry, promoting builders’ best interest through the cornerstones of advocacy, education and networking.
“We moved into brand-new headquarters in June 2014, completing the merger,” says Graf. “This was a huge accomplishment for us.” Today, MBIA is still very much tied to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and every company that joins MBIA receives an automatic membership in NAHB.
MBIA now serves over 1,100 member companies and more than 100,000 individuals, covering more than 85 percent of all markets in the state. The state-level organization is divided by 13 regional chapters in each county with the purpose of representing members doing business in each area.
The local chapters monitor local legislation, policy changes, new regulations, lobby on behalf of the industry and also host regional events. The chapters meet regularly with representatives of the government departments, the MBIA council members and county executives or commissioners.
The core of MBIA’s mission is to merge like-minded professionals for the common good of the industry. MBIA sponsors various councils and committees targeting specific disciplines within the home building industry such as green building, land development, the remodeling market, professional women in building, mid-Atlantic 55-plus communities, sales and marketing and more.
“These focus groups give individual members with common interests the opportunity to exchange ideas and further their education. We encourage everyone we represent to get involved,” says Graf.
Government affairs and advocacy
One of the largest tasks MBIA’s tackles is to act as an advocate for members’ best interest. “Every year we challenge a host of issues and prioritize agendas at the state legislative session,” says Graf, who has past political experience as the director of operations for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.
Each year, MBIA releases a general assembly session report, summarizing the hundreds of bills introduced by the state Senate and House that impact the housing industry. “The bills reviewed address myriad issues, including professional licensing, environmental initiatives, real property and land use issues and tax increases and decreases,” says Graf.
“Our primary focus is on environmental and economic development issues,” adds Graf. “There are issues concerning the Chesapeake Bay and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act.”
There are several stormwater bills that would repeal the requirement for local jurisdictions under EPA MS-4 permits to establish a fee. “While the governor-sponsored bills died, Senate Bill 863 introduced by the president of the Senate passed and has been signed into law,” says Graf. The measure removes the fee requirement, but replaces it with a reporting requirement that includes a financial assurance plan. The plan must be submitted to the Maryland Department of Environment every two years and for review. Counties must have at least 75 percent of the total funding they estimate necessary to comply with their MS-4 permit.
Changes to building codes are always on the legislative agenda and something MBIA closely watches. In the last session, the legislature passed identical House and Senate bills (SB 262/HB 323) that require the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to establish equivalencies to comply with the state’s Energy Code. “This requirement will allow builders more flexible ways to comply with the Energy Code without compromising energy efficiency,” says Graf. “Other items we’re watching for 2016 are proposed tax incentives and fee reductions for doing business in Maryland. These will be key to our audience.”
Aside from a regular presence at the annual legislative session and ongoing advocacy work throughout the year, MBIA is busy hosting and sponsoring more than 90 networking events and opportunities. One of the largest on the docket is Builder Mart, the largest one-day building industry trade show in the mid-Atlantic. The show just featured its 46th year as the premier homebuilder, developer and remodeler industry event. National, regional and local vendors network with over 3,000 building industry professionals all under one roof at the Maryland State Fairgrounds. “We host more than 300 exhibitors,” says Graf.
In addition to the trade show floor which will feature hundreds of new products, demos and information, the event also offers educational and networking opportunities. “Gary Williams, the Hall of Fame coach from the University of Maryland, was our keynote speaker this year” shares Graf.
Events like Builder Mart help those in MBIA’s community become more connected, which in turn, can generate new leads and more opportunity. “We’re really focusing on member retention right now and what we can do to help deliver more value so we can cultivate lifelong members,” says Graf.
With this mission in mind and the cornerstones of advocacy, education and networking fueling all actions, the Maryland Building Industry Association is growing on more than 1,100 members, making Maryland a better place to do business.
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