One Community Conversations: Eric Person of HBRA

In this One Community Conversation with Eric Person, CEO of Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Central Connecticut, we discussed what businesses are considered essential, how the current situation affects members of the building community, and what the HBRA is doing to support its members. 

The HBRA curated a lot of valuable information for your members the past couple of weeks, including which businesses are considered essential. Are the majority of members considered essential at this time?

Eric Person: One of the neat things about the association is that it’s a federation structure in association. So when you join, you know, Central Connecticut or Fairfield or Northwest, you’re part of that local association, as well as p the Connecticut Home Builders Association, as well as the National Association of Home Builders. So, in the past few days, the resources we’ve been able to gather from, from Washington as well as at the state level, have been critical in making sure that our members have been listed as essential businesses and staying open. 

NAHB was able to work with California last week in getting language to make sure that construction was considered essential. Not just construction in real estate. It’s more about making sure that people that can provide services to homeowners, whether it’s repair or remodel. Especially right now, there are always things that will break in our homes, and you never know when you’re going to need those people in those services. 

What do you see your members doing as they adapt to what’s happening?

All of our members have really adjusted very quickly to keep their businesses open, keep their employees employed. I haven’t heard of anybody who’s been laying anybody off or furloughing anybody yet. So I think that’s a testament to everybody in the association. 

One of our members sent an email last week saying they heard the North Haven Town Hall was really shutting down. So we quickly sent out an email to all the members asking, have you heard any towns that are doing this?  Because if they stop doing building inspections, or stop recording deeds, that’s just going to shut everything to a halt. We then communicated with the State Building official and he put a notice out to all the officials to say, hey, you need to stay open and you may modify things.

Very quickly, we had members that were doing some inspections with their building departments in East Hartford. They were doing them by FaceTime and doing them remotely. So the officials felt comfortable, they weren’t getting into any situation where they’re close to people or in any sort of a dangerous situation, members were able to continue with the inspections to make sure that everything was done properly. I think we’re going to see a lot more of those kinds of things; people are creative.

I love that instead of complaining about these town halls potentially closing, you provided them with an alternative of how they could efficiently do it to satisfy what you guys needed to accomplish. 

Thank you. The association really has that sense of community. And I think that’s an important piece of this is that we’re all isolating ourselves and keeping distance from each other. But there is still very much a strong, strong community out there of people in the industry – the construction, the remodeling, the real estate industry.  I think that making sure that they stay connected, they’re still sharing ideas, they’re still sharing best practices, it’s very important. 

And again, we can all sit here and complain about what’s happening, but that’s not going to solve anything either. So I think we need to innovate as much as we can, with our services and our Member Services. We’re going to be pushing a lot of those emails you’ve seen about who’s staying open, how they’re staying open, pushing those out into social media. 

In terms of the members that are reaching out looking for timelines, nobody has an answer to that. What are you telling them right now?

I don’t think anybody really knows where this will end or how it will end. I think that our advice is to innovate and be creative every single day. And I think that’s what members are doing. 

I think the biggest question is going to be not so much when it ends, but what’s it gonna look like on the other side.  What’s going to happen, how are our daily lives going to change, and even, the economy, the local economy, and the state economy?  I think those are gonna be some big questions that we have to work through. 

That’s where it’s going to be critical for the Homebuilders Association, the Chambers of Commerce, all the different business groups, to have the access and the resources for our members to make those transitions.