Wess Galyon wanted to make a difference. And after a quarter-century advocating for builders and consumers, the 63-year-old head of the Wichita Area Builders Association feels good about that goal.
"When I got out of college, I was a little bit idealistic," he said. "What I really wanted to do was get involved in something where the work I did had a positive impact on others.
"I felt over the years that if I could help temper what goes on in the development arena, the home improvement area, with codes and standards, governmental affairs, then we can focus on building good quality housing and keep it affordable, that's a worthwhile endeavor."
What's the mood of your membership right now?
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"When I see them, talk with them, interact with them, the mood is pretty positive.
"Obviously, they have continued concerns about the economy and the activity level in the industry being down from a few years ago, but I think they're pretty pragmatic. They look at the market as what it is and are making adjustments to deal with the challenges we face in a market that's clearly not as active as it used to be."
Will the residential construction market rebound, and when?
"The members are realistic. They think it will be another year or so before we see a significant up trend in the market here.
"The thing that will have the biggest impact on our market trending up is jobs here, and there are not forecast to be a lot added anytime soon. With that in mind, they're conducting their business and making adjustments that are necessary."
What are some of the bigger changes you've seen members make to stay afloat?
"Some have diversified into remodeling, both residential and some light commercial tenant finishes. Some had already diversified into that area anyway, making it more competitive. By the same token, though, the business area has been doing well on balance compared to the new home segment.
"Over the next 12 months, we see a continuation of the status quo in our market with some hopeful optimism as job creation gets better."
Have your members tweaked their business models?
"You size down along with diversifying. You do more work hands-on, take some of the work you subbed out to small contractors and keep it in-house.
"You look at what you're building, what looks good in the market, where it's at and how it's priced. I think our people are looking at the pricing of what they're putting on the ground to give people more incentive to buy.
"Maybe they won't finish as much. They'll Sheetrock the basement getting it ready to finish. That's what you do to pay close attention to what the buying public says they're interested in. People in this economy aren't necessarily interested in bigger housing as much as what's in the house."
What is the message your members are getting from their bankers in this tight credit market?
"Watch inventories. When you come in, we're looking for build and pay. The home isn't the only thing we want for collateral. If you've got other revenue streams from rental property or other investments, we want to see that. We want a global look at the operation.
"They want to know what the marketing program looks like: Who are you working with, what steps are you taking?
"What's your outlook for sales generation, because we're going to tie that and inventory absorption to your financing. That's not a bad thing, because it keeps people close to the vest on what they're doing and they don't go out on a limb."
WABA's mission also includes consumer advocacy, as your work informing the public about roofers indicates.
"What we tell people is whatever you do, particularly when there's a storm event like we have now, you want your property fixed as soon as possible.
"But the consumer is their own best first line of defense, and contractors aren't all the same. Discern who is the best fit for you.
"We tell them that in our area, people are required to be licensed and prove insurance. We encourage them to deal with a local presence, someone who will have local references, local expertise. And they're here to come out if you have a problem.
"We never say that the people coming into town after a storm like this aren't credible. But we do say that you've got to figure out who those people are."