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During the depression of the 1930’s, construction workers were the hardest-hit group of people. Three out of every four persons in the building trades were out of work. With the defense buildup that began in 1940, the nation’s economic life began to improve. Within a few years, the problem was not to create jobs but to find enough workers to build housing for both workers and military personnel in the vicinity of war plants and military bases. There was, however, a severe shortage of building materials for private home construction.
In 1944, several local builders decided to organize to fight the restrictions on building materials. They knew the war was winding down and when all the troops returned they would need homes to raise their families. The driving force behind the young association was A.W. Rahls and Otis Hafely. They helped form the Lorain Home Builders Association with seven members. They also helped organize the Elyria Home Builders Association in 1946. The two groups merged in 1951 to form the Home Builders Association (HBA) of Lorain County. At that time, our association had just over 25 members. Under the direction of charter members such as A.W. Rahls, Otis Hafely, Jake Mueller, Erve Wasen, and Frank Towner, the association worked to protect the rights of those involved in the building trades throughout Lorain County.
The early 1950’s saw a tremendous housing boom. The pent-up demand for housing was so great that nearly everything built was sold immediately. On May 28, 1952, the association joined the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the Ohio Home Builders Association (OHBA) to better serve the needs of its members and protect their interests. By 1957, the HBA’s membership had reached 100 members.
The 1960’s saw the beginning of the war babies coming of age and moving away from the core cities and the rapid growth of suburbia. Buyers were becoming more sophisticated and builders had to turn to marketing and promotions to sell their products. The HBA assisted their efforts by holding the first Home Show at the new Midway Mall.
Through the 1970’s, the major issue for builders was the curtailment of the residential gas supply in our area.
The early 1980’s brought a severe downturn in the economy, many builders moved away, went out of business or went into remodeling to survive. The association’s membership dropped from a high of 294 in 1972 to a low of 164 in 1984. By the end of 1983, those who were still around could see signs that the economy was firming up as interest rates fell. The association added additional industry promotions such as an annual Parade of Homes and an annual Homearama to increase sales of new homes and to create additional jobs for our members. In an effort to increase membership, the name of the association was changed in 1985, from the Home Builders Association to the Building Industries Association (BIA) of Lorain County. Membership was no longer open to just residential builders and sub-trades but was now open to anyone in the building trades and related fields.
In 1991, the BIA built its own office building at its current location of 5201 Waterford Drive, off of North Abbe Road in Sheffield Village. This was a dream come true for many of our members who remember holding meetings in various members’ homes and later meeting on the small office in Sheffield Shopping center or in the converted home on North Ridge Road that the association used as its headquarters from 1979 to 1991.
Several major events occurred for the BIA in 1993, members built a house in 24 hours and donated over $15,000 to three local charities for children, they won a national award for bringing in over 73 new members during a one day membership drive and our association saw our membership grow to 475 member companies for the highest total in our history to that date.
To bring us up-to-date in 2011, it seems history is repeating itself as far as boom to bust. In 2004, building permits in Lorain County totaled over 2,000 and membership was over 600 members. We couldn’t build the homes fast enough – the Boom. In 2006 nearly 70 percent of American families owned their own home, compared with 62 percent in 1960, and the U.S. population had grown by more than 119 million people in those 45+ years. New home prices increased from $18,000 to $240,000 or about 13 times, roughly during that same time.
But things were soon to change – the Bust. In 2007, things came to a screeching halt and banks called in loans. No partial payments – just pay us now or we take the property. The industry lost 20% of the homebuilders overnight. The recovery promised by the economists was not 12 months or 18 months or even 3 or 4 years. It is now referred to as “The Lost Decade.”
Congress is divided on all fronts and appears to be more concerned about their party interests than the policies that will preserve our American way of life. We can no longer base our decisions on the American economy. The economy is now based on the changing environment of technology in communication and industry and is now global. But back to here at home, homes are still “Built in America.” For Americans, homeownership is still a top priority. Our membership in 2011 is made up of 300 members, of whom 60 are builder members, 216 are associate members and 24 are affiliate members.
In 2013, the association completed the first Parade of Homes in many years with 18 builders and 38 models. The Parade promotion has changed greatly as the newspapers have a far less market and the majority of our promotion was done on the internet and with directional signs.
In 2016, the association began a new online campaign to get builders business using our website. As of January 1st, 2017, the association is hosting a Virtual Parade of Homes that is available for viewing 24 hours a day/7 days a week. This Virtual Parade of Homes allows potential buyers to do their online research which is how many buyers begin their process now. Most homes included offer a virtual tour of their model home so that it can be viewed in 3-D on computers, tablets and smart phones.