The numbers make it clear: Oklahoma City area homebuilding is gaining traction.
Kurt Dinnes reels off the figures: Home starts in Oklahoma City were up 35 percent in 2012 over 2011 with Edmond up even more, by 47 percent. Overall, the Oklahoma City metro area was up about 28 percent.
“We're really excited about it,” said Dinnes, who wrapped up his term as Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association president in December. “Everybody I talk to who's in the building business right now seems to be very busy. And that's what we want to see.”
Starts are nosing up nationally, as well, he said, though not to the extent they have in the Oklahoma City area.
Still, it's good news, especially since housing starts offer a glimpse into the state of the economy.
“In Oklahoma City, we're very blessed,” Dinnes said. “We didn't have the hard crash. We felt it — there's no doubt we felt it — but we didn't have the hard crash many parts of the country had.”
Dinnes said he is happy with how his year at the helm turned out.
“I was lucky to be there in a year when the economy started to bounce back,” he said.
“So our association grew in the terms of things we were able to accomplish. Our association became more solid, and we got a lot done with government affairs.”
Topping the government affairs list? Sprinkler systems. Oklahoma City officials weighed the idea adopting a building code that, among other things, would require sprinkler systems in new homes.
“We felt like that was onerous and, again, would add to the inflation of homes,” Dinnes said.
The ensuing debate pitted housing industry leaders against safety advocates, but after a quiet public hearing on the issue, city officials adopted the code minus the sprinkler system requirement.
For Dinnes, stepping down after such a year was bittersweet.
“I consider it a tremendous honor and a privilege to serve my peers as president,” he said.
But he said he has complete confidence in his successor, Mustang-area developer Robert Crout.
“Robert is a fine man,” Dinnes said.
“I couldn't have asked for a better first vice president and somebody to take over our association. I think Robert has strong leadership skills and will continue to take the baton and move it forward.”
In a year marked with success, though, Dinnes managed to mark a milestone of his own, high in the Colorado mountains.
The avid cyclist made it through three mountain passes and 121 miles all in one day last summer, a longtime goal of his.
“And I did it in sleet,” Dinnes recalled.
“It sleeted and snowed at the top of Loveland Pass. It was brutal — they were pulling people off for hypothermia.”
Dinnes made it through unharmed, though the ice-coated roads made the descent treacherous.
“All you would do was look ahead of you trying to go slow enough to keep from wiping out,” he said.
On a grade when he'd normally let gravity kick in and pull his bike along at 30 mph to 40 mph, Dinnes said he struggled along at less than 20 mph just trying to keep the bike upright.
He got past the bad weather once he reached lower altitudes, but the memory of it sticks with him.
“I was so cold,” he recalled. “I cannot remember ever being that cold.”
In Oklahoma City, we're very blessed. We didn't have the hard crash. We felt it — there's no doubt we felt it — but we didn't have the hard crash many parts of the country had.”