Homebuilder Mark Dale tells of a young man years ago who often spoke up during meetings, raising his hand to ask a question or offer a comment.
“Often after those meetings I'd get a little tap on the shoulder, and he'd want to ask me something,” Dale recalled. “I pretty quickly learned that it was a good tap on the shoulder to acknowledge, because I was going to learn something.”
Dale, owner of Carriage Homes in Oklahoma City, shared those memories in December during a ceremony installing that young man, Jeff Click, as 2013 president of the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association. Their relationship has grown into one of mutual respect and admiration despite their differences: “He shaves his head, and I comb mine,” Dale quipped during the ceremony.
For Click, 37, this year at the helm of the state association will fall in sharp contrast to his tenure as president of the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association in 2009. Then, the housing industry was flailing in the wake of the 2008 economic meltdown. Oklahoma weathered the crisis better than many states, he said, but that didn't mean it wasn't a bumpy ride.
“Serving as COHBA president that year was certainly interesting and eye-opening,” Click said.
Oklahoma isn't back to its boom-era numbers, but 2012 statewide permits were up about 50 percent over 2011, Click said. Oklahoma City and Tulsa led the state in growth, but many areas across the state are seeing increased building activity.
“I can tell you that Oklahoma is definitely among the enviable states in the nation as it relates to our housing market, and we're very blessed to be able to say that,” he said.
Help for businesses, consumers
Click already is getting down to business. One big to-do item on his 2013 list is to reach out to professionals who could benefit from the state association's work. “I'm continually surprised at the number of builders, specialized contractors, suppliers and trades who aren't aware of what our association does,” he said.
That effort is just now getting under way, he said, and videos are among the tools he plans to deploy.
Meanwhile, Click said association officials are keeping a close eye on workers' compensation this year as the Legislature gears up to go back into session.
“It's something we hear about nearly every legislative cycle,” he said, “but given the current dynamics at the Capitol, we're optimistic that true reform can happen.”
That would be a huge win for the industry, he said.
“It would make the system less adversarial and streamline the process. And that, in turn, should lower (insurance) rates,” he said.
But the state association offers benefits to consumers as well, Click said. Oklahoma doesn't require homebuilders to be licensed, so the group steps into the breach with its voluntary Certified Professional Builder Program that sets a rigorous level of continuous training and insurance requirements.
“It's one way we can demonstrate to our prospective clients that we strive to meet the highest standard we can in our profession,” he said.
Click is an Oklahoma City native, graduating from Putnam City North High School before going on to Oklahoma Baptist University and the University of Oklahoma. He and his wife, Deziray, live in Edmond with their two daughters.
Click is among the youngest independent builders in the state, diving into the industry in 1998 when he was 22. He's among the members of Generation X, roughly anyone born between 1965 and 1980, trickling into trade industry leadership. Brandon Perkins, the Oklahoma State Home Builders Association's 2012 president, and senior officers Todd Booze and Phil Rhees also hail from Gen X.
“The way we communicate and approach our workflow together is remarkably different from perhaps how it's been in the past,” Click said.
“That means fewer face-to-face meetings and phone calls, and more collaboration by email and teleconferencing.”
They may communicate more than past leaders simply because electronics makes it so easy, he said.
And there's another upside, he said: “It enables us to also keep close tabs on our actual jobs as builders, too.”
That technical savvy, coupled with Click's natural ease when dealing with state legislators and other officials, makes him a good fit for the state association's top post, said Mark Dale, who also has served as its president.
“They got this one right,” Dale said.