Homebuilding industry key economic driver, state House speaker tells local contractors
Bobby Harrell says he grew up in a family well versed in the home building industry.
His father, Robert Harrell, spent a chunk of his career as a developer. The senior Harrell framed houses in Otranto in Hanahan and various places west of the Ashley.
At age 10, his Dad thought he was old enough for his first job — “mow the grass at houses that weren’t selling,” he says.
“I’ve been around the industry a lot (and) understand your issues,” says Harrell, Speaker of the S.C. House of Representatives. He spoke Feb. 24 at the General Membership Meeting of the Charleston Trident Home Builders Association, held at the Sheraton Hotel in North Charleston.
“I understand how important homebuilding is to the economy,” says Harrell, of Charleston, who represents District 114 in Dorchester and Charleston counties including parts of West Ashley. Contractors purchase lumber and related products, and builders or home buyers go on to acquire refrigerators, washers and dryers and other big ticket items, he says.
The industry also spurs employment. “We really appreciate the jobs that you create,” he says.
From the legislative perspective, state and local contractors are “very well represented,” Harrell says. The Home Builders Association of S.C.’s annual Bird Supper, to be held March 28 in Columbia, is a “hugely attended event,” with well over half the legislature showing up, he says. That’s important: constituents are able to meet with lawmakers one-on-one in a casual setting.
In his remarks, Harrell steered away from specific legislative issues involving homebuilders. But he told the metro Charleston group, “Your legislature today is a very pro-business, pro-taxpayer body.” Lawmakers were able to reform the workers compensation system. They also capped punitive damages in civil cases so “lawsuits are no longer a lottery.”
When state revenues dropped dramatically during the economic downturn, “we cut the budget $1 billion to keep it balanced,” says Harrell, an insurance agent who was first elected to the state House in 1992 and as Speaker seven years ago.
State homebuilders group executive officer Mark Nix, who spoke prior to Harrell, says the House speaker has been “great” at moving along legislation friendly to homebuilders.
Meanwhile, Steve Kendrick oversaw his first general meeting as Charleston Trident homebuilders’ president, assuming the one-year post from Jeff Meyer.
Meyer, president of J. Meyer Homes, quipped that he should get an “I Survived 2011” T-shirt for both starting a business and serving as volunteer chief of the homebuilders association in the same year.
Kendrick, of Structures Building Co., praised Meyer for his optimism in a sluggish real estate market, “a time you might not be so optimistic.”
He also singled out the association board for 2012. “I’m backed by a strong group of people dedicated” to the homebuilding profession.
Kendrick highlighted some of the association’s recent achievements such as the newly formed Charleston Builder and Remodeler Guild.
“I speak from experience when I say the more you get involved in the organization, the more you get out of it,” Kendrick told fellow members.
Phillip Ford, the association’s executive vice president, says the group is working on a new website and logo.
For more information, visit www.hbacharleston.com.