Monday, October 21, 2013

MBSA Preparing for Modular Housing’s Future

The Modular Building Systems Association (MBSA) is poised to be the sole united voice for the residential modular housing industry but the road ahead of it is daunting.

Primarily an association of East Coast modular factories that joined together many years ago to create a united front in taking on legislative matters and promoting the industry as an alternative to site built housing, today those goals pale in comparison to what is needed now.

In the past, modular home builders and yes, even the home buyers were not a priority. There were no Facebooks, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Skype instantly bringing news and views about modular housing to our computers, tablets and smart phones. Those changes were not anticipated by the founding members many years ago.

Now the MBSA is awakening to a new challenge, a new goal and an entirely new audience. Reaching them will push them to reinvent themselves into the “go to” place for everything modular.

Tom Hardiman, the Executive Director, along with a new slate of officers and board members are realizing that the future of residential modular housing is in their hands. They are gearing up to move beyond the East Coast into all regions of the US, bringing the benefits of a united legislative voice to all modular home factories.

The men and women to the new board of MBSA are also facing the challenges of bringing modular home builders into the mix and finding ways to inform new home buyers of the benefits of modular home construction vs. site building.

You would think this would be an easy task. Think again Pilgrims!

There are many factories that do not belong to the MBSA. Why? Because they believe that their membership in the NAHB’s Building Systems Council is enough. If it were, why is our industry stuck only building 2-4 % of all new home starts. The BSC’s main goal seems to be having meetings where everyone talks about the industry but does virtually nothing to improve it.

So now it’s up to the MBSA to take the reins and drive the wagon to town. Did I say wagon instead of race car? Yes. The road ahead for MBSA is going to be a long, muddy road to success. Nobody has paved it or even mapped it.

What’s it going to take to be the voice for the residential modular home industry? It will take EVERY modular home factory in the US joining. It will take MBSA members reaching out to modular home builders and introducing themselves and inviting them to join with the factories in making the industry strong.

It will take the leadership of MBSA designing a pathway to attract and inform new home buyers both to MBSA’s website and to modular home builders in the buyer’s area.

The road ahead will not be easy but with each member working hard to go after others to join and forge a new future for our industry, the MBSA will become that one, united voice for modular housing. 


Anonymous said...

Well coach I hope you are correct with this article and that there is a real dedication to the improvement of our industry. I will wait and see how the MBSA promotes itself in the West and not just be an east coast centric group. We need a consistent and accurate message. I have seen too many websites that promise huge cost savings that are not accurate. Our industry needs to get away from the cheaper building mantra and promote as an alternative form of building with the many benefits it provides.

Anonymous said...

Amen!! Promotion as a price driven alternative means a spiral into decreasing margins and inaccurate perceptions of the true value of modular in the housing market.

Anonymous said...

Gee Coach, did you drink the cool aid at this meeting? To come out against the BSC becuase of the market share of modualr is only 2-4%/ Really? The mission of the BSC is and has always been to promote the system built industry in the US. It has not been to fight state and local tax issues or building cods issues that only affect the systems built industry. The BSC has had a website up and running for years extolling the virtues of systems built industry and has also had several publications ready for distribution that also send the same message.
For years trhe primary mission of the MBSA had been to fight issues that were specific to the Modular building world and cnadidly they have done an excellent job of doing so. As a matter of fact extremenly well when you take a look at the issues that they fought. But honestly those issues, althogh at times rear their ugly heads, have been put to bed. Years ago the programs and processes concerning social media and promotion of the industry as a whole as opposed to the individual companies promoting themselves was proposed and flatly tuned down.
I am very happy the Tom Hardiman has taken the reins of this organization. I believe with Tom's experience and drive many good things will happen. I am very pleased to see Mike Clemantoni as preident of this group once again. I know that Mike lead this organization through some very difficult times and thru his hard work and dedication the organization was able to survive. My attitude is quite simple, "wait and see".

Coach said...

Actually it was grape flavored koolade. I'll continue to drink it. Gotta love the efforts started at this years MBSA meeting.

Anonymous said...


The Association's approach of promoting the new board, promising some vague value-added benefits like permission to use the MBSA logo, get listed on the crappy website, is not enough to justify $thousands for dues.

Compel factories to sign up and justify their dues by charging us builders $50/box via an additional Misc Line Item called "MBSA R&D". It is easy for us to pass this onto the buyer. The factory keeps a portion ($10?) and MBSA gets $40. Because of this recurring, continuous revenue stream, factory dues can be much less, like $500/yr?

The juice has to be worth the squeeze before the factories part with their $. That goes double for modular builders.

Figure out a true value-add - make it WORTH THE FEES - and pay for it with pay-as-you-go piecemeal revenue generation as above.

It takes money to make money: MBSA cannot hope to be a significant voice without it.

Tom Hardiman said...

I love all these anonymous critics. There are days I wish I could hide behind an anonymous label as well. But someone has to step up and represent the modular home industry and that is exactly what MBSA is trying to do. The "wait and see" approach is weak and tired. I'll sit on the sidelines with both hands over my wallet, withholding my time, talent and resources and wait and see how well you do. Doesn't work that way guys. We have 25 dues paying members. We need 10x that many to have a real impact on promoting the industry. If you want to help shape and grow this industry, MBSA is giving you the vehicle to do it. But you have to step up and offer to drive a bit.

Harris said...

I think Anonymous makes a decent case:

Coach - send out a survey to a handful of factories. Ask if they'll collect a $50/box fee for MBSA from their builders for 3 months. Offer them free advertising for a period of time. If their builders bitch and moan, offer them a freebie for their hundred$ donation.

BTW I'm not suggesting you make a lot of money from your blog that you can willingly give up!

BUT, I'll bet 5 of 6 factories step up because they will act in their own best interest... free advertising is better than no advertising. I'll bet again that MBSA sees some significant revenue.

Which factory will step up?

I think MBSA should allow any modular builder with basic qualifications to sign up for little or nothing. Make the factories do the heavy lifting.

The beauty and the irony of this approach is that the builders are actually doing the paying (at $50 per box) while the factories, with much better accounting systems, are administrating this channeling of revenues straight to MBSA.

Associations are about strength in numbers. What is needed to support MBSA is an understanding of strengths and weaknesses: there are more Builders than Factories, so our small fee goes a long way; factories are better at managing larger sums of money (at least those that are still running!) with their larger human resources.

Ken was right: charge us builders $50 per box! I want to see MBSA have a budget that can ultimately help my business thrive.