by Michele Newbern Gillis
Since the age of 12, Daniel Davis has known that one day he will run for mayor of Jacksonville.
But, not yet, says the associate director of the Northeast Florida Builders Association and a City Council member.
“I am very happy with being a City Council member right now,” said Davis. “I’m going to do my best where I am right now. If doors open up in the future for me to walk through, we’ll figure that out when we cross that bridge. Since I was probably 12 years old, I have had a desire to run for mayor of Jacksonville, but right now I am a City Council member and I’m very happy with what I am doing and am trying to do a great job for the Westside.”
His job with the association allows him to be a jack-of-all-trades.
“What’s good about this association is that you do a little bit of everything,” said Davis. “I’m not afraid to take water out to a golf tournament or do whatever it takes to make the association successful.”
Making the association successful is tougher than it sounds. Davis spends a lot of time making sure development in Jacksonville can thrive.
“If land doesn’t get developed, which is what we work a lot with to help developers create neighborhoods, then builders don’t have a place to build a house,” said Davis, a father of three young children. “If the builder doesn’t have a place to build a house then the plumber doesn’t have a job. The window installer doesn’t have job. It all flows downhill.
“We work very hard at the association to make sure that the government regulations are not geared to hold people up or to stop quality growth. It’s very important to maintain quality growth, if you don’t Jacksonville dies. Northeast Florida dies if it’s not growing.”
Daniel also works with local municipalities to protect the building industry.
“It’s important that we do everything we can to maintain the thriving industry that we have,” he said. “It’s exciting to be a part of that. There are some people that would like for no one to build another house. What I try to do with the governmental agencies is to help people understand how important shelter is.
“We bring jobs to Jacksonville and Northeast Florida by the thousands and all those people need to have a place to live. We provide the shelter for those people. The members of NEFBA have built the neighborhoods that everybody calls home. It’s important for people to understand that everyone deserves the opportunity to have quality shelter and a great neighborhood to live in.”
Problems currently facing the builders are workers compensation and the lack of a qualified workforce.
The No. 1 issue is workers compensation insurance because, at the state level, pretty much every company that writes workers comp has left the state because they are having so many problems with attorneys, fraud and debt.
“(Florida’s) Workers compensation rates are some of the highest in the nation,” said Davis. “We need to overhaul the legislation of the whole workers compensation system. Impact fees and concurrency are all important issues we are working on locally and on a state level. Another issue we face is the lack of a skilled workforce.”
He said that today there is too much emphasis on people needing a college degree to be successful. Leaning a skill or a trade through NEFBA can be as or more profitable than having a college degree.
“Some of the wealthiest people I know don’t have a college degree,” he said. “They run a great business by learning a skill and are pillars of the community.”
Davis describes his job as public relations with the public, governmental entities and with the members.
He started at NEFBA five and a half years ago as the governmental affairs director. He became the associate director three years ago.
“There is nothing day to day,” he said. “I’m in Nassau County one day and St. Johns County the next.”
For instance, Davis said in Nassau County they are going through land development regulations, which have a huge effect on construction.
In Duval County they are working on how to make the permitting process more efficient.
“We passed legislation last week to add six new building inspectors and three new plan examiners to the city to help with the efficiency of the permitting process,” said Davis. “We have increased permits over the last three years in record breaking numbers.”
Between his two jobs, Davis is learning the meaning of working long hours. His typical day starts with a meeting at 7 a.m. ending with a meeting starting at 7 p.m.
“I usually get home around 6:30 or 7 p.m. and then there are some days when I get home really late,” said Davis.
Many of these meetings are with elected officials where he tries to explain how important different legislation is to the homebuyers.
“Ultimately, government increases the price of housing and what that does is knock people out of the home buying market,” he said. “There is a misconception out there that home builders are the ones paying for an impact fee or increased regulation. The truth is they don’t pay it, they just pass it on to the end user to pay. What that does is knock people by the thousands out of contention to purchase that house.”
Davis explained that each Council member has an expertise in something. His just happened to be building, so when legislation is on the table about permitting, he’s the one who helped out the most.
“I know the intricacies of the building process; the other City Council members don’t know it,” he said. “They know portions of it, but I’ve been involved in it for so long that I know about the permitting process so I was able to jump in and make sure that what was passed was good and would help out the city and those getting permits. It was a win-win situation.”
Davis graduated from Maranatha Baptist College in Watertown, Wis. with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. Right out of college, he joined the State’s Attorney’s office where he became a counselor with the Juvenile Justice System. He quickly moved up as a court program specialist with the 4th Judicial Circuit.
He ran for City Council in 1999 but lost. NEFBA was so impressed with how he ran his campaign that they offered him a job as the governmental affairs officer.
“It really has been a great place to work,” he said. “I love what I do.”