Being a Pinnacle Builder is an elite level in NEFBA
By Maggie FitzRoy, Contributing Writer
When a trim carpenter recently asked New Leaf Construction president Lee Arsenault if he could work for him, Arsenault asked him to first join the Northeast Florida Builders Association.
Arsenault is one of the association’s Pinnacle Builders, so doing business with NEFBA members is a priority for him.
“It’s important to me because being a Pinnacle Builder is about members doing business with members,” said Arsenault, who has met the qualifications for the designation since 2012.
One of the requirements is to recruit at least two new members a year to NEFBA. Another is to do 90 percent or more of one’s business with trade partners and vendors who are NEFBA members.
“It’s not easily done. It takes a lot of work and it must be important to you,” Arsenault said. “It’s a high bar and a lot of builders don’t make the cut. It has become a point of pride for builders, myself included.”
Of the 300 builders who are members of NEFBA, only 19 are Pinnacle Builders, said Hans Krieg, membership director for NEFBA.
And they are rewarded for their achievement.
They are recognized at every monthly general membership/board of directors meeting, of which they are required to attend at least four a year. Their names are displayed in the NEFBA lobby.
And, Krieg said, “Every fall, we send them to Ritz Carlton Amelia Island for a fun weekend, to say thank you.”
A major purpose of the Pinnacle Builder program is to increase NEFBA membership, thereby gaining strength in numbers. Two years ago there were approximately 1,000 members; now there are 1,251, Krieg said.
But, Krieg said, the real beneficiaries of the program are NEFBA’s associate members –– “Those who provide products and services to builders — subcontractors and vendors. For those who really believe in the association, it proves they care enough about the organization to join.”
Rick Morales, president of Morales Construction, has been a Pinnacle Builder for five years because he said he believes the industry benefits by the power and strength of NEFBA.
“I do not do business with anyone who is not a member,” said Morales a former NEFBA president. “We make it a requirement.”
He has personally brought in more than 200 members since joining NEFBA 20 years ago.
There is a cost to joining, Morales said, but the benefits are innumerable and far outweigh the costs.
Jerry Dean, division president of Vintage Estate Homes, said his company benefits from doing business with NEFBA members almost exclusively because it demonstrates their qualifications.
NEFBA holds a lot of training events –– including a recent one led by the region’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration administrator –– and the skills and knowledge gained at those training sessions are a “huge advantage,” he said.
As a Pinnacle Builder, Dean also believes increasing NEFBA’s membership is politically important because “it gets more voices heard for our industry — when our lawmakers want to make more laws that make no sense.”
Those laws cost homeowners in the end, he said, because the costs have to be passed on to them.
“I recognize the strength in numbers and 1,000 members is better than 50,” Arsenault said.
As such, doing business with members is a “way of giving back to our trade partners who are members. It’s saying ‘I’m committed to you,’” he said.
Pinnacle Builders are required to submit their vendor and trade partners list to Krieg every year, to make sure they continue to qualify. Arsenault appreciates that because he said it assures the program’s “integrity.”
He also appreciates the yearly “thank you” weekend at The Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island, something he always looks forward to.
Only Pinnacle Builders and their significant others are invited, but some trade partners help sponsor the event, he said, which gives them a chance to network with builders.
Arsenault found this year’s weekend, held Oct. 22-23, well attended and he enjoyed socializing with everyone at dinner.
He also struck up a conversation with a site-work contractor, one of the trade partner sponsors, and asked him if being a NEFBA member was working for him. He assured Arsenault it was.
The Amelia Island weekend gives builders a chance to get to know each other better, said Dean, who drove to the event with his wife in his Pontiac convertible with the top down.
Relaxing on the beach, watching football together in a restaurant, getting spa treatments, and playing golf — whatever they choose to do. A weekend of relaxation, Dean said.
“It is always a fabulous weekend,” Morales said. “Builders are all competitors, but all friendly competitors.”
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