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Jax Daily Record Friday, Feb. 11, 202205:00 AM EST

NEFBA president: It’s a great time to be a builder

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Joshua A. Garrison wants to see the group’s membership grow amid “a wonderful decade of prosperity.”
by: Dan Macdonald Staff Writer

Building membership and advocating for it are Joshua A. Garrison’s main goals as the 2022 Northeast Florida Builders Association president.

He wants to build membership to keep NEFBA not only one of the top five in the state, but regain a spot as one of the top five in the nation.

NEFBA has about 1,100 members. Garrison wants it to reach 1,500 and challenged the 60 board members to each recruit at least three members this year.

“The cost to join is around $500, but you’ll get that back twentyfold,” he said.

NEFBA membership provides networking and steady work for its members by addressing laws that affect the building industry.

“With somewhere around 1,100 members, that represents 100,000 workers at $16 an hour that need to work to take care of their families,” he said.

Networking opportunities not only are an opportunity to learn about business leads, but are good for members’ well-being, Garrison said.

Members are encouraged to take advantage of social events to relax from the stress and long hours as builders face  pressure to complete their projects to meet demand.

“We have been in a decade of growth. It will take its toll if we don’t take care of ourselves. It has been a wonderful decade of prosperity,” he said.

“It has stayed fast and is only getting faster.”

Northeast Florida Builders Association President Joshua A. Garrison at the organization’s 6747 Southpoint Parkway offices in the Southside.

Garrison, 37, is a partner at Miranda Contracting, which specializes in road construction. It was formed in 1998 and Garrison took ownership in 2013.

A builder and writer, he attended Douglas Anderson School of the Arts before leaving to complete high school and accrue college credits at what was then Florida Community College at Jacksonville. 

During the 2008 recession, he earned his MBA at the University of North Florida.

He emphasized that NEFBA members come from all fields of construction.

“That’s an important point. We represent builders in commercial as well as multifamily and single-family housing sectors,” he said.

Local, state and federal laws can affect all aspects of construction. 

As a lobbying group, NEFBA advocates for property rights and encourages those who want to enhance the value of their holdings. At the same time, he wants to hear from groups that oppose a project, making sure both sides are heard.

Garrison said “people need to be able to voice their opinions” but that NEFBA wants to avoid broad, overreaching laws that kill development.

“That is a big threat,” he said.

Two issues facing builders are a shortage of skilled labor and unstable material prices.

Dependable and experienced foremen and supervisors are retiring, he said. Fewer young people see construction trades as a career, and costs are rising to hire and retain workers.

“We don’t have enough people who are stoked to get into the construction industry. I think they are being sold a big lie that there are better industries,” he said.

“Also, younger people are into the gig economy. They’d rather work out of a coffee shop and change careers every two years.”

NEFBA offers an apprentice program to train people interested in building. With fewer trades being taught on high schools, Garrison said the program is an important tool to recruit employees. Apprenticeships are offered in the carpentry, electrical, HVAC, plumbing and sheet metal trades.

“There is pride in driving by a house that you helped build in 90 days or apartments that were built in nine months,” Garrison said.

With the housing shortage, builders are under pressure to construct more homes. However, unstable material costs make that difficult.

If funds are available, builders are buying supplies even before contracts are signed so that those costs are fixed for an upcoming project, he said.

“It’s a great time to be a builder, but the wise builder doesn’t overcommit.”

Garrison is confident that builders and developers can increase the home supply in time. Demand spiked as work was halted due to COVID, putting many projects behind schedule.

“The only thing left to do is build. We are going to build our way out of this problem,” he said.

“People are moving here and they have to have a place to live. But it’s going to take smart development and smart planning.”

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