Celebrating 77 Years

HBAGNO supports the industry for nearly eight decades

By Jenny Peterson

 

It’s fair to say that if it were not for the foresight of the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans (HBAGNO) — now celebrating its 77th year — the real estate landscape of New Orleans would be very different.

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In the 1970s, the HBAGNO moved away from being a simple networking group and took action by advocating for laws that benefited both homebuilders and home buyers.

One builder on that forefront is Wayne Miller, a second-generation New Orleans homebuilder and owner of Miller Building Company Inc., who has been in the industry since the early 1970s.

Miller remembers speaking at the HBAGNO board meeting in 1973 about regulations. “I thought they needed some new ideas, so I spoke to the board and said, ‘I think we ought to do this and that,’” Miller said.

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The board’s reaction surprised him.“They liked the way I was thinking and bringing in a new opinion, so they put me on the association’s board,” Miller said. At age 36, he became the youngest president in the HBA’s history. He said over the next decade, the board drastically expanded its membership.
“The board didn’t look at just homebuilders, but suppliers and subcontractors as well; they asked, ‘How can we help everybody?’ We wanted to go shoulder to shoulder with them — not just meet them at cocktail parties — and we put them on the board as well. It was a big move,” Miller said. Right away, the association began to affect change.

“Jefferson Parish was literally built by the Home Builders Association,” recalls Randy Noel, owner of Reve Inc. in Laplace and long-time member of the association. “In the 1980s, the mayor of Kenner decided to put a moratorium of all buildings and 20 builders stormed in and made him back off.”

Noel said a major driving force behind the success of the HBAGNO is that New Orleans has always been almost exclusively local builders — people who are passionate about the community.

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Major accomplishments made directly by the organization over its history include comprehensive building codes and statewide uniform building codes, so homes are built with the ability to withstand flood and wind.

The HBAGNO also pioneered a self-insurance program for homebuilders back in the 1980s.

“The Greater New Orleans homebuilders were largely responsible for the flood insurance program,” Noel said. “They worked with the President of the United States and congress and helped write the national flood insurance program after Hurricane Betsy flooded the Ninth Ward in 1965.”

Above all, Noel said that over the last 77 years, through thick and thin, the association has always supported its members and the industry.

“The association helps builders during the tough times; we’ve banded together to fix things like the building code. We’ve worked to get mitigation grants and gave assurances for homebuilders,” Noel said.

Today, the group is made up of approximately 1,000 members, a mix of builders, subcontractors and those who work in the industry in other capacities, such as wholesalers of building materials, closing attorneys and bank executives.

“It’s nice to hang around with people who do what you do for a living and understand the trials and tribulations,” Noel said. “When we have a problem in the industry, we all address it. It’s been a wonderful experience to see it grow the way it has, it’s been very exciting.”

Noel said being a New Orleans homebuilder has been an incredibly rewarding career.

“I can drive in the city and see 2,000 structures I directly had my fingerprints on from when I opened my own business in 1985,” Noel said. “Once it gets in your blood, it’s hard to do anything else.”

 

 

 

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