From the first president in 1944 to today, 69 construction industry leaders have filled the office of president of the Northeast Florida Builders Association, one of the largest, most influential trade associations in the nation. Upon his induction on January 11, Dennis Ginder of Landon Homes became the 70th to serve in that distinguished position.
Ginder attended the University of North Florida, earning a bachelor of science degree in construction management, and began his career in the homebuilding industry in 1995. Since then, he has been responsible for nearly every aspect of the homebuilding process in the local market for the past 18 years.
Earning increasingly more responsible positions with notable national builders in communities throughout the Jacksonville and St. Augustine area, Ginder also took a leadership role in NEFBA. He joined NEFBA's St. Johns Builders Council in 2004, and has actively participated in that council, serving as its president in 2009.
He has joined forces with another industry giant, Chester Stokes, to create Landon Homes and to focus on a hands-on approach to home building. His prior experience as the North Florida division president of a national homebuilder equipped him to build a strong team, capable of creating not only an exceptional home, but also an exceptional homebuilding experience for customers.
In 2010, Ginder was recognized by the Jacksonville Business Journal as one of the top 40 executives under 40. Big Builder Magazine also recognized him as a recipient of the Apex Award in 2006.
Ginder and his wife, Elaine, have three children, Alexa, Karis and Landon, for whom the company is named.
We spoke with Dennis about assuming the top leadership position at NEFBA.
Q: Taking on the duties of president of one of the most influential home builders associations in the state, if not the country, carries a lot of responsibility. How would you define your role as president?
A: My role is to serve – plain and simple. It's certainly an honor and one I don't take lightly, but I'm here to serve. I see my role as providing leadership to keep the association strong and representing our entire membership, from the smallest company to the largest and including all our builders, developers and associate members. The strength of this organization is the membership, and my role is to make it even stronger.
As president, it's my responsibility to protect the industry. And monitoring the political landscape to ensure we are well represented in decisions that affect us is a major role of this office. Protecting the industry also protects the citizens of our community by ensuring an adequate supply of quality homes and dwellings. Ultimately, that's why we are here.
I also think it's part of the president's role to encourage and motivate members to become more fully involved in this great association, and I'm excited about that because I know firsthand just how important this association is to the industry and to the individual members.
Q: What are the most important lessons of the past 5-6 years for you as a builder and for the construction industry?
A: Those years changed my perspective and certainly had an impact on my business practices. And, I believe that's true of the industry in general. We've put more focus on business, which is what we had to do to survive. We have had to adjust to a new reality, and we've worked very hard to stay viable and remain in business. When I look around now, it is apparent to me that people are resilient. We've discovered that we had to be tough to survive, and it's a credit to the drive, persistence and flexibility of the individuals who made it.
I think, too, it's time we acknowledge that we did survive. We've been walking around in survival mode long enough. It's time to change that mind set and to say, "We made it. We can handle what comes next."
Q: What are the goals you have set for the association for the coming year?
A: My focus is going to be on involvement . . . encouraging members to participate and be involved. The benefits of membership are directly proportional to the level of participation. When someone tells me the membership fees aren't worth the benefit, I know I'm talking to someone who was a dues-paying member and nothing more. I know from experience that doesn't work. When I first joined, it was more or less obligatory. It wasn't until I actually attended meetings, joined councils and got involved that I reaped the benefits.
Clayton Bailey [NEFBA's membership director] is doing a great job attracting and enlisting new members. My focus then is to elicit more involvement from those members. In any organization, a small percentage of the members do the majority of the work. I want to change that percentage at NEFBA. The members will benefit and NEFBA will be even stronger.
Along with that, I'm encouraging members to take an active role in the various councils. The opportunities for networking are tremendous, and it is at the council level where members are in direct contact with each other.
We're working on publishing a calendar of events for all NEFBA and council activities and events for the entire year. We want to ensure events are scheduled with as little overlap as possible for the convenience of the members and so more people can attend more events throughout the year.
Q: What did you learn during your year as NEFBA's first vice president that will help you take on this leadership role? What parting advice did the outgoing president Barbara Moore have for you?
A: Working with Barbara was both an honor and a privilege. She's a smart, talented lady who reflects the very best in leadership, business sense and motivating people. Working with her was an education in how to do it right. She's a tough act to follow, and she left some big shoes to fill. And, her advice to me was right on target. She told me NEFBA's staff and executive council are the best. In them, I know I'll find the expertise and support to do what it takes to make 2013 a great year for NEFBA and its members. She also told me to have fun. I'm going to do that, too.
Ginder will be working closely with the executive committee and NEFBA's executive director, Daniel Davis, who said, "When I first met Dennis Ginder, I recognized a drive, an honesty and a commitment to the important values in life. And, through the years, Dennis has demonstrated those qualities again and again. His commitment to the industry is equal only to his commitment to his family. I am confident that Dennis will be a tremendous leader and is the right person to grow and strengthen our association."