As the 2017 President of HBAG, Lamar Smith hopes to increase membership numbers to a more sustainable number and prove that there is Strength in Numbers! Smith is eager to get people excited about the building industry and certainly displays this passion when discussing home building. Read on to learn more about 2017 HBAG President Lamar Smith and his initiatives for the coming year.
Describe your early career and how you got into the building industry. Were there any family influences?
My first job in construction was digging footers on a home for a family friend when I was in high school. The work was done by hand and it was difficult. I had a summer job, while still in high school, working for a roofer. We traveled all over southeast Georgia working on military bases, government housing projects, schools and some residential homes. Most was tear-off and re-roofing. I was in the best shape I had ever been in. I could carry two bundles of shingles, one on each shoulder, and climb a ladder without holding on. But I was 17 years old and that was a long time ago. built a house on one of my lots, I could get rid of the lot, pay the banks, and make a little money on the house. That was in 2009. I still remember people looking at me like I was crazy for starting a homebuilding company when so many builders were failing. But I had no choice. This was the only plan I had at the time. We were profitable in our first year in operation and we only had 4 employees. Today, we build about 100 homes a year all along the I-95 corridor in Georgia from the South Carolina line down to the Florida line in St Mary’s.
I got involved in the HBA of Greater Savannah almost from the start of my development career in 1994. Savannah has such a strong group of locally owned builders that support the local association. While we are all very competitive, we work together to solve problems that can have a negative impact on our industry. Whether it is a local government trying to block a new development or the state government trying to pass legislation that makes housing more expensive, we know that we can make a bigger impact using a collective voice instead of individuals.
I graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Agricultural Engineering. Although it wasn’t specifically for the development or construction field, I had many classes in structural, electrical and civil engineering. I use my education almost daily in my work.
I started in 1994 in the land development business. I wanted to create great places where people would build their dream home and raise their children. My development work was concentrated almost exclusively in and around Savannah. In 2007, I started feeling the first effects of the financial crisis. I had developed hundreds of lots for other builders who were no longer able to get the financing needed to fulfill their obligations with my company. It was apparent that the only way I was going to survive would be to start a homebuilding company. I could not sell a lot to anyone at that time because of the banking failures, but people could still get mortgages. If I