A Q & A WITH CHARLIE SMITH | EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF BUILDING & DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHERN INDIANA
Photo by Evan Rivard
Extol Magazine: How many years have you been with the Building & Development Association of Southern Indiana (BDASI)?
Charlie Smith: Three.
Extol: What is the mission of BDASI?
Smith: The Building & Development Association of Southern Indiana provides its members with advocacy, education, networking, and community outreach while encouraging smart growth for the long-term economic stability of our community. We have 220 members with more than 5,000 employees who work in the land development and construction industry.
Extol: What is your background and how did you get involved with BDASI?
Smith: I had been a member for 15 years. I began my involvement in the association while I was a store manager at Porter Paints. Once I went into outside sales at Porter, I was able to be more involved in supporting the industry by being elected to the board of directors. During my time on the board, I was chairman of the Southern Indiana Parade of Homes as well as the Home Expo. My support continued when I left Porter Paints to become the manager of marketing, purchasing and retail operations at PC Lumber & Hardware in Sellersburg before coming to the BDASI.
Extol: In terms of the development of Southern Indiana and the building industry here, where are we? How are we doing?
Smith: It’s no secret that lots of things are going on in Southern Indiana. The housing market has rebounded faster and stronger than lots of other areas across the country. The BDASI’s jurisdiction of Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Scott and Washington counties has more than doubled the amount of housing starts during the recession. We still have a little ways to go before we are fully recovered but it’s coming, and the housing industry is going to be stronger than ever. Speaking to commercial, River Ridge obviously is driving the commercial market right now. But the added bonus to companies looking at the Ridge is other commercial sites in the region are getting looks they would not had gotten before. In addition, what I call “support commercial,” like restaurants and retail shops, is starting to pop up because of the large commercial developments attracting more people and jobs to the area. From our point of view, it really is the perfect storm.
Extol: What are our strengths here in Southern Indiana?
Smith: As we get closer to the opening of the bridges, we are truly going to see the power of the investments that not only our state, local, and federal governments have made but what private developers/businesses have made in our area. The one thing Southern Indiana has over our neighbors in Kentucky is land. Southern Indiana is rich with development opportunities because of our land availability, the price per acre and an extremely strong business climate. Additionally, we are now the population center of the United States. It’s no wonder Indiana is ranked fifth in the nation as a place to do business.
Extol: What are our weaknesses here in Southern Indiana?
Smith: From a building and development point of view, I would have to say that lack of regional cooperation is our biggest weakness. Roads don’t stop at the county line, but it seems regional cooperation does. One good example of that is how the Regional Cities Initiative didn’t happen last year. What ended up being $126 million dollars up for grabs to invest in quality of place projects was ours to lose. All we had to do was form the inter-local board to submit the application. Instead, we passed on the opportunity and Fort Wayne, South Bend and Evansville ended up with the funding. This money would have been a major turning point in Southern Indiana by fast tracking projects that would have been used to attract and retain new residents to the region.
Besides the Regional Cities, I believe we could do a better job of working together during the comprehensive planning processes of the different municipalities. We see all the time how some of our local cities and counties are updating their comp plans, but most of the time there is little to no partnerships with the neighboring municipalities to understand with the other is working on. This creates redundant efforts that set them up for unneeded competition.
Extol: And, how can we improve them?
Smith: In one word, communication. Not just with the elected officials, but with everyone. Whether people living in Southern Indiana realize it or not, we are all “Regional Residents.” What I mean by that is home is not just where you lay your head at night. Home is where you live. It’s where you go to work, go to the park, spend a Saturday night going to dinner and Sunday going to church. We all benefit from having a strong Southern Indiana guided by smart growth. Be involved in the public processes that take place around Southern Indiana. If you live in one community and support an initiative or plan in another that is part of your life, take a moment and have your voice heard.
Extol: How can Extol readers support the growth of the development of Southern Indiana?
Smith: Educate yourself on what is going on around you. There is a public meeting held for every project being approved, every measure a school corporation is reviewing, even for issues relating to drainage. Every one of those meetings gives the public an opportunity to make comments. All it takes is a little bit of time to be part of the process. I encourage every resident to take a moment to take part of those processes. Better to be informed before things happen instead of being shocked after the decisions have been made.
Extol: What has the BDASI done to contribute to the Southern Indiana Community?
Smith: The association has been engaged in a lot over the last three years, actually. We’ve started hosting meetings of the area planners and building inspectors to help get everyone on the same page in terms of construction and land development. I also serve on One Southern Indiana’s Economic Advocacy Council, two advisory committees at Prosser and Greater Clark County School’s College and Career Readiness Committee. The goal of participation in those is to help work toward economic stability as well as work force development. I am also a current board member of Habitat for Humanity. This year we are building two homes: one in New Albany and one in Clarksville. If your readers don’t know much about Habitat, I encourage them to reach out to our new Executive Director Jerry Leonard who’s doing a lot of great work. We also just announced our endorsement for the New Albany Floyd County Schools Referendum. We feel this is a great plan that’s needed for that school corporation. The main benefactor of this referendum is Prosser. Prosser is a major regional asset for our kids. Alan Taylor and his team at Prosser are leaders in workforce development and vocational skills. The school needs lots of attention because it’s never been updated. With this referendum, Prosser will see a majority of the funding with more than $19.5 million poured into it that’s long overdue. The great thing about this referendum is there is no tax increase, but it’s tax neutral. What I mean by that is $0.21 is coming off the tax rate for homeowners in Floyd County in 2017. This referendum, if passed in the fall, will replace that $0.21 with $0.21.
Extol: What is the BDASI Parade of Homes?
Smith: The 2016 Parade of Homes is a scattered site, home show event sponsored by Signature Countertops, Infinity Homes and River City Bank. Our builder members enter new homes and developments into the event and open them to the public free of charge. If you or someone you know is in the market for a new home, this event is for you. The Parade is June 18 through 26. The magazine this year will be direct mailed, but if you don’t receive one, they will be available at the Parade houses or the sponsors listed above. You can find out more on our website www.SouthernIndianaBuilders.com.
Extol: Let’s go off topic for just a moment to end this conversation in honor of Father’s Day. You’re a dad. What is most rewarding about being a father?
Smith: I don’t know where to start! There aren’t enough words. To me, the most rewarding part is just having that father-son bond. That feeling of being loved and loving someone so much that can’t be understood until you become a parent. Because of that, it makes me strive to be the best I can be.