An MHMSM.com exclusive interview with Jamie Hammons
1) Who, What and Where:
President of the Georgia Manufactured Housing Association since July 2008.
Came to GMHA after 15 years at the Georgia Motor Trucking Association, where I was Vice-President of Member Relations. I was born and raised in Lamar, Missouri, went to school in Springfield (Southwest Missouri State) and subsequently worked in Springfield and Branson before moving to Atlanta in 1987 to work with one of my best friends.
3) When and How:
A friend and business associate who was familiar with my work at the trucking association thought I would be a good fit at GMHA. He helped put me in touch with one of the search committee's members, and I guess you could say that the rest is history.
4) What are your personal interests or hobbies?
How do you like to spend non-work time? Almost all my non-work time is spent with my family. I am a huge college football fan (as is the rest of the family). I love eating out and trying new restaurants. I enjoy playing golf, although I'm not very good (I'm sure that means that I need to play more!). And I try to work out on a regular basis, running 3 mornings per week and lifting weights 3 mornings per week.
5) What do you consider the largest challenges facing the industry today?
There is no doubt that we are facing some incredible challenges to our very survival. This is a finance-driven industry, and the current state of the banking business and the whole "Main Street vs. Wall Street" issue is killing us. It seems to me that much of the new government regulation that is supposed to help consumers won't, but it is likely to reduce competition because of all the small businesses that will be forced to close under the weight of regulatory burden. Due to some bad business practices in the past, our industry has an image problem, which contributes greatly to our placement (or local zoning) issues.
6) In your view, what are the biggest challenges for the GMHA and state associations today?
Like our members, just surviving. As member businesses continue to close and with production at an all-time low, we have been forced to trim staffs and reduce budgets. Unlike a manufacturing or sales-based company, however, we still have just as much work to do as when times are good, perhaps more. Our loyal members that remain are looking to us for leadership in sailing these troubled waters. Our work has never been more important, whether it's our efforts at the state capital, in public relations or just bringing the members together to learn and share.
7) What are some significant initiatives GMHA has undertaken to support the industry in your state?
We have tried to improve our "inreach" communications to our members. We changed the format of our annual convention so as to encourage more retailers to attend, and increased their attendance almost threefold. We held our first PAC golf outing in many years. We hosted the first Southeast Symposium for MH community owners back in August, and as a result we will be hosting SE Symposium II December 15-17 in Forsyth, GA. We are about to launch a new website geared toward MH homeowners in Georgia.
8) What do you think the broader industry can do to improve the climate for Manufactured/Modular Housing today?
Find a way to make our advocacy efforts in Washington more effective. Like most all other industries made up predominantly of small businesses, our message just doesn't seem to be getting through to either the elected officials or the appointed ones, nor the bureaucrats supposedly under their direction.
9) What are your thoughts on promoting an industry-wide image building campaign, ala the RV Industry's noteworthy Go RVing multi-media campaign?
We definitely need it. MHI tried to launch one a year ago, but unfortunately the effort broke down over the issue of what I describe as image versus advertising. Believe me, I get as ticked off as anyone when I see non-members of an organization receive the same benefits as members for the work we do, even though they refuse to support our efforts. But the members of the RV industry and the dairy industry (Got milk?) put that frustration aside for the greater good, and it paid off. We need to do the same, and figure out later how to get back at the free-loaders.
10) Other remarks or comments, industry related.
Our industry may have its challenges and temporary shortcomings, but one thing it is not short on is quality people. I won't even attempt to name all the people who have been helpful, welcoming and supportive to me in my first year. That goes for GMHA members, industry media, fellow state exec's, you name it. It is a pleasure to count them all as colleagues.
11) Any Closing thoughts?
Yes - all those brain cells that I destroyed when I was in my 20's, well, I sure wish I had them back.