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Sending a Message—The Homebuilding Industry's Keynote Choices

Posted by Ron Jones

Jan 14, 2016 10:21:55 AM

Has the building industry simply turned its back on issues like climate change, rapidly evolving technologies, emerging regulations, labor and materials, plus the economic uncertainties of building in the year to come?

Soon the 2016 edition of Design & Construction Week will be underway in Las Vegas just a little more than a week after the conclusion of the 2016 CES, the annual event produced by the Consumer Technologies Association, which was also held in Las Vegas.

As I organized my schedules for the respective events I was struck by the glaring contrast in the “keynote” presentations being promoted at the two shows. 2016 CES listed among its keynote presenters the CEO’s of General Motors, Intel, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Netflix, Robert Bosch GMBH, Qualcomm, AT&T, NBC Universal, Fox Networks Group, Medialink and Universal Music Group, as well as the CMO’s of Johnson & Johnson and JP Morgan Chase, not to mention the President of Samsung SDS and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

On the other hand, promos from Design & Construction Week (DCW) list only one “keynote” presenter, “comedian and all around nice guy!” Jay Leno, former late night television host. If memory serves, Leno will be following a previous “keynote” delivered by retired NFL player Terry Bradshaw.

In prior years I can recall attending opening ceremonies featuring the likes of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, retired General Norman Schwarzkopf, legendary journalist Charles Kuralt, and, in the months following 911, the former Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani, to name just a few.

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My purpose here is not to be snarky, sarcastic or disrespectful to anyone. Mr. Leno is a hugely talented and likeable entertainer and I’m sure his presentation/performance will be appreciated and remembered. But with all the challenges facing the development and building industry, the same ones confronting every sector of business and the economy, doesn’t the keynote event of an industry’s largest and most visible annual conference merit a presentation intended to challenge, to motivate, to inspire, to question, or at least to inform?

It’s not as if we don’t have plenty of serious concerns to explore. I have to ask, has the industry simply turned its back on issues like climate change, rapidly evolving technologies, emerging regulations, labor and materials, not to mention the economic uncertainties of building in the year ahead? I hardly think so, but if I’m wrong it is truly a sad day for all of us.

The homebuilding industry regularly expresses strong desires to be taken seriously, wants to have a legitimate voice in the national dialogue, and seeks to be respected on the national stage, so would it not make sense to use this annual opportunity to create a few headlines beyond reporting suspect attendance figures, to ask some tough questions, propose innovative solutions and elevate the conversation we all need to be a part of?

In fairness, the proposed schedule for Design & Construction Week also included what was being called the “Presidential Candidates Forum 2016 – Building Opportunity: Solutions for the American Dream” and it might have been possible that some of the important topics I have mentioned would emerge during that event. Sadly, there are no confirmed participants from the pool of invited candidates, they all declined. So much for seeking respect on the national stage. The question that remains is whether or not the attendees of D&C Week would have bothered to participate anyway?

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