Mutch hammering out policy issues for Springs HBA

William Mutch is the new director of government affairs and public policy for the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs.

And while he’s in a new position, he’s no stranger to politics, the sate’s key policy makers, the building industry or Colorado Springs.

Mutch took some time to talk with the CSBJ about himself, Colorado Springs and the state of the local building industry.

How long have you worked with the HBA of Colorado Springs? What did you do before, and how did you connect with this job?

I began with the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs in January of this year and am really enjoying being back in the government relations profession. It is especially rewarding to be back working on Colorado housing issues and it has been an interesting route to get here. Prior to joining the HBA, I was managing a Montana gubernatorial campaign and the HBA asked me to join them when I was back in Denver to see my daughter at Christmas. My political/government relations career began at the Montana State Legislature when I was an undergraduate at the University of Montana. After graduation, I decided to go after my dream of working in Washington, D.C. and I moved to Washington beginning as an intern in the U.S. Senate. In a city where the young professionals lived in group houses and dined on reception food to make ends meet, that position took me to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Division of Endangered Species, and then to jobs with the American Apparel Manufacturers Association as a lobbyist in their government relations section, and managing the research department for an international consulting firm, Jefferson Waterman International. While I was working for the clothing industry, I decided to pile things on and completed a Master’s in Public Administration at The George Washington University. I later went back to work on Capitol Hill in 2000 managing communications for Colorado Congressman Bob Schaffer, and returned to Colorado with another former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo. So, if the first side to my story is how an internship in Washington, D.C. brought me into Federal relations, the second would be the Colorado building industry and how it has defined my Colorado career. A little over twelve years ago I moved to Denver after working on an economic development project in Montana. Through a long-distance phone interview, my now friend Chris Castilian (who currently manages government relations for Anadarko) referred me to the Denver HBA where they were adding a government relations position. I was hired, and then quickly moved into managing state government relations for the Colorado Association of Home Builders. Following that work, Senator John Andrews was looking for a legislative chief when he became Colorado Senate President and he gave me one of the most fantastic jobs I have ever had where I learned the complexities of the Colorado legislative process from a master of the rules and the Capitol system. No one could ask for a better boss and mentor than Sen. Andrews and he gave me a career changing level of management responsibility. I then lobbied three more legislative sessions managing a group of Colorado CEOs, Colorado Concern. A great position working for 100 type “A” personalities and an incredibly rewarding job being able to participate in high-level policy for the Colorado business community. While at Concern, I was especially fortunate to build relationships with an amazing group on my executive committee including mentors such as Joe Blake, Larry Mizel, Barry Hirschfeld, and many others on the board and membership including many Colorado Springs business people such as Scott Smith, Steve and Bill Schuck, and Bill Hybl. Along the way, I had several leads for public finance investment banking as the natural career progression and was brought into the Piper Jaffray’s Denver Public Finance Investment Banking team to focus on municipal bonds for special districts. At Piper, I had a front row seat for the financial crisis and watched as the everyday friends and colleagues were leaving the real estate and finance industries. It was certainly an unexpected set of circumstances and it is a great blessing for me to be back working with the Colorado Springs development community in government relations. I have previously worked with many of our members when I was at the state building association, and am looking forward to getting back into building and development issues and am already really enjoying my time in Colorado Springs. It is a simply beautiful city and I am looking forward to getting very involved in the community.

What are some of the biggest legislative and policy changes that stand to affect the home building industry these days?

Our number one issue really needs to be jobs and economic development. The economy has to continue with its recovery before people are buying new homes and our industry really depends upon a growing economy, and increased consumer confidence, for building, development, and construction to fully recover. We are also a major economic engine on our own and contribute greatly to the overall economy, the local tax base, and the projects we fund with fees from development. As a result, when consumer confidence drops and the new jobs are not being created, the recession in our own industry also has a widespread impact on construction jobs, demand for raw materials, the mortgage and financial markets, and, of course, lost revenues to local governments from taxes and fees that have not been collected from real estate projects. From the HBA perspective, you will see us really focusing on barriers to business type issues that will help turnaround the overall economy as well as working with the general business community on items designed to recruit additional businesses, create jobs, and move the economic recovery forward.

Colorado had a relatively strong home building year in 2001. How does that affect your job?

The Colorado Springs building industry saw total housing construction permits peak at approximately 7,500 permits between 2001 and 2002. Since that time, the number still reached over 7,000 in January 2006, only to steadily decline to a bottom that did not even reach 1,500 permits in January 2009 and started building back to the 1,500 mark in 2010. The good news is we are starting to see a recovery in home building and real estate development with total housing construction permits moving back up over 2000 in January 2012. (* source Dave Bamberger and Summit Economics report). There is still a long way to go, but we are certainly optimistic about this positive upward trend line as we steadily advance out of the bottom. Our role as an association is to help our members as we advocate for policies that help this continue. In Colorado, there are a number of local building associations, like the Colorado Springs Housing & Building Association, throughout our state. At this time, Colorado Springs has become the largest HBA in terms of total members, even overshadowing Denver which has traditionally been the largest local association. We are optimistic about the future as we are seeing more projects moving to market and hearing good news from our members ranging from selling additional lots to home builders, to a rise in new home sales in higher price points.

What are some of the opportunities and challenges that are unique to the Colorado Springs home building market?

Colorado Springs is a great market for our industry. As mentioned in the previous question, while there has certainly been a major decline in overall real estate activity, Colorado Springs has been able to maintain better than other Colorado communities. We believe some of these factors are the large military presence that has continued to demand housing during this recession, the economic impact of having both Colorado College and the University of Colorado in the community, as well as the commitment the city and county have had toward business recruitment and economic development. Colorado Springs has continued to be a great place to attract and recruit new businesses and this model has certainly contributed to our economic recovery. But, there is also a lot more work to do and some of our challenges will be to continue looking at public policy issues that hinder new business development, and act as a countervailing force to bringing new real estate projects on-line to meet the new demand we hope is created as we work as partners on new business initiatives with our city, county, state, and federal representatives. Another piece will be to understand we are competing for jobs on a national and international marketplace and to keep working to find new ways to capitalize on the resource and amenities of this city, and region, to attract even more jobs and economic activity.

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