New HBA president feels positive about year ahead

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JM Weston Homes President John Bissett is leading the HBA.

John Bissett, new president of the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, is hopeful the industry will have another good year in 2013.

“It would be nice to keep seeing construction ramp up,” he said.

New single-family building permits surged 50 percent in 2012. But employment figures stayed low, which Bissett said will probably need to change in order for the industry growth to continue.

“I think a lot of people are wondering if this 50 percent growth is an aberration, and they want to make sure it’s here to stay before they start hiring,” Bissett said.

As the new leader of the industry association, Bissett has his fingers crossed for a good year for local home-builders.

Bissett is the founder and president of JM Weston Homes. He opened his own homebuilding business in 2009 — right in the heart of the recession and housing crisis. While counterintuitive to start a construction business when construction is down, it proved to be a good move.

“We could get great prices on lots, and there were a lot of very, very talented people out there looking for work,” he said.

Bissett, 50, worked for John Laing Homes for many years and rose up through the accounting side of the business. He was a division controller, vice president of finance, vice president of land acquisition and then became regional vice president.

When John Laing filed for bankruptcy and closed its doors in 2009, Bissett decided he knew enough to go out on his own.

“I’ve done a little of everything, but the real key is to hire the right people,” he said. “I’m not a marketing person and I know just enough construction to make a superintendent really angry.”

He named his business JM Weston so he could get a touch of himself into the name without fully naming the business after himself. Weston is his middle name.

From the beginning, the company has focused on building more energy-efficient and environmentally conscious homes.

The company is still only building at Gold Hill Mesa in southwest Colorado Springs.

However, Bissett said he’s been shopping for some other infill projects outside of planned communities. And some of those might come up soon, he said.

Once he opened his own business, Bissett became increasingly involved with the HBA. He saw it as an opportunity to get more connected with others in the industry and better understand what’s happening in Colorado Springs’ homebuilding market.

So far, 2013 is off to a good start, with continued construction and new permits being issued. Developers are even opening new lots to sell to builders, he said.

“Of course, there’s no way to know what will happen this year,” Bissett said. “John Cassiani (the previous HBA president) had an easy first four or five months — and then there was a little fire.”