PRO (Professional Remodeling Organization) is a new trade association serving the remodeling industry. Based in Bohemia, NY, it officially launched with six local affiliates representing more than 800 members in New England, much of the Eastern Seaboard, Iowa, and Nebraska.
The association was originally created as a landing place for a half dozen former chapters of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). Those six chapters are no longer part of NARI after disagreements over a number of issues. PRO was officially incorporated as a non-profit on March 16.
Building the Foundation For PRO
PRO leadership structure was designed with a clear purpose: To ensure its affiliates have equal representation in PRO Inc and autonomy to determine how to best serve their local members. It has a mission with clearly defined goals that include developing comprehensive certification and education programs and tackling urgent needs such as the industry’s labor shortage.
“Right now, there’s no place to get skilled labor. You can’t go to a trade school and say, ‘I’m looking for a carpenter,'” explains PRO’s chairman and president Patrick Bentivegna. “But the six affiliates are working together as one organization to address this. We recently started working on an apprenticeship program for someone just out of high school.”
"CREATING A MEANINGFUL CODE OF ETHICS IS THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY IN MY MIND. IT'S SOMETHING THAT UPLIFTS US AS PROFESSIONALS."
Education is a key component of PRO says David Merrick, president of Merrick Design and Build in Kensington, MD. Merrick is part of the team creating the association’s code of ethics, certification process, and new educational opportunities.
So far, the progress is encouraging. The board approved the beginning of the code—also known as the pledge—on Sept. 7 and is meeting monthly to further develop it.
“Creating a meaningful code of ethics is the number one priority in my mind,” Merrick says. “It’s something that uplifts our industry and uplifts us as professionals.”
Another goal is leveraging talent from affiliate members for leadership roles with PRO Inc.
“We are very happy with the leadership team and the level of commitment we are seeing,” says PRO secretary and treasurer Tom O’Grady. “It’s inspiring to work with a group of such enthusiastic, involved professionals and we’re excited to watch PRO develop and grow over time.”
O’Grady has found that certification programs at the affiliate level are providing a pipeline for leadership talent with PRO Inc. Recently, a newly certified remodeler joined the local board. That business owner, a father in his 30s, is now its newest member.
A Voice at the Table
When the six affiliates became PRO, members of the new group were determined to create a leadership structure not often found in associations.
“Each affiliate has a voice...and that’s the way it has to be,” says Bentivegna, who also serves as president of PRO NY affiliate.
The most common model for a trade association is hierarchical or top-down. Many have a national board of directors and may have an executive board. Typically, that board of directors is governed by five officers: The chairman, president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. The individuals who serve in these positions are appointed or elected depending on the association’s bylaws. Appointments may be based on seniority and years of industry experience.
On Aug. 24, PRO installed its Board of Directors and officers and approved a set of bylaws. Under the bylaws, all funding and operations are controlled at the local level. The affiliates share the PRO brand and have many opportunities to collaborate. There are no plans to impose a national dues structure.
PRO has a Leadership Committee composed of 18 volunteers (three representatives from each of the six affiliates). PRO’s Board of Directors totals six volunteer members but includes only two officers. Bentivegna (PRO NY) was appointed chairman of the board and president and Tom O’Grady (PRO Delaware Valley) was chosen for secretary and treasurer. Other members are Michelle Glassburn (PRO New England), Michael Sauri (PRO Mid Atlantic), Dan Reuting (PRO Nebraska/Iowa) and Wes Gauvin (PRO Central Virginia).
ON AUG. 24, PRO INSTALLED ITS BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND APPROVED BYLAWS. UNDER THE BYLAWS, ALL FUNDING AND OPERATIONS ARE CONTROLLED AT THE LOCAL LEVEL
How Much Growth is in PRO's Future?
The organization has already received inquiries from other remodeling groups about how the new model works but officials say that it’s too soon for projections.
“While we do expect exponential growth, our focus is not on expansion,” says PRO NY executive director Regina Biondo who sits on the leadership committee. “Our goal is depth over reach.”
Supporting Members in Challenging Times
These days, enthusiasm is running high at PRO Mid-Atlantic. “We have had an amazing reengagement of past presidents and people who are dedicated to our organization. It’s all hands on deck,” says executive director Angela Hubbard.
The affiliate achieved a 90% membership retention rate amid a pandemic, and Hubbard thinks she knows why. PRO Mid-Atlantic kept communication open and supported members when they needed it most, she says. A page on the platform Postwire allowed members to share real time updates on everything from OSHA mandates to supply shortages in specific areas.
“Our supplier members have been helpful in educating our remodeler members on what supply chain issues they are facing. So, members can communicate accurately with homeowners and manage expectations,” she says.
PRO New England is also looking forward to the future, especially given the labor shortage. Every year, the group hosts its iconic youth remodeling career day where about 500 students from 17 trade and technical schools gather at local fairgrounds. Members of PRO New England give hands-on training in skills from energy efficient construction to installing a toilet. The signature event has been replicated around the country, but the group didn’t stop there.
“We wanted to keep students connected past that one day,” says Michelle Glassburn, CEO of Boston-based Lavallee Systems and the New England representative on PRO’s Board of Directors.
The group now does presentations in schools, sponsors jobsite visits for students and gives them one-on-one education via mock job interviews. There’s also a robust internship program. “It’s been a great way of creating value for the school and the PRO members,” Glassburn says. “The beauty is that you can mold the kids and they will learn the way that you do the craft.”
Through advocacy and education, PRO Inc. and all of its affiliates are creating a path forward in challenging times.
Jennifer Brody is a freelance writer living in Chicago.