Ask the Contractor: YCCA shows commitment, pride in community
A glimpse in the rearview mirror may look distant to some and unfamiliar to others, but the dusty dirt road from 1961’s Home Builders Association as it morphed into the YCCA of today remains compacted with years of industry pride, commitment, collaboration and a modern sheen, paved with the sweat of four generations.
The fledgling organization set its measuring tape on working with cities, counties and the Registrar of Contractors (ROC) to establish and enforce building codes, enforce laws relative to the construction industry, assure the highest standards in construction quality and improve relations between contractors and the public.
Of the early days and his family, Cam Smith said: “We go way back” to when the first meetings were held at Chateau Rouge, a former restaurant in the current Goodwin Street Plaza. “Sid Webb and Jim Fann, and their families, and a whole mess of people were in it over the years. Bill Gary and his development company … Mike Shackelford. Leo Scott … (My family was) in it with Yavapai Lumber and then Yavapai Block. Then there were the Cahills and …”
The journey has been as much about family ties as it is a tale of contractors building strategic and impactful bonds for the preservation and enhancement of their industry.
It is a “great organization, and given all our hometown roots, we see many second, third and now fourth generations who are part of YCCA,” shared Sen. Karen Fann, R-Prescott, owner of Arizona Highway Safety Specialists and former YCCA president, the first woman to hold the post.
“We are fourth-generation members,” Fann continued. “My great uncle, Sid Webb, who had Sid Webb Contracting, was one of the original charter board members. My mom and dad, Jim and Sylvia Fann, who owned Fann Contracting, were second. My brother, Mike Fann, who now has Fann Contracting, and I with my company, are third generation. Mike’s son and my nephew, Jason Fann, will be taking over Fann Contracting when Mike retires.”
The organization has a handwritten note signed by the original founders of YCCA. Beneath the scribbled words – “I pledge up to $100.00 if req’d to start Yavapai contr. assn” were nine signatures. Sid Webb and Tom’s father, C. J. Haley, were the first two.
“It was a very informal men’s group,” Haley said of the era. “They had a good old time meeting in a restaurant next to the Owl Bar. I was kind of a young punk with these ideas. So they said, ‘You think you are so hot, you run it.’”
And that he did. Over the years, Haley has sat multiple times on the board of directors from 1974 through 2014.
The organization’s first president was Tony Schaffer, who served with fellow leaders Ted Noel Sr., A.G. Betts, C.J. Haley, E.B. Fisher and Secretary Carol Brown.
Tom Haley reminisced that “sometime during one of the first presidencies, we opened it up to wives. We also started inviting the local building inspector, who had to be quite courageous to come to those meetings and get badgered.”
And around 1975, “Duke Insulation volunteered to have their secretary answer phone calls for YCCA,” Haley continued. “We had a separate phone line installed in their office, and we have had an office and some sort of paid staff ever since.”
In the 1990s, Yavapai County Supervisor Tom Thurman became involved with YCCA and served until elected to public office. Thurman’s YCCA roles included president around 2003 or 2004. A former general contractor for 25 years and past owner of Northern Arizona Plumbing for several years, Thurman retains a strong kinship with the industry.
“It used to gripe me that every town or county seemed to have its own interpretation of the building codes, and a lot of entities were on different years of building codes,” Thurman explained. “Every day we had to look at the codes for whatever community we were working. That was very frustrating for me.”
That aggravation was one of the reasons Thurman said he decided to run for office. He cited wanting to “create some synergy and get everyone on the same building code, which I think I have accomplished. And also slow down the bureaucracy of government, period, especially when it comes to getting building permits.” Both sense of community and the building industry are strong within YCCA, Smith said. A “very strong board” has moved the agenda forward. It’s very important to keep moving ahead with it. There are no boundaries when it comes to communities. We need to operate within Yavapai County the best we can and protect the environment in a way that is constructive and not restrictive.”
A major enhancement today is consumer focus, in addition to meeting the needs of member contractors. Among the consumer advocacy services offered are the executive director’s column in the local newspaper, a weekly radio show, and referral of consumers to licensed contractors.
The “Ask the Contractor” column made its debut in 2010 and continues today in The (Prescott) Daily Courier, The Prescott Valley Tribune, and the Chino Valley Review and the Verde Independent. Listeners have tuned into “Hammer Time,” on KQNA 1130 AM 99.9 FM and 95.5 FM on Saturday and Sunday mornings, 7:00 AM since the on-air program debuted in 2010.
“Our vision is to help educate local residents on construction issues, energy-saving ideas, contractor concerns, general home matters, ‘how-to’ questions, and how to protect yourself when hiring a contractor,” explained Sandy Griffis, YCCA executive director. “Many readers of our column and listeners to our radio show call me with their concerns, and it is such a pleasure to be able to help them.”
YCCA still advocates hiring only licensed contractors for all construction projects, including new homes, renovations, and ongoing maintenance. “It’s a no-brainer to hire licensed contractors in Arizona,” Thurman advised, citing the recovery fund, liability issues, and YCCA’s relationship with the Registrar of Contractors (ROC). “YCCA has grown in size, and Sandy has been really good at that, a really good steward,” Smith said. “During the down times, we really have not suffered in membership. It’s one of the only voices that you have when it comes to the construction industry. If you don’t belong to some industry group(s), you are not contributing to benefit the industry that you’re in. We all get irritated about something that happens or is done, but you do not have any say if you do not belong. Our area is friendly and knows politics well. We are all one family when it comes to Yavapai County in a sense, and we all do business together.”
YCCA has shown members and the public that they are “needed, useful and informative,” Thurman said. “They set the bar for other construction organizations with how well it is run and the benefits contractors receive from being part of it. We are all in this together and remain stronger collectively than apart.”
Today’s major issues named by these contractors include reducing regulatory red tape in general, streamlining permitting processes, and addressing consumer concerns. Everyone praised Griffis and her leadership in pulling together, expanding and enhancing the advocacy and programs delivered by YCCA.
Haley summed it up: “Sandy is terrific, and she is so good for this industry. This organization is likely the strongest in the state. If you look at the financial history over the past 10 years, similar major organizations have faded out or nearly faded out. Consistently and in the very worst economy, YCCA has held its own and grown consistently.”
Griffis, lauded by Fann as “the best there is,” embraces the industry’s future with its promise of additional ingenuity in design-build, public-private partnerships, and integrated project delivery.
“We have a lot of years we can see in the rearview mirror,” Griffis said. “We need to keep looking ahead, as we are now doing. YCCA’s work extends far beyond the world of contracting. Our ultimate goal is to enhance the lives of all of those who call Yavapai County home. We continue to work diligently in representing our members and ensuring consumer protections.”