Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The History and Future of the Modular Home Builders Association

With the 2020 Annual Membership Meeting of the Modular Home Builders Association approaching on October 9th, I would like to give you a little history lesson on how the association began.

Can anyone identify all of these IHMA founders?

In early March 1977, the modular housing industry in Pennsylvania found itself confronted with a sales tax issue that was unable to be resolved by any of the various trade organizations in existence at that time. In short, the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue was taking the position that modular housing manufacturers should be charging 100% sales tax on their invoices to builders, rather than the customary 60%, as was the industry’s practice. At that time, the Pennsylvania Mobile Home Association (PMA) had been expected to resolve this issue, but instead, failed badly. It was concluded PMA was probably influenced by their mobile home membership, who are required to pay 100% sales tax on their product, and since modular housing manufacturers were a minority membership in PMA, a full effort was not made for our industry.

In light of this problem, Don Meske, president and owner of DeLuxe Homes of PA, Inc., and Charles Ballard (Chuck), president and owner of Haven Homes, Inc., decided to spearhead the forming of an association expressly for modular housing manufacturers in Pennsylvania. This would ensure that issues specific to the modular housing industry would be properly resolved. 

Don and Chuck, with a clear understanding of the industry’s plight, went on a mission, and in a very short time accomplished the following: 

First, a commitment was secured from Morgan Edwards, then the current Chief of the Codes Bureau in Pennsylvania, to become the first Executive Director of the association. In addition, a commitment was also secured from Herbert Packer to be the association’s Legislative Liaison. Next, Don & Chuck contacted all the modular housing manufacturers in Pennsylvania to discuss the forming of an association specifically for that segment of the industry. 

The responses were highly favorable, and commitments in principal to pay dues to support the association were received. 

Modcoach Note: Jim Shields was the Executive Director after Morgan Edwards left.

In April 1977, Don and Chuck organized a meeting of all the modular housing manufacturers in Pennsylvania. It was held in Harrisburg for the express purpose of discussing the formation of our own association. The meeting was well attended and co-chaired by Don and Chuck. At that meeting, the vote to form our association was unanimous by those in attendance. Nominations for president were taken, and Joe Cimakosky of DeLuxe Homes of PA Inc. was voted in as the very first president of the association. Nominations and elections of the remaining officers of vice president, secretary and treasurer were completed and in another unanimous vote the association was officially christened the Industrialized Housing Manufacturer’s Association or IHMA.

The next order of business for the new IHMA occurred on the following day when Don & Chuck officially secured the services of Morgan Edwards and Herb Packer. Following their hiring, President Joe Cimakosky then called for a meeting of all modular housing manufacturers, along with Morgan Edwards and Herb Packer, to officially inaugurate the forming of the association. This inauguration was held in Berwick, PA, in the conference room of DeLuxe Homes of PA, Inc. in April, 1977. 

At its inauguration, the initial Manufacturer members of the IHMA were Astro Homes, Contempri Homes, DeLuxe Homes of PA, Inc., Foremost Industries, Inc., Haven Homes, Inc., Homes by Keystone, Inc., Marlette Homes, Muncy Homes, Inc., Ritz-Craft Corp. of PA, Inc., Simplex Industries, Inc. and UGI (formerly Avis America, Inc.).

Immediately following the inauguration of IHMA the first order of business was to resolve the sales tax issue that had prompted the association’s founding. This was done by forging agreements through several meetings with key personnel in the Department of Revenue, the implementation of new contractual language and a slight change in standard industry practices. Over the years manufacturers have successfully passed many state audits in Pennsylvania, as well as other states. In fact, the same documents forged from this initial solution are still being used successfully today throughout the U.S.

A Time of Success & Disappointment

The IHMA continued advancing the interests of the industry until the late 1980’s, when it was forced to discontinue operations due to a recession. In 1990 former IHMA members approached the Pennsylvania Builder’s Association (PBA) and proposed that a division of PBA be established for the express purpose of advocating for the modular housing industry. PBA graciously agreed to provide staff and office space for the first year and PBA staffer Fran Shane was hired as the Executive Director of the new Mid-Atlantic (MABSC).

Growth & Today’s MHBA

In 1992 Mr. Shane stepped down and Steven R. Snyder was hired as the new Executive Director. Following the hiring of Mr. Snyder, the MABSC continued operating as a division of PBA until 1997 at which time the association reclaimed its physical independence and secured office space on North Front Street in Harrisburg, PA. During this period of time the activities of the MABSC continued to grow in scope and breadth to cover a larger geographic area.

It soon became apparent that the name MABSC no longer represented the expanded geographic area that the association was operating within. Consequently, in October 2000 the name of the organization was changed to the Modular Building Systems Association or MBSA. After this name change, operations continued to expand and in 2003 the MBSA hired Chad Harvey to help manage the increased workload of the association. In 2009, Mr. Harvey was appointed to the position of Executive Director.

In 2007 the MBSA celebrated the 30th anniversary of the founding of the association and looked forward to another successful thirty years of serving the industry. They continued to represent a large percentage of modular manufacturers throughout the United States and provide a forum where manufacturers, suppliers, service companies and builders could come together to foster the exchange of information and innovation for the benefit of the industry. The MBSA was proud to serve as the legislative, regulatory and educational voice of the modular industry this year and beyond.

When Chad Harvey left MBSA, the operations and future of the MBSA was put in doubt. After the 2008 housing recession, the few remaining members began trying to find ways to have it once again be of help to modular factories and their builders and put the MBSA into the capable hands of Executive Director Tom Hardiman and his group of dedicated people.

The MSBA name was later changed to the Modular Home Builders Association (MHBA) to better reflect the goals of the residential modular industry. It continues to grow under Hardiman’s leadership. Modular home builders from across the country have been joining the ranks and since then the MHBA has started a successful CAP ad campaign (Consumer Awareness Program) promoting residential modular housing to prospective new home buyers.

If you are a modular housing factory owner or a modular home builder and don’t belong, joining the MHBA will be a great move for you and help ensure the continuation of the goals begun in 1977. 


  1. Here is the problem with the MHBA: it is a group of mostly companies in the manufacturing industry calling themselves home builders. (The term manufacturer is used in the sense of describing an industry, not a type of home). They think and act like manufacturers. They are building material manufacturers and suppliers. That is fine, but they are not home builders. They do none of the things home builders do and for the most part, don't have a good understanding of the actual role of a home builder. There are a lot of reasons for this and they are all valid. This is not a slam on the MHBA members. It is just a simple statement that is probably the largest reason modular is a niche product. Until the interests of a modular manufacturer and a home builder truly align, modular will always be a niche market.

  2. Normally I wouldn't accept a comment like this one from "Anonymous 5:12 AM" but I wanted to let everyone know that maybe that was the case in the beginning but under Executive Director Tom Hardiman's leadership, the MHBA is truly a good blend of factory and builders that are working together to make modular housing a good option for home buyers.

    I have personally watched the change occur with more and more modular home builders joining the association. These builders voted to start the CAP program. These builders are rising in the leadership of the association and these builders are helping to change our industry.

    If you haven't attended one of their Annual Membership Meetings, you have no idea just how involved builders are in the success of the MHBA.

  3. Thanks Gary! Here's the problem with anonymous criticism aside from the fact that its completely wrong - it exactly represents the type of thinking holding the whole industry back. Membership #s when we took over in late 2012: THREE! Membership numbers as of today: 30 manufacturers, 52 suppliers of services and materials, and 59 builders! Our proposed slate of directors for the board next year includes 8 home builders! I'm really not sure how you can say its "just a group of mostly manufacturing companies".

    What I have found in the 8 years running this organization is that there are far too many companies sitting on the sidelines shouting anonymous criticisms about why things are not working the way THEY think it should. It adds no value whatsoever to the equation. If you are in this industry, get involved and help make it better.

    1. Tom, I agree you are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
      However, anonymous has one point well noted. Google the words "modular home builders" and in North Carolina for example you will get mostly actual "builders" yet in Virginia you will get mostly manufacturers and a few builders to boot. I think consumer's are confused over the word "builder' when we refer to modular homes versus site built "builders' and yet I know but does the average consumer know a manufacturer can be both and how does that help independent builders be their own brand.
      It's a branding issue, does McDonald's or any franchise let each franchisee advertise as an independent brand? Builders being at the table does not help the branding issue for small independent builders.
      In the end I agree, in order to be a part of the solution you must be at the table or you get leftovers.
      Just the outside looking in.

  4. I was there during that first meeting when the group of builders, suppliers, and manufacturers got together to restart the MSBA. The discussion was exactly how to make it more inclusive. And it started with a new name, the Modular Home Builders Association. That name set the stage to create an inclusive organization for the industry. I actually believe that many of the builders have became the driving force for the MHBA, especially by being the ones to promote and push for funding of the CAPS program! 24 builders signed on to promote a fee go on each module sold for promoting the industry. That wasn't the factories, that was the builders that banded together under the MHBA to promote it. While it may still have the most manufacturers of any residential organization, it is far from being manufacturer driven. Like Tom says, I hope anonymous would join the MHBA and help drive the organization and the industry. We need everyone working together to take modular construction to the next level!

  5. Well before we all file for divorce maybe a deep breath needs to take place and realize that we need each other in this relationship with builders and manufacturers or manufacturers and builders, by respecting each others opinions and taking I out of team.

    I wont go into a long history of myself, my building background etc yet my first experience in modular was just a few years ago AS A CONSUMER. Knowledge, education and public awareness on the consumer side has a big gap in certain areas/states. I had a very difficult time finding information that wasn't riddled with bias in the Google complaints as ratings overall are horrible across the industry. Finger pointing going three different directions. So I said SELF, it can't be that bad until I purchased that first modular. However, I am still here because throwing out the baby with the bath water solves nothing if the process of building is better and yet the operational processes are somewhat broken, primarily communication.

    Which is what you three guys are pointing out right here. No one is talking to each other. Ken's main objective in his franchise operation is that builders have no place to receive proper training and education and Gary's blog is to inform us all of what is not happening as much as what is happening.

    Regardless of the industry, like real estate, it's location specific, it is great in area 1 but horrible in area 2. Regardless of who or what organization is in charge a change needs to happen where the all issues are addressed, Consumer Advocacy, Consumer Education to dispel the myths, Builder Education to improve the QC and Operational Inefficiencies and Independent Manufacturer's support of Independent builders and retailers before the industry becomes reclusive.

    Anonymous I hear your frustration, Gary and Ken you guys are the leadership the industry needs right now, you guys brought us to the dance today just like everyday, as such we all need your expertise right now before its too late.

    As always, thank you for allowing me to comment as this is just one persons point of view.