Alberta Home Builders’ Association plans industry portal

The Alberta Home Builders’ Association is building a Web portal for its provincial members, potentially as a precursor for a national project.

The AHBA has contracted Web development work out to Calgary-based Pangaea Systems Inc.

The site will serve 1,300 member companies — builders, renovators, real estate developers, lenders, carpet installers, carpenters and other companies involved in residential construction.

The Alberta home-building market is worth an estimated $8 billion a year, said Grant Ainsley, executive director of the AHBA.

“”Collectively it’s very large, but we’re really not connected much as an assocation. We have five separate local (chapters) in the province and we really see this as a way of connecting all of our members,”” he said.

The portal will provide best practices, technical information and help, and links to other sites, including online building permits, when the various Alberta municipalities make them available. Also, a B2B component will allow members to request pricing from building material suppliers across the province.

The site is primarily aimed at professional members, but a career-planning section will be offered for those new to the industry. Ainsley expects job listings to be a draw for members and newcomers alike.

“”It’s going to allow us to have people come the site, pick out any of the occupations — for a carpenter it could be a finishing carpenter, a cabinet maker — and then we will e-mail all those job opportunities to them,”” he said. “”We think it’s going to be a huge, huge asset for the site.””

Ainsley said that the AHBA will charge its members to list jobs, but hasn’t worked out a pricing model yet. He added that the association is in the midst of conducting focus-group testing to determine what the market will bear, but will probably be on the order of a few hundred dollars.

Industry feedback to the proposed site has generally been positive, he said. The only concern that some members have had is that they may lose employees if the job listing section takes off.

Ainsley said he would like to see the online enchancements expanded across the country. Each province has its own home builders’ association which is comprised of regional chapters. All of them are part of a national organization called the Canadian Home Builders’ Association.

The AHBA won’t have a working model of the site to show off to the industry until its annual conference, held this September in Jasper. John Kenward, chief operating officer of CHBA, said he’s looking forward to the results.

There’s a network of hotlinks between the various member sites across the country and all members have user access to the CHBA. They would likely welcome an opportunity to increase their online business, said Kenward.

“”They are all entrepreneurs. When they find a particular service on the Web site is useful to them in relation to the way they do business, they’ll grab it. No question.””

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