If it weren't for a few pushy folks in his life—including the lumber dealer who relentlessly nagged him to join the local HBA and the city councilman who pestered him to run for mayor—David J. Pressly Jr. wouldn't be where he is today. “I am the beneficiary of many mentors in my life,” says the successful North Carolina land developer.
Pressly's experience with the value of mentorship is a big part of what he brings to the table as the incoming president of the 220,000-member NAHB. He plans to build industry momentum by positioning the organization as a mentorship program.
“I want to address the relevance of membership,” he says. “What does membership mean to grassroots home builders?”
Pressly thinks the answer to this question is difficult for builders to grasp as they wade through complex issues such as environmental regulations. “These things can be so convoluted,” he says. “But with clear communication, a builder can understand that advocacy keeps him in permits, so he can keep up with demand.”
It frustrates Pressly that builders don't take advantage of the NAHB's programs. “The huge irony is that it's so inexpensive to have access to the brightest minds in the industry. I pay $385 a year for my local, state, and national dues,” he says.
PASTAS PRELUDE Mentorship and community are closely linked in Pressly's life. A third-generation native of Statesville, N.C., he served in the U.S. Army Combat Engineers from 1969 to 1972. When he returned from service, he got a job doing real estate appraisals and then bought and remodeled homes and apartments. It was that work that led him to Charles Feimster, the lumber dealer, who talked up the Iredell County HBA. “I kept putting him off, but Charles kept ‘asking for the order,' and so I finally wrote my check and went to the meeting,” Pressly says with a laugh.
Pressly was instantly impressed with the HBA, and it spurred him to grow his business. “When you live and work in small markets, you have to diversify to make a living,” he says. His company, Pressly Development Co., builds market-rate apartments, tax credit rental housing, and office and retail space.
“I consider myself a builder and a diversified land developer,” Pressly says. “I buy land and create a use for that land.” He owns and manages more than 1,000 apartments, and his 13-employee office is located in a storage park he built 10 years ago.
Pressly credits a good deal of his success to several mentors. One of them, Statesville councilman Doc Raymer, encouraged him to run for city council and later for mayor. Those experiences taught him about the value of housing: “Apparent to me was the social and economic impact homeownership brings to a neighborhood.”
STAND TOGETHER Pressly's agenda for the NAHB reflects his life lessons learned. “My slogan is ‘Standing Together to House America.' It's a metaphor and a symbol of the solidarity it takes to carry our mission forward,” he says.