TO NEW BEGINNINGS! OR, to abundant closings and plentiful starts, as the case may be. Let me first introduce myself. I'm new here at Hanley Wood, starting my role as the editor of BIG BUILDER magazine, and a building industry newbie as well.

For the past six-plus years, I've eaten, slept, and breathed the nation's evolving people patterns as editor of a monthly magazine called American Demographics. It's a magazine that, for more than 25 years, has focused its journalistic lenses of data and analysis on the future of moving-target consumers and what causes them to behave as they do. The thing about being the editor of a magazine that promises to be predictive is that, especially if you're going to be around for more than six years, you'd better be right about a fair number of the magazine's prophecies, because readers are entitled to hold you to them. True, if Cassandra, Copernicus, or Nostradamus were wrong about their prognostications, the consequences tended to be more dire than a cancelled subscription or two. Still, we took our role to heart.

What we aimed to do was help readers anticipate and clearly picture the plausible scenarios their organizations might encounter and then suggest how they might create a road map back to the present. I consider that predictive dimension to be a big part of the mission for BIG BUILDER as well, and I promise to ensure that the magazine and its related activities provide that value to you in exchange for the share of attention and engagement you give.

My first step onto the industry learning curve came, helpfully, via total immersion at last month's BB '04 show in Las Vegas. Proceedings there opened as K. Hovnanian's Ara Hovnanian, Lennar's Stuart Miller, and Shea's Bert Selva articulated a punch list of critical issues and challenges: the impact of interest rate increases, broadening product line offerings, the problem of materials shortages, the likelihood of further consolidation among the industry's dominant players, land acquisition wars, demographics, prices, affordability, human capital, training, etc. Bullet point by bullet point, the three leaders' perspectives defined—for insiders and outsiders alike—the strategic and tactical agenda builders' senior management face in 2005 and beyond, and it's an agenda we expand on in this issue of BIG BUILDER.

Lennar CEO Stuart Miller captured the essence of big builders' outlook with two maritime metaphors. He asserted that steadiness and stability underlie expectations for the nation's large public builders, likening the momentum and power to that of a cruise ship, engines running full-steam and advanced navigational equipment operating flawlessly. He also admitted that as an industry, “We're navigating in uncharted waters.” After all, in the end, said Miller, “There are no tea leaves.”

So, confidence amid unknowns describes the present. I look forward to hearing from you about how BIG BUILDER can keep a weather eye on what's to come.

John McManus, Editor