A Conversation with: Dan Knoup

New association leader brings first-hand building experience

Dan Knoup stepped into his new role as the executive officer (EO) of the Home Builders Association of Greater Des Moines in September. Knoup will be overseeing the organization’s day-to-day operations, events, committees, and staff. The mission of the association, Knoup says, is primarily to be an advocate for its 542 members. That includes everything from speaking to state legislators about home builders’ concerns to discussing current building codes with city governments. The HBA also provides members the opportunity to market their companies through its events, including HomeShowExpo, the Home & Remodeling Show, and the Tour of Remodeled Homes.

Where did you grow up and what’s your background in the building industry?

I grew up in Lena, Illinois. We moved to Des Moines in 1994 when my wife was offered a job at Principal Financial Group.

I started as a framer for residential construction in 1994. In 1996, one of the builders I worked for, Hampton Homes of Iowa, hired me to become the superintendent. I oversaw all of our residential construction and was with the company until they left Des Moines in 1999. I then went to work for Regency Homes, where I began as a construction superintendent. After four years, I was promoted to director of operations for the custom home division, known as MasterCraft Estate Homes. I remained with the company until just shortly before it closed in 2006.

At that time I started DSM Homes, specializing in mostly custom homes and remodeling projects, along with some light commercial work and construction management. Most recently, I have worked for KRM Development, where president Kirk Mickelsen brought me on board to create a renovations division.

What do you hope to bring to the table in your new position?

The people who have held the executive officer position since I’ve been building in Des Moines have all been association or business professionals who didn’t come from our industry. I bring the unique perspective of having participated in all of our events and of understanding what our members need at a different level—I’ve been where they are. I have firsthand knowledge that provides a different viewpoint and will help us create more relevant benefits for our members.

What do you want to accomplish as EO?

As an organization, we need to find a way to connect with tomorrow’s workers. Youth today communicate differently, and have different work habits and career motivations. When we grew up, it was a fairly common and noble goal to be a contractor or to work with your hands for a living. I don’t think that’s stressed upon today’s youth the way it was with us. We used to take some tools and building materials, and we’d entertain ourselves by building a bike ramp or a fort. We didn’t have computers and video games like young people today. They’re using their minds and being creative in a completely different way.
Some of our members have pursued this issue very extensively, and it’s on the top of my list to work with them. They include Gary Scrutchfield from Lumbermans Drywall and Roofing Supply. For the past 15 to 20 years, Gary has been working with local school districts, trying to get building trades and similar programs back into schools. In addition, I plan to work with the National Association of Home Builders, to learn what programs are currently available or in development, to encourage tomorrow’s youth to join our industry. I’d also like to see our association reaching out to young people at career fairs.

Why is it important for builders to be involved in the HBA?

The benefits of membership are tremendous, from keeping building costs down, to marketing and networking opportunities. We’ve been at the forefront of conversations with all the municipalities on code requirements, working to have them be more builder-friendly. That helps keep the costs of building down, making affordable housing available to more families.

Our events truly are the best way for builders to market their companies without spending a great deal of their own money. Our recent Tour of Remodeled Homes is the largest annual event of our Remodelers Council. It allows the public to see the work of these companies in person. Association members get exposure with event advertising, media promotions, and through our publications. We also offer multiple networking opportunities. If you’re new to our organization or have a new product to market, we have after-hours networking events where you can meet other members.

What’s the biggest challenge facing the building industry today?

I think the biggest ongoing challenge we have is governmental regulation, ensuring that it’s fair to all parties involved—our building community, the cities, or regulatory community, and the end consumer. We have to ensure that all groups receive mutual benefit from every piece of regulation.

The next largest challenge is communicating with the younger generation, whether they’re in our industry or using our industry. We used to be the authority. Now, people can go to a search engine like Google and look up the answer to any question they have. The answer they find may be right, it may be wrong, or it may be partial information, possibly from an unreliable source. We have to find a way to show them the benefit of working with an HBA member, whether it’s buying a new home, hiring a remodeling contractor, or looking for a vendor.

Tell us about your family.

I live in Urbandale with my wife, Stacy, and our daughters, Morgan, 13, and Kenzie, 10.

What type of charity work are you involved in?

I’ve had the pleasure of leading the construction on two homes for Habitat for Humanity.

What do you like to do to unwind?

I’m not very good at it, but I enjoy getting out and playing golf.