Florida Weekly asked the top leaders in business throughout Southwest Florida to share their insights into the future of our economy as it relates to their field of expertise. Our very own Mark Smith provided his take on the building industry in a special edition of Florida Weekly published on September 3, 2015. Hear Mark’s thoughts and predictions from Collier County’s top CEOs, directors, general managers and other business owners about the current state of local industry.
From Florida Weekly 2015-09-03
Mark Smith, President, Harwick Homes
‘Keeping our eye on the future without forgetting the past is critical’
WHO AM I?
NAME: Mark Smith
TITLE AND COMPANY: President, Harwick Homes
YEARS WITH THE COMPANY: 22 years
YEARS IN SOUTHWEST FLORIDA: 27 years
NATURE OF BUSINESS: Custom Home Building and Remodeling
EDUCATION: University of Bridgeport, Connecticut for Computer Engineering
How did you first get into business?
Originally, I was a framing contractor, but decided after a few years in business I needed a change. Rick Harwick called and wanted to negotiate our next project, whereby I told him I was closing up shop. He then offered me a job as his first field superintendent; that was December of 1992. I came on full time in January 1993, and the rest is history.
What are some recent trends you’ve seen in your industry?
Cleaner, simpler designs. More contemporary, less cluttered but still nicely done.
What lessons did you learn from the Great Recession?
It will always come to an end. We just happened to endure a far worse one than most in the past 30 to 50 years.
What’s your vision for the future of your business?
Very optimistic with the diversification we made pre-meltdown. The market is changing, or as the saying goes, the “cheese is moving.” We are in a position to move with it in a positive way and look at the future with open eyes.
What new products or services will you introduce next year?
Hoping to provide more in-house labor and through diversification be able to offer our clients a better experience.
What are some of the challenges you face this year?
Keeping our eye on the future without forgetting the past is critical. We need to maintain or keep sustainable growth and not grow just for the sake of increased revenue.
What trends do you see impacting your industry in the next two to four years?
I am looking for smaller, more efficient homes to take ahold here. I hope it does. Locally, I am concerned with where we are going. We need to maintain reasonable growth without destroying what makes our area as beautiful as it is, that being open spaces, etc. Not having new land can stifle or slow our ability to grow or even stay level with previous years.
How do you expect the local economy to grow?
It needs to grow through something other than tourism; with a favorable tax system over other states I believe we are ripe to relocate businesses here, such as Hertz. I think as was announced or noted in a recent newspaper story, we are becoming a bit more of a yearround destination. I am positive about our future.
What do you look for when recruiting new talent?
Real-life experiences, attitude, manners and how someone carries himself or herself outweigh education.
What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
Always maintain a healthy reserve and stick to the basics that got you to where you are.
What do you enjoy the most about the job?
Meeting with people and brainstorming about their dreams.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I am an immigrant and became a citizen of this country in 1976.