Perhaps the most significant celebration of the Northeast Florida Builders Association each year is the installation of the incoming president.
It is a time of pride and anticipation: Pride in the quality of leadership that is present among the membership and anticipation for the growth and enhancement the new president brings to the table.
It is with great pride and anticipation that NEFBA introduces Lee Arsenault as the 2017 president of the state’s largest homebuilders association.
Among NEFBA’s builder members, stories of surviving the rough years are not rare. Stories of coming out of those years stronger and better prepared to weather storms are plentiful.
With common threads, these builders attribute their success to a number of factors: careful planning ahead, diversifying their product, finding the right market niche, tenacity, support of family, friends, loyal trade allies and their faith.
As a comeback builder, Arsenault speaks eloquently for those in the local industry who have redefined themselves and are now enjoying a successful return to the landscape of Northeast Florida.
His personal experience gives him a deep appreciation for the value of determination, the support of the association and faith.
Arsenault’s story was one of determination and small steps. When the housing market suffered so many losses and Arsenault was without a job.
Then he began to receive calls from friends to help out with remodels, small projects that kept coming.
Those calls, Arsenault says, were a lifeline and quickly led him to start his own company, New Leaf Construction.
He activated his Florida general contractor’s license, secured the needed insurance and legal documents. His wife, Diane, created the name and designed the logo, which has several layers of meaning.
“The obvious, of course, is my personal ‘turning over a new leaf,’ a new chapter of my life,” Arsenault said. “And as work projects came to our attention, we started to be able to hire and put others back to work, the company offered them that same opportunity.
“The logo also expresses our belief that our customers are also like branches on a tree, that we are connected and sustain each other,” he said. “We are all connected when we work together to achieve our dreams.”
He also said working with personal friends taught him some important lessons about the relationship between a builder and a homeowner.
“Success of those projects depended on understanding what the homeowner wanted,” he said. “I learned that our role is to be an advocate for our customers.
“I had always wanted the customer to have a good experience and be happy with their new home, but this experience gave me greater insight into the advocate’s role of a builder or remodeler,” he said.
Arsenault is a strong proponent of the Pinnacle Builder Award, which he believes is a huge benefit to NEFBA members.
After he began hiring for his new business, Arsenault was approached by one of his tradesmen whose business was suffering because builders were hiring other contractors, contractors who were not NEFBA members.
Arsenault was concerned and together they went to talk to then-president of NEFBA Mark Downing.
“I didn’t have a solution, but was so pleased when the Pinnacle Builder Award was created because that was certainly a step in the right direction,” Arsenault said. “It’s an innovative, effective way to promote a concept that is essential to keeping our association strong and growing.
“By acknowledging and rewarding builders who make this commitment, we encourage others to do the same,” he said. “And New Leaf is proud to be a Pinnacle Builder.”
Last year, Arsenault was named 2016 Builder of the Year by the Florida Home Builders Association as a result of his service to the community through charitable projects New Leaf has participated in and also his involvement as chairman of the FHBA Codes and Standards Committee.
Arsenault is a member of the Remodelers Council and has been on the NEFBA board of directors since 1995.
He takes advantage of his membership with NEFBA’s parent organization, the National Association of Home Builders, to obtain training and valuable interaction with builders from across the country. He also is a vocal advocate for the association.
“NEFBA gives its members an edge,” he said. “What one company or an individual cannot accomplish, the association can. There is strength in numbers and we are particularly fortunate to have well-connected members and staff who work hard to get our message to area, state and national decision makers.”
Arsenault was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela, where his father, who worked for the U.S. State Department, was assigned.
He and his six siblings had an international childhood living in Central and South America before returning to the U.S. to attend junior high school. He learned Spanish before he learned English.
The family lived in Maryland before moving to Southwest Miami.
Arsenault finished high school in the upper Keys and joined the Army upon graduation, serving a tour of duty in Vietnam.
After his discharge, he returned to the Keys and began his long and productive life in the construction industry.
Lee and Diane, who have been married for 33 years, have two children: Rebecca, vice president of accounting for New Leaf, and Christopher, who also lives in the area and is pursuing his own career.
Rebecca has a baby boy, Benjamin, now just a few months old. Needless to say, baby Benjamin has been receiving lots of love and attention from the whole family.
Join us in welcoming our new president, Lee Arsenault. We invite you also to join us in working together to make this another great year for the industry and all NEFBA members.