Developer calls truce to land fights New head of builders pushes alliances with environmentalists

'More business-friendly'

John E. Kortecamp will take helm with untraditional ethic

June 02, 1996|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

As an advocate for land developers in Maine, John E. Kortecamp got caught up in the age-old tug of war between builders and environmentalists.

But instead of tugging back harder in the struggle over government regulation of development, Kortecamp sought the cooperation of environmental groups and agencies -- and got it.

The trade group he headed as executive director -- the Maine Real Estate and Economic Development Association -- proposed six bills over nearly seven years to streamline the land development process. And each became law.

"Our contention was we were not trying to do anything to degrade the environment," said Kortecamp. "We were more concerned with the administrative and regulatory process."

Now, he's hoping to transplant his tactics and track record to the Baltimore area, where he'll take on management of the Home Builders Association of Maryland later this month as its first new executive vice president in a decade.

The Home Builders, a 1,200-member association that lobbies for the industry and offers training and education, selected Kortecamp, 49, in part for his proven ability to forge alliances between groups with historically opposing views, said John P. Martonick, president. Kortecamp succeeds Frank J. Miano, executive vice president for 10 years and a former association president.

"One of the major assets Dr. Kortecamp will bring to our association and state as a whole is extensive experience in creating meaningful dialogue between builders, developers and environmental advocates," Martonick said. "He has shown a significant track record in bringing what often become divergent interests together on common ground."

When he first took the job in Portland, Maine, in 1989, Kortecamp quickly found environmentalists and builders at odds.

The environmentalists "needed to present the bogey man of the big, bad developer, and to get my members to pay attention, we'd have to show [the members] the environmentalists were trying to shut us down," Kortecamp said.

"It didn't take me long to realize that was not productive," he said. "We didn't want to sit there and throw rocks at the other guy. We wanted to change policy to make it more business-friendly."

To do that, he reasoned, builders needed to go on the offensive well ahead of the state's legislative sessions. Rather than merely reacting -- monitoring other groups' bills and lobbying for or against them -- Kortecamp suggested that his association's board of directors form committees to work year-round drafting legislation.

They met with environmentalists and officials of the state's Department of Environmental Protection, soliciting their comments and suggestions.

"They were fairly shocked," Kortecamp recalled of the state officials' reaction. "Typically, they find out when [a bill] gets filed. We were talking about it up front."

With the backing of the state agency and groups such as the Maine Audubon Society and the Natural Resources Council of Maine, presentations to the legislature went smoothly. New laws eliminated redundancies at the local, state and federal levels in the permit and review process that had increased builders' costs and development time.

"This process of being up front isn't a silver bullet and doesn't change the world, but it changes the way people respond to you and really changes the way the legislature responds to you," Kortecamp said.

The Maine native's background, including a doctorate in education, has allowed him to slide easily from teaching positions into association management, including previous jobs with the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders. Trade associations such as those typically focus on education, both for members and the public.

Before completing his doctorate in 1983 at the University of Massachusetts, he earned a master's degree in educational administration in 1971 from the University of Southern Maine.

He taught courses in educational change and administration and leadership, first at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., then at the University of Southern Maine in Portland from 1979 to 1981.

In 1981, he left to head the education department of the National Association of Realtors, where his division sponsored a PBS television series on renovating and retrofitting buildings.

He also helped develop award-winning curricula for high school students, using a rock video format to teach issues associated with owning a home.

He shifted to the development end of real estate in 1986, heading the National Association of Home Builders' education division for three years.

The division produced a training series for builders, including management courses for small companies.

In his new role with the Baltimore association, Kortecamp expects to work with elected officers and members to identify concerns in the industry locally and ultimately to strengthen the association as a place to come to solve problems.

To beef up the membership roster, he plans to focus on ways to better serve small- and medium-sized builders.

The Home Builders began seeking a new executive vice president earlier this year after Miano announced his retirement.

Miano, who will stay on with the association as a consultant for the rest of the year, said he plans to pursue a new career in either health care or real estate.

Pub Date: 6/02/96

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