Why Northern Florida University Won 2nd Place in the NAHB National Collegiate Competition

For Alex Hepler, Northern Florida University participant in the 2014 NAHB MCRC competition, this year’s challenge is especially rewarding. With the school competing for the first time in 8 years, their second place finish rewarded a bumpy journey with this project. “We arrived at 2AM the morning of the presentation. Our biggest challenge was identifying the target, finding the product and our market study. But it turns out that’s what we did well,” explains Hepler, relieved the hardest part is behind him and his team. 


Currently working for a custom builder and hoping to eventually work with a larger firm, he was encouraged by the networking opportunities and exposure this project gave him and the other participants, “We were so nervous, but after our presentations, we had builders come up and talk with us about job opportunities.” Not only were relationships forged at the competition itself, but during the months of preparation, Hepler and his fellow teammates were able to build relationships with northern Florida home building firms, “They never would have opened up and taught us about the business if we hadn’t been with a school, but they took the time to teach us,” shares Hepler. 


As they neared the completion date, the team was thrown a curve ball as the member handling the financials dropped out. Having finished his own responsibilities with the project, Hepler explains the dilemma,  “This (the financials) was basically dropped in my lap. I didn’t have time to use spreadsheets.” In an effort to educate university students about the financial analysis involved in the land acquisition and home building process, Tract-PIE was offered by the Tract-PIE Team, free of charge to 10 of the competing schools. “After a couple hours I could manage my way through the software. I had two 45 minute customer service calls,” confessing he could never have completed the task without it. 

Although the team will undoubtedly be a different mix next year, this year’s win and resulting experience and possible job opportunities will be an encouragement to the next phase of university participants.