Wess Gaylon with the Wichita Area Builders Association

Strength in Purpose

There’s real strength in numbers and in having the ability to share a common need and vision for the industry.
That truth has been put into productive action by Wess Galyon and the Wichita Area Builders Association (WABA) through the years, with the support of his wife Mary of 54 years, and their three children, Adam, Brian, and Paul.
Fulfilling Its Mission Through Time
WABA was founded in 1951. Originally, the organization was known as the Wichita Homebuilders Association. About 20 years ago, the name was changed to better reflect the fact that many builders also work on commercial projects, as well.
Wess is President/CEO of the association and has been a steady, guiding force in the good work that the group has done for the industry and community through time.
“WABA was formed during the last real heyday for housing construction … right after World War II. One of the things that the association was experiencing in the early 1950s was government involvement in building. The government wanted to make sure that things were built according to code,” Wess says.
“The problem with that wasn’t the fact that the quality was being ensured, but the fact that it increased costs. At the time the association was formed to be the spokesperson for the industry and be involved in code and standard development. We are an affiliate of the National Association of Homebuilders. There’s also a state association. We all work together to do everything we can to make sure that housing is made affordable and accessible.”
Growing Forward
Today, WABA covers seven counties in the Wichita area and boasts more than 1,000 individual members.
“We don’t give memberships to companies. That’s because we want to hold the individuals responsible for what they do in the industry,” Wess says.
“In our total membership, we have about 230 builder memberships. The others are developers, land planners, lenders, bankers, appraisers, subcontractors and so on. We work very well together.”
Of the 700 associations   in the country, WABA is ranked as the 22nd largest association.
“That is a true testament to the way our membership here has pulled together to make homeownership as affordable and accessible as possible. Such is of critical importance to those who have the desire to achieve the American Dream of home ownership,” Wess says.
Making a Long-Term Impact
Wess remembers the first professional management job opportunity he was able to secure when he was hired right after graduating Wichita State University. He was made aware of the opening when talking with a local real estate appraiser with whom he was acquainted who told him about the opening for an Executive Officer position with the Wichita Area Association of Realtors.
“I was in my early 20s, but I was fortunate enough to secure the position and garner the support of people who had been in the industry a long time. I met a number of industry leaders with whom I have had the opportunity to work with, learn from, and establish friendships that have lasted a lifetime.
In time, Wess also worked for a large Coldwell Banker Franchise as Director of Operations. During his tenure there, Wess had also earned both his Broker’s license and his General Contractor’s license as his role with the Company expanded.
While at Coldwell Banker, Wess was approached by representatives of the Wichita Area Builders Association and made aware of the position they had open for a President/CEO. Wess agreed after several meetings with them, to a meeting with headhunters who had been hired to solicit qualified applicants for the position.   Applicants were screened and eventually the list was cut to two individuals. Wess was interviewed and offered the position in which he accepted and remains grateful for the chance and opportunity to be involved in the community and to help people realize their dream of home ownership.” “Being part of something “bigger than oneself” while working with others to achieve shared goals and objectives is really something special.”
“Today, after 37 years with the Wichita Area Builders Association, I spend about 70 percent of my time in advocacy and government affairs. I get involved in educating and informing our members about governmental activities within the industry and help them understand how they are impacted and steps that can be taken to grow their businesses. We showcase the ‘best of the best’ our Members have to offer via our annual Home Show and our Spring and Fall Parades of Homes. With the right information, would be homeowners come to the realization that ‘buying new’ is one’s best economic alternatives, all things considered.
There’s Room for You, Too
As Wess points out, there are many opportunities for local members of the industry to become part of the Association.
“We believe that everyone who is serious about being in business should be treated professionally, fairly and have access to the information they need to grow and become the best at what they do.
I’m always open to talking with members at any time and helping them,” Wess says. “Also, we try to position numerous committees that members can become involved with based on their interests in their respective areas of endeavor. If a Member has concerns, we have a place for them to get involved and make things better for themselves and their colleagues
One of the organizations that WABA supports is Habitat for Humanity, as well as many others that address challenges for those less fortunate that have housing and related needs.
“One thing we have done is form a charitable foundation years ago that members and non-members can contribute to,” Wess says. “That has provided an opportunity for our members to give back in a meaningful way. If you want to help people who are less fortunate, you can do that through the Builders Care Foundation.”