On January 1, 2024, Thomas McCosby of the Lawrence County AND Mercer County Builders Associations, took office as the President of the Pennsylvania Builders Association.
Tom has been a longtime member of PBA and is well-known and respected for his knowledge of codes in the state of Pennsylvania. Before he got started on his presidential year, the PBA staff asked Tom some questions so members could get to know more about him.
Tell us about your business – what it is, who does it serve, when did you get started?
T W McCosby LLC was formed in 2016 to complete work we started as a sole proprietor. I continued to work as a building inspector full-time, and I worked with several members of my family until October 2016 when I decided to include building inspections as part of T W McCosby LLC. The business continues a legacy of building houses and small commercial buildings. We have built large additions on old houses, put second floors on ranches, and done many unusual projects, like a near authentic one-room schoolhouse and a blacksmith shop for a museum near Pittsburgh.
How did you get started in the home building industry?
I am third generation construction on both sides of my family. My dad’s father started as an electrician in 1916 and worked as a union electrician during World War II until 1956 when he was killed in an industrial accident. Dad and my uncle worked together for almost 40 years building houses and light commercial buildings, mostly gas stations. Dad remained involved until his death. My mum’s father began building houses after the War and built many small brick ranches for the returning GI’s families. His son, my uncle, continued the business for many years.
When did you join your local HBA and why?
My family was involved with the North Suburban Builders Association from 1965 until they closed their doors. NSBA was a non-affiliated association, which was successful for many years until builders stopped joining. At about the time I became involved with the building codes. Jim Conner, a former PBA President, asked me to join the Lawrence County Builders Association. Before I could attend a meeting, I was asked to be Vice-President, and I’ve never said no.
What are the biggest challenges facing our industry today and how can we overcome them?
Affordability! Inflation, interest, codes, and appraisals all combine to keep new housing starts down, especially in Western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh has been called the most livable city because of a low cost of living, based mostly on very low housing costs.
What are your goals this year as PBA President?
Building membership by making PBA the most important qualification home buyers look for when researching their builder. Second, we must show prospective members the value of Government Affairs involvement in their future. We need younger members to carry us into the future. These members will gain so much from their involvement, and we need to teach them the lessons we’ve learned since being in their place.
What differences will members see in PBA this year?
Very little since for the past several years we have been working toward these goals. They are not just my goals, nor are they, my proposals. PBA leadership has been very cohesive, and each President builds on the work of all previous Presidents.
Why is it important to join a local HBA as well as PBA and NAHB?
Local chapters are the first place a member should turn to for help and networking. The local chapters are working on the local problems and can take these problems to PBA or NAHB as is necessary to find solutions. No area exists in a vacuum, but they are likely to know the answers to local problems. PBA and NAHB don’t exist without the locals and serving the membership is why they do exist.
Why should members get involved in the federation (local HBA, PBA, and NAHB)?
As people become more distant from construction, they stop seeing the faces of real people as the ones being affected. When affordable housing becomes an abstract idea instead of the goal of all involved in the industry, we lose the opportunity to solve this problem. Government will seek ideas from those without the experience to arrive at valid solutions. Only by working together can we present a single path to affordability.
Tell us a little bit about your family.
I am the elder son of 11 siblings, 36 nieces and nephews, and an ever-growing number of great nieces and great nephews. I’m very proud of my family as each uses their talents to move from youth into their chosen future. We learned to study, then work, then contribute. Because of the size of our family, we learned to work at an early age. Both of my grandfathers were forced to leave school to help support their families. We heard the stories and learned the lessons. Family comes first, work comes second, and community and country come third, with faith as the source of our moral compass over all our actions.
And Mrs. McCosby?
I married Beverly Leckfor on October 18, 1997, after I realized how wonderful she is. It is her support and encouragement that have given me the confidence to do everything I’ve done. She accompanies me to most meetings, and I strongly recommend attending together when possible.
What do you like to do to relax?
I have no idea what the word “relax” means. When I took a vacation while working for others, I read code books on the beach. I like inventing and building equipment for construction. I love moving dirt, getting ready for a project, and looking back at the end of the day able to see what I’ve done. I have dozens of projects, thought of, planned for, and begun, each moving forward as time and need allow.
What drives you?
I lost a brother in 2012 and my father passed away on Christmas Day 2015. My paternal grandfather was killed in an industrial accident in 1956. Everything that happens in your life is a lesson, you must learn from it, glean the good, remember the bad and add the lesson to everything you think, do, or say.
The entire PBA membership and staff wish you all the best this year, Tom. Congratulations!