Home / Manufactured Home Article / A Breakfast with…Mary McBrady, Massachusetts Manufactured Housing Association (MMHA)
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Mary McBrady - right, with Chicago skyline background during National Community Council Meeting. Logo and still are property of MMHA, and are used here under fair use guidelines. Collage credit, MHLivingNews.com.

A Breakfast with…Mary McBrady, Massachusetts Manufactured Housing Association (MMHA)

1) Who, What and Where: (Your name, town and your formal title at Massachusetts Manufactured Housing  Association, MMHA).

Mary McBrady, Executive Director of Massachusetts Manufactured Housing Association. I work out of my home office in this part-time contract position. MMHA maintains a post office box in Halifax, MA about 15 miles away.

2) Background: (Educational/Professional snapshot before entering the factory-built housing arena, at or before the Massachusetts Housing Association – MMHA).

I grew up in Portland, Maine. Attended Loretto Heights College in Denver, CO., where I spent one year. Bachelor of Science (BS) Degree in Food and Nutrition from the University of Maine, Orono campus. Most of my professional career was with the UMass Cooperative Extension Service – an outreach arm of land-grant universities and USDA. While employed I went to graduate school at night to complete my Masters in Business Administration (MBA).

Initially I Directed a field office with oversight of a nutrition education program field staff (at one point up to 30 staff); later I became the first woman County Extension Executive Director in the State. That work included establishing funding at the state/county and federal level with legislative work and guiding five major program areas. After 24 years I was ready for a change, took early retirement. This gave me the flexibility to work at several non-profits as their Executive Director, including “Agriculture in the Classroom” and the Massachusetts 4-H Foundation.

3) When and How: (When and how you began with MMHA). Also, please mention some career highlights that will help our readers get to know you better.

I interviewed for the job as Executive Director of MMHA eight years ago, on the recommendation of Don McCarthy, who has been involved in MMHA for many, many years as an “associate” with his insurance company. I knew Don from my Extension Service career, and other Boards. He encouraged me to apply…and the rest is history.

I had mentioned that I was ready to try a job that “I knew nothing about”…I knew how to run an organization as a Director…but knew little about the manufactured housing industry. My brother-in-law owns a crane company in Maine, and had done work on modules, my siblings are involved in the construction industry so I thought it might be a great “wrap-up job” for my work life, a job family members would understand. My previous two consultant jobs were about 5 years in length, I’ve been here now 8 years.

4) What are your personal interests or hobbies? How do you like to spend non-work time?

I like to spend my off work time traveling. My eight siblings all live in Maine so I venture back and forth quite often, we have a family home at Old Orchard Beach, near Portland, ME. I have the travel bug, on my “bucket list” is to spend 6-months in Italy, I’ve been to cooking school there three times. I am a bit of a foodie.

I golf, in a non-serious way and at one time was a skier –but all of my ski buddies have given the sport up. In the past I was quite active on local and state volunteer boards, but I have wrapped that phase of my life up…so I can get to the travel soon.

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Maine Lobster, photo by Mary McBrady.

5) Massachusetts has a number of manufactured home land lease communities; what some still refer to as ‘mobile home parks.’  For those who don’t understand the potential value of leasing the land while buying the home, what can you tell us that would make sense to a potential manufactured home buyer who hasn’t decided between buying or leasing their land?

Well in Massachusetts they are not many options; all manufactured/mobile home communities are on leased land. We have MH communities in 100 of the 351 cities and towns. In recent years, I would say the last five, we have had surge with resident owned communities [“Coop” purchases] when communities were for sale.

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Multisectional manufactured home, photo credit, MMHA.

Massachusetts has the right of first refusal for residents to purchase the property. Recently I visited the ROC USA, new headquarters in Concord NH to discuss working together for positive publicity for our industry at large to attract more buyers for our great product. Next step will be to work on zoning to increase development of MH communities.

MMHA opened up membership to those “coop” boards a few years ago, as a matter of fact our summer educational members meeting (6/16/16) we meet at a resident owned community. One positive outcome legislatively, is that MH residents seem to have more clout at the State House that single owner/operators-so together we can make a difference. Off the question, but something worth sharing!

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The Massachusetts MHA holds two major member meetings a year, a summer educational meeting in June and the Annual Meeting in November attracting between 50-70 attendees. Photo from the summer meeting getting an update from Jeff Hallahan II, MMHA President. There are 12 members of the MMHA Board of Directors. Members attending have communities in MA; RI; CT; and NH. Photo credit, Mary McBrady.

6) Your office and members often deal with questions from the media or manufactured home shoppers. What are the 5 common questions or myths about today’s manufactured homes? What are the answers provided in reply to those questions?

I haven’t focused on the mass media or MH shoppers per se. It seems like this might be a new effort, positive publicity, MMHA Directors are discussing this. So far my approach has been slightly different, it’s a focus on social media to get the word out on our “product” of a HUD code factory built home with regular “tweets;” and LinkedIn posts.

Internally I try to keep members up-to-date with monthly e-blasts. I do see the need to be more proactive.

I hear so many positive stories from community owner/operators that need to be shared in the press. For example, one owner provides each home with a turkey for Thanksgiving; others provide lots of social interactions….this is what we need to be reading about in the popular press. I think better imaging and home descriptions is key, seems to be many misconceptions of our “product”, that would be my 1 to 5!

7) Let’s talk breakfast! Where have you been that you like to go for breakfast that you recommend to your friends? What did you enjoy about the place and what is your favorite breakfast there?

I’m an active reviewer Trip Advisor (this company is Massachusetts based), with over 300 reviews under the name of MaryofMassachusetts. I use this tool, so I decided to participate –it also helps me keep track of great “eats”. I love breakfast, I jump out of bed and can’t wait. It is by far my favorite meal of the day!

8) For residents as well as for tourists going to Massachusetts, what is your favorite place in your state and why?

I probably should say Plymouth, i.e. America’s Home Town, as it does have some great tourist attractions. However I think my favorite is lower Cape Cod off season (Spring and Fall)…towns of Brewster; Chatham; National Seashore. Just beautiful.

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9) A big part of your job is dealing with regulators and public officials, elected and appointed. America faces an affordable housing shortage. Does it ever strike you that the solution is hiding in plain sight, but that perhaps well meaning public officials are missing the obvious solution that manufactured housing provides? Not to mention the fact that these are American made homes, that create a cascade of good jobs that pay a more reasonable wage than service jobs tend to do?

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State House, Boston, MA. Photo credit, Mary McBrady, MMHA.

Yes, I concur…that the solution seems so simple, yet I find it complicated and complex. Some days I feel that there are just too many regulators involved – many who believe all of the homes we have available are pre-76 HUD homes. When there are opportunities for decision-makers to visit properties it does seem to turn them around.

Publications with photographs of the newer homes resonate well with legislators.

In Massachusetts we do have, Home Rule Petitions, i.e. cities and towns have a big say in what occurs in their jurisdiction. This has some pros and some cons –i.e. rent control; and local zoning ordinances.

10) The Boston Globe did an editorial a couple of years ago favoring the use of factory built homes to avert a housing crisis. Any thoughts on that editorial? MHLivingNews spotlighted it, but how many others did?

The Mayor of Boston Marty Walsh, when he was a State Representative filed bills on behalf of MMHA as the main sponsor. He is aware of our product.

At our Summer MMHA meeting this week we do have a Policy Analyst from CHAPA attending (Citizens Housing and Planning Agency), this group is very tied into state-wide housing policy. It will be an important group for us to piggy-back on issues that we both believe will help the housing stock and one important area is restricted zoning at the local level.

In Massachusetts there is a wealth of research being done on housing shortfalls – now and anticipated.

We, as an industry, need to be part of that conversation and dialogue. We may be a small state in the overall national numbers of MH, and the Northeast is small compared to many states, however we have an enormous number of researchers and agencies interested in housing policy and analysis. How do we best make their acquaintance and speak in one industry voice?

11) The 40th Anniversary of the birth of the first HUD Code Manufactured Homes being officially built is June 15, 1976. So there have been no mobile homes built in the U.S. for 4 decades! What will it take for the public and professionals to evolve on the subject of how Lucy and Desi went from their hit movie, The Long, Long Trailer  that could be pulled behind their car in the 1950s, to the mobile homes of the 1960s and 1970s to the manufactured homes that have come of age since federal construction and safety standards took effect?

40thAnniversaryMHimagecredit-McCallenSRotary-collagecreditDailyBusinessNews-mhpronews520x604-Right, frustrating! The first thing I did when I became Executive Director of MMHA was to change the wording of all of our state proposed legislation from “mobile” to “manufactured.” Small, but an important step.

Another effort we did was to prepare a “MH 101” presentation at the State House – Small Business Caucus for Senators/Representatives and aides. This has really paid off.

Lots more to be done. I am very pleased and excited with what I am now seeing on social media with MHI videos of homes; interviews with residents; photos of interiors of HUD code factory built homes etc.

Massachusetts is a HUD default state, so with the initial step of licensing in the works, I’m hoping these HUD promoted license standards serve as a positive image for new homes placed in manufactured home communities. We will be more in line with the “modules” i.e. registered/licensed installers, with the outcome of an enhanced and expanded overall image.

12) Any closing thoughts, Ma’am?

Everyone have a great summer, and let’s keep working together!

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