About 30 years ago, Andrew Flake had breakfast at the Black Dog with fellow builders Colin Whyte and John Early, and tossed out the idea of getting together with other builders, architects, and engineers for a two-day meeting to share ideas on the business and, according to Flake, “Everyone looked at me like I had horns on my head and a tail coming out the rear.”
It was an idea that was ahead of its time, but then, seven years ago, in an after-hours meeting at R.D. Crane (now Crane Appliance) in Vineyard Haven, Flake, along with some other people in the Vineyard construction business, joined with a representative from the Cape Cod Builders Association (CCBA) to try and figure out how the Vineyard could have a similar association on the Island.
“In the beginning, the Cape Cod Builders Association partnered with us,” Flake told the Times. He told the CCBA that the Islanders would learn everything they can from it, but in the end, they wanted to be an independent organization. “It took a while to gain traction,” Flake said, “but the underlying reasons for doing this were so good, not just for builders and designers, but for the community at large, that over time we became a very worthy organization.” That was the beginning of the Martha’s Vineyard Builders Association (MVBA), and Andrew Flake was the founding board president.
Flake served as president for five years, and turned over the reins to Newell Isbell Shinn two years ago. Now, after seven years on the MVBA board, Flake has decided to step down, and last Thursday evening, close to 150 MVBA members surprised Flake at their monthly meeting at the Loft in Oak Bluffs, presenting him with a Distinguished Service Award, a bowl from the Martha’s Vineyard Glassworks.
Newell Isbell Shinn presented Flake with the award, saying, “Andrew has shown incredible dedication to this organization, he’s shown a commitment to excellence and has been an inspiration to all of us, and we would not be where we are today without Andrew.”
Shinn read a letter sent by John Abrams, CEO of South Mountain Co., who was unable to be at the meeting. Flake “deserves this award,” it read; “he’s been a steady and stellar influence, and his passion and dedication have been an important part of the growth and maturity of the organization.”
From its origins at the meeting at Crane seven years ago, the MVBA has grown to more than 140 members, including a variety of groups such as general contractors, painters, masons, insurance professionals, and more. MVBA gives an informed voice to a large part of our economy — the Island’s construction labor force.
The MVBA deals with environmental issues and zoning issues, and has a particular interest in getting people involved in the trades. It works with ACE MV to provide continuing education for programs in the building trades, and with MVYouth to encourage MVRHS students to build a career in the trades. In the back of the room at the Loft where the meeting was being held were a series of large, mounted posters that the MVBA helped MVYouth produce, featuring successful local tradespeople who had graduated from MVRHS. They are hung in the high school, giving students something to aspire to. MVBA will disburse $5,000 in scholarships in 2020; $1,000 of that $5,000 is earmarked for MVYouth.
Richard Leonard, regional president of Cape Cod Five, a co-sponsor of the evening’s event along with Crane Appliances, said the building industry is a big part of the Island economy. Having them work together helps facilitate good outcomes when difficult problems arise: “We’re really pleased and proud to be a member and provide support.”
Upon receiving the award, Flake reflected, “I couldn’t imagine that 30 years after that initial meeting at the Black Dog that I’d be standing up here and looking back on all that we’ve accomplished. It’s a great feeling.”