Jordan Cornelison gets back to building with the family business after three years at the helm of Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga

Photography by Matt Hamilton / Jordan Cornelison
Photography by Matt Hamilton / Jordan Cornelison

For the first time in more than three years, Jordan Cornelison's hands aren't on the wheel as the Home Builders Association of Greater Chattanooga (HBAGC) preps for its Fall Tri-State Home Show.

And he's good with that.

Cornelison stood down early this year after an extraordinary run of three straight one-year terms as the Association's president and chairman. Now its immediate past president and chairman, he recalls turning the office over to his successor, Barry Payne of BP Construction.

"It felt great," says Cornelison, who is vice president at P&C Construction, a business he says his father, Royce Cornelison, and uncle launched three decades ago.

"The (HBAGC) staff does a great job of keeping it from being too time-consuming, but it takes some time to be president of the Association," he says. "It was great to be able to get back (to P&C)."

Cornelison, 31, says he took over at HBAGC in early 2020 -- just weeks before the global pandemic hit. He recalls that the Association managed to present its spring Home Show just before the pandemic started forcing cancellations of big gatherings everywhere, but the Fall 2020 Home Show got scrubbed.

At the end of the year, he says, the HBAGC board recommended to its executive committee that the 2020 officers stay in place for 2021. A year later, he adds, the Association's board and executive committee repeated that step, keeping the officers elected for 2020 in place through 2022. The Spring 2021 Home Show was cancelled, but the fall show went on as scheduled and the HBAGC staged both home shows last year.

Doug Fisher, the Association's executive officer, said the hope for this year's fall show, set for August 19-20 at the Chattanooga Convention Center, is a return to normalcy.

"We've been working to get this back on track," says Fisher. "The fall 2022 show was better than the spring show, and the spring 2023 show got a little better.

"We feel like we're back, or at least close, to pre-COVID days," he adds. "Our expectations are for (the August show) to be back at pre-COVID levels in terms of crowd, vendors and revenues."

Fisher, who's in his fifth year at the HBAGC, says Cornelison was the right person in the right place when the pandemic turned the world upside down.

"Jordan's an incredibly stabilizing force, just in his demeanor alone -- and the organization needed that stability when all our events were being shut down.

"That he stayed in office to work us through that period was a huge plus for us," adds Fisher, who also credits Cornelison for the HBAGC's $50,000 donation last year to the Chattanooga Construction Career Center, Hamilton County's vocational training facility for high-school students and adults.

Cornelison says he got his start in the family business at 16, working as a laborer while finishing high school at his Flat Rock, Alabama, home. He worked his way up, including stints as a carpenter, foreman and project manager, before becoming a vice president in 2017, at age 25. His older brother, Nic, is P&C's president.

"My dad and uncle started the business when I was 18 months old," Jordan Cornelison says. "I grew up in construction. As soon as I was old enough to go to job sites and work, that's what I did.

"Dad wanted us to have a ground-up understanding of each position," he adds. "Working as a laborer was challenging. Doing grunt work isn't always fun, but it was a great learning experience. And when you're putting on your boots, going out there, doing the work and learning, you earn the respect of the people you're working with."

These days, Cornelison says, P&C has projects under way in roughly half the states -- "from Vermont to Florida and everywhere in between" -- and bills between $60 million and $70 million annually. Across the years, he adds, the nature of the company's business has shifted significantly.

"Our first 10 years or so, 50% to 70% of our business was residential," he says. "Then the residential dropped to about 30% versus 70% commercial.

"Now we're probably 95% commercial," Cornelison says, "But even though we don't do a lot of residential anymore, I was willing to serve when (the Association) first asked me to sit on the board in 2014. I wanted to give back to the industry."

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