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Best kept secret

image Brenda Romano, Chief Executive Officer, VBX

DALLAS/FT WORTH - Twenty years ago, contractors were using fax machines, visiting plan rooms and handling mounds of paper to manage the bid process. The Builders Exchange of Texas (BXTX) was in the thick of it, publishing a printed Bulletin, operating a physical plan room and busily making blueprint copies for its members. Then one day, BXTX received its first CD Rom with plans and specs on it and realized that the world was moving rapidly toward electronic distribution. The organization immediately began to develop a technological solution and in 1997, the nation’s first online “virtual” plan room was launched in San Antonio.


    By 2008, the BXTX Board of Directors recognized that its creation was rapidly consuming the resources of the trade association and the risks and investment strategies were beyond the scope of a traditional non-profit organization.  A decision was made to split the organization into two different entities: the non-profit Builders Exchange of Texas Education Foundation, dedicated to training and educating the next generation workforce, and the for-profit Virtual Builders Exchange (VBX), responsible for operating the online plan room service and develop additional technology-based services.
    Over the past decade, BXTX has focused on developing award-winning training programs while VBX has focused its efforts on creating better technology and greater awareness of Builders Exchanges and the services they provide.
     According to Brenda Romano, COO of VBX, over 200 Builders Exchanges operate across the U.S. and Canada and have since the late 1800’s. However, surprisingly few people know about them outside of their core membership.
    “Builders’ Exchanges are one of the Industry’s best kept secrets,” says Romano.  “We’ve relied on personal relationships for most of our existence, the kind that were forged locally,” noted Romano. “That’s changing.  Technology is shrinking our world.   The trick is to make sure that we expand our geographic access while preserving our local relationships.” She added.  “With that in mind, we developed collaborative software that allows local Builders Exchanges to work together so our members can see information in others states without logging out of their Home Exchange,” Romano explained.  “It offers the best of both worlds – expanding our members’ reach, but keeping their local connections.”
    Currently there are 11 Builders Exchanges sharing our platform from six different states, (including Texas) and other exchanges are waiting to join.  “Every Exchange is different and has its own identity, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work together to provide a better service to the industry,“ Romano added. ”It’s just another step in our evolution, and considering that our oldest Exchange was founded 150-years ago, we’re getting pretty good at evolving.”  -rd

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Reesa Doebbler reesa@constructionnews.net