Inside BIA Hawaii: The Big Three
Jess Leorna, Sarah Love and Hinano Nahinu steer BIA Hawaii in a new direction

Jess Leorna, Sarah Love and Hinano Nahinu


s Hinano Nahinu, Building Industry Association (BIA) Hawaii’s 2024 president-elect, prepares for her momentous year ahead, Sarah Love, 2023 president, makes an interesting observation.

“This is not the first year that BIA Hawaii has had a woman as president,” Love says. “I believe I am the third woman to be president and lead the association. However, I do believe this is the first time that the association has had women in the top three positions: president [Love], president-elect [Nahinu] and our chief executive officer [Jess Leorna].”

Having successfully steered BIA Hawaii through many challenges in 2023 — including permitting issues and escalating material costs — these women are leading the way in 2024.

Building Industry Hawaii recently sat down with Leorna, Love and Nahinu for an inside look at BIA Hawaii, its recent victories and its agenda for the upcoming year.


JESS LEORNA: In 2023, BIA Hawaii’s membership consists of over 320 members, comprising 165 builder members, accounting for 51 percent of the total membership. Suppliers make up 22 percent of the membership, while the remaining 27 percent includes professionals in related fields such as legal, consulting, realtors, architects and more as associate members.


SARAH LOVE: We embarked upon a membership drive this year, increasing our membership by 16 percent net growth in members. We used the drive to reach out to prior members that became inactive during the pandemic and to recruit new members. As a result, the National Association of Home Builders [NAHB] recognized BIA Hawaii with incentive cash and travel prizes for exceeding its goal of 6 percent net growth for each local association.


Hinano Nahinu: We plan to work closely with our partner Hawaii Building Industry Foundation to help support our education initiatives and scholarship fund, and the Maui Rebuild and Recovery Fund.

We supported the Emerging Leader Program with NAHB that I just participated in, in Washington D.C., and visited Capitol Hill with our chief lobbyist there to advocate for our workforce development through programs funded by Job Corps [and] through our Home Building Institute, which also support our Pre-Apprenticeship Certification Training.


JL: [Our] Home Builder Rebate Program provides significant cash rebates and money-saving techniques to help members navigate increased costs due to inflation and supply chain disruptions. This program helps members optimize their expenses in the face of rising materials costs — in fact, members who have participated each received on average over $4,500 in manufacturer rebates this year.

As members of NAHB, BIA Hawaii members leverage the collective power of the national association to fight supply chain issues and inflation on a broader scale.

NAHB is actively addressing the lumber crisis and the volatility in wood product prices, which were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The association advocates for increased domestic lumber production, the removal of trade barriers and solutions to port congestion and transportation delays.

Pictured at the 2022 BIA Hawaii Installation Banquet, from left to right: Lung Rose Voss Wagnild attorneys David Imanaka, Harvey Lung, Craig Wagnild, Adrian Lavarias, 2023 BIA Hawaii President Sarah Love, Michael Carroll, Ryan Engle and Christian Chambers.     PHOTO COURTESY SARAH LOVE


SL: BIA Hawaii works to educate our lawmakers, whether at the Legislature or at the City Council, on the financial impact of proposed changes in the law to the cost of housing in Hawai‘i. 

With the current lending/financing market, every increase to the cost of building puts home ownership out of reach for more members of our community. BIA Hawaii also supported the intent of the Governor’s emergency housing proclamation. We agree that we currently have a housing crisis and more needs to be done to make housing in Hawai‘i more affordable for our local community.


SL: In 2023, BIA set out to work closer with DPP and to engage our members more in our advocacy efforts. We’ve held town hall meetings to foster open dialogue and gathered member experience feedback related to the DPP process and recent changes in the department. BIA introduced a resolution to move from a three-year code cycle review to a six-year code cycle review.

BIA Hawaii’s Jess Leorna, right, poses for a photo with employees at the 2023 BIA Hawaii Home Show.     PHOTO COURTESY JESS LEORNA


SL: BIA submitted comprehensive comments and suggested amendments to the State Building Code Council to consider in its 2021 International Energy Code review, with results: feedback from BIA Hawaii was accepted into amendments to the energy code adopted this year.

BIA’s Immediate Past President Daryl Takamiya, Jess Leorna and active BIA Member Tracy Tonaki of DR Horton attended the ceremonial signing of Bill 4 in August 2023 — a strong show of collaboration among participants in the effort, including the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability and Resiliency; Department of Planning & Permitting; councilmembers; and energy-efficiency stakeholders.


JL: Participating in the BIA Hawaii BIG Home Shows is essential for engaging with experts and exploring the homebuilding and renovation industry.

In 2023, our shows featured over 80 exhibitors each. The shows attracted a diverse audience with significant interest in home building and buying, and featured vendors and contractors who offered a variety of products and services. Energy-related products were in high demand, reflecting a focus on sustainability. One of the highlights included a presentation from senior leadership of the Department of Planning & Permitting — this has never happened before.

Sen. Brian Schatz, second from left, poses for a photo with NAHB chief lobbyist Lake Coulson, left, President-elect Hinano Nahinu and NAHB First Vice Chairman of the Board Carl Harris, right.     PHOTO COURTESY NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF HOME BUILDERS


JL: My expertise lies in my background in executive operations and finance. I bring a wealth of experience and knowledge in these areas, allowing me to contribute effectively to the organization’s financial management and operational efficiency which was timely during the pandemic and as we strengthen our bottom line into the coming years.

I have a strong passion for embracing new and innovative approaches to address challenges and enhance productivity.

In the future, my role requires that I am able to stay abreast of the latest trends and innovations in the EO and finance fields, and get more involved in our engagement with elected officials on hot topics and collaborations. I’m committed to continuous learning and staying informed about cutting-edge practices, technologies and strategies that can help drive success for BIA Hawaii as the voice of the industry here in Hawai‘i.

SL: We have spent the last couple of years getting the association back on solid footing coming out of the pandemic. Like most nonprofit organizations, the pandemic was a difficult time period. 

CEO Jess Leorna, right, and the NAHB have helped raise more than $120,000 for Maui relief.     PHOTO COURTESY JESS LEORNA

SL: With my background as an attorney, I think I was uniquely situated to help the association navigate through this transition period. As an attorney, my job is to help clients think through strategic decisions and chart a path to get to the intended goal. We were able to help set a roadmap to where we wanted to go this year and work through the steps on what it was going to take to get us there.

HN: I have always had roles in leadership that accompanied education. Within the BIA capacity, the vision was always to provide training and be a resource center for our members, trades and industry with our educational programs.

My late brother, Shannon Warfield, who was a licensed general contractor/steel contractor on the Big Island, encouraged me to get my contractor’s license — which I did in 2021, two months after my brother passed away from colon cancer at the age of 47.

“Being a wife and mom are [among] my greatest accomplishments and joy,” says BIA Hawaii Presdent-elect Hinano Nahinu. Pictured with Nahinu from left: Milton, Lilinoe and Pono Nahinu.     PHOTO COURTESY CHRISTINE HOFFMAN/ALOHA WISHES PHOTOGRAPHY

It has become a huge part of why I support the PACT programs and any educational programs that provide a means to make an impact with individuals that want to pursue a career within the industry.

We must pique their interest at a much younger age at middle school, and support programs that provide the means to develop their skills to make them workforce-ready by the time they graduate high school.

I would like to see more of our members provide trade mentorship programs to our youth for development and find ways to help support these educational programs, especially for our Native Hawaiian students. We have so many examples of how — with the right mentoring, education program and opportunities — we can keep our people in Hawai‘i at a competitive skill level and most importantly add them to the depleted workforce across the country.

“Homeworks Construction President Marshall Hickox, left, poses for a photo with Sarah Love, BIA Hawaii 2023 president, and Evan Fujimoto, Graham Builders president.     PHOTO COURTESY SARAH LOVE


SL: I would say that there is a high degree of collaboration between the three of us. Each of us has our own strengths, and by working together we can capitalize on those strengths. We are also very fortunate to have a supportive Board of Directors and many long-time members and past directors that continue to support the association and its programs.

You can often find the three of us sitting down and brainstorming ideas for how to improve BIA Hawaii’s programs, or how to activate and reach our membership in more effective ways. We like to bounce ideas off       of each other to vet whether a certain idea one or two of us might have is something that would work well for the association and our members. 

“One of my goals this year was to reactivate our membership. Jess, Hinano and I set up a number of lunches with members to get reconnected with them and [learn] what the association could be doing to help them and their businesses.

HN: Jess and Sarah have been selfless in their efforts to provide me with the leadership transition necessary for the role of president in 2024.

They have always kept the goal and vision at the forefront of why we do what we do. For example, when the Maui wildfires happened, we had to mobilize help for our members there and utilize our resources to provide that help. Jess immediately acted with NAHB, and she and I flew to Maui the week after the fires to meet with some of them.

Jess and Sarah both jumped in to create the Maui Rebuild Fund under our foundation so we could accept donations that are now pouring in from across the country through our industry network. The fund has now raised over $120,000 and will be used towards the rebuilding efforts for Maui. This was a collective and collaborative effort by all of us and our foundation.


HN: That we are all very different and unique women who have strengths in different areas with a lot to offer in terms of leadership. We do our best work when our strengths are recognized and being used to the best of our abilities.”

2024 BIA Hawaii Board of Directors

  • Scott Amano, Amano Construction Inc.
  • Silvio Boucher, Homeworks Construction Inc.
  • Peter Eldridge, Raynor Hawaii Overhead Doors (Executive Board Special Appointee)
  • Roseann Freitas, Better Business Bureau (Secretary)
  • Max Lindsey, Mark Development Inc.
  • Sarah Love, Lung Rose Voss Wagnild, (Immediate Past President)
  • McKibbon Mist, D.R. Horton
  • Hinano Nahinu, Pacific Source (President)
  • Tommy O’Donnell, O’Donnell Construction LLC
  • Lukas Petersons, Longhouse Design+Build
  • Kamuela Potter, Inspired Closets Hawaiʻi (Vice President)
  • Marc Putman, Armstrong Builders LLC (Executive Board Special Appointee)
  • Marc Rinker, Gentry Homes (Incoming President)
  • Kaloa Robinson, Stanford Carr Development LLC
  • Lili Shintani. Alan Shintani Inc.
  • Paul Silen, Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. Inc. (Treasurer)
  • Robin Titcomb, First Hawaiian Bank
  • Daryl Takamiya, Castle & Cooke Homes
  • Wayne Uehira, Hawaiian Electric Co.
  • Craig Washofsky, Pacific Home & Appliance Distribution

A ceremonial signing of the Building Energy Conservation Code (Bill 4) at the Mayor’s office on Aug. 30 marked the first time leaders from BIA Hawaii, the Office of Climate Change Sustainability and Resiliency and the Department of Planning & Permitting gathered to celebrate their collaborative efforts.     PHOTO COURTESY JESS LEORNA

SL: Jess and Hinano are both extremely hard workers. It is nice to be able to work and collaborate with other strong women.

Jess has taught me the value of being innovative — that sometimes you need to look at a situation from all different perspectives to figure out what the best path might be. She has a wealth of experience in operations management and has done a lot to be innovative in revamping our programs. 

Hinano is a very-purpose driven person. Her love for life, the industry and giving back to the community is infectious. She is blessed with the ability to really motivate people.

JL: I have had the privilege of learning valuable lessons from these two women leaders in the construction industry, and the exchange of insights has been mutually beneficial. From my two colleagues, I’ve gained important lessons.

Hinano has shown me the significance of resilience in the face of adversity. Her ability to adapt to unexpected challenges and keep moving forward, even in the most challenging circumstances, has been inspiring. It’s a reminder that in the construction industry, adaptability is a key asset.

Sarah has demonstrated the power of effective communication. Her capacity to convey complex ideas clearly, repeatedly and concisely, and to ensure that everyone is on the same page has been an essential lesson. This highlights the importance of clear and open communication in preventing misunderstandings and fostering collaboration.

Our collective knowledge exchange has reinforced the idea that a diverse skill set, effective communication and resilience are vital components for success in the construction industry.

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