The premier association for commercial real estate professionals, NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, offers educational and networking opportunities, and also serves as advocate for the industry and for healthy, sustainable development.
As the organization approaches its 30th anniversary in 2016, the members, comprised of developers, brokers, owners and property managers as well as general contractors, bankers, architects, engineers, title companies and attorneys, collectively look toward a brighter future.
Past, Present and Future in Nevada
Nevada’s commercial real estate industry has, in this century alone, survived one of the highest peaks in history, with land prices soaring and builders building. The industry has also, in less than 10 years, faced the worst recession since the Great Depression. Professional organizations were no more exempt than businesses, business owners and employees. NAIOP membership dipped and programs vanished. NAIOP, however, is a professional association dedicated to its membership, and that membership came through for the organization.
Jason Otter, Community Service chair, joined in 2006 as a University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) student member. “There was a great buzz around [association] events, and we had a maximum amount of members who were sponsors and who were involved.”
Even though the recession made membership numbers drop, core members, key players in Las Vegas’ commercial real estate market, remained. They understood the value of NAIOP and now the buzz is back.
Nevada’s commercial real estate market is healthy again. The office market is still down, but industrial and retail properties are coming back, demand is rising and professionals are in full swing. “NAIOP stayed relevant for me during the recession. Even now, in the changing economy, I’m still actively doing deals with key members that I’ve met through the organization,” said Otter.
As the market changes, NAIOP remains relevant because it focuses on and facilitates business between members – at heart, it’s a business organization. Formed in 1986, the focus was originally more social. Today the association provides members with networking and educational opportunities, and organizes special events like the Spotlight Awards and the annual informational bus tour. NAIOP also has an active Government Affairs Committee.
The legislative side of the industry has changed dramatically in recent years, according to Frank Martin, CEO, Martin-Harris Construction. “Building codes change all the time and NAIOP’s always on the forefront of those changes. There are many instances where NAIOP and the Contractor’s Association work in partnership because the laws or regulations being proposed are not good for either side. We do our very best work together to make sure we get laws and regulations that work well for the industry while protecting the general public.”
The most important component to Charles Van Geel, chapter president, is advocacy at local, state and federal levels. “NAIOP plays a huge role in advancing responsible commercial development and public policy,” said Van Geel.
John Ramous chairs the Government Affairs Committee with co-chairs Mike Montandon and Sallie Doebler. Each focuses on one of the three faces of government – federal, state and local – and covers for the others when necessary.
Throughout the recession, the committee delivered the most up-to-date information to members. Sallie Doebler served as chapter president in 2011 and found Government Affairs to be an essential service for members. “Large companies, like CenturyLink and NV Energy, have entire government affairs divisions,” said Montandon. “Ninety-eight percent of companies out there don’t – they can’t afford it.”
“It’s hard to be one small voice if you’re an owner or someone working in the industry,” said Doebler. “But when we work collectively with one voice, we have a much greater impact. We want to make it clear to all our legislators and elected officials that we want to be at the table, that we’re a resource.”
Government Affairs also educates members on legislative and regulatory changes within municipalities, breaking down and explaining the new processes, said Montandon.
NAIOP’s focus as an organization is specifically on development, so the committee looks at issues that may affect the ability to develop properties, and advocates for real estate owners and property managers.
Government Affairs has remained consistently active, working and advocating in the changing market. During Legislature years, Ramous said, Government Affairs and the Education Committees work together to present a monthly lunch panel to break down and explain the impact of new laws and regulations coming out of the session. “It’s about understanding the issues better and working together as a community,” said Ramous.
NAIOP networking provides members access to the top industry professionals in Southern Nevada’s commercial real estate scene. And, as the industry recovers, more members participate in committees like the Political Action Committee that helps support elected officials, and annual events like golf tournaments and bus tours, events starting up again in the now-healthy market.
Like many organizations, NAIOP membership declined during the economic downturn. Membership fell to 325 members, said Matthew Hoyt, who took on the Membership committee chair in 2014. Now the numbers are climbing again, approaching the year-end goal of 400. “I think some of the growth has to do with the improving economy,” said Hoyt. “Members aren’t as worried about spending their money on membership, or toward sponsorship and support of the organization.”
Tom Thomas, managing member, Thomas & Mack Development Group, a longtime NAIOP member, sees membership numbers as a direct reflection of the health of the industry. “But the strength of the organization is that members found their voice in state politics and with economic decision makers in the community, and were able to keep the industry vibrant and moving forward.”
Everything dipped during the recession, including breakfast meetings and mixers, but where the summer bowling tournament only had 18 lanes in 2013, there were 28 lanes played in 2015.
As the market continues to improve, Hoyt expects that principal membership – owners and developers – will continue to increase, as will membership from support services that work with those principal members.
NAIOP’s Community Service Committee works to identify specific community needs. Assistance from the association can range from food and clothing to building or renovating buildings to provide shelter. Jason Otter chose to chair the committee in part to set an example of the importance of giving back for his two young sons.
“Committee work brings members together. The way to maximize your membership is to get involved, whether through the networking events or specifically through joining a committee,” said Otter.
One of the evolving community service projects is the NAIOP scholarship to the Colleges of Business and Engineering at UNLV. According to longtime member and former chapter president John Restrepo, the scholarship fund is up in the $75,000 to $80,000 range, and one of the most important outreach projects.
Programs and Education
The Program Committee, tasked with putting together timely topics for the monthly programs, watches issues pertinent to the CRE industry in order to offer current trends and events as well as topics that provide a great draw annually. Two such events are developer and landlord panels, particular favorites because members want opportunities to network with the top developers and landlords in Southern Nevada.
“Our networking opportunities are unparalleled,” said Van Geel. “We have the ‘Who’s Who’ of commercial real estate and the knowledge base and contacts that help a member’s company. When members can introduce themselves and their companies to their constituents, a business relationship introduction can be nurtured from there.”
“We have the flexibility to provide programming on new and emerging topics like unmanned aerial vehicles,” said Dana Berggren, Program Committee chair. “That was a strong draw – the emerging tech industry makes for strong attendance.” Another strong draw is the Legislative session review panel the Government Affairs Committee puts on in August.
The Program and Education Committees provide workshops and education from top developers and industry veterans members can’t find anywhere else. The recovering market means the return of the bus tour event which showcases development projects recently completed or currently under construction, and educates members on development and deal activity in the Las Vegas market, information presented by members involved with those projects.
Van Geel finds the Education Committee to be one of the most important components of NAIOP. Members benefit by hearing about trends before the general public does. One real life example, a NAIOP member was contemplating buying a building to house his architectural firm. Because he regularly attended NAIOP’s breakfast meetings and education events, he felt that the information gathered there, from NAIOP’s broker members, allowed him to be better informed. Armed with that information, he knew that he was buying at a very good time in the real estate cycle. He bought the building and has since seen extremely strong appreciation in its value.
This is just one example, of many, illustrating the importance of networking and education within NAIOP. During the downturn when NAIOP membership flagged, there was a move to reevaluate the value of what the organization offers members.
“We wanted to provide as much information about what was happening, not only with the national economic perspective, but also locally, and to supply additional resources for owners and brokers so they could be educated on some of the trends relative to banking and the finance industry,” said Education Committee chair David Jones.
Today the committee is moving back to partnering with third-parties to offer continuing education programs, and hosting panels with speakers in smaller, more intimate settings so members can mix with the experts. Program topics from providing exceptional tenant support to navigating municipalities bring all the players together.
Developing Leaders Institute
NAIOP works to prepare the commercial real estate industry for a brighter future by mentoring and training the next generation of professionals.
Developing Leaders Institute, (DLI), is designed to help professionals, 35 and younger, break into the market. It creates a peer system, and is “important in a NAIOP sense because we want the organization to go forward,” said committee chair Jennifer Turchin.
The 12 month DLI training program kicks off a theoretical development program with a retreat, then goes from site acquisition through design and construction, ending with a presentation to the “Development Dudes, LLC”, a group comprised of NAIOP board members.
“We’ve had lawyers and brokers, contractors and architects do the program because it gives everyone the background knowledge of the other people in the development process,” said Turchin. Through the downturn there weren’t many people entering the field or company owners willing to send their staff to a class; that has since changed.
“What we’ve seen is a real uptick in interest in the last couple years. Where we didn’t have a class for a few years, it’s becoming ‘When does the next class start, I really want to send my staff, how can we support the program?’ People are really back in the development field and the market is doing well. Companies have some expendable money to send people to training,” said Turchin.
DLI grads now chair committees and hold board positions.
New technology is creating NAIOP’s future, from panels on Nevada’s potential future industries that draw members to events, to technology tracking attendance at those events to better present the most appealing breakfast meetings and mixers.
Embracing social media, NAIOP has improved communications with members, making them more aware of activities and keeping communications up to date on issues where the organization is representing the members, said Restrepo.
DLI alumni looking at a future in CRE have opted to keep together as a peer group and put together continuing education tours with contractors and developers in order to learn what’s relevant and essential in today’s market. As new members join from related industries, a more vibrant organization is created, offering more knowledge for members who are on more traditional career paths. NAIOP nationally re-branded from National Association of Industrial and Office Properties to better represent the addition of residential and retail developers to the organization.
Expectation from most members is that the organization will continue to grow and to serve more commercial real estate industry professionals.
“That we were able to adapt and provide value to our membership during the downturn was crucial,” said Jones, pointing out it takes an active leadership to continue to do so when the economy is in the process of failing.
“I’ve had new members join and tell me they walked into a breakfast meeting as a non-member, looked at a crowd of 200 people and said, ‘This is an organization I need to be a member of,’” said Hoyt. They’re right. “Our members do a lot of business together. If I’m working with a bank and on the mortgage broker site, and have two lenders with the same vote for my client, I’ll choose the one who is a member of NAIOP.”
“If you’re an employee for a developer or a broker involved in commercial real estate, it is now almost a necessity that you be involved in NAIOP,” said Otter. With so many key developers, brokers, contractors and vendors utilizing NAIOP relationships, having an organization like NAIOP back you up is worth the investment.
Van Geel’s seen NAIOP at the peak and the depth of the economy and watched it change. “NAIOP has become more vocal in the government affairs side, and we now have a voice at the table. We have full time lobbyists and the organization’s government affairs at a national level in Washington, DC, means no matter what the size of the company, by being a member, you have a voice at the table, a collective voice. And, given the makeup of NAIOP, a powerful voice. Commercial real estate has contributed greatly to the economy, billions of dollars in personal earnings, and supports millions of jobs,” explained Van Geel.
“For me, NAIOP is the single most important thing for my career in this industry,” added Doebler.