At Closing - Chapter Involvement Key to Economic Development
By: William E. Hunt, president, Elmhurst Group
As I complete my year as Chairman, I wanted to share some takeaways from my recent chapter visits. It has been great to witness the chapters successfully addressing, each in their own way, the challenges faced in their markets during these difficult economic times.
I visited Denver to attend the Rocky Mountain Challenge, a design competition between the University of Denver and the University of Colorado. Both groups of students were extremely knowledgeable and thorough in their presentations. The event had a tremendous turnout and provided great networking opportunities for the entire local real estate community. It was also interesting to see that Denver, as a city, continues to maintain a vibrant downtown with the creation of an entirely new urban neighborhood beyond the current LoDo, over the railroad tracks toward Interstate 26. The community has made huge infrastructure investments that are opening up large amounts of acreage for development. I was reminded of a similar scenario in Dallas with its Arts District expanding over the Rodgers Freeway, which also opened up new acreage.
I next attended the New Jersey chapter’s always successful awards ceremony. The event lasts all evening, with the awards portion limited to a half hour, and the remainder reserved for socializing and networking. Similar to Denver’s Rocky Mountain Challenge, the event was completely choreographed from beginning to end. Furthermore, all the various real estate projects that were nominated for industrial, office or economic impact were very impressive. I further found it interesting that many of the nominees’ projects were redevelopment opportunities, as central and northern New Jersey have few well-located greenfield sites left available for development.
A few weeks later I visited Pensacola, Fla., a region with a very strong and hard-working NAIOP chapter, especially considering the size of their marketplace. I was impressed with the efforts made by the local community to revitalize its downtown, while also working as a group to secure a facility for airplane maintenance near the airport that can utilize the retirees from the local naval air base and subsequently grow the region’s economy.
The Raleigh-Durham chapter is another group of committed NAIOP members, focusing on economic development opportunities for their region. My visit featured a tour of the massive American Tobacco Warehouse redevelopment project in downtown Durham that includes a five million dollar, man-made river flowing between the buildings, and arguably some of the highest office rents in the Piedmont region. As someone who lived in this area during the early 1980s, I was pleased to hear that Durham currently has some of the strongest office demand in North Carolina.
In mid-August I traveled to Jacksonville, Fla., which, as an outsider, I would describe as a wonderful balance of a traditional southern city with adjacent modern beach resorts. Much of the new office market has migrated southeast toward the beaches and the upscale residential neighborhoods with executive housing, while the expanding industrial market is moving northeast toward the region’s growing deep water port.
Following a busy year, Chairman Bill Hunt passes the gavel to incoming Chairman Gene Reilly who looks forward to taking the leadership reins in 2013.
In Nashville, Tenn., I joined several members of the local chapter for a tour of their new convention center under construction adjacent to downtown. The center will total 1.3 million square feet and cost nearly $600 million. It is quite clear that Nashville is placing a big bet on the convention business. An important point to note is that conventions not only support the hospitality industry, but also future economic development. I recall the mayor of Atlanta saying many years ago that the majority of corporate relocations to Atlanta originated due to previous visits by senior management during conventions.
A major theme among all these chapters is that each one has at least three levels of membership involvement: members who show up for events, members who step up to provide leadership when needed, and members who take long-term ownership in the chapter’s success. These visits confirmed that chapters incorporating the three tiers of involvement will be successful, not only supporting their individual members, but also their respective marketplaces.
Finally, I am pleased to pass the leadership to Gene Reilly of Prologis, next year’s chairman. Gene has been a valuable board member for many years, and has been of great counsel to me throughout 2012. I know Gene will be a tremendous asset for NAIOP during 2013.
It’s been a pleasure serving the organization.