State Elections Provide Opportunities to Advance Economic Growth

Winter 2012

The country has faced significant challenges in the past few years with no sector, including the commercial real estate industry, immune from the economic downturn and fiscal crisis. While these challenges have forced governments, the private sector and families to make difficult decisions, it has also created opportunities for elected officials, particularly at the state level, to advance new policies and initiatives that generate economic growth, create jobs and attract private sector investment.

With a struggling economy, congressional gridlock, diminishing federal resources and unfunded federal mandates, such as the federal “pollution diet” for the Chesapeake Bay, state leaders recognize that business as usual is not sustainable. Innovative steps must be taken to spur growth, create jobs and make states more competitive, so they can attract private sector investment, while maintaining a balanced budget.

These factors served as a catalyst for change and resulted in the election of governors and state legislators who, irrespective of political affiliation, are willing to tackle difficult issues and make decisions that would have once been politically unacceptable.  Governor Dan Malloy in Connecticut, Chris Christie in New Jersey and Scott Walker in Wisconsin are examples.  With active consultation from NAIOP chapters, these legislative leaders have taken measures to improve government performance, implement necessary tax and regulatory reform, and return brownfield sites to productive economic use. In Wisconsin specifically, Governor Scott Walker advanced and implemented reforms to restructure government, including reorganizing collective bargaining. He is currently working with public and private groups, including NAIOP Wisconsin, to make the state more competitive in attracting businesses and investment through tax and regulatory reform. 

The 2012 election results are sure to continue this trend, with voters having elected former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory in North Carolina, and Congressman Mike Pence in Indiana to serve as their states’ Governors — just two examples of newly-elected state officials.  Worth noting are the significant number of newly elected officials that will be present in state capitols when the 2013 sessions begin.  Following the roughly 1,700 new state legislators elected in 2010, Stateside Associates, a firm that tracks state legislatures, estimates that nearly half of all state legislators will have two or less years of experience.

The 2012 elections have provided yet another opportunity for NAIOP members to work with these newly elected governors and state legislators, who recognize the role of commercial real estate in providing the foundation for economic growth and private sector expansion. These elected officials respect NAIOP’s input as they strive to enact meaningful measures that create economic opportunity, provide regulatory certainty and restore consumer confidence.

By engaging state leaders in the state capitol and within their home districts, NAIOP chapters are well positioned to serve as the voice for commercial real estate before state leaders on legislative matters. NAIOP members play a pivotal role in effectively advocating the interests of commercial properties that can shape and influence the passage, and at times, the defeat of legislative proposals impacting the industry and economic growth. Although there are signs of improvement, economic and fiscal challenges remain. NAIOP must continue to be diligent in educating governors and state legislators on proposed policies related to commercial real estate. 

Undoubtedly, these newly elected governors and state legislators will be active in pursuing initiatives that advance economic growth within their states. At the national level, the federal government will remain an important partner in working with the states to implement intergovernmental policies that improve opportunities for American businesses and families throughout the country. NAIOP will continue to advocate for policies at the federal level that help states promote economic growth and opportunity. While the 2012 elections may not have shifted the balance of power in Washington, D.C., at the state and local level, they are resulting in action that could serve as a roadmap for our federal government to move the country forward.