Getting to Know Jean Kane

Spring 2014
Jean Kane

As I start my year as NAIOP chairman, I am excited to meet our members and lead this association through what I believe will be an extraordinary year of growth and opportunity. To help our members across North America get to know me, Development magazine has asked me some questions about goals during my chairmanship, where the industry is headed and what I believe is most important for NAIOP members.

Development: Tell us about how you got involved in NAIOP.

Kane: This is my 29th year in commercial real estate. When I started at Welsh Companies in 1987, I was encouraged to join NAIOP. I didn’t know anyone in the chapter and thought the best way to meet people was to join the membership committee. I have been active in NAIOP ever since.

Development:  You are NAIOP’s third female chairman. How have you succeeded in this predominantly male-driven industry?

Kane: Growing up with three older brothers and no sisters gave me a taste of working in a male-dominated industry from the very beginning. I’ve always placed a lot of value on hard work, and I have tried to associate with people, companies and organizations that embrace diversity of thought. I also think my position as CEO and my NAIOP chairmanship show how the business world is changing. It’s not about men vs. women anymore. It’s about who’s right for the job, period.

Development:  What are your goals as chairman?

Kane:  Continuing our strong advocacy efforts is a key goal, as I believe we have one of the most effective grassroots networks and a terrific team on Capitol Hill. This year’s midterm elections could be critical for our industry, and it’s important that our members understand NAIOP’s legislative priorities and all that we’re doing to protect their interests. Second, and following the path started by my predecessor, 2013 Chairman Gene Reilly, we’ll strengthen our communications with members, chapters and the media. We are delivering our message in new ways — videos, an interactive website and social media — and seeing favorable results. Finally, I want to stay in close communication with our rapidly growing Developing Leaders membership — a group that is expectedly more diverse in ethnicity and gender. Their participation and unique perspectives are so important to NAIOP staying relevant and on the leading edge of our industry. The more we all collaborate and leverage our respective assets, the better for the organization and, in turn, our individual members. “The Changing Face of Commercial Real Estate” will be the focus of the message I’ll share this year as I travel to chapters, and I’m eager to meet many of the rising professionals who will lead NAIOP and our industry into the future.  

Development:  Why is diversity by gender, age and ethnicity so important to the industry and the association?

Kane: The business world is changing, and we can stay relevant and capitalize on it, or we can fall behind. Multiple studies are showing that emerging leaders don’t have the same characteristics of past or even current CEOs. We need to be able to communicate with our clients and colleagues in the way they’ll receive it best — and that means pulling from the best and brightest minds out there. The more diverse our association is, the more perspectives we receive, and the better our results will be for our clients.

Development:  Why should our members be engaged legislatively?

Kane: It’s so important for our members to understand the implications of current and proposed legislation, because it can directly affect their livelihood. We have significant public policy issues, both positive and negative, that impact the economy and the industry. Our membership, in concert with NAIOP staff, needs to continue to educate policy makers and their staff as to the important role our industry plays in the economy. The real estate industry creates wealth for communities, but sometimes people forget the risk we take. We need to look ahead far in advance and speculate as to how the economy might look like before we undertake projects that will take a substantial amount of time before they are completed. When government pursues policies that maintain a business-friendly environment, it goes a long way in giving us confidence to take on these risks. And, ultimately, our members are what give us a voice – so the more engaged they are, the more we can work toward supporting legislation that will benefit not just the commercial real estate industry, but the economy as a whole.

Development:  What can NAIOP do to prepare its members for the next economic upswing?

Kane:  It’s simple: we need to educate and communicate. NAIOP is really on the cutting edge with e-commerce and is the first real estate group to address how real estate, particularly those in the industrial sector, can adapt and prepare for the challenges of a “same-day delivery” mindset. Beyond E.CON-The E-Commerce Conference in March, we are launching a new National Forum on e-commerce this spring. The NAIOP Research Foundation has several new reports, both recently published and underway, on emerging topics, including coworking centers, secondary market activity and office location preferences. These reports are valuable and forward looking.

Development:  What makes the industry tick? Why do you find it engaging?

Kane: It has an influences on every aspect of our lives: where we live, work and learn. But in the end, what engages me are the people and the pace. You’ve got every type of professional personality available — from the developers who are the visionaries and risk takers, to the creative architects, to hard-working construction professionals, to a wide variety of brokers and more — all working together to make this industry unique. And it all comes down to helping our clients with their businesses. I love watching all these different types of people working together on a common project or goal — and then to see the finished product after all that hard work — well, how could you not love this industry?

Development:  Your career has been largely focused in the Minneapolis market. What are the strengths of this region?

Kane: Minneapolis and St. Paul are so much more than “flyover” country, and are proving it all the time. We’re home to 19 Fortune 500 companies, and consistently make the “best places to live” lists. We just have a great combination of assets that appeal to a lot of large businesses, and more and more companies are calling Minneapolis their home.

Development:  Industrial development is hot right now. Will this trend continue? What will be the next product to experience a surge?

Kane:  I think industrial will continue to remain strong for a while. Manufacturing is at the core of our economy, and its recovery has paved the way for many other industries to start following. I think if you have a strong industrial market, you have the foundation for successful businesses of every type.

Four Facts About Jean

1. Family:
My husband, Tom, and I have been married for 25 years. Our son, Charles, is 22 and recently graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in biomedical engineering. Our twin daughters, Carolyn and Elizabeth, are freshmen at Denison University. They are swimming for the college and studying economics (in that order…).

2. Last book read:
“Elite Minds: Creating the Competitive Advantage” by Stan Beecham.

3. Best vacation spot:
Our family recently went sailing in the Galapagos Islands. The trip was fantastic. Sailing in a special part of the world alone with the people you love — it doesn’t get any better than that.

4. Favorite out-of-the-office activity:
Everyone will tell you I’m a fitness fanatic. I love it all — running, biking, spinning. An ideal day for me includes doing all three on a beautiful summer day.

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