Meet a Governor: Bret Sheffield

Bret Sheffield<br>Executive Vice President, Development Services<br>VanTrust Real Estate, LLC

Why did you choose to join the Research Foundation as a governor?

I travel quite a bit for my work at VanTrust, so finding a way to plug in to NAIOP beyond a local chapter was important to me. I’m a member of the Office Development I National Forum, and four other members of the group are also Research Foundation Governors. I respect them as professionals and friends, and their work with the Foundation garnered my interest. Being a Governor is a great way to be involved in an important part of NAIOP and it allows me to make deeper connections with our industry’s thought leaders.

What research has been particularly meaningful to you?

The quarterly industrial and office space demand forecasts offer a valuable perspective on the trends impacting our businesses, and the new report Recruiting, Training and Retaining Talent in the Real Estate Development Industry is so relevant to any organization in the midst of talent recruitment and hiring – almost every company these days. Learning how others are approaching this hugely important task is so informative and valuable. I’ve been working with a rising professional who is just out of college and new to the industry, and I shared the Commercial Real Estate Terms and Definitions glossary with him so he could begin to understand the language across this sector.

The Foundation’s research really passes the litmus test. It’s topical and useful, and it’s become an important part of our professional lives.

What makes your connection with the Research Foundation so valuable?

I really look to the NAIOP Research Foundation as an important piece of my connection to the real estate development community. At my induction this spring during the National Forums Symposium in Minneapolis, I was able to talk with so many seasoned professionals from across the industry. Their perspectives are important to informing my work and my company. It’s true that real estate is a local business, but real estate development is dependent on the broader real estate market. The Foundation offers those national datapoints and knowledge to connect the dots. The crossing over of perspectives from industry leaders across all sectors of the industry is fantastic.

What trends and topics are top of mind for you right now?

Energy is increasingly critical to real estate development. I would say power availability to a project rivals its location. How energy is tied into sustainability, the development timeline, the supply chain and beyond are significant components of a successful project. Alternative ways of generating energy – including solar, small-plant nuclear and the like – seem hypothetical right now, but the need is coming so fast we are going to have to quickly become knowledgeable about them.

Sustainability remains a huge issue. VanTrust has a sister company based in the U.K., and other countries are much farther ahead in sustainability than the U.S. by comparison. The impacts of insurance costs on commercial real estate are intensifying and will need to be addressed.

Of course, employment strategies, education and the professional development of our people are also paramount.

What professional advice would you offer to those just starting out in the industry?

There is a place for everyone in the industry, depending on your aptitude and interests. Every successful company goes far beyond the actual developers – there are marketing teams, management specialists, appraisers, and so many valuable paths to go down.

Second, we must understand that real estate is a cyclical business. There are stretches of great growth, and times to pull back. Through it all, there are opportunities. We’re all risk-takers in different ways, big and small. The key is taking the risks in the right proportions and at the right times.