Head of the Class

Portland, Gerding Edlen, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York City, Washington D.C., Connecticut, Oakland

Two Bay Area leaders help shape the regional and national agenda for NAIOP.


Head of the Class, NAIOP, Bay Area, San Francisco, HFF, Bentall Kennedy[dropcap]B[/dropcap]entall Kennedy’s Ashley Powell and HFF’s Scott Pertel have the honor of leading NAIOP’s initiatives nationally and regionally, giving San Francisco, and more broadly the Bay Area, significant prominence in one of commercial real estate’s most influential organizations.
Powell, who is a senior vice president and head of transactions for the west region at Bentall Kennedy in San Francisco is this year’s national NAIOP chairman. In this role, he is not only helping the organization’s chapters across the country understand the market dynamics, but he is also bringing to NAIOP a glimpse of Northern California’s innovations and their impact on commercial real estate.
Pertel is a managing director at HFF in San Francisco and this year’s president of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter. He is acutely aware of the shifting demographics impacting the organization’s membership and as an alum of its Developing Leaders group understands the issues that matter to its members.
We sat down with both to get a perspective on the organization’s goals and how they plan to implement them.

TR: On both the national and regional level, the industry is changing. More young professionals are entering the space, which will lead to a new demographic of your organizations. How is NAIOP nationally and regionally planning for that?

POWELL: Millennials are quickly becoming the largest part of the workforce. Real estate companies, similar to other industries, are adapting by relocating their offices to urban cores with active amenities nearby. Business owners realize the economic necessity of placing the work environment convenient to their younger talent rather than the prior model of selecting the office location by the proximity to the founder’s residence.
NAIOP was ahead of the trend in addressing the demographic shift by creating a national membership strategy in 2006 targeting those under age 35. We looked around the room, realized the younger generation was missing and created the Developing Leaders program with significantly lower dues and events solely for younger professionals. The result, 10 years later, is that Developing Leaders make up 30 percent of the total organization. There are also nine Developing Leader Forums. There are small groups of young professionals, hand selected to not have competitive overlaps, that meet several times each year to discuss industry trends, career management and deal making. The Developing Leaders are the future of the organization, and many are already leading programs and chapters.

PERTEL: Here in the NAIOP San Francisco Bay Area Chapter we have a thriving Developing Leaders program and a few years ago decided to get even more serious about investing in the next generation. We created an innovative education, networking and leadership program in 2014 called the Young Professionals Group (YPG). Just going into its fourth year, YPG is already an enormous success. It provides a priceless opportunity for those getting started in the business to learn from some of the most iconic real estate minds in the community and nationally. A twelve-month, educational forum designed to educate, develop, connect and elevate newer/younger professionals that are NAIOP members to learn from senior real estate professionals across the disciplines. YPG has become a model for other chapters across the country. I was part of the group that initiated the idea and was fortunate enough to go through the program as a participant. I can personally attest to the huge difference it makes in the lives and careers of young professionals.

TR: What role does an organization like NAIOP play for professionals in the industry today? How is that evolving?

POWELL: The industry is evolving rapidly. NAIOP accelerates adaptation. It does so by facilitating high level discussions in private forums between senior industry leaders as well as through thought provoking conferences. Topics at the recent Industrial Conference in New Jersey included: planning for the impact of autonomous trucks and cars, drone delivery systems and multi-story warehouses.

PERTEL: On the local level we play three key roles. First and foremost we bring people together to do deals. Creating a deal-centric environment that provides tangible value to our members’ bottom line is fundamental to everything we do. Second, our business is driven by information, and I am proud to say that we deliver a tremendous amount of useful data and analysis that members need. Our programs feature the most prominent and active players in each product type and asset class and cover a broad range of subjects from sharing market intelligence and exploring current industry trends to delving into capital markets updates and peeking behind the scenes on project tours. The third staple of our chapter is our legislative advocacy. Our legislative action committee is active in local Bay Area politics and is represented at the state level by the California Business Properties Association (CBPA), to ensure that our industry has an effective voice at the State Capitol. Members can rest assured knowing that NAIOP SFBA has their back when it comes to legislative and regulatory matters. I am also proud to say that we are evolving in all three areas by constantly raising the bar on our efforts and by investing in new programs (such as YPG) and by increasing the frequency and quality of our communications with members to share the value of our programs and get them engaged.

TR: What are some priorities that the organization is focusing on for the next 12 to 18 months and how will those be achieved?

POWELL: The governmental impact to the development process and profitability increases each year. Legislative advocacy is one of the three purposes of NAIOP inherent in its mandate. This focus separates NAIOP from similar industry organizations, and our efforts extend from the municipal and local levels to Capitol Hill and the White House. NAIOP advocates on behalf of the real estate industry creating real value for its members on issues like tax, carried interest, leasehold depreciation, 1031 exchanges, wetlands and sustainability.

PERTEL: From a membership perspective we celebrated an extremely important milestone in 2015 surpassing 500 members. We are well on our way to reaching our 2016 goal of 600 members and very pleased to have achieved that growth while preserving our composition of 50 percent principals and associates as well as attracting more young professionals. The key to meeting these goals is clearly delivering more and more value in the form of relevant content, creating fresh ways to interact and making sure our members are fully engaged.
In terms of programs we held a whopping 40 events and are on track to produce the same number in 2016. In addition to keeping the traditions of our large scale events like the Cal vs. Stanford Real Estate Challenge and the Best of the Bay awards alive and well, we set a goal this year to diversify our offering. We decided to expand our members-only Real Estate Insider series which is a small, highly interactive and open kimono format program. We have been blown away at the response. Consistently, they have sold out and have generated rave reviews.
In addition to delivering value, we have also evolved our communications with members. From event recaps to legislative updates we are working hard to position NAIOP as a go-to source that members can rely on to stay engaged even when they are unable to attend events. In fact, we are very pleased to have created a media partnership with The Registry this year as part of our outreach strategy.

TR: As we may be entering the top of the cycle, what lessons from the previous cycle is NAIOP implementing (nationally and regionally) to make sure its members are benefiting the organization’s experience?

POWELL: NAIOP is committed to supporting its members through downturns by investing in the programs and resources that our members will need as the weather the cycle. That means looking at innovative ways to communicate, extend benefits and make it easy to engage with the association no matter if your business is thriving or if you’re struggling to stay ahead. For some new professionals, this will be the first downturn they’ve experienced, and I expect that they’ll see that NAIOP is a place where we can come together to share and plan for the inevitable recovery.

PERTEL: Here in the SFBA Chapter we did exactly what POWELL referred to during the last downturn. We shifted our program topics to those that reflected the times. We brought in successful speakers who talked about how they had morphed their careers to become more nimble in the face of changing markets. Given the high concentration of prominent people in our organization and the generosity they are known for, we have a deep pool to draw from for content. Having a large, active network becomes even more important when market conditions change too. Because of the close and welcoming community of our chapter and our focus on deal oriented networking, NAIOP SFBA is the place to be in EVERY stage of the cycle.

TR: What does it mean for NAIOP to have a San Francisco representative as its leader? Has the prominence of our region as a major investment geography helped with that selection?

POWELL: I have spoken in chapters across North America roughly every other week this year. Our members ask what trends are we seeing in California that may be a harbinger for their businesses. Many discussions have focused on creative office conversions, transit node development like Transbay and Diridon Station, the recent increase in sublease space and other trends. Technology, healthcare/life sciences, education are major drivers across the country and particularly dominant in the Bay Area. It is not a coincidence that there is a Silicon Forest, Desert, Beach, Alley, etc. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

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