The following remarks were shared by 2022 Chair Jeff Milanaik during the association’s annual meeting at CRE.Converge 2021, where 2021 Chair Molly Ryan Carson officially passed the gavel to next year’s leadership. It has been edited for clarity and length. Milanaik will formally begin this role on Jan. 1.
When the NAIOP nominating committee asked me a few years ago to serve as 2022 Chair, none of us had any idea what the industry and U.S. would be facing today: a worldwide pandemic, political and social turmoil, and global uncertainties to name a few.
When I think back to the uncertainties we all faced in March 2020, it’s quite remarkable that both NAIOP and our industry have been able to continue to expand and succeed throughout it all.
That’s not to say it’s been easy. We aren’t a single-asset industry, and some sectors have fared extremely well in this climate while other have faced many challenges. What’s common among them is that we all look to NAIOP, in both the tough times and the good.
I believe our growth and success is a true testament to the value our members experience through their chapters and the knowledge, education and advocacy delivered by the Corporate staff. Together, our chapters and NAIOP create a strong value proposition – one that sets us apart and drives longtime loyalty to the association.
And we’re certainly not yet beyond the challenges of the pandemic. We still have much to do as an industry and as a nation, and as the “new normal” emerges, we’ll know more about the long-term impacts on the use of commercial space.
Truthfully, I believe these last two years have forced a bit of a reset of priorities for all of us. The pace at which we all worked was unreal, first as we scrambled to get our feet on the ground in those early turbulent weeks, and then as we continued to work nonstop, pivoting and taking advantage of new opportunities as they surfaced.
At my home in New Jersey, all four of my sons and one daughter-in-law left their homes in Jersey City and Hoboken to stay with my wife and me. Imagine seven adults and one beagle under one roof… it was quite often chaotic!
However, every evening my daughter-in-law would knock on my office door, signaling that the workday was over and it was time to sit as a family for dinner. I learned early on that I didn’t have to look too far to see all of the blessings in my life during those uncertain times.
While the amount of work hasn’t lessened much, I believe that we’ve settled into more efficient ways of communicating, doing deals and keeping ahead of opportunities.
This reset isn’t just about the way we work, it’s also largely reflected in the priorities of our business. Over the last few years, acronyms like ESG and DEI have risen as issues of significance in hiring, leasing and the running of our companies.
When I started at Bridge Development Partners, I was employee number 13. We’re closing in on employee number 100 now, and it won’t be a surprise to you to know that this generation of employees approaches the workplace in an entirely different way than mine did. They want to know up front what the company is doing to be responsible stewards of the environment, or how it’s incorporating inclusion into the company culture.
Beyond employees, our tenants and investors want to know these things too. The expectations have been set, and now it’s up to us to meet them. NAIOP can help us do this through its research, education and one-on-one conversations like those we’ll have with our colleagues at the CRE.Converge conference this week.
They aren’t always easy conversations to have, but they are important to the engagement, productivity and innovation of our teams and our companies.
Another area where I would encourage us to work together is on key legislative issues on both the federal and state level that impact our industry. Commercial real estate must remain vigilant against legislative initiatives that unduly impact the industry, as well regulations that hinder development.
We must work together to be successful on the legislative issues critical to our businesses, and I’m counting on each of you to help with that effort.
In closing, I’d like to recognize my family and my partners at Bridge, who are so generously supporting me in this role.
To the Executive Committee and the board, I thank you for this honor. I look forward to working with you, as well as the NAIOP staff, during the upcoming year.
And to each NAIOP member, thank you for being a valued part of this thriving association. I’m eager to see what we can accomplish together in 2022.