Where in the World is Larry Pobuda?

March 31, 2010 at 8:03 am

An interview with 2010 NAIOP National Chairman Larry Pobuda, March 4, 2010

By Andy Hunt, UGL Equis, writing on behalf of The Pulse

THE PULSE: What have you been up to on the NAIOP front?


LARRY POBUDA: Well I just returned from Washington DC with the CLLR, and it was at that meeting that the Minnesota chapter was selected as the Chapter of the Year. Lisa Dongoske and Murray Kornberg and the leadership team locally deserve a great deal of credit for earning this honor. And I think it was also an acknowledgement of the innovation that comes from the Minnesota chapter through programming and legislative affairs. Following that, I was invited by the Northern Virginia chapter to speak on a panel with an economist and leading RE broker in the DC area. There were about 400 people in attendance and it was a great program. I gave an overview of some of the national programs as well as a financial update on NAIOP and an update on membership, all the big categories.

I have a few more trips planned as well. In March I’ll be in Connecticut for their chapter program where I’ll be on another panel with an economist and I will probably give a similar update. Then the following week I’ll be at the Pittsburgh chapter’s annual meeting for the same update, and will even be interviewed by their local NBC television affiliate.

As far as the next few months go, I am scheduled to be at programs in Denver, New Jersey, Albuquerque, Honolulu, and back in DC for a real estate round table. It’s been a lot of fun and it will be great year.

TP: What was it like being sworn in and starting your tenure?

LP: It was certainly an honor and I am very pleased to have the opportunity. A lot of people have said to me and acknowledged the market conditions and said this is a crazy time to be doing this. And I think there are two sides to that coin. When I take a look at what was going on in October when I was being sworn in, people were still mired in this freefall that the economy was in. I look on that Chicago experience with fondness but with a high level of uncertainty about where our economy was going.

It was interesting to compare that with where we are today and even from when I was in Washington DC in February. In that 4 month period it appears that people see our industry, or at least the economy, is no longer tumbling down the side of a cliff, but instead has reached the bottom or the bottom is in sight which provides a measure of comfort in an odd way. And I think it’s true because knowing what you are dealing with, even if it’s bad, is better than not knowing and the uncertainty that goes along with not knowing. I feel much better about the experience I had in Washington DC just from a macro-perspective of our industry and the mood of our members, which was much better in DC than it was in Chicago when I was sworn in.

Overall it’s been great, just the opportunity to work with NAIOP on this level. The Chicago experience was a real kick in the pants but a lot of fun.

TP: What has been the most exciting part of the position so far?

LP: Well I would say talking to people in the various NAIOP chapters, hearing what’s going on in these different markets and feeling like I can keep my finger on the pulse of what is going on in our industry well beyond the confines of the Twin Cities. Also seeing what’s going on on both coasts as well as in the north and south, and then benchmarking that against opportunities here in the Twin Cities. That’s been really fun.

One other thing that’s been a real plus has been the unbelievable commitment and resilience I’ve seen among NAIOP members across the country. For example, I was at a meeting of the Wisconsin chapter and interestingly enough they grew their membership by 16% this year, even as our overall national membership dropped. Same with Northern Virginia, but that was due in large part to the robust economy in DC with the federal government expanding left and right. The resilience and commitment of the members of the organization knowing that in good and bad times it’s the place they want to affiliate with peers, with best practices, and with continued learning, and that has been great.

TP: Biggest challenge?

LP: One of my key messages that I’m trying to carry forward this year is to shift the paradigm a little bit for NAIOP members who are traditionally, and rightfully so, focused on job growth as the key measure of what opportunities we are going to have as an industry. Again, while historically that has been the best predictor, I think there is another way of looking at it. I call it the demographic tail winds, and that is focusing on the industry segments that provide robust investment and development activities without requiring job growth. I’m talking about medical office, senior housing of all varieties, and student housing. There are demographic trends that are supporting continued growth in those segments, even if we don’t have lots of job growth overall. The fact is we are all getting older and requiring more medical help. Senior housing, while soft now, is growing in certain segments. And then in student housing, in a down economy like this, people are going back to school and many schools have outdated housing stock, where they are partnering with real estate developers to provide that new housing. My message has been don’t get so focused and locked-in on job growth as the only measure, and when those monthly job-growth reports come out don’t let it send you into a tailspin when you hear we’re still not generating jobs. We’re going to have high vacancy rates for a long time, we need to get used to that and the economy will start to pick up steam, but don’t overlook these other opportunities that are out there that present great opportunities for all of us.

TP: What do you want your legacy to be when your term has ended?

LP: In general, broadening the platform. That means what I just mentioned. NAIOP is the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, and all the areas I just mentioned are represented in that. Think broadly, expand your platform, and build a stronger company during these downtimes. And also in broadening the platform, I view one of the opportunities for NAIOP as well is to broaden its membership base and I am absolutely committed to ensuring a strong Developing Leaders program, and a strong diversity program (age, race, and gender), things that we just have not done as well as an industry as we could have. When I think of my legacy I think of broadening the platform both in the scope of work and the scope of membership and I think that will position us well for long term growth if we are able to accomplish both of those.

TP: If you could speak to everyone in NAIOP or everyone in the industry at once, what is one thing you would want them to hear in a few sentences?

LP: Focus forward. Stay positive and stay focused on new opportunities. It’s easy to get mired in the current difficulties, but this too shall pass as it always does. Be open enough to new opportunities, learn from past cycles, but don’t expect the new opportunities to emerge the same ways they did 20 years ago. It’s going to be a new economy, a new world economy, and there are going to be different opportunities. Be open to the possibilities.

Entry filed under: Featured Articles.

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For more information about NAIOP Minnesota, visit www.NAIOPMN.org.

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