NAIOP New Jersey
- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Ian Nichols
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Commercial real estate development is a major economic driver across the country. New development in the office, industrial, warehouse, mixed-use and retail sectors contributed more than $376 billion to gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013, supporting 2.8 million jobs. With such strong economic influence, a dynamic commercial development market is key to attracting investment, jobs and maintaining the overall vitality of communities.
In New Jersey, the commercial real estate market is moving full steam ahead thanks to the help of the New Jersey chapter of NAIOP (NAIOP NJ), a local branch of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association. The professional trade association, representing a diverse membership of owners, developers and real estate market players, invests time, energy and resources every year to ensure the health and proliferation of the industry.
Invested in New Jersey since 1970
“Our membership takes a long-term look at the health of the communities in which we develop,” says Michael McGuinness, CEO of NAIOP NJ. “Local officials, city planners, mayors and economic development professionals view us as a resource — as the means to bring in jobs and enrich our communities, making them better places to live and work. Continued development in New Jersey keeps business moving and our local economy strong.”
Founded in 1970, NAIOP NJ provides unparalleled business development opportunities and networking, professional education and, most of all, advocacy and legislative lobbying in support of its members and the longevity of their businesses. “Today, we have close to 300 member companies, representing nearly 700 individual members,” notes McGuinness. “NAIOP NJ is part of the larger Commercial Real Estate Development Association of North America with chapters in three countries, including more than 16,000 members across the commercial, industrial, office, retail and mixed-used real estate sectors.”
After 17 years with NAIOP NJ, McGuinness has seen the association garner some big wins for the industry. “My education is in environmental affairs and real estate development,” he says. “Shortly after grad school, I ended up working for the New Jersey Builders Association [NJBA] as the director of environmental affairs. This prepared me to understand and appreciate the issues that affect the industry. I got involved at the statehouse level and got my feet wet in association work, dealing with committees and various government branches.”
After 10 years with the NJBA, a colleague asked McGuinness to come work at the governor’s office. “My job was to help companies navigate the regulatory maze and get the approvals and permits needed to grow their businesses,” he recounts. “After a few years of doing this, I joined NAIOP NJ and it was a good fit given my understanding of the legislative and regulatory process, my negotiation skills and working with volunteers.”
Leading legislative action
McGuinness says advocacy continues to be the cornerstone of NAIOP NJ’s work as it directly benefits members and fosters a healthy business and development climate. “Our core mission as an organization is to protect and promote the industry, and we do most of that on the advocacy front by lobbying at the state level,” he says. “Over the years, we have formed many working relationships with members of the New Jersey State Legislature.”
“Of the 120 senators and assembly members, we’ve worked with most of them on several industry concerns including infrastructure funding, land use and redevelopment, business costs and environmental issues,” he continues. “We take action by testifying on legislation and meeting with the decision makers. We invest a lot of resources. In fact, the vast majority of our membership dues are used to fund this purpose.”
In both the industrial and mixed-use office sectors, McGuinness says NAIOP NJ is hard at work to cut through unnecessary red tape and regulations that hinder development and projects moving forward for its members. “On the industrial side, we’ve been very successful in our negotiations with the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor,” details McGuinness. “Before we got involved and alerted the governor’s office and legislature, the commission’s fees and audits were making compliance near impossible for businesses. Through our efforts we have simplified the regulatory process, making it more streamlined. The goal isn’t to eliminate any regulations in place that actually affect environmental affairs or safety, but just to eliminate uncertainty and simplify the process.
Promoting mixed-use development
NAIOP NJ has also been working with towns to create fair zoning and permitting across the board. “In New Jersey we have something called ‘Home Rule,'” explains McGuinness. “Not only do developers need to be concerned about state regulations and codes, each town also has its own set of land-use laws and fees that vary dramatically from town to town.”
McGuinness points to an example where two towns, just 10 miles apart showed huge discrepancy in the fee structure for permitting. “One town’s fee was $220,000 and the other was a little over $1 million,” he says. “We brought the issue to light and got the appropriate agency to draft revisions to regulations and rein in these fees.”
Another issue in New Jersey is limited access to mass transit in many communities. “There are many towns with vacant office buildings in more suburban areas and they need to update their zoning to allow for mixed-use development,” says McGuinness. “Some towns are reluctant to embrace this concept, but many millennials want an urban lifestyle where they can live, work and play without having to own a car.”
“We need convenient public transportation, nightlife and culture,” adds McGuinness. “This is important in fostering a younger workforce and attracting companies to reinvest in these towns.”
Networking and events
In addition to addressing the public policy issues that impact members, NAIOP NJ also hosts more than 30 networking, educational and business development programs throughout the year. “Our Community Action project involves members collecting food and cash donations at work, culminating in a volunteer day at the Community Food Bank, which serves most of the state,” notes McGuinness. “Later in July we are taking a tour of AT&T’s global operations network, and our annual golf classic is always a sellout in September. The ‘CEO Perspective’ is the theme for our September chapter meeting, and members can learn while hearing from industry leaders about the changing landscape of the market.”
NAIOP NJ will also host its annual President’s Awards dinner in fall 2015, and a seminar on trends in building design and the shared economy. “Networking and business development opportunities are another huge benefit of being a NAIOP NJ member,” adds McGuinness.
While NAIOP New Jersey is always looking out for the best interests of a diverse membership of owners, developers and real estate market players, the association’s work also protects future business and investment in New Jersey, making for strong, vibrant communities.
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