The statehouse in Trenton
By Joshua Burd
NAIOP New Jersey installed its new slate of board officers on Monday, as the association offered a glimpse at its legislative agenda in a pivotal election year for the state.
At its annual meeting and commercial real estate outlook event, which was held virtually, the commercial real estate industry group took the ceremonial step of introducing its newest volunteer leaders and trustees. Chief among them is Gus Milano, president and chief operating officer of Hartz Mountain Industries in Secaucus, who kicked off a two-year term as chapter president after taking the reins from Gene Preston of Dermody Properties.
Milano praised Preston for helping the organization navigate the COVID-19 crisis in 2020, but looked ahead to a critical year with several key legislative priorities at stake for the industry.
“NAIOP’s primary mission is advocacy,” said Milano, the fourth Hartz executive to serve as NAIOP New Jersey president. “This is a big election year with the governorship and all legislative seats up in November.”
Those priorities include pushing for a law to allow third-party, private-sector experts to perform building inspections, he said, in a system that would mimic the successful Licensed Site Remediation Professionals program for environmental cleanups. He also outlined a wish list that includes establishing a matching grant program for nonresidential building owners to make upgrades to ventilation and other enhancements for tenant and worker safety, along with ensuring that state energy and sustainability policies are “enacted in a rational manner based on sound science and, most importantly, economic feasibility.”
Also a “top priority” is finding a remedy for the abuse of reverse tax appeals by municipalities, which industry insiders see as a mounting threat to commercial real estate owners.
NAIOP New Jersey’s full slate of officers and leadership now includes:
- President: Constantino T. “Gus” Milano, Hartz Mountain Industries
- VP Public Affairs: Sam Morreale, Vision Real Estate Partners
- VP Special Events: Mark Shearer, Rockefeller Group
- VP Education: Matt Schlindwein, Greek Development
- VP Membership & Communications: Stacey Weinberg Kierman, Federal Business Centers
- VP Associate Affairs: Andrew Judd, Cushman & Wakefield
- Treasurer/Secretary: Jesse Harty, Prologis
- CEO: Michael G. McGuinness
Monday’s program also included a presentation by JLL Chief Economist Ryan Severino and a panel discussion on strategies for business attraction and economic growth, which was led by Clark Machemer, senior managing director for the Northeast with Crow Holdings Industrial. The discussion also featured Tracye McDaniel, president of TIP Strategies of Austin, Texas and Jeff Hite, chief economic development officer for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Before introducing Milano as the chapter president, Preston recapped a year in which the group celebrated its 50th anniversary in the midst of a pandemic and the resulting economic crisis. Along with education and communication, he said NAIOP continued its focus on advocacy “to be sure that your voices were heard in Trenton” and to help projects move ahead.
To that end, the group pushed for the Permit Extension Act of 2020, which Gov. Phil Murphy signed in July, extending the timeline for governmental permits and approvals for projects that were stalled by the pandemic. The association also worked with the governor “to ensure that most construction work could continue during the shutdown and that the resumption of all construction activities would be a priority for the reopening phase,” Preston said.
“We made every effort to conserve member value while complying with health and safety protocols,” he said. Additionally, NAIOP worked with the state Department of Community Affairs to secure guidance on holding municipal council and land use meetings remotely, allowing for approvals to continue during the state-ordered shutdown.
Preston then pointed to one of the industry’s largest policy victories of the past year — the creation of a new incentives program under the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020, which Murphy signed into law on Jan. 7.
“It’s been an honor to serve as president for the past two years,” said Preston, east region partner at Dermody. “I want to thank all of you for your friendship and the support of the association and our great industry.”
He also thanked NAIOP New Jersey members and staff “for working together to make 2020 a successful year against all odds.” He offered additional praise to the chapter’s in-house administrative team, which improvised to come up with formats for virtual programs and networking events throughout the year.
“I think tonight’s event is just a great example of how well they’ve gone out of their way to make our organization function in the pandemic,” Preston said.