Giving Development a Kickstart: Local Associations Using NAR Grants to Innovate

This is last installment in our year-long look at how local REALTOR® associations are using NAR's grant funding to influence community development and enhance commercial services for members. In the following, Commercial Innovation Grants (CIG) provided "kickstarter" funds for some unique projects - a statewide networking caravan, an economic development expo, and an education & business conference. These projects aimed to strengthen relationships while providing a setting to generate business; while results may take time to cultivate, these endeavors proved worthwhile and may inspire other similar endeavors around the country.

Project Spotlight: Birmingham, AL

The commercial council of the Birmingham Association of REALTORS® (BAR) received a grant to support its first Alabama City Tour and Advocacy project. BAR believes funding will allow commercial membership expertise to be spotlighted, establishing REALTORS® as go-to resources in Birmingham's commercial real estate community, fueling internal excitement and drawing non-members to the association. The first of several tours, which took place in April, hosted Birmingham-area REALTORS® in Montgomery. Members met with local and state representatives in the House who conveyed a congressional perspective on the state-level impact of the Historic Tax Credits and 1031 Exchange on Alabama's commercial properties. The program afforded members opportunities to market and network with commercial practitioners with the ultimate goal of connecting REALTORS® and influencers in order to grow commercial business, position commercial members as experts, expand impact on the economic development of Birmingham and Alabama, and gain a centralized voice for commercial real estate in Alabama.

”Our City Tours have been beneficial in heightening our profile with elected officials and media, allowing for future opportunities to engage business in the area,” said Josh Harris, Commercial Services Director. “It is an excellent recruiting tool for non-members and allowed REALTORS® to learn about current projects happening in major Alabama cities which they can implement in Birmingham. Witnessing the impact of lobbying efforts provided specific examples for lobbying representatives in Montgomery, ultimately leading to passage of the Alabama Historic Tax Credits. Overall, we were able to explain to other local commercial real estate communities the impact that a singular voice of a commercial real estate association can have on the local and state community.”

Project Spotlight: Eastern Connecticut

The Eastern Connecticut Association of REALTORS® (ECAR) based in North Franklin, CT, hosted a commercial education and business strategies conference in June. ECAR intends to take a proactive role in nursing a struggling region back to health and using grant money to place REALTORS® at the heart of that recovery by connecting them with job creators. The objectives of the conference were to feature the two top employers of eastern CT to inject and renew hope regarding a bleak outlook for commercial real estate in the eastern part of the state. The day offered valuable networking opportunities to help strengthen the relationship between the association, local business supporters, and commercial members. ECAR's “Improving the Economic Outlook in Eastern CT” provided a one-day event with presentations by local business leaders, economists, and legislators, as well as a networking lunch and continuing education to inform commercial members about economic developments, industry tools, and legislation. Presentation topics included an economic outlook by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, Mohegan Sun and Electric Boat expansion plans, and tax-saving strategies for commercial properties.

“Despite stagnant commercial market conditions spanning nearly a decade and an uncertain business climate across the state, eastern CT is seeing plans for economic development in the region, particularly with employers like Electric Boat and Mohegan Sun,” said Suzy Hurlbert, Chief Executive Officer, ECAR. “This offers hope in a state that is teetering on the edge of a fiscal crisis. The project was successful in delivering the message that this part of the state is poised for growth and job expansion. The attendees took first-hand information back to their clients, agencies, and communities. With NAR's help, we were able to forge relationships toward building a stable future.”

Project Spotlight: Fort Worth, TX

The Greater Fort Worth Association of REALTORS® (GFWAR) used CIG funding to help organize an Economic Development Expo at the Cendera Center, in Fort Worth, Texas. GFWAR strategized that by creating this first of its kind event with content and opportunities previously unavailable in the region, it would expose the value of membership in NAR and provide commercial members an inside track on valuable relationships with area EDCs. The Expo provided a clear value to commercial practitioners through the dissemination of information, maps and planning data from economic development councils (EDC), major developers, and municipal staff. REALTORS® were able to save the time and resources required to contact people individually, providing a venue for networking and deal-making. Along with many exhibitors and non-member commercial practitioners, the Mayor of Fort Worth attended and met with commercial members. Select EDCs invited elected officials from their municipality—all allowing for a positive advocacy impact for the REALTOR® association.

“The Expo raised the profile of the REALTOR® organization and commercial members by showing EDCs, municipalities, developers, and non-REALTOR® commercial brokers that GFWAR is the chief source for commercial information and networking,” said Robert Gleason, Chief Executive Officer, GFWAR. “Additionally, we brought in several major developers with ‘hot’ projects in the area and provided an opportunity for commercial deal making on a larger scale. Working on a CIG helped our association focus discussion on ways to better serve commercial members. Organizing and funding an innovative project like ours shows that an association is interested in supporting business of our members and the community.”

Commercial Innovation at your Association

Discuss ideas with your commercial peers about how to reinforce and grow the services offered by your local REALTOR® Association. Speak to your Association Executive about applying for NAR's Commercial Innovation Grant. Spark your imagination and get started today.

For more information on this program including previously funded projects, visit www.nar.realtor/grants/commercial-innovation-grants or contact NAR's Commercial Development & Outreach Manager Shara Varner at 312-329-8282 or svarner@realtors.org.

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