Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year serving Wisconsin’s commercial members, the Commercial Association of REALTORS® Wisconsin is one of the oldest commercial overlay boards in the country. How has CARW remained relevant and valuable to members for so long? We talked with Tracy Johnson, the association’s president and CEO, to find out.
Q. What are the top ways CARW provides value to commercial members that they can’t get from their local or state associations?
First, we understand who our members are—most are full-time commercial practitioners—and we cater specifically to their needs providing education, data, and resources to help them navigate the complicated nature of commercial brokerage and deal with a bevy of lenders, bankers, and business partners.
We also facilitate networking at the state level and with focused local events, such as our Sheboygan Development Networking Event. The commercial roundtable forums we host, many with national experts, address issues such as Department of Transportation changes, historic tax credits, wetlands reform, and new permit processes. The morning roundtable format allows for a variety of topics to be discussed in a small setting with one expert leading the discussion.
We advocate for commercial business issues including association health care plans and EB-5 Financing (the Immigrant Investor Program). Often, we’re fighting for issues even before they’re impacting our members. In August, State Representative Jim Steineke met with CARW members to discuss important commercial real estate issues including wetlands, property taxes, transportation, and economic development.
We work to be the go-to source for commercial real estate data in Wisconsin with our Wisconsin Data Exchange, quarterly reports, and market updates. We’ve built strong media relationships where our data is cited as the definitive source in the state and our members are quoted as experts. CARW is often the “first ask” for local media because our members know the landscape.
We survey members often and respond to their requests for benefits such as the new Wisconsin Data Exchange marketing tool that will help members develop more eye-catching email blasts of listings and properties.
We also maintain a strong partnership with the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association to offer our members access to events and services including the WRA Legal Hotline and Tech Helpline.
Q. How do you promote the value of membership?
Our weekly newsletter is vital to our success. We focus each issue on advocacy, education, networking, and data. You can ask any member what our four pillars are, and they’ll know. It’s in the heading; it’s our organizing principle.
We also do a “road show,” where I try at least once a year to visit everyone’s office, both big and small firms, to communicate the value we provide and listen to their concerns.
We know we’re making an impact from the positive feedback on our event surveys and social media engagement numbers.