Apartmentalize in Atlanta! NAA CEO Bob Pinnegar Previews Education Conference

The National Apartment Association's newly appointed CEO sat down with MHN to preview the upcoming 2017 NAA Education Conference & Exposition in Atlanta.
Robert Pinnegar

Robert Pinnegar, CEO, National Apartment Association

MHN: What’s new at NAA?

Bob Pinnegar: There’s a lot of energy and excitement among leadership and members. We’re reexamining who we are, what we’re doing and the best way to do it.

MHN: What are some hot topics for the Education Conference & Exposition?

Pinnegar: A key focus will be tax reform and its impact on multifamily real estate. We’ve launched an elaborate grassroots mobilization, reaching to partner groups to create a dialogue in home districts of member of Congress. It’s important that legislators are aware of how bad policy decisions could hurt us and their communities.

Issues impacting the industry at the federal level as well as at the state level are going to be at the top of the agenda, including housing affordability, which continues to be a pressing concern.

Another important area is corporate social responsibility. This year, the Atlanta Apartment Association has been actively involved with the Atlanta Food Bank. We want to bring awareness to what they’ve been doing, so on Saturday, we’ve organized an effort for attendees to go to Atlanta Food Bank and assist with sorting food and getting meals prepared for homeless people in the area.

Corporate social responsibility is a hot-button issue for Millennials, too. You have to do more than throw a party, and give them something they can do to have some sort of social interaction but also have programming where they can learn things and feel like they’ve gotten value. For that, we have the NextGen program, which we use to cultivate talent and provide them with the information they need to succeed. Some of our affiliates have ramped up their Next Gen programs, while others are in the process of doing so. The multifamily industry really exists at a local level, so we’ve been engaging our local affiliates to put these kind of professional development programs together.

Cybersecurity is also very important, and not just for large corporations. As an industry, real estate tends to lag behind on technology issues, so we’re trying to create a conversation about technology to help our members comprehend where they stand, get a lay of the land and best position themselves to stay ahead of the curve. 

MHN: How will the conference address the current state of the rental housing market?

Pinnegar: We’ve been on an upward trajectory for well over a decade in the apartment industry. Most people agree that there will be no major changes to this trend in next 3-4 years, but they’re talking about it now in order to be prepared. That’s why you’ll see a number of economists and futurists on the panels and sessions at the conference. 

Since some say 2017 will see the peak in new development, with much of that supply being absorbed in 2018, we’ll certainly be having conversations around where we are in the cycle, as well as what’s happening in the Class A versus the Class B/C markets. 

Because this conference is so large, we expect to have around 170 of our affiliate associations in attendance. If you count exhibitors and attendees, we have in excess of 10,000 people planning to come. This presents ample opportunity to talk about regulatory reform, tax reform and housing affordability across the country.

MHN: What’s the key to getting the most value out of the conference?

Pinnegar: For employers, the focus of the conference is the return on investment for the employees who they send to these meetings. For attendees, it’s the learning and networking opportunities that keep them coming back. When we’re planning the conference, we get individuals, companies and consultants to submit sessions to a volunteer oversight board. The board comprises operators, supplier members and the full spectrum of the industry, so we have well-rounded conversation about the submissions. This group evaluates responses for quality and value to members, selecting just 60 from about three times as many proposals. In doing so, they help us keep the program dynamic and fresh.

People attend these conferences to learn and to bring knowledge back, but so much of this is interaction with their peers. This is how they build their professional networks. If they come across an issue, there’s a network of people—from senior to student to military housing, and from urban and suburban environments—from these meetings with whom they can share ideas and talk about what’s going on in the industry. The mix of hands-on and classroom learning helps people return even more value to their employers and clients.

MHN: Should we expect any special guests?

Pinnegar: Yes! Michael Phelps (the most decorated Olympian) will be leading a general session on Thursday, June 22. (Good Morning America Co-anchor) Robin Roberts is going to speak in the afternoon on Friday, June 23. Marketing innovator Afdhel Aziz will be delivering an energizing talk in the morning on Saturday, June 24. And we have also brought on Antiques Roadshow host Mark Walberg as a moderator.

MHN: What else can attendees look forward to at the conference?

Pinnegar: Maintenance Mania is a competition put on by HD Supply to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work of maintenance professionals across the country. As people elevate through regional competitions, they advance to the national event, which is a very intense activity. Some things you’ll see: people showcasing their knowledge skills by building and racing cars, re-keying locks and installing fixtures. This feature was born out of an effort 15-20 years ago, originating with our Denver affiliate. Since then, it’s taken on a life of its own and has been occurring nationwide for 10 years. For our valued maintenance professionals, it’s their time to shine in front of the industry.