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November 26, 2007
 

ASSOCIATION WINNING ITS WAR ON TERROR


Before the Real Estate Roundtable was formed in 1999, real estate was represented by its various sectors, not as a unified industry, says SVP Chip Rodgers.  “No one was presenting the bigger picture to policymakers.”  So the RER set out to do just that and gathered CEOs from the 15-20 top companies in each of the industry’s “major food groups”:  the apartment, office, retail, industrial, and hotel sectors.  Their goal is to give the entire real estate industry a more “cohesive voice” on major issues affecting commercial and multifamily property owners, such as their current objective of terrorism insurance legislation.

Chip is a history buff, and Winston Churchill one of his great heroes.  That nifty poster of Churchill shares space on Chip’s wall with another beloved figure, Lady Freedom. “I can see the top of the Capitol from my window. I thought it would be nice to have her in here too."

The attacks on September 11th resulted in insurance claims of over $30 billion, and as a result, Chip explains, insurers excluded coverage for terrorism risk from their standard policies.  The gap left businesses and property owners exposed and halted many real estate deals in their tracks, he says, until the RER and a coalition of 83 different groups helped push through the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, which provides a federal backstop for the insurance industry in the event of a “certified” act of terrorism.

The 2002 act was the first major legislative victory for RER, Chip says.  Renewed in ’05, the law expires again at the end of this year, and Chip has been leading a full court press to get longer-term legislation in place.  The House, led by efforts from Barney Frank and Paul Kanjorski, passed a 15-year extension in September, and several weeks ago the Senate Banking Committee approved a 7-year extension at the urging of Senators Chris Dodd and Bob Bennett.

Chip with the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002.  RER also runs The Real Estate Information Sharing and Analysis Center with the Department of Homeland Security, exchanging information between public and private sector on terrorist threats and emergency planning (as has also been done for the food, telecom, energy, financial services, chemical, and other industries).

Eight years after it began, the Real Estate Roundtable still has a select membership.  “We’re small and entrepreneurial by design,” Chip says of the 200-member group, which consists mostly of CEOs from the largest real estate entities.  Major financial institutions, such as investment banks, are also signed up.

But RER’s key distinguishing trait, Chip says, is that “we also have the 16 real estate trade associations as part of our group.”  They include the Association of Foreign Investors in Real Estate, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Apartment Association, and the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.  The fellow trade associations are “integral partners” whose presence enables RER to provide an overall coordination of interests within the real estate industry.

During Bush 41’s term, Chip ran the Office of Business Liaison at the Treasury Department.  He’s an amateur painter, though Chip insists he’s no Monet.  Maybe he’ll bring his easel to work one day to capture his postcard perfect view of the National Archives.

The RER has four main policy groups: Tax, Energy and Environment, Homeland Security, and Credit and Capital.  (The latter is Chip’s turf.)  It has staff of 10 and a budget of about $4.5 million.  The RER holds meetings—an annual one every June, a state of the industry gathering every January, and fall and spring roundtables—but not the conventions typical of associations with broader-based memberships. “We decided to do them in DC and make them highly interactive with key policymakers,” Chip says, “not resort-type meetings like other associations.”  Hey, somebody’s got to stay in town and get work done while the rest of you are in Vegas.

Staubach
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Arent Fox
Reznick Group
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