In reflecting on our 14th BOMA Conference attended (where does the time go?), it was interesting to think back to our first show (Chicago 2002?) and how much has changed as well as how much has stayed the same. For you Francophiles out there, that’s – plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Although we’re clearly still in a state of global conflict, in 2002/2003 the industry and conference focus was still deeply entrenched in a post-9/11 mindset. Building and tenant security initiatives were front and center on everyone’s mind and dominated conference sessions and reflected in many of the exhibitor offerings at the show.

In a lot of ways, it still is.

The threats and concern haven’t gone away, but now it’s as much about cyber security as it is physical security. Additional issues covered in keynote sessions were the state of the economic recovery as well the rebound for commercial real estate in general following a period of great stress and uncertainty.

The evolution of education sessions

It’s interesting to look at some of the information from the 2003 conference education sessions in San Francisco and see how some of them are still being discussed today – “…the conference included 60 education sessions, programs and roundtables encompassing 225 hours of education in 10 subject tracks. Topics included mold remediation, leadership and teamwork, security, managing property taxes, tenant bankruptcies, tenant retention, green building practices, lease negotiations, financial calculations, globalization and property management, insurance, ADA, escalations, creating the FM info center, creating value in a slow economy…” Tenant Retention, Green practices, leadership, leasing…those didn’t go away!

The future of then may have ALREADY been surpassed

Even more fascinating is this description of an opening presentation by business strategist and futurist Peter Schwartz who had recently advised Steven Spielberg on the film Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise and “took delegates on an entertaining ride into the future” by weaving clips of the film into a fascinating presentation on what the office building of the future might look like, and how it might “interact with” and support its tenants through advanced technologies and other “smart” systems.

I wonder what he would think if he had attended this year’s session and gone through the technology pavilion to see all the service offerings. Building Automation advances, web and mobile communications, tenant control of HVAC, Tenant Mobile apps (TenHub), keyless entry to buildings, energy data management, virtual reality tours of space, etc. etc. – I wonder if we’ve come as far as Mr. Schwartz thought we might?

Diversity is on the rise in CRE

One other very interesting and stark difference about how far the industry has come in the past decade plus was highlighted by the Monday morning general session panel; Commercial Real Estate Outlook: C-Suite Secrets to Creating Value, an all-woman panel moderated by Lacey Willard from CBRE and led by 3 industry leaders (Marla Maloney/Cushman & Wakefield, Charla Rios/DCT Industrial and Shelby Christensen/Liberty Property Trust. The industry has come a long way, baby.

As for Building Engines, I recall manning a back-alley table with a vinyl sign printed that morning along with some flyers and a laptop hooked up to a very shaky internet connection where we talked about our vision and 5 or 6 clients that decided to take a chance on us…all of whom are still clients today. We have also come a long way and are very proud of our relationship with BOMA and our now 400+ clients, 1 billion+ square feet, and 14,000 buildings using our property management software and services across the US and Canada.

Here’s a look at some activity at our booth this year, as well as from our cocktail reception and boat cruise we sponsored with our terrific partners Genea and RealPage:

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We are already looking forward to next year!