The 2017 BOMA International Annual Conference & Expo was a great one for the Building Engines team, and there could hardly have been a better host city than Nashville. We were there for the duration, seeing the sights and catching up with clients. Here are a few high points:

Notes on Nashville

  • The Nashville Chamber of Commerce ordered up some fantastic summer weather for the city during the conference: Clear skies and low humidity just about every day. Nice job.
  • There is an unbelievable amount of construction going down-town. When I remarked to a local that the crane must be the state bird of Tennessee, she said there were even more up a few months ago. Wow.
  • With high-rise construction comes a handful of sidewalk closures. It was a little big of a hassle to walk over to the Music City Center from nearby hotels, but no group could possibly be more forgiving of construction-related inconvenience than commercial real estate pros!
  • Speaking of the Music City Center, it is flat-out gorgeous. It’s a real shame that the downtown area suffered so much from flooding a few years ago, but it’s great to see how strong it is coming back. The convention center is emblematic.
  • Did you know that Nashville is the bachelorette party capital of the south? I am not exaggerating in saying I counted no fewer than TWENTY different groups in coordinated outfits in a single day on Broadway.
  • If you’ve never been to Broadway in Nashville, put it on your bucket list. If you can find a place without live music, you will have accomplished a rare feet.

Conference Themes and Happenings

  • BOMA International President and COO Henry Chamberlain labeled “disruption” the word of the year in his annual State of the CRE Industry address.
  • Co-working was another word being bandied about, which makes sense given that there are over 1,400 co-working locations in the United States now (compared to about 100 in 2010).
  • Futurist Ian Khan was “the bearer of good news” about the disruptive effect technology will have – and indeed is already having – on the industry.
  • Steve Weikal of the MIT Center for Real Estate summed up the CRE technology challenge succinctly: “If people can use a piece of tech in their living room, you can bet they will expect to use it at the office.”
  • To help members cope with the incredible pace of technological change, BOMA has launched a brand-new Technology Committee, on which I am extremely pleased to serve. It was standing-room-only at the committee’s first public meeting.
  • The Tuesday night TOBY awards ceremony is always the capstone of the conference. I was happy as a southerner and Atlantan to see Ian Hughes recognized as the BOMA Southern Region Member of the Year and Mark Dukes elected to the BOMA International Executive Committee. That they are both Building Engines clients makes it even better.
  • The BOMA Pittsburgh delegation did not miss an opportunity to troll their #Smashville hosts by parading a replica of the Stanley Cup through the banquet hall.

Building Engines at BOMA

  • Monday night was a tremendous time with over 150 clients and friends at Big Bang, the sight of the Dueling Keys event we co-hosted with the good people at Genea. The musicians were amazing, and they even went an extra hour with us when we didn’t want it to end. If you were there, thanks for coming!

  • Educational content is one of BOMA’s mainstays, and I got the chance to moderate a truly excellent panel discussion called “Metrics that Matter.” Some of their wisdom:
    • Becky Hanner of Cushman & Wakefield in Raleigh piqued the room’s interest when she mentioned tracking tenant engagement in part by how much food she needs to order for community events. She also spoke of the primacy of the building owner as Customer #1.
    • Mark Dukes of Physicians Realty Trust shared how important it is to verify that the person you think is the decision maker actually is the decision maker (not as easy as it sounds). And he brought up that tenants can be an important source for referring other tenants – especially in the medical context, where they often have an interest in referring patients to trusted practices of complementary specialties.
    • Dan Chancey of C&W Commercial Advisors reminded the audience that data is not a substitute for personal interaction, which can yield a treasure trove of qualitative information about a tenant’s position or attitude. As for a metric he tracks, he mentioned “sighs” – the things that may frustrate tenants every day, but they never actually log a formal complaint. (Think the music playing in the parking garage or the puddle that always seems to be in the same space on the sidewalk.)

  • We had our largest ever presence at the expo, where we debuted a new booth setup and I got my first baptism into Guitar Hero.

We love BOMA because there’s no better place to go to keep a finger on the pulse of the industry. Our booth for the 2018 conference in San Antonio is already reserved, so if you missed us in Nashville look for us next year.