Recently, CREW Network President Tara Piurko and I attended the premiere commercial real estate industry advocacy event, The Real Estate Roundtable. As always, the event was chalk full of Washington Insiders sharing blunt perspectives about the issues that affect our industry.
Kicking off the meeting, former television newscaster Tom Brokaw made two very interesting comments. He said that the way to heal the nation, or in his words “knit the country back together” is to create a rural/urban exchange program. He noted that this would increase awareness about the challenges in both communities and lead to understanding among all citizens. He predicted that the greatest impact of this century will be women. With so many social movements happening, women vocalizing and lifting one another up will truly create an unstoppable impact. It bodes well for commercial real estate women as we continue our forward momentum to transform the industry by advancing women globally.
United States Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) addresses the Roundtable.
Following luncheon, Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle shared their thoughts on everything from tax reform [it’s working] to improving infrastructure [not going to happen]. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) spoke about cybersecurity as we hear more about its impact on our country and personal privacy, he noted the Senate will be holding more hearings on this topic. He stated that the world is “hungry for American leadership” and seeking stability and predictability.
Special guest Ray Washburn, president of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which is a government entity that works with countries to develop housing, airports and other projects, announced that he’s look for partners in the commercial real estate industry who are interested in international development. He noted that OPIC has projects in 90 countries at this time.
Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) thanked members of the Real Estate Roundtable for their support of tax reform in his opening remarks. He noted he recently completed a series of meetings with constituents and they expressed that it is working. It is getting the economy going—wages are up, employment is up and these economic gains will continue to fuel the country. He acknowledged that workforce is one of the top issues in our country. He stated that any discussion on immigration will wait until after the election in the fall.
Following on Senator Portman’s comments, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that tax reform was good legislation and solid policy. He confirmed that historically, off year elections have not been kind to a sitting president. With 26 Democrats up and 9 Republicans, the election will likely move America right of center at the mid-term elections. He noted that anything that Congress hopes to accomplish this year will only get done on a bipartisan basis.
With infrastructure a hot topic, he stated that there may be incremental steps on this issue. The Senate agrees it needs to be done, but cannot agree upon a way to fund it. In one of the most enlightening statements, McConnell noted that 70% of what we spend in our country does not get voted on annually. These are ongoing programs such as medicare/Medicaid, social security, etc. He closed his comments by agreeing that the dreamers issue needs to be solved and that there is nothing wrong with wanting to strengthen our borders. While the immigration issue divides Republicans, he stated that even Democrats could not get it done. He suggested that perhaps that is another issue that can be handled piecemeal.
The event was a valuable opportunity to meet with industry leaders and Members of Congress to support industry issues, raise the visibility of women in CRE and connect with other industry partners.