Justin welcomes Timothy Jemal, CEO of NAIOP SoCal. Timothy discusses the important advocacy work NAIOP SoCal is leading and our duty to educate and advocate on behalf of our community’s interest. He shares government regulations and issues that will be the focus of next year.
Listen to more episodes and subscribe to the podcast on Apple.
- Tim’s NAIOP SoCal Podcast– 2:45
- Tim’s background and role as CEO of NAIOP SoCal – 4:45
- The challenges they faced during Covid and how they adapted – 6:00
- Meeting President Biden – 12:53
- What does 2023 look like for NAIOP SoCal – 18:33
- NAIOP SoCal offers student memberships – 25:40
- Tim’s advocacy background – 32:00
- AB 2840 & NAIOP SoCal’s legislative advocacy – 33:25
- Roadblocks enforced on industrial real estate – 37:00
- Armenian advocacy & Global ARM – 40:28
Connect with Timothy Jemal
Connect with Justin Smith
Justin Smith: Hi everybody, it’s Justin Smith. Welcome to the Industrial Insights Podcast. Today we have Tim Jamal, CEO of NAIOP SoCal. And for those of you who don’t know what NAIOP is, it’s the premier organization that helps advocate and educate members in the general public and the government about all issues pertaining to industrial, office, retail and all commercial real estate. Tim’s fascinating, he’s a wealth of knowledge. And so we go over some of the pressing government regulations and issues of our time and that will be the focus of next year. So I think you’ll really enjoy this as a practitioner in the industry and find a lot of valuable insights. Hope you enjoy.
Justin Smith: Hey Tim.
Timothy Jemal: Hey, you’re already recording.
Justin Smith: Yeah, I set to auto record like two years ago and it makes it easy so that you never forget, and God forbid we spend a whole hour and then realize that.
Timothy Jemal: Oh, I’ve had all sorts of funny challenges since I started my podcast. My goodness.
Justin Smith: Tell me about it. You’re two years in and 20 or 30 in deep. What’s some best practices you’ve learned along the way in the podcasting world?
Timothy Jemal: So I would say the, one of the best practices that we still haven’t found the sweet sauce for is making sure that people use the right microphone. You probably know this. So that has been probably the number one challenge. We’ve toyed with the idea of trying to meet in person or get a dedicated studio, bringing them here to the office. All sorts of different ideas to try to ensure that there’s consistency in the audio that is broadcast to the listener. Apparently, there is a podcast group of people, I met one of them that talks about best practices. Those are some of the ideas that we’ve tried to come up with.
Justin Smith: You’re like, how about we send someone a microphone and our guy over there to go plug it in and set it up for them?
Timothy Jemal: We’ve thought about doing that, Justin. To be honest, you don’t want to leave it because we’re probably never getting it back and mailing it all that kind of stuff. I’m seriously considering that in 2023.
Justin Smith: Yeah, you’re like, how can I ensure this is gonna be successful? With the technology part, it’s so difficult.
Timothy Jemal: We use a platform called Zencaster. It’s got some quirks in it. It’s got some good things, but it’s not compatible with Safari. So that’s a big no-no. Can’t use Safari. Can’t use your smartphone or iPhone. There’s some like peculiar, very specific instructions, which usually we’re able to overcome. Occasionally someone does the wrong thing, but it’s mostly the audio part.
Justin Smith: Yeah, it’s turning out great. I must say I’m a fan. I love what you’re putting out there.
Timothy Jemal: Thanks Justin. Thanks for inviting me.
Justin Smith: Yeah, us getting together caused me to refresh on another one with Nancy Schultz and that was awesome to hear more about the things they’re putting out there. And the additive to the concrete that they were testing was something that I had heard of before, but never heard of anybody like doing it around here. And everyone’s trying to do better and come up with new and innovative ways. So I love learning about stuff like that. I’m sure everybody else does in our world.
Timothy Jemal: I sure hope so. And I agree, Nancy is a real dynamo. She’s now taking some time in between probably looking at other opportunities, since as you know, Duke was acquired by Prologis. So Nancy is taking a step back for a moment and taking a look at what her future may hold, but she sure has earned it. She’s just fantastic.
Justin Smith: Imagine if that was Tim’s job to put those two companies together and then figure out what that looks like, how to combine them and who’s doing what, where when and why.
Timothy Jemal: Well, the thing is I think culture is -you heard Nancy and interesting Justin, my first podcast in early 2021 was Kim Snyder. So he was the very first one. And then I interview Nancy and he ends up acquiring Duke. Obviously, the work itself, getting the talent to do the work within commercial real estate, but then each organization has its own distinguished and unique culture and trying to blend those together is a significant challenge. I know if anyone can pull it off successfully, it’s Kim. But yeah, I joke with them like because they were both huge supporters of NAIOP, NAIOP SoCal in particular, Duke and Prologis. I joke with Prologis all the time, “you took away one of our big supporters, so now you’ve gonna have to double up.”
Justin Smith: Tongue in cheek. Yeah, I’m sure they’re already doing everything they can.
Timothy Jemal: They are very supportive.
Justin Smith: I figure the best place to start is how you got roped into this gig in the first place. What an opportunity.
Timothy Jemal: Truth be told, I had never heard of NAIOP when I was approached about the opportunity here. I was, involved in doing consulting for many years. Something I loved doing with the Jemal Public Affairs. And I had gotten word from one of the board members that NAIOP SoCal was looking for a CEO for the first time. They had an executive director for about 30 years that was here, but the role had been redefined a bit to involve a bit more externally facing work like lobbying, legislative advocacy, working with the media, getting quoted in media, being the spokesperson. And really integrating everything together, our networking, our programs, and our events with our legislative affairs. And when I said I’d never heard of it and I hadn’t heard of NAIOP before and we entered into some, several discussions over several months. And it came down to the fact that one of the board members used the term that it’s a Lamborghini in the garage and that really excites me because I’m a builder. And the opportunity to really take this organization in the industry to another level really excited me because at heart, I’ve become an entrepreneur and it was somewhat capitalized startup environment when I came here. Unfortunately, within a couple of months, actually I started in the middle of the covid lockdowns, but the real brunt of that didn’t impact us until two or three months in when we ended up losing 25% of our sponsors and 25% of our membership. And here I am, six or eight months into the position and you can imagine, any organization in any business sector losing that much of your revenue base and customer base was a real shock to the system.
Justin Smith: A shock but maybe an opportunity I would imagine as you build and breathe life into it. Maybe that can help or maybe that did help. Yeah, what a challenge.
Timothy Jemal: I think it did. When I started one of the priorities was to modernize the association and bringing it into the 21st century in terms of our communications, our website, the way we interact with the members, the events and programs we put on. So that had already started and you’re right. Even in the economy today, when you look at the possibility or the reality of a slowdown those who are innovative and those are creative are going to succeed and come out of this even stronger. And so I can’t say I wanted it to happen, no one does. But I think that we were already moving in that direction. So I think because we were already moving in a direction of change that when we did face the financial impact of the membership and sponsorship decline we were in a better position to respond and say, “Hey, we’re not the same organization that we were a few years ago which you love, but we know we need to adapt and we are. We came into the 21st century and are still going.
Justin Smith: I’ve had a bunch of different experiences with people that I’ve learned that are going through all of the AB 2840 and AB5, and people who were more knowledgeable from being in NAIOP and were adding to the conversation and helping educate the public. It was so great to have people be more informed and informing me, knowing more than I did and I’ve been industrial business and have been for a long time. It’s so great to have this need to be more outward facing, have you help it manifest and help lead the charge there.
Timothy Jemal: I appreciate that, Justin. I think one of the changes that I’ve tried to implement with of course a lot of help from the membership and the leadership within our organization, our committees are to really put on a different face when it comes to our legislative work and our policy advocacy. And in our communications with the membership on policy issues and how we deal with the media. We can no longer operate in the shadows. I had a CEO post a couple of months ago where I said, “I totally understand the need to have the government leave us alone trust me.” I being an entrepreneur myself, I know I can do things in ways that are better and more innovative and cost effective and efficient than the government can do. The reality is that because of the success of commercial real estate financially and industrial real estate within the last five years is that there’s a tendency on the part of governments, whether it’s Washington or Sacramento or local governments, to see this as an opportunity to generate more tax revenues or funding for them. And then you couple that with some community opposition, some of which have legitimate issues that we need to confront. I’m not saying we operate in the shadows, but that is no longer an approach we can even consider. We have to be out there and engaged and try to communicate our narrative and value proposition because it’s a good story, Justin. I think that the story is there. We haven’t done as an effective job communicating that, especially to elected officials at the county, city, and Sacramento level in particular. And we need to do that. And today we’re looking at some of the listers probably know, California is mostly a democratic state, especially in Sacramento.
Timothy Jemal: We’re looking at the possibility of 85% of the legislature may be represented by Democrats next year, and there’s 80 members of the assembly, 40 members of the Senate. And so we have no choice but to be able to have a dialogue sometimes with people that don’t have the same backgrounds that we. And that’s the challenge we have here and why I think we’re on the right path, but we have a long way to go.
Justin Smith: I sure have recognized anybody that’s been in the industrial business, and you talk to what you deem normal people about what are warehouses and what do they do and what kind of companies are in there and what’s their nature and what’s their impact and what kind of job? I find people, you’re just blind to it until you have an awareness or where it interacts in your experience in your life. Without a doubt, 90% of the people I meet would have no idea what a real understanding is of that segment of the industry and its contribution to the whole. So I could only imagine, you multiply that by the government and by other people and how that lack of awareness could lead to real issues for us.
Timothy Jemal: You hit the nail on the head, Justin. Look, there was really nothing good about Covid 19 happening. But one of the things that did happen during Covid 19, those of us who live in Southern California and who get near the coast every so often, and you look out at the ports of LA and ports of Long Beach from just about anywhere from the SoCal coast and you see the backup of the container ships.
Justin Smith: So memorable.
Timothy Jemal: How memorable is that? And then what you had people like at Thanksgiving dinners talking about the supply chain. All of a sudden, our industry, the industrial sector, the supply chain goods movement is now a kitchen table issue. And so I think that represented and it still is an opportunity to continue to educate communities on the indispensable importance of having a resilient supply chain. In fact, one of my podcasts I interviewed Gene Soroka, who’s the CEO of the Port of Los Angeles. Talking about the need, what do you do with these empty containers? Do you guys have warehouses that can house them? And then it gets into the bigger story about, okay residents of SoCal, your groceries, they come to warehouses and so in order to put food on the table and to get your just in time package that you want from Amazon that says it’s gonna be there at 10:00 AM tomorrow, that comes from probably a last mile facility.
Timothy Jemal: So these are the things that integrate I think that out of Covid. Then of course the President and Secretary Buttigieg have been out here several times dealing at the ports, trying to help with the backlog and the supply chain challenges. And so I think Justin, from that perspective it was an educational opportunity and still is so today.
Justin Smith: And how did you get to meet the president? How cool is that?
Timothy Jemal: It was very cool. One of the other hats that I wear is, and I think community service hat is that I was elected to the South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees in 2012. Actually well before my tenure with NAIOP. It is an elected role. There are seven of us that service trustees, and we oversee about 2,500 employees in close to a billion dollar budget and two colleges and then a third campus. Saddleback College, Irvine Valley College, and then a campus in Tustin called the Advanced Technology and Education Park, which is designed to be a public private partnership to help students find in-demand jobs in a variety of industries and including real estate. And so what happened was that President Biden was planning a visit to Southern California, ostensibly to talk about the inflation reduction act in reality to help his campaign. But the member of Congress who represents Irvine, a congresswoman Katie Porter, invited him to visit Orange County. And then they ended up selecting Irvine Valley College as the location in Orange County. And so I’m a trustee at Irvine Valley College, as I just mentioned. So that’s how I had the opportunity to meet the President. We got there early, waited about three hours, so we were able to stand or sit in the front row. There is only about 200 people there.
Timothy Jemal: Then I’ll just tell a quick side note. So then he delivers a 20 minute speech. And then during the speech, one of my colleagues on the community college board was sitting next to me, says “Hey, you think he’s gonna come around and say hi to us?” And I said, “yeah, I think he will.” So he doesn’t start to make his way around to shake our hands. And then the Secret Service, which were everywhere, including the snipers on the top of the building, but the Secret Service who were advancing him as he’s going forward in line bark out, “put your phones away” And we’re like, “Whoa. Okay, we’ll put our phones away.” But then we’re thinking we really want to get a photo with the President. And the secret service is, advancing, towards us because they’re in front of him and behind him. I said to one of the agents, you know, it’s like this unspoken rule you’re really not supposed to talk to them. But I just decided, I said, “Hey, come on. We just want to get a photo.”
Justin Smith: You’re like, would you mind taking our photo?”
Timothy Jemal: Yeah. He said,” we just don’t want you to shove it in his face. I said, “okay. We have a little more tact than that.” But he had already, like he was upon me. So, I really didn’t have the chance though. I had taken it out and I ended up being able to take a selfie. But two colleagues, like three or four people down, ended up taking all the photos you probably saw posted. I thanked them profusely for doing that. And I actually spent about a minute with him. One, I thanked him for his work on the supply chain and the Secretary Buttigieg, because they have been sincere and trying to deal with supply chain challenges. So I thanked him for that
Timothy Jemal: And then we had a mutual a friend, I may get into it later, been involved in a lot of issues related to Armenia and Armenian advocacy. And he had someone I knew and someone who was very close to the President who was of Armenian descent. We both know this individual, unfortunately, who had passed away last year, but they used to ride the train together from Philadelphia to DC every day.
Timothy Jemal: Yeah, so I mentioned him. We talked a little bit about our, his name is Set Magen. If you Google him, you’ll see, he is very involved in political issues and with the President for years, so it was nice to chat with him about that.
Justin Smith: Yeah, small world. What a great opportunity. You could only imagine what he and the Secret Service experience with people on their phones these days. So it’s so funny where you’re like, wait, what’s going on and what can we do?
Timothy Jemal: I totally understand it. You could see it; you could absolutely see people shoving phones in the President’s face and that’s not gonna work. The Secret Service isn’t gonna allow for that. But they’re professional. They handled themselves well. The other thing is that I did hear 10 minutes into the President’s, speech at Irvine Valley College. I did hear some traffic in the air, some kind of aircraft noise, and it didn’t sound normal. I thought it was strange. And then I don’t know if you saw, but afterwards the story came out that a single engine private passenger aircraft had flown into restricted military space, and they scrambled the F-16s. And it was about 10 minutes in, so I think they diverted him to Chino Airport. That’s what I heard.
Justin Smith: Yeah, that’s so wild. I just so happen to be driving down the street. I don’t even know what I was doing to a meeting or going home to one of the dogs or something and happened to be on the surface streets right there by Manassero Farms and there’s people all over the streets and signs and everything everywhere. And I wasn’t aware of this at that time, so I was just wondering-
Timothy Jemal: So you were there at IBC or the Manistee?
Justin Smith: I was. Yeah, because I work in the spectrum. I live in Turtle Rock and that’s just my local streets on the way. I remember talking to my wife about what all the hoopla is and then sure enough see it after the fact. So it was pretty cool to put it all together and then be talking with you, and you got a front row seat.
Timothy Jemal: I was embargoed. I actually did know about it about four days ahead of time because being a trustee, we were notified that this was happening. And then I got a couple of notes from people like afterwards, why didn’t you invite me? And I said, “I wasn’t even allowed to bring my wife.”
Justin Smith: Just happy to be there.
Timothy Jemal: Exactly. It was not an and one invitation.
Justin Smith: No doubt. Yeah, so much fun. There’s so much to talk about because NAIOP is one of the best groups that cover so many ranges. I would think right now, everybody’s doing business planning in 2023 and taking a moment to pause and think through what’s happened, what’s happening, and then chart the path forward. Where are you in that journey and what are you concerned about or what are you excited about? What’s 2023 look like for you in a perfect world?
Timothy Jemal: So you mentioned NAIOP is really, I think the most valuable association in the commercial real estate sector because it brings together all of the disciplines and that’s very unique. I think you’re involved with SIOR, there’s certainly a value in organizations that are laser focused on one discipline or another. I think the fact that we’re able to bring together, industrial, with retail, with office, with multi-family, with hospitality, and then the service providers and the investors and the architects and the attorneys who are working land use deals. It’s so valuable to bring it all together. And I think that’s the power of an association like NAIOP.
Timothy Jemal: So when we look at just backwards a bit in 2022, I think what you’re gonna see in 2023 is an acceleration of what we started in 2022, which is more proactive outreach in terms of legislative advocacy. And more education on the value of commercial real estate to policy makers, city staff, city council members, the media, to really accelerate and tell that story in a more meaningful way. Using specific anecdotes of how does affect jobs and families, individual families. A lot of times we speak generically about jobs, but I think putting a face on some of the jobs and the people that are benefiting from good, solid jobs that do have career ladder abilities in them. I think that’s what we need to start doing. We formed a lot of good coalitions with labor organizations. You would think that somehow there’s acrimony and it’s not that we agree on everything, but I think one thing that we do agree on is this sector, not just industrial but commercial real estate, is one of the key engines of the Southern California economy. The national economy, when you look at the contributions to GDP taxes paid. Improvements to infrastructure that we make in local communities. But these often are not getting recognition or noticed enough. And it’s gonna be our job to tell that story because no one’s going to tell it for us, unless we lead it ourselves. So in 2023 you’re gonna see more of that.
Timothy Jemal: We started two new programs last year on the non-legislative front. We had an awards event, which was fabulous. We’re gonna do that again in 2023. We started a NAIOP SoCal Hall of Fame with Ed Roski from Majestic Realty. We had 20 different categories that recognized people, projects and members of NAIOP for their innovative work in commercial real estate, including brokers. We had broker of the year category, so we are gonna do that again and I’m really excited about it. We had a Hollywood actress as the MC last year, and we’ll see she might do it again in 2023, so that’s very exciting. We added a graduate student real estate challenge in Orange County, which was just phenomenal. Chapman University and University of California Irvine, UCI at the inaugural graduate student real estate competition. It was sold out lots of energy.
Justin Smith: I went to UCI, my wife went to Chapman. I’m right there with you.
Justin Smith: Okay. Yeah, so both. It’s modeled somewhat after the USC UCLA competition, which is actually next week in the 25th anniversary. Silver anniversary, but Chapman took home. We’ve created the Orange Cup so your wife will be happy. Both teams did extremely well and congratulations to Chapman for taking Home the Cup last year. Those two programs are new, were new in 22. They will continue and then we’ll of course offer the panoply of other, Networking programs and events, that people have come to know and love from NAIOP, SoCal. And that includes of course. Were you at night at the fights that we had about a month ago? I was not, but I was hoping you were getting your Mayweather subscription so that you could start training for next year’s.
Timothy Jemal: Last year we switched venues partly due to Covid, partly because the hotel where it’d been housed for many years, Hotel Irvine is closed. So, we had to find a location that could navigate the Covid restrictions, but at the same continue the brand of this iconic event and we landed at the Orange County Fairgrounds. The excitement and the energy and the ability to have the kind of space we had there led to an event that was just very well received. And even though covid restrictions are largely finished, we ended up doing again this year. Which was fantastic, weather accommodated as well because it’s mostly an indoor outdoor hybrid venue. And then you mentioned we had the return of the industry fights.
Justin Smith: So legendary. Do you feel like a Dana White from the Ultimate Fighting Championships? You’re like our NAIOP, Dana White, helping arrange fights and locations and figuring it all out.
Timothy Jemal: Yeah, we had the Charles Banks and Steve Madigan, FCL versus Kidder Matthews, and I was ringside. And let me tell you, apparently, it’s the first time our industry fights, we used to call them broker fights but it’s not just brokers who fight. But anyway, they went the distance. And I’m told it’s the first time that our amateur industry folks had gone the distance and it was a pure display of guts and stamina. It was really a remarkable performance from both of them in what ended up being basically split decision on the part of the judges.
Justin Smith: Oh, nobody wants to give up, right? You already don’t and then add all your friends and colleagues all the more reason they put on the show for everyone.
Timothy Jemal: No and they take a lot of pride in that. I think they’re already talking about, one of them, I should say, is talking about a rematch. We will see what happens in the months ahead. And then lots of other stuff, of course, the golf tournaments. We’ve got a mini economic forecast coming up in January trying to look at what’s gonna happen in 2023. Is it a soft landing? Is it hard landing? Is there a recession or is there not a recession? And then particularly looking at commercial real estate in Southern California. So we’re looking at putting something together like that in January. And then of course, YPG, which is a staple. It’s so important to what we do at NAIOP SoCal being able to develop future leaders in commercial real estate. And it’s so competitive, the program. It’s so well done. I’ve been so impressed. I was very fortunate to inherit that program coming in here and it’s a highly selective process to have 35 people participate in this yearlong education and career development and leadership development program. Today we have nearly 25% of our own board of directors are YPG alumni.
Justin Smith: No way. That’s great.
Timothy Jemal: It is really great. I’ve been saying this a lot lately, either I’m getting older and we’re getting younger. So I think it’s all good, what’s happening at NAIOP SoCal and, you see it in our events, you see it in our programs, you see it in our legislative advocacy. And it ties into legislative advocacy, Justin, because a lot of the people who are going to Sacramento, who are going to city halls, who are going to the county boards of supervisors, a lot of them are getting younger and they’re becoming more diverse.
Timothy Jemal: And I think that’s reflective of the direction the, we want to go in terms of our legislative advocacy. We want as much as possible to have our industry look like the communities that you know are represented. We want the best and brightest, that’s the goal. But at the same time, we also want to foster an environment that’s accepting of diverse, ethnicities, race, cultures, gender identification. Everything associated with capturing who is in our communities. That’s one reason why we added the Orange County Real Estate Challenge to dovetail USC. And at the same time, our student memberships are way up. We’ve got over a hundred student members now that are part of NAIOP and we try to integrate them into our programs, our events, and our mentoring initiatives.
Justin Smith: I don’t recognize that there was a student membership, so I would think all the people that are in the clubs and taking the courses and have an interest in doing internships, that’s a great way to add to it and then help you in your transition.
Timothy Jemal: Yeah, they think differently, which I think is good. I guess they’re Gen Z I’m trying to figure out these generations and then we’ve got the millennials who think differently from Gen Z. And then, I’m actually Generation X. And then we have baby boomers that are still part of NAIOP. And so it’s like you mentioned, if I could wave a magic wand and help meld together Duke and Prologis, it’s kind of like that here at NAIOP. We’ve got a range of cultures and generations and interests, and how we weave it together in terms of the things we do is a challenge every day. And what I love about you guys, no one’s afraid to voice their opinions. So, what we try to do here is see where the trends are. Are these outlying suggestions or is there something there?
Timothy Jemal: I should mention NAIOP University, which is fantastic. That’s really the arm that deals with current issues and challenges that are facing the industry and these are hyper-focused education programs. We just actually had one on, how are women in commercial real estate adapting? What are those boundaries that women have to deal with? And it was sold out, the program we had last month and we’re gonna continue something like it in the future because women do have different challenges. I was really proud of the program that the committee put together and I’m sure there’s gonna be a lot of interest to continue it next year.
Justin Smith: Yeah. I feel the educational opportunities have been really hitting on all cylinders. I’ve gone to a couple of ones or seen a couple different ones. The one that stood out to me was on cold storage. That was just a topic at the time. I was really interested to learn more about it. And then it was just out of the park in terms of like leaving with a fundamental understanding of like where we are at right here, right now. And, then it armed me with what I needed to be out there and having conversations with people and help facilitate opportunities and help brainstorm and create. So I love it. Yeah, that’s great.
Timothy Jemal: As you probably know, an annual conference called Icon West, which has been in a recent past in Long Beach. And I had the opportunity last year to tour a cold storage facility near the port. It was phenomenal. I learned a lot and it was very cold.
Justin Smith: Most people don’t go in those, right. Talking about awareness. You already knew most of what’s going on, and then you see that and have to put your polar jacket on and get your hat out.
Timothy Jemal: Yeah, I’ve gotten wimpier the last few years. I grew up in Detroit and so the weather out here, I consider every day a paradise considered where I grew up. But as the longer I come out here, I realize the more I’m becoming acclimated to being in, the Southern California climate.
Justin Smith: Welcome. We charge for the sunshine, but the price is worth it.
Timothy Jemal: It’s a bit pricey. It’s definitely pricier in California.
Justin Smith: Yeah, so Icon West, I love it. I have been a couple times; I’ve done the port tour before and then that’s where all the heavy hitters are, and you get to hear what they’re doing and the biggest of the big deals and understand what it took to bring them all together. Yeah, I’ve always really enjoyed that one. I feel like if there was one to go to, that would be one of the highest level ones out there.
Timothy Jemal: Totally agree. I’m on the committee, there’s an Icon West and Icon East, and we have like one committee that helps identify topics and programs and tours. That we can hold at each conference. Topically, there’s a variety of issues that are tackled there from community resistance to industrial real estate, to what is the sector gonna look like, economically in 2023. So, you’ve been there, and I think of those who have not gone, I think that is the conference. If you’re in the industrial space in any way, that’s the conference to go to because surveys that come in after that event, say that overwhelmingly people are getting deals done at Icon. Yeah.
Justin Smith: Or you spend so much time on the phones dealing with people, you don’t always get a chance to see them. And there’s some people you’ve known for years, and you don’t get to spend time with them. That’s a great place to connect and reconnect.
Timothy Jemal: Absolutely.
Justin Smith: I’m a little bit sensitive to our time, but I would think the only other thing that’s on my mind was the AB initiative.
Timothy Jemal: Sure, AB 2840.
Justin Smith: Yeah, 2840. And then, a lot of companies that were in the AB5 and were affected by that, that are trucking companies. It’s interesting to learn more about advocacy and what that looks like. Because I can only imagine all of this issue multiplied by the city, the county, and the state level, and how many people you like a need to get different messages. That’s infinitely fascinating. And I know that’s one of your strong suits and maybe a part of why bringing you to the organization was such a good call. More of those types of problems that are on the horizon. Are there any new ones that are bubbling up that you can think of that you’re sensitive to for this year coming up? Or what are the top couple ones that are on your radar?
Timothy Jemal: Yeah. You mentioned, just briefly, my background I did spend 10 years in Washington, DC doing advocacy work and media work and also starting to get involved with non-profit organizations as NAIOP is a non-profit. I’ve either started or headed up four or five different non-profit organizations in a variety of ways or consulted with them. So it’s a background, I’m very familiar with but at the same time I’ve done some entrepreneurial stuff internationally, which maybe at some point later another podcast we can get into. So I think that background has been really helpful. And then moved out to California and got very involved in public policy advocacy on a number of issues related to healthcare and technology policy matters. I’ve seen the evolution of what we talked about earlier, I was involved in the tech sector for many years. And in the nineties, there’s nothing, the tech sector was where I view commercial real estate in that they didn’t, they wanted the government to leave them alone. They wanted to be their entrepreneurs. And then all of a sudden you see this massive legislative and regulatory engagement in the IT and the tech industry. So that what you’ve seen from what they have done is massively increased their lobbying and PR investments to tens of millions of dollars.
Timothy Jemal: And so what I see now when I look at next year, you mentioned AB 2840, which in essence, originally started out as a statewide bill that the development of warehouses that use over a hundred thousand square feet of warehousing space to prohibit them from being located within a thousand feet of what’s called the sensitive receptor, which is a school, a home, a healthcare facility, nursing home facility. And obviously, that one size fits all approach would’ve been disastrous for the industry and for jobs as well. And so we went all hands on deck and involved the entire membership and the Southern California commercial real estate industry in a letter writing and communications campaign. We brought in here a tool that allows people to communicate with their elected officials with one click, either through an email or a phone call or a tweet. And so we got over 2000 different emails or calls to the legislature.
Justin Smith: You got me!
Timothy Jemal: We got you. Thank you for doing what you do. And so that issue, even though we were successful, it was hard, Justin. I went to Sacramento twice with our lobbyist and then worked with our lobbyist at the California Business Properties Association, which is an umbrella group that serves as our NAIOP SoCal’s lobbyist in Sacramento, as well as some other business owner and commercial real estate groups. They’re the umbrella entity we work with. And so we went up there twice and we were able to stop the bill AB 2840, but it was really hard. We did have support from the laborers, LIUNA organized labor, but the author of the bill, who’s been the majority leader, Eloise Reyes from the Inland Empire has said, she’s gonna bring it back next year. So we are right now Justin, in the process of getting ready to deal with that and trying to figure out ways that we educate, which is a likely one third new members in the Assembly and the Senate. So we’re bringing a whole new class of members who aren’t aware of the issue and what’s the trend has been recently the last 20 years or so is the people going to Sacramento most have not, never owned or run or worked in a serious capacity for a business. And that’s a challenge. Forget about not knowing about commercial real estate, because they always mix up residential and commercial and then now, they’re not even involved in a business. The education curve is massive. And so that issues coming back. And then what we see is at the city level, mostly in the Inland Empire, but it’s in LA and Orange County too, is this anti warehouse sentiment by city councils and some in the community. And then the idea of a warehouse moratoriums is popping up everywhere, restrictions and new regulations and CUPs, conditional use permits for industrial real estate.
Justin Smith: To do what used to be ordinary.
Timothy Jemal: Yeah, it used to be ordinary. And it already takes a year to 15 months as it is to get the entitlements. And now what we’re looking at is a staggering amount of time. I will say this, Justin, it’s not just the Inland Empire. Just in the last month we’ve been dealing with some challenges in Irvine, in Lake Forest of all places. And it has nothing to do with Party, it’s not Democrats, it’s not Republicans. Many of these city councils are all Republican and we’re getting opposition. Thank you for taking action on AB 2840, but we need to build our resources here. We need to get bigger; we need to get stronger; we need more people. And that’s what I’m working on to try to bring the industry together to realize that, hey, look what the tech industry did. They had nothing in the early nineties. I mean, they had some. We need an engagement in legislation in public relations and research that’s commensurate with the assets that the industry has and that are at stake.
Justin Smith: Yeah, an example when you brought up the CUPs was, so we see that, right? A few ways it affects people is in some cities you now have to get approval from the city in order to use the property that’s vacant. Sitting there and ready to be leased. And then, for uses that used to by right be able to use those properties, have to get a conditional use permit. So that’s approval from the city, but then the cities are backed up and understaffed and then have long lead times and, just a way of doing things that it requires more time and iterating through. So sometimes it can be hard to imagine putting up more of those types of roadblocks. And just gumming up of the system of commerce when they’re not built to handle it. And if they were built to handle it, then so be it. Let’s do it and we can work through it and make sure everyone’s where they need to be and protected and that everything is appropriately done. But without having the adequate resources to handle like adding all sorts of extra work to the staff that are already hardworking and trying to process things. That’s the part sometimes that really boggles my mind to keep adding, to overburden the task list and job duties to people that just can’t be done.
Timothy Jemal: Justin, you hit the nail on the head with all of those points. What also concerns me is that I have an opportunity to read these reports that city staff are making that are being read by planning commissions and city council members and county boards of supervisors to a certain degree. And a lot of what I’m seeing in these staff reports are they’re negatively representing the industry. They’re tearing into the industry itself. They’re casting the industry as not a good community participant. And so these staff reports, are a real big challenge because they get presented to planning commissioners and then city council members really demonizing the industry. Now that makes the work even more difficult because we’ve got to debunk a lot of the accusations that are made in the staff reports demonizing the industry and they’re mostly negative. And then that report in turn gets read by another city and then by another city. And then it has this domino effect. And so those are the things that we’re dealing with and what the change system here is how do we become preemptive? How do we prevent that staff report from being written that way in the first place, so we don’t have to engage in so much damage control, because that’s where we want to be. It’s a hard place. You’re always gonna have to play some defense no matter what. But how do we balance out this scale a little bit to get more proactive?
Justin Smith: Yeah, education and awareness. Well, we’ve run through our time. I love it. It’s amazing how much you have on your plate.
Timothy Jemal: Look Justin, I feel lucky and fortunate to have you ask me to be on. I really appreciate it. This is a great thing that you’re doing, talking to people. We should at some point get together and swap notes on podcast best practices.
Justin Smith: I would love to. You had mentioned Armenia and some of the work you do that’s, near and dear to your heart. Now’s a good time maybe to learn more about it.
Timothy Jemal: I thank you for asking that. We all have our passion projects and dealing with the issue of Armenia and Armenian advocacy is near and dear to my heart, my wife’s heart, our family’s heart. Of course I have Armenian descent. My antecedents are survivors of the Armenian genocide, which occurred during World War II at the hands of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. Many of my grandmother’s brothers and sisters were murdered by the Ottoman Turkish Empire. And during World War I, about 1.5 million Armenians were massacred. And so when Armenia became an independent state, fast forwarding so many years later in 1991, I was in Washington, DC and it just hit me. Both my parents were Armenian. I felt like I wanted to have an impact in some way, and I ended up taking a lobbying position for several years with one of the major Armenian American advocacy groups. And in the 1990s I took several US congressional delegations over there,
Timothy Jemal: senators and members of Congress. And when you get people outside their normal environments, different sides of individuals and you tend to have more honest conversations. I have stayed engaged, moved on to some other things but a couple of years ago there was the governments of Turkey and Azerbaijan attacked Armenians in what’s called Nagorno-Karabakh. And in Armenia itself, which is an independent state, some 5,000 people were killed and continue to be killed.
Timothy Jemal: Both my wife and I are involved in different groups. We’ve gotten reengaged pretty significantly. I went to Armenia in June for a conference dealing with the human rights abuses that are taking place over there. So a nonprofit organization has been established. My wife is involved in called The Center for Truth and Justice. I’ve helped establish a group called Global Arm, a nonprofit group to build bridges and strengthen security and economic ties between the US and Armenia. Obviously, we’re both volunteers. Time is limited. I work on NAIOP. She’s a judge in the Superior Court here in Orange County. But this is how we spend a lot of our off time. We have a couple of small homes in Armenia, and my wife is actually building a small boutique hotel in Armenia. So Justin, maybe when we do the ribbon cutting, you can be there and see a part of the world maybe you haven’t been to.
Justin Smith: Yeah, I would love to. I’m a global traveler, global citizen. I’ve had a bunch of, and still do Armenian friends from college and in the industry. Always people that I’ve appreciated and so when I saw your involvement, I thought it’d be great to learn more and help spread the message.
Timothy Jemal: I appreciate that. It’s a tough time. There are Armenians in the NAIOP membership. I talked to some of them about it and we’re intent on making sure that nation survives, and the people can thrive and have some justice for the abuses that have been taking place by the governments of Turkey and Azerbaijan. It’s a beautiful part of the world. They’re beautiful people. Who knows, maybe we’ll do a NAIOP conference there at some point.
Justin Smith: And they have Tim helping fight for them. Tim’s a force to be reckoned with.
Timothy Jemal: I wish I was more of a force, but we’re doing what we can and connecting people globally. At least go for the food. That should be an enticement as well.
Justin Smith: I haven’t partaken, that would all be new to me. I appreciate you taking time.
Timothy Jemal: Justin, I really appreciate this. Thank you very much for talking to me today. NAIOP SoCal is doing great things. There are challenges, but I think you heard today with people like you and others, we’re gonna pull together and we’re gonna get stronger and get more effective. And that’s what it’s all about.
Justin Smith: Thank you, Tim.
Justin Smith: I want to thank you for joining me on this episode. And if you liked what you heard, please drop me a note at email@example.com or text me (949)400-4786 and let me know if there’s any follow up you would like. If you have any guests or anyone, you’d like to hear interviewed or see on the show, let me know. I’m always looking for new exciting guests and look forward to connecting with you. Thank you.