Lee McNeil: Real-estate association seeks to change sales-tax mix

Lee McNeil, 53, presides over the Orlando chapter of NAIOP, a commercial real estate industry group that began in 1967 as the National Association for Industrial and Office Parks. He also oversees business development for Williams Company, of Orlando. He spoke recently with Orlando Sentinel Real Estate Writer Mary Shanklin.

 

What new political issues do you expect NAIOP to push for next year?

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Florida is the only state that charges sales tax on commercial leases. The issue is: How to replace that. Our goal would be to eliminate it completely but we understand the realities so we’re trying to at least get a reduction in the sales tax. With the battles going on at the state level legislatively, we’re probably pretty low on their agenda. We’re not confident we’re going to get a lot of action this year but this will be our top state initiative next year.

What taxes should increase to make up for the lease sales taxes?

It’s not a real popular idea but it’s to have sales tax on Internet purchases. One of the largest Internet commerce sites, Amazon, started charging state sales tax in Florida; but that has been in place so it could not be counted as revenue replacement at this point. We’re going to have Florida Public Affairs Summit for the five NAOIP chapters in Florida and that’s probably going to be at the top of the agenda. How do we replace that revenue? We’ve got to get creative with that.

How do associations remain relevant as members increasingly network with social media?

Some people aren’t as tech savvy and don’t have any interest in technology. It doesn’t mean they’re not effective in what they do. But generally, these people are older and a lot of times they hold positions of power. That’s just how things are now. Even people who are tech savvy don’t always have a social-media presence. They don’t participate or they want to keep their lives private.

Probably one of the biggest things is that what people are looking for out of an association like ours is education and the opportunity to network. That opportunity is kind of limited with social media. The most effective tool is face-to-face networking.

How do you expect to reach your goal of increasing membership by 20 percent, or about 75 new members?

We do have some events coming up that we’re going to invite members to. We have lunches for potential new members and have one-on-one talks about the advantage of being a member of NAIOP. And in October we do a promotion that you get 15 months of membership for the price of 12. We’re hoping to pick up at the end of the year. We usually do after the summer.

Who is NAIOP’s biggest competitor in Orlando and how do you compete with them?

There are several different ones. We are probably the most broad-based commercial real estate association. Probably the one that’s closest to us is CREW [Commercial Real Estate Women Network], which is for women in commercial real estate. Like us, they have lots of events and advocate the same goals.

As things get better in our industry, the dollars get easier to come by but members’ time becomes more challenging. So you have to be effective at what you’re doing. Other organizations that would be kind of competitors with us would be CFCAR [Central Florida Commercial Association of Realtors] for commercial brokers, and BOMA [Building Owners and Managers Association] and IREM [Institute of Real Estate Management] for property managers. ICSC [International Council of Shopping Centers] is focused on retail. And then there are groups like the American Institute of Architects and ABC, Associated Builders and Contractors.

What is your best attended educational seminar?

We have a subset of NAIOP called Developing Leaders, and those are people under 35. They put together a series with experts from every stage of a development process. Those are pretty well attended.

mshanklin@orlandosentinel.com

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