When Suzanne Kinney took over as president and CEO of the Arizona chapter of NAIOP in November of 2017, she knew she didn’t need a sledgehammer to make changes. The chapter had built a solid foundation and had a long, well-established reputation as one of the leading voices of the commercial real estate industry in Arizona and nationwide.
“I was fortunate to come into an organization that was already in good shape in terms of our membership, our finances and our programs,” Kinney said. “My role is to take that from good to great and to evaluate everything that we’re doing and see where there are opportunities to modernize our approach to different things or to reach a broader audience.”
Kinney and her staff have already started fine-tuning. Simple things, like shortening the Best of NAIOP awards event or making it easier for members to register for events or programs, have been well received.
“Even on the administrative side, the way we communicate with our members, we’ve modernized that,” Kinney said. “It should make the whole member experience easier and allow more opportunities for people to engage.”
On the membership engagement side of things, Kinney and her staff are currently implementing new software so that they can better identify members who may not be actively involved in the organization. That way, the organization can figure out what it can do to bring those members into more events so they have a fuller experience.
The member experience and networking is just one of the legs on the three-legged stool philosophy at NAIOP. The other two legs, education and public policy advocacy, are right in Kinney’s professional wheelhouse. She came to NAIOP after serving as interim manager for the Arizona Mining Association. Before that, she was the CEO and founder of Southwest Business Policy, a public policy and communications consulting firm. From 2005-2013, she was an executive with the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, serving as senior vice president of public policy and founder/executive director of the Arizona Chamber Foundation.
As NAIOP president, Kinney is devoted to keeping the chapter membership, which is made up of around 800 individuals and 100 corporate sponsors, educated and informed about what’s going on at the state legislature and city halls across the state.
“We have a lot of our members that haven’t been following our public policy work very closely, so I’m hoping to put out communications that really explain what we’re doing in that area and how it impacts their business and get them involved,” Kinney said. “Just to have that involvement during the legislative process is tremendously helpful because members of the legislature hear from professional lobbyists all of the time. It actually makes more of an impact when they hear directly from a business owner or business leader.”
NAIOP’s core public policy priority continues to be lowering the commercial property tax rate. However, the organization gets involved on a variety of other issues that could impact the industry.
“If a bill is being considered in the state legislature that could hamper our state’s business attraction, then we should care about that.It’s a lot harder to lease office or industrial space if there’s no new businesses moving into our state,” Kinney said. “We have to be aware of all of those issues, in addition to the ones that directly impact our industry.”
Despite having over a decade of leadership experience and hundreds of hours spent meeting with elected officials over the years, Kinney approached her new role with an open mind. She said her approach fit well with the membership, and she listens to what the members want and then puts her action-oriented traits to work.
“I’m trying to have the right combination of listening and understanding what the membership wants from the organization but also being prepared to make decisions and shake up a few things,” Kinney said. “I stay in close communication with our members, and especially our board, so that I know what’s going on and they know what I’m working on. That way we’re all moving forward as a team.”