Can I get a lifeline?

A dedicated pavilion, industry-focused education sessions and speakers on all the latest trends and challenges the multifamily industry faces in today's difficult economy promise a rewarding experience for the multihousing crowd in January at the largest trade show in the world dedicated to the residential building industry.

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The National Association of Home Builders’ International Builders’ Show organizers have created an event that is not only a trade show, but also a lifeline for companies struggling to sustain their businesses today.

NAHB’s annual convention and trade show that will take place Jan. 19 – 22 in Las Vegas and is expected to attract 60,000 attendees will offer a bevy of new opportunities and special features for the multifamily component of the 200,000-member federation of more than 800 state and local builders’ associations.

“We’re doing something very different at the show this year. We are creating a multifamily pavilion in the area where the education sessions will be held,” said NAHB Senior VP Sharon Dworkin Bell, primary staff liaison for NAHB Multifamily, which represents the interests of the nation’s apartment and condo builders and suppliers of goods and services to that industry across the country.

The multifamily meeting place
“The multifamily pavilion will be the place to come for developers of apartments and condos,” Bell said of the new hangout that will be in a centralized location within the 3.2 million sq. ft. Las Vegas Convention Center, where the show will take place.

The vast facility includes two million sq. ft. of the exhibit space and 144 meeting rooms, encompassing more than 241,000 sq. ft with seating capacities ranging from 20 to 2,500. The pavilion will be nestled in the midst of that activity, providing multifamily builders, owners and suppliers a dedicated area in which to take part in education sessions, network with their peers, or just relax for a moment.

Breakfast and lunch will be served daily, Tuesday through Thursday, in the multifamily gathering spot, where receptions also will take place. “So, basically, you can come and spend time with us and then go off to the trade show floor and go back and forth between the two,” said multifamily’s champion within NAHB, who is making sure her contingent is both entertained and informed at IBS 2010.

“We have CEOs of some of the largest multifamily development companies in the country coming to talk about how they’re addressing the challenges and taking advantage of opportunities in this market and positioning themselves for the recovery,” said Bell, who joined NAHB in 2001, shortly after the Multifamily Leadership Board was created to enhance the association’s presence within the multifamily industry and bolster the presence of multifamily within NAHB.

More than 200 education sessions will take place during NAHB’s four-day residential building industry extravaganza. Those aimed at multifamily will be conducted in a central location near the pavilion, which also will serve as the meeting place for one-on-one sessions with an impressive roster of experts on topics ranging from finance to architecture to marketing and everything multifamily in between.

“And then we’re also going to set up opportunities for people to sit down with a group of their peers and talk about a whole range of issues,” Bell said. Those topics will include using social networking sites to market apartment communities, enhancing revenues through technology, dealing with what’s going on in the capital markets today and positioning for the future.

Advice from the experts
Builders of multifamily can bring plans for upcoming developments to the multifamily meeting place and have an experienced architect help spot any problems, which are, Bell noted, much less expensive to fix on paper than after they are made.

And multifamily owners and managers will have the opportunity to present their marketing materials for review by professionals, who will give advice on how to tweak and freshen an approach. Tuesday will be Peer-to-Peer day at the pavilion, offering an opportunity to network with others in a variety of multifamily niches and discuss the issues of the day.

On Wednesday, at the pavilion, an NAHB survey expert will reveal the data collected in the organization’s 2009 Consumer Preference Survey: What Renters and Condo Buyers Want.

On Thursday, an NAHB economist will explain the Local Economic Impact Model, a tool designed to help builders show local planning boards how the benefits of multifamily offset the cost to the community and how the positive impact of the new construction continues long after the construction crew goes home.

At Friday’s economic forecast and State of the Industry panel for apartments and condos, Bernard Markstein will provide a market overview, including information about starts, vacancies, rents and inventory and when NAHB experts expect the economy will turn around. The State of the Industry panel will include such big names as ZOM CEO Steve Patterson, chairman of NAHB’s Multifamily Leadership Board. He will be lead a round-table discussion that will include Jerry Durkin, managing director of Wood Partners in Atlanta, Charles Brindell, CEO and president of Trammell Crow Residential, and Mark Tennison, EVP of Equity Residential. They will discuss how they are dealing with current conditions, challenges and opportunities in this economic climate and will be available for questions afterwards.

Something for everyone
During another session for multifamily developers, Dave Nielsen of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and Jeff Goldberg of The Milestone Group will offer their take on the capital markets and the outlook for financing apartments and condos. Jennifer Nevitt of Bravo Strategic Marketing and Lori Snider of Creativity for Rent, will share strategies for keeping the units full in a session on “Apartment Marketing — What’s Working in the Here and Now?” Attendees will have an opportunity to chat with presenters after each session.

For people who aren’t currently building multifamily residences, but are considering the possibility, there will be a four-part series, “How to Get Started in Developing Apartments.” The sessions will begin on Tuesday, with a discussion of feasibility and how to decide whether or not your idea for a project makes sense, followed by a session that will focus on the best way to find the money to build a community. Wednesday’s topic, “Design it and Build It,” will provide expert advice about how to produce a place where people want to live. And, on Thursday, the session on management and marketing will help multifamily builders-to-be figure out systems and approaches to either rent or sell their units.

“So, this is the show that’s got something for everyone, whether you’re a developer or an owner/manager, whether you’re in apartments or condos, whether you operate on a large scale or a relatively small scale and whether you’re experienced or new to the industry,” said Bell.

Exhibitor Mecca
And the same is true of the 100,000+ exhibitors that will populate the halls at the huge show, considered by many the Mecca of booths. Those structures can be as large as 100′ by 40′ and cost north of $100,000 to create. “You’ve got the largest companies in the industry, all the way down to a guy who came up with a great idea in his garage, so when you walk the floor, there are a lot of products that you haven’t seen before,” said Bell, agreeing that it’s possible to traverse the exhibit halls for three or four days and still not see everything.

The exhibitors, who display all the latest tools and technologies designed for the residential building industry, ranging from adhesive nails and fasteners to windows, and including software designers to marketing specialists, hail from all over the world and many are international members of NAHB. Those members and their U.S. counterparts will meet and mingle at IBS International Central, another dedicated lounge, where the globally diverse crowd will have access to onsite translators and the opportunity to meet with NAHB staff and officials of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Buyers Program.

The multilingual multitude of vendors populating the exhibit halls will include product providers like FrenchTimber, a group that promotes the use of sawn timber species and processed wood products from the forests of France; Arstar, a Mexican company that manufactures resin-based cultured granite, marble and onyx bath and kitchen fixtures, and multinational companies like Intertek, which specializes in building products and materials testing and benchmark performance testing with more than 70 offices and laboratories on six continents.

Foreign organizations promoting trade opportunities with their countries, like GlobalMarket Group, a Chinese organization headquartered in Guangzhou that is dedicated to creating a national manufacturers’ community for global buyers to source from China, also will be represented on the exhibit floors.

An interactive map of the exhibit halls and other search features are offered on the show’s Web site, www.buildersshow.com, to help attendees navigate the acres of opportunities and find the ones that apply to their particular niche.

The Web site also offers a personalized show planner that helps attendees find the education sessions and special events they might want to check out, and which exhibitors they want to visit.

Deals abound
A number of other new features and opportunities for the entire residential building industry will be offered at the 66th annual IBS, including a sweet deal for first-time attendees and new NAHB members. The $100 first-time attendee registration fee includes full access to all of the education sessions and the exhibit floor all four days of the show. Spouse registration is complimentary.

Anyone who ever registered for the IBS in the past as a non-member and now is attending as a member of a local home builders’ association or is currently a member of his/her local home builders’ association, but has never attended the show, may qualify for the cut-rate fee.

And, all NAHB members receive a complimentary four-day exhibit pass, if they register for the show by Dec. 11, after which there will be a charge of $75 until the day of the show that has been conducted every year since 1944 by the 68-year-old trade association whose mission is to be “the voice of America’s housing industry.”.

In addition, for the first time ever, attendees can purchase one- or two-day education passes that also include admittance to the exhibit floor all four days. And TGIF will ring truer than ever at IBS 2010, where all education sessions on Friday will be free.

The spirit of patriotism epitomized by the organization’s new red, white, and blue logo that features a star in the first letter of the acronym, will be echoed by the voice of one of NAHB’s members or someone in the immediate family of a member. The amateur songster, chosen by the association’s membership in a contest in the fall, will open the show with an a cappella performance of the Star Spangled Banner.

Keynote speakers and panels
Like the song, the laughs also will be free when keynote speaker, humorist and author Dave Barry kicks off the grand opening ceremony at 9 a.m. on the first day of the event. A syndicated columnist, whose work has appeared in more than 500 newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, Barry won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1988. According to his official bio, “Many people are still trying to figure out how this happened.”

Other keynote speakers will be global futurist James Canton and Dan Heath, co-author of best seller Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Social scientist and visionary business advisor Canton, who has been labeled “the Digital Guru” by CNN and “Dr. Future” by Yahoo!, will focus on development of eco-business in his presentation on Wednesday. On Friday, Heath, whose co-authored bestseller was Amazon.com’s number two pick as Business Book of the Year in 2007, will explain his three-part framework for how to change things in tough times.

The opening panel discussion on Thursday, “Resiliency Check! Using Non-Traditional Approaches to Stay in Business,” moderated by Sullivan Group Real Estate Advisors President Tim Sullivan, who has nearly 25 years of experience in developing growth strategies for the residential real estate market, will focus on how successful builders are making adjustments, large and small, to survive the current economic challenges.

He will be joined on the panel by RBC Capital Markets Director Laurence Pelosi and Chairman and CEO of Meritage Homes Corporation Steven Hilton. Pelosi’s expertise is public finance, land finance, infrastructure, public/private partnerships and tax credits in the Western United States. Hilton co-founded the company that today is the eighth largest home building firm in the country and its predecessor, Monterey Homes, in 1985.

Show organizers also are taking full advantage of the tech world’s new galaxy of social networking sites to promote the event and make it easy for NAHB members and others interested or involved in the real estate building business to stay informed about what’s going on and what’s new at the trade show.