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Close-up: Ray Magnussen

BOMA offers members advocacy, education, fun

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For those in the commercial real estate industry, one cliché holds true: change is constant. And BOMA, the Building Owners and Managers Association, is designed to help its members manage the impact of that change.

The San Diego chapter of the century-old BOMA International offers leadership, lobbying and training for its members, as well as a chance to interact with other industry professionals. It has nearly 300 members, ranging from janitorial service providers to multimillion-dollar office building companies. Immediate past president Ray Magnussen, a principal with San Diego Services, has been involved with BOMA for 20 years and is passionate about membership's many benefits, including networking.

"Principals get to intermingle with other principals and learn what problems they've had," Magnussen said. "Or they get to see how an associate performs in a committee-type setting and can then make a decision whether to work with them in their own building based on how they performed."

"Associate" members are those in the service-provider space, such as attorneys, accountants and landscapers. Magnussen was the first president to come from this associate member pool. The "principal" members are property managers and building owners. Magnussen said the mix of principals and associates is kept around 50-50 to ensure members get to learn from their peers as well as collaborate on projects with those with whom they might need to work in the future.

In addition to the networking opportunities, Magnussen said perhaps the main responsibility of BOMA is its advocacy work. Hundreds of bills at the local, state and federal level directly affect the commercial real estate industry each year. BOMA, in conjunction with Benedetto Communications Inc., works to make certain that the interests of the building industry are represented as legislative decisions are made.

Locally, issues like the requirement that automated external defibrillators be placed in all buildings are on the docket right now. Magnussen said that while BOMA believes this regulation is valid, the association will work to make sure there is some protection from potential litigation against building owners.

Another key issue is statewide mandatory recycling. BOMA's concern for its members is the difficulty for building owners in enforcing this, especially with multiple tenants. And the No. 1 issue facing commercial property owners, according to Magnussen, is the split-roll property tax, which treats nonresidential property differently than other property.

"This is most easily defined as putting an unfair burden on commercial buildings in paying taxes," he said. "It is often easier for politicians to do this because it's pleasing 500 residents versus one property manager."

Another main function of BOMA is its focus on professional development. It offers two-year certification programs, such as one geared toward educating property managers.There is also a program for building engineers and managers on increasing building efficiency.

BOMA is trying to help members understand the importance of such green initiatives and how to minimize their carbon footprint. Local seminars, a handful or so a year, cover general industry information such as how to send out proposal requests or understanding common area maintenance fees.

Many out-of-state BOMA members come to attend classes in San Diego, and Magnussen noted that California in general sets the stage for developments in the office building industry.

"California has the most aggressive laws on the books," he said. "People see that what happens in California rolls out across the country. We believe that California is the most assertive and aggressive on many issues, and San Diego is a part of that. I think we set the trend."

As for the San Diego commercial property market itself, Magnussen noted that it is facing a sort of consolidation. Magnussen points to that shift when asked about the reasoning behind BOMA's formation of a new advisory board focused on the specific needs of the local commercial real estate industry.

"Major companies, such as Irvine, are coming in and purchasing a lot of buildings. Where you may have once had six members, you now only need one," Magnussen said. "We want these titans of our industry, the movers and shakers, to be involved, but to do that we need to provide what they're looking for, too. For example, in our first meeting for this new board, we talked about advocacy. Yet what (these members) really want is education."

On all fronts, versus even five years ago, the industry continues to evolve and face new challenges. Green initiatives are getting increasing attention, and the post-9/11 landscape brings new concerns to the forefront. The recent terrorism insurance bill now allows commercial property owners to obtain terrorism insurance.

But despite all the serious issues in legislation and regulation that BOMA keeps track of, and the in-depth education that it offers, Magnussen said being a part of BOMA is really more about spending time with peers, being involved with community service -- BOMA donated approximately $300,000 to charity work last year -- and plain old good times.

"It's just a fun place to be," he said. "There are few things in business that you do that are so exciting that you say, 'I'm glad I took time out of my day to be a part of it.' When people come to be a part of (BOMA), everybody has a good time."

Blackford is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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