REITs@50: Industry Reflections, Mark Decker, Sr. of Robert W. Baird & Co.

Former NAREIT President Mark Decker, Sr. was at the helm of the association when the momentous 1986 Tax Reform Act was passed. Decker, currently managing director with Robert W. Baird & Co., says that legislation was a game changer for the REIT industry.

"From 1960 to 1986 you could own real estate in a REIT but you couldn't manage it," Decker says. "That is a real disconnect for good, entrepreneurial real estate people."

Decker, who received NAREIT's Industry Achievement Award in 1997, says that was just one example of the vital role NAREIT has played over the years.

"At the end of the day, the most important thing for the REIT industry is to continue to modernize and advance the REIT vehicle," Decker says. "It is a very fine, flexible vehicle. And it continues to be improved by the industry."

More broadly, Decker says listed REITs have greatly impacted the overall perception of commercial real estate.

"Real estate has a reputation of being boom and bust," he says. "The public markets have stabilized that quite a bit."

Part of the ability to have that impact has come from the quality management teams in the industry today and throughout its 50-year history.

"What is somewhat underrated is the industry's ability to attract the real key leaders of U.S. commercial real estate," Decker says. "Today, many of the best real estate companies have elected to use the REIT vehicle. There is an inherent commitment from the business leaders of this industry to improve and continue to provide small investors with a better option than they have had historically."