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Illinois REALTORS® Localize and Diversify National Program

There are 435 members in the U.S. House of Representatives, and one hundred Senators, and every single one of them has a Federal Political Coordinator (FPC) appointed by the National Association of REALTORS®.  Each FPC serves as the face and voice of the real estate industry and a source of information from a given congressional home district. FPCs put a human face on the issues that affect our industry and let Members of Congress know that the choices they make in Washington affect the lives of their constituents back home.  In recent years, NAR has encouraged its FPCs to build small supportive teams to help each FPC execute their significant grassroots activities.    In Illinois, they’ve taken that idea and run with it.

Sharon Gorrell, Housing Policy Advisor of the Illinois REALTORS®, explains that for years, the association has organized all of the Illinois’ FPCs as part of a working group that meets at least once a year to engage in public policy training and information sharing. The Illinois REALTORS® also maintains a listserv and a dedicated website to keep its FPCs connected and informed.  Since its FPC program was already robust and successful, she notes, it was a given that the Illinois REALTORS® would capitalize on NAR’s directive to build teams around each Federal Political Coordinator.  “Our leadership really believes in the importance of advocacy, and that means having the best possible system in place to deliver our information to legislators.”

Illinois has 18 House Representatives and two Senators, and approximately 150 FPC team members.  The teams are carefully developed to reflect the whole congressional district and the real estate industry as completely as possible, says Gorrell.  “The combined expertise of the team allows the FPC to convey a truly comprehensive message to the representative in Washington,” she explains.  “If an FPC is a residential broker, for example, then he or she benefits from the expertise of a commercial colleague on the team, or an agent specializing in foreclosures.”  Likewise, the Illinois REALTORS® also incorporate members of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) to build ethnically diverse teams that reflect the multicultural breadth of each district.

Mike Drews, President of Illinois REALTORS®, is FPC for Congressman Randy Hultgren of Illinois’ 14th District.  “Through collective efforts of the team,” he says, “the issues are consistently in front of the member of Congress.  Our elected representatives need to know all of the different aspects of our industry and the marketplace of his or her district; that broad-based information can only be shared through a knowledgeable and diverse team of professionals.”

Ed Neaves, President Elect of the Bloomington-Normal Association of REALTORS®, is the FPC for Congressman Adam Kinzinger of the 16th District.  He echoes Drews’ advocacy of the team system:  “Many Congressional districts can cover large amounts of territory. Having a team that represents not just different specialties, but different areas of the district is paramount to delivering a well-rounded message.  Anecdotes and real life stories from a specialist really strengthen the message and increase our credibility,” he adds.  “Having a commercial member share the real impacts of losing the 1031 exchange, for example, goes much farther than just reading a talking point.”

Both Drews and Neaves are on the REALTOR® Party Member Involvement Committee (RPMIC), which oversees the FPC program.  The Federal Political Coordinator teams, notes Gorrell, also serve an important role in succession building, grooming members to step into leadership positions as FPCs, and elsewhere in the REALTOR® organization.  The team system promotes greater awareness of the importance of RPAC, too, and its grassroots nature contributes to the state’s high call-to-action response rate.

Recognizing the great value of the FPC team model, the Illinois REALTORS® has also replicated the concept at the state level, assigning a local REALTOR® to each state legislator.  And, taking a global view, Illinois REALTORS® have also just launched an innovative program called the Consulate General Liaison program which is based on the same FPC model, and connects foreign consulates in Chicago with the real estate industry in Illinois.  Through this, Illinois REALTORS® is leading the way in helping foreign nationals understand the local markets.

To learn more about how the Illinois REALTORS® are making themselves an indispensible information source for their representatives in Congress and beyond, contact Sharon Gorrell, Housing Policy Advisor of Illinois REALTORS® at sgorrell@iar.org or 630-428-1851.

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