History

Evolution of the BOMA Southwest Conference: Successfully Integrating Education, Professionalism and Cooperation

 

In the late 1920s, there were no national or local training programs for the management of commercial office buildings, but there was a desire by building owners to increase their efficiency of operation. In a spirit of cooperation, owners began informal meetings and created several local Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) groups. The desire for professionalism and the spirit of cooperation caused five Dallas building owners, who were meeting informally monthly, to drive to Biloxi, Mississippi in 1930 to attend the national conference of the Building Owners and Managers Association. Afterwards, they developed the concept of a regional conference to share information. The first Southwest Conference was held in Dallas in 1931 and the second in Oklahoma City the following year.

Early conference agendas were based on various management issues and a concern for the future. Acceptance of the conference was rapid and since travel to the conference was either by automobile or train, the conference venues were selected to include the local BOMA associations connected by the major train and highway routes. Host cities created and funded the conference and retained the net proceeds of the event.

Competition for time became a challenge as BOMA members were faced with a growing Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) international convention (held in various cities in June), The BOMA International Winter Business Meeting and Leadership Conference (held in warm locales in Dec, changed to Jan in 1990), the Texas BOMA School of Management (held in Houston in October), the Southwest Conference (in April in one of the member cities of Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Denver, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, Little Rock, Midland-Odessa, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Shreveport, Southern Colorado, and Tulsa), and the growing availability of BOMI courses offered nationally and locally. Recognizing the growing challenge of time as commercial real estate was in a time of rapid growth challenge, Texas BOMA began to assign the duty of developing the school to the vice president and holding school and annual meeting in his or her city.

The competition for time was soon joined by a competition for dollars. Each of the conferences had turned to sponsors and/or trade shows to help support the cost of the conferences and schools, and to generate significant dollars needed to fund management and lobbying. A sliding economy also created competition for the support of vendor member (allied) companies. This weakening of the commercial real estate market led to reduced management staff, which created a significantly increased workload for the remaining employees, thereby reducing their time available for training.

The challenges of competition for training dollars, time, and vendor company support not only significantly reduced attendance at both the Southwest Conference and the Texas BOMA School of Management, it also played a role in the demise of several local BOMA associations. Locals in El Paso, Midland-Odessa (known as “Permian Basin BOMA”), and Southern Colorado folded. Faced with a possible loss of the Southwest Conference or the Texas BOMA School of Management, or both, combining the two appeared to be a wise choice for survival – but the combined conference and school created new challenges.

The challenges of competition for training dollars, time, and vendor company support not only significantly reduced attendance at both the Southwest Conference and the Texas BOMA School of Management, it also played a role in the demise of several local BOMA associations. Locals in El Paso, Midland-Odessa (known as “Permian Basin BOMA”), and Southern Colorado folded. Faced with a possible loss of the Southwest Conference or the Texas BOMA School of Management, or both, combining the two appeared to be a wise choice for survival – but the combined conference and school created new challenges.

The first challenge was to provide a cost-effective training program to BOMA members attending the Southwest Conference from multiple states while also preserving the portion of the Texas BOMA education agenda unique to Texas members. Secondly, cities outside of Texas needed motivation to participate in a combined meeting. Lastly, the division of proceeds was yet another challenge.

It is a tribute to the members of the Southwest Region that, through cooperation and innovation, today’s regional conference has effectively incorporated features of the School of Management, providing a platform for the annual meeting of Texas BOMA and an opportunity for training on Texas legislation, and continues to increase the vitality and value of the TOBY and Earth Awards.

The ability to maintain this effective program is a tribute to our BOMA members across five states, and serves as an example for all local BOMA associations.