For more than two decades, Nichol Beckstrand has cultivated a career in the financial-services world. She started that career at Clifton Larson Allen, where she was promoted to principal after six years, and for a dozen years was chief operating officer and then president of Twin Cities-based Sunrise Banks. In late 2018 she replaced Mary Rippe as president and CEO of the Minnesota Multi Housing Association (MHA). Rippe retired after 25 years. Beckstrand is on the board of the Family Housing Fund and is the vice board chairwoman and chairwoman of the outreach committee for Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota.
Q: The apartment industry is a whole different universe compared with the banking world. Did you initiate the change?
A: It is not as big of a departure as some would think. I had my hands in housing through volunteer boards and through products at the bank. Many of the developer members were clients at the bank and the terminology is very familiar to me. MHA found me through a search process. I had given this search firm some feedback during the search for the TC Habitat CEO and they kept my information and reached out to me.
Q: How does this job fit into your career path?
A: I think my career has prepared me very well for this job. My career started out very broadly and it feels like this is just the next step in getting even more niche in my career. Working directly for the board of directors, especially a board with this caliber of talent was very appealing. Also, they were very interested in what I do, which is, lead companies through change and innovation.
Q: What are your short-term goals?
A: My first priority was making sure that everyone in housing knew that we wanted a seat at the table. We want to be involved in all housing policy discussions. We feel if we can be involved there can be solutions that don’t burden local ownership. The goal is to maintain local ownership in this marketplace. My second priority was to get a few projects off the ground that the board had been waiting for; we’ve done that with the launch of the 2019 work plan. Now my priority is the members. I’ve met many great members in the last five months, but I want to meet them all and know them and their businesses.
Q: Is that 2019 work plan you mention a formal initiative?
A: This the first year that the board set the parameters and staff developed the actionable items to meet the board requirements. As with many associations we are working on defining who we are and what we are to the industry. We are asking ourselves how can we add value to the members and how does that differ from how we added value in the past. With a change in leadership this is a good time for us to perform this analysis.
Q: How has the apartment construction boom affected the association?
A: This boom has created a demand for more trained employees. We are seeking to help our members get their employees trained quickly and to create more interest in the industry as a career. Multihousing is a great industry for individuals to enter into and with a little bit of tenacity and grit they can move quickly up the ranks in their companies. The challenge we have is getting the training to the employees. They are so busy they don’t have time to attend classroom training which is pushing a lot of courses online and in on-demand settings. This is fun for us though.
Q: See any quick and easy fixes that might help solve the affordable-housing crisis?
A: No, we all know there is no magic bullet. We all know that it is going to take all of us. It is a combination of build more and preserve more and innovate. This takes collaboration from regulating agencies, the marketplace and the business community. We haven’t quite tapped into what the business community can do for this yet, and I am excited to see how this will move the needle.
Q: On the policy front, what’s your focus right now?
A: We’ve seen some really great tenant-protection ordinances passed by many local metro cities. I’d like to see these season a bit and see how they impact the market. Like I stated in the beginning, making sure we are at the table and part of the solution. We don’t want policy to happen to us. We need it to happen with us.
Q: Minneapolis has new inclusionary zoning rules. Do you think they will deter developers?
A: I think we have yet to see. We are still in an interim phase with the rules right now and the city hasn’t quite determined if there will be incentives to the rules or what those incentives will be. I know we still see a lot of cranes in the air in Minneapolis right now. I have heard from my developer members that they have cooled a bit in Minneapolis just to see how everything shakes out. This may be an impact of the rules, but it may also be that many other communities are doing a lot to attract their building to their communities.