Realtors® Shape Future of Minnesota Real Estate Industry at 2023 UNITE! Convention

By MNR News posted 11-28-2023 02:55 PM

Environmental sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and professional growth were key themes during two-day forum at Mystic Lake Event Center

On September 2021, Realtors® from across the state convened at Mystic Lake Event Center in Prior Lake for UNITE!, the annual convention hosted by the Minnesota Realtors® (MNR). In a wide range of classes, panels, and breakout meetings, attendees explored career development, and considered ways to support and expand the state’s real estate industry. Drawing over 500 real estate professionals, the event featured nationally renowned speakers, a vendor exposition, and an installation dinner where the association’s 2024 leadership team was formally inducted, along with the Realtor® of the Year award presentation.

“In today’s softening sales environment, it’s more important than ever to hone your competitive edge through both formal education and informal networking,” said Emily Green, 2023 MNR President. “UNITE! provides classes and inspiring conversations with our peers. Plus, it offers guest speakers who are thought leaders from inside and outside our industry. There’s simply nothing else like it in Minnesota.”

On Wednesday morning, the two-day convention kicked off with a Fireside Chat led by Josh McFall, CEO of MNR, and Green. During a panel discussion that included senior leaders from MNR staff and the 2023 leadership team, the group reported on ways the organization is pursuing five new priorities to ensure the health and growth of Minnesota’s real estate industry.

“First, we’re identifying paths to improve professionalism for brokers and for Realtors®,” McFall said. Second, we’re working to increase the perceived value of MNR, and ensure the industry’s long-term viability. Third, we’re looking at ways to bring diversity and inclusiveness to every part of the organization. Fourth, we’re continuing to advocate for addressing private property issues and expand on the very significant strides we’ve taken to close the racial homeownership gap in Minnesota. And fifth, we’re incorporating sustainability practices into our organization's advocacy and public relations.

Participants included Donnie Brown, MNR Diversity and Sustainability director; Matt Spellman, MNR senior director of Advocacy; Geri Theis, MNR 2023 president elect; Patti Jo Fitzpatrick, MNR 2023 first vice president; Jon Kopecky, senior vice president of MNR Legal Affairs; Stephanie Teig, senior vice president of MNR Marketing and Communications; Jason Miller, MNR immediate past president; Thom Fox, MNR chief finance and operations officer; and Pat Paulson, MNR treasurer.

“I'm really proud of the work that our team has done to align these five priorities,” said McFall. “As we move forward as an organization, you can see where your member dollars are going, where the resources are allocated, where staff time is being spent, and where volunteer opportunities exist.

During a forum on environmental sustainability, Realtors® learned about the science of constructing green, energy-efficient buildings from Aaron Smith, CEO of Energy & Environmental Building Alliance (EEBA). In a follow-up panel discussion led by Todd Shipman, past chair of NAR’s Sustainability Advisory Group, participants looked at political and policy strategies for adapting to climate change that support a thriving real estate industry while improving the environment and quality of life.

Other Wednesday highlights included a speech by Zak Williams, who traced his journey through grief, anxiety, depression, and ultimately healing after the death of his father, the actor and comedian Robin Williams. Attendees also heard from the leaders of Reconnect Rondo—Marvin Anderson and Keith Baker. Reconnect Rondo is a non-profit committed to “revitalizing the Rondo community with a land bridge that reconnects Rondo and reignites a vibrant African American cultural enterprise district in Saint Paul.” The historic Rondo community in St. Paul was a vibrant African American neighborhood that was destroyed during construction of I-94 in the 1950s and 60s.The day ended with a whiskey tasting, and MNR’s annual Awards and Installation Event.

On Thursday, Fawn Weaver, CEO of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, gave a keynote address about diversifying business marketing and planning. Drawing on the inspirational story of Nearest Green, the former slave and master distiller who mentored Jack Daniel as he founded his namesake distillery in the 19th century, she highlighted the importance of storytelling—explaining how every property has a story. If Realtors® can learn to unearth and tell those stories well, it will lead to increased client connection and overall success. The second and final day of the convention also featured an exposition with 43 exhibitors showcasing products and services from a wide range of businesses, including brokerages, mortgage and title companies, home-warranty agencies, home inspection companies, law firms, home-security providers, solar companies, and more. Entertainment was provided by B2wins, a Brazilian musical duo featuring Walter and Wagner Caldas. On both days, the twin brothers wandered the convention hall performing an eclectic blend of jazz, hip-hop, rock, and reggae. 

MNR Installs 2024 Leadership Team 

Assuming the role of 2024 president from outgoing President Emily Green, of Sandy Green Realty in Minneapolis, is Geri Theis, of Scenic City Realty in Redwood Falls. Patti Jo Fitzpatrick of Coldwell Banker Realty in St. Paul will take on the role of president-elect. Wendy Uzelac of RE/MAX Thousand Lakes in Grand Rapids will serve as first vice president. And Pat Paulson of Exit Realty in Minneapolis will step into the final year of his two-year term as treasurer. The newly elected officers begin their terms in January 2024. 

In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the industry, Man Huynh of Edina Realty in St. Paul was named 2023 Realtor® of the Year. LeeAnn Lehto of Lake Sotheby’s International Realty in Minneapolis received the Ed Anderson Political Achievement award for political advocacy on behalf of the real estate industry. Katrina DeWit of Engel & Völkers  in Minneapolis was presented with the Minnesota Good Neighbor Award for her work with My Very Own Bed, a charitable organization that provides new beds to children who are transitioning with their families from homeless shelters into homes. With the help of volunteers like DeWit, the non-profit has provided more than 6,000 children with beds, mattress pads, sheets, blankets, pillows, and even stuffed animals and books since 2014.