Let’s make a deal: The NIC conference

Strolling into the cordoned-off lobby area of the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers for the 20th annual National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry (NIC) conference yesterday was like walking into a high-level meeting of a government security council. (Well, that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the point.) A stern-looking security guard tagged me for not having my conference badge visible. This was a place of serious business and you can bet that only qualified attendees (long-term care developers, owners, and investors) would be permitted entry to this exclusive event.

I navigated the packed space, where clusters of (mostly) dark-suited men ingested their morning caffeine while cutting deals or comparing notes on the state of the long-term care industry. Considering the exhaustion most must feel, having weathered the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the mood was fairly upbeat. One assisted living developer I spoke with was positively beaming, having had some productive networking with potential project backers.

However, unless you’re a developer with a proven track record, spotless credit history, and a healthy relationship with your banker, your chances of securing backing for that next CCRC or assisted-living project are slim to none right now, suggested economist and opening session speaker Mark Zandi. “It’s frustrating for the small operator,” observed NIC President Bob Kramer, in a press conference. “There aren’t a lot of doors open for them.” Still, he described the sentiment among attendees as “cautiously optimistic” and indicated that any major development in the near future will involve healthcare REITS.

We’ll provide a more in-depth look at the NIC conference in the November issue. Stay tuned.

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