Advocacy: The Michaels Development Approach

4 min read

Bob Greer, President of Michaels Development Company, often visits Members of Congress in their Washington or district offices to build relationships and advocate for the low-income housing tax credit generally and for specific actions that the industry is seeking.

In addition, Michaels Development carries out a formalized events-driven process it has devised to build support for the LIHTC program among Members of Congress and state Governors, by getting them to groundbreaking and ribbon-cutting events at the company’s new tax credit projects.

Greer recently described the details of this process.

Letter 1

This initial letter from Michaels Development Company goes out to the two U.S. Senators, the U.S. Representative for the district, and the Governor when the company receives a tax credit award for a new project. It informs them of the company’s receipt of the tax credit award for a project in their district or state, thanks them for their support in helping the company to obtain the award, and provides basic details about the project (e.g., location, no. of units, total development cost). The letter closes by saying the official will be contacted again at the project’s next step.

Letter 2

This goes to the same officials, just before or after the financial closing, reminding the Member of Congress or Governor that this LIHTC project will be built in their district or state, reiterating the basic details about the project, specifying the number of jobs that the project will create, its total development cost, and other local financial benefits that will be generated (e.g., local taxes and payments for local building suppliers, other vendors, and subcontractors). The letter also provides a brief sources and uses of funds and identifies all of the project participants, such as the equity provider, lender, local attorneys, local title company, etc. “By now,” says Greer, “they’re gathering a sense that this is a deal going in my district that involves a lot of people who voted for me or who may vote for me. And they begin to show a very serious interest in what this is all about.”

Letter 3

This goes out to the same officials when Michaels Development Company is getting ready to hold a public groundbreaking ceremony for the project. It invites the Member or Governor to attend and speak, but asks them which of several potential event dates would work best for their schedule. [A suitable date is subsequently finalized.] The letter identifies the other individuals expected to attend (e.g., mayor, city council members, Governor’s office, Chamber of Commerce), the local news media outlets expected to cover the event, and the basic details about the project once again. Enclosed with the letter is a proposed agenda with order of speakers and a map showing the location of the event.

Letter 4

This goes out to the same officials when Michaels Development Company is preparing to hold a public grand opening ceremony for the completed LIHTC property. Again it invites the Member or Governor to speak and asks them which of several possible dates would work best for them; identifies the other people and news media outlets expected to be present, and provides basic facts about the project. Enclosed with the letter are a map, an agenda, and a draft news release describing the event that the Member’s office has an opportunity to help finalize. At the event, the Member gets to speak and take credit for the development and usually presents a ceremonial key to the property’s first resident. “These four letters,” says Greer, “help us to communicate what’s going on with that elected official, let them know what it is that we are doing, and tell them who will benefit from this development.”

Letter 5

This goes out after the groundbreaking ceremony and after the grand opening event to each Member or Governor that actually attended that event. It thanks them for taking the time to participate and is accompanied by a photograph of them speaking at the ceremony, a plaque, photos of the completed property and the site before, and a trinket from the event (e.g., pair of scissors).

“This is a process that we have followed now for several years,” Greer says. “We find it generates great acceptance and the elected officials genuinely appreciate it. And we find new business opportunities that surface because of that respect for them and the good relationship we create through this process.”