Dozens of commercial real estate projects were honored at the NAIOP New Mexico Awards of Excellence ceremony Friday at the Albuquerque Marriott, highlighting the companies and people making their communities better places to live.
The commercial real estate association’s annual awards are a chance to recognize the hard work, effort, risk, capital and discipline it takes to bring these projects to fruition, said outgoing NAIOP New Mexico Chair Lance D. Sigmon.
“It’s giving a shout out to all the parties involved that have culminated in really cool, successful projects in our community,” Sigmon said.
This year’s awards recognized 42 projects by 20 companies, including schools, medical buildings, restaurants and parking garages. Awards are given based on criteria like obstacles overcome, time to delivery, community impact and whether it met budget, Sigmon said. The Journal is NAIOP NM’s media partner for the awards.
The ceremony also recognizes individuals and groups that have made significant contributions to the community and industry overall. Business partners and spouses Rep. Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena, and Dale Armstrong were awarded the Chuck Gara Community Leaders Award, which recognizes a person or people “who selflessly work to better New Mexico for generations to come,” according to the organization.
The Albuquerque Regional Economic Alliance was awarded the Cleve Matthews Vision Award, named for one of NAIOP New Mexico’s first chairs. The award recognizes “a company or project that has the vision to make something better for the benefit of us all,” NAIOP said in a Facebook announcement.
“Those awards are designed specifically to recognize individuals or organizations that we feel have contributed to the business and development community and are wonderful members of society that we’re blessed to have as part of our community,” Sigmon said.
Dale and Gail Armstrong started TLC Plumbing in 1987 as young newlyweds and new parents. Dale Armstrong had reached a breaking point with how customers were being treated at his job at the time.
“We were young and married and had a baby and were struggling a little bit with our wages and just trying to make it day by day, so it probably couldn’t get any worse. So I said OK, let’s start our own business,” Gail Armstrong said.
After starting the company with just $6,000, the Armstrongs have built TLC Plumbing into a company that employs more than 600 people.
Sigmon said he has great respect for the Armstrongs and counts them as his heroes.
“In my mind, Dale and Gail represent the epitome of the American dream,” he said. “They really came from humble circumstances and they have grown a tremendous, home-grown business with local talent, invested in the education and success of all their employees and done projects around the community that many of us have benefitted from in both the public and private sector.”
Dale Armstrong said TLC Plumbing aims to keep its core values of honesty, hard work, respect, compassion and consistency at its center. One significant turning point for the company was in 1999, when they were struggling to find good employees.
“We made a commitment to only work with the top 5% of the workforce,” he said. “We raised our expectations but also raised our pay scale.”
While he said it seemed it might be a mistake at the time, focusing on hiring the best possible employees made a big impact on the company, according to Dale Armstrong.
“We’ve got amazing people and we’re able to do a lot of great stuff in the community because of it,” he said.
Being recognized by NAIOP New Mexico was both honoring and humbling, the Armstrongs said.
“They are the movers and shakers of making things happen and making big impacts in New Mexico,” Dale Armstrong said.
The couple remains committed to New Mexico, they said.
“Dale and I love New Mexico. We’re here to stay,” Gail Armstrong said. “We want all of our family here, we want them to stay and we want to help grow New Mexico as a whole as a better place to live, work and play.”
While Albuquerque Regional Economic Alliance has been working to grow the regional economy for decades, the organization has undergone a significant shift in the last two years.
Since hiring president and CEO Danielle Casey in 2020, AREA has overhauled its bylaws, implemented a strategic plan and developed a new organizational structure, all of which were unanimously approved by the group’s board of directors.
Casey said there are some days when she wakes up frustrated because she wants to have more accomplished after two years in the community, but the recognition from NAIOP New Mexico makes her take stock of all AREA has accomplished so far.
“Nothing happens without a team, so any of us getting this recognition is really a recognition of our entire board of directors and all of the many community partners who have really gone on a huge leap of faith with us on significant strategic changes in our organization and our approach and vision for economic development,” she said.
A significant benchmark for AREA happened just last week, when the Internal Revenue Service gave the thumbs up for AREA to become a charitable organization, registered as a 501(c)(3).
“It’s a huge deal,” Casey said. “It’s going to allow us to do a lot more work pursuing grant dollars. I think opportunities and possibilities are available that have never been on the table before.”
Sigmon said AREA’s focus on bringing good jobs to New Mexico is tremendously important.
“We’re grateful for the work AREA has done to go out and attract businesses to our state and to educate people on the benefits of doing business here in New Mexico,” he said. “We have a great story to tell here, and I’m grateful for AREA that they go out and tell that story.”
What is NAIOP NM?
NAIOP New Mexico is a commercial real estate development association with members who come from all industries that touch on commercial real estate, including architects, contractors, engineers, developers and more. NAIOP NM is a local chapter of the national organization.
“NAIOP” isn’t an acronym — not anymore, anyway. The letters comes from a past version of the organization’s name, which once was the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties. The national branch is now simply known as the NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association.
The Journal is NAIOP NM’s media partner for its annual Awards of Excellence program.