ULI Global Chairman Owen D. Thomas, whose chairmanship began July 1, shared his priorities for the Institute with Fall Meeting attendees during the event’s closing session Friday.

“No other organization comes close to ULI in terms of sharing expertise and best practices that shape the built environment around the globe,” Thomas said. “I look forward, along with ULI’s capable staff led by [ULI Global Chief Executive Officer] Ed Walter, to building on the work of my predecessors and taking ULI to the next level of excellence.”

Thomas’s priorities for ULI include implementation of ULI’s Global Strategic Plan, which strives to strengthen member engagement and impact by expanding product council membership, improving district council programming, strengthening member network connections, growing ULI internationally, increasing advisory services and other mission-focused work, and providing technology enhancements to improve member connections. “Each part of the plan represents an investment in ULI’s future,” Thomas said.

Another priority is to highlight the philanthropic aspect of ULI. “ULI is a mission-driven organization. We don’t have business goals; we have ambitions,” he said.

Thomas noted that plans are underway for the ULI Foundation to raise significant funds to support ULI’s work, enabling the Institute to have greater reach and impact. “Through philanthropic gifts, we can do much more in key areas such as broadening diversity in the industry, building inclusive communities, and creating more sustainable performance in the built environment,” he said.

A third priority is to continue expanding ULI’s global brand by increasing connectivity and idea sharing across the Americas, Europe, and Asia Pacific. “One of ULI’s distinctive characteristics relative to other real estate organizations is its global membership and footprint,” he said. “It is important to integrate our mission, programs, and research into all of our global locations. Good ideas and best practices emanate from all corners of the world, and accessing this knowledge will enhance and enrich ULI’s mission.”

In the current era of climate change, ULI’s work on sustainability and urban resilience is particularly important, Thomas noted.

“I am very concerned about the impacts of climate change on our environment, and I worry about the problem we are leaving for our children and future generations to try and solve. It is a difficult issue for our society to address because the impacts are long term and need for action is short term or, frankly, immediate. For this reason, I am passionate about sustainability and the work of ULI in this field. ULI is uniquely positioned to have an enormous positive impact on the climate change crisis we all face,” he said.

“Everything that ULI does is centered on one thing, and that is to make cities better. And each of you, by engaging with ULI, is helping to make this happen. As ULI members, you are doers. You are practical and pragmatic in your approach to solving problems. And your expertise is key in helping our cities overcome challenges and thrive.”