The event was honoring past achievements, but Ron Ladell was focused on the future.
“As we advance in our careers, I believe it’s incumbent on all of us to begin to teach, to mentor the people we work with at our companies,” said Ladell, senior vice president of AvalonBay Communities Inc. “At some point you realize that your responsibility is to think for succession, to provide opportunities for people that work for you and with you.”
It was a fitting theme for a banquet held by Monmouth University’s Kislak Real Estate Institute — one of top annual events for New Jersey developers and industry leaders. The case was no different Thursday, when more than 500 people turned out to honor Ladell and Caren Franzini, the longtime CEO of the state Economic Development Authority.
Ladell was given the institute’s Leadership Excellence Award, a recognition of his work as AvalonBay’s top executive in New Jersey. He has spent 11 years with the Arlington, Va.-based developer, which has nearly 20 communities in the Garden State.
“AvalonBay is just a major player,” said Peter Reinhart, director of the institute. “Ron has emerged as one of the real leaders and big thinkers in the multifamily space.”
Reinhart added that Ladell “definitely understands that redevelopment is where the future is” — and even where the present is — in New Jersey’s development landscape. He also noted that Ladell is “widely sought after” on the speaking circuit and sees the value in “the interaction with the next generation of real estate leaders.”
Franzini was given the Service to the Industry Award for her tenure at the EDA, one that earned her seemingly universal respect around the industry. She served as CEO for 18 years before stepping down in 2012, shaping what has become one of the most important agencies for the state’s business community.
“Caren is one of those unusual people whose reputation as a professional and a leader of this state is so well-established, that a litany of her successes simply isn’t necessary,” said Alfred Koeppe, the EDA’s board chairman. He added that Franzini “established, by example and a guiding hand, a culture of integrity and consistent high performance that endures to this day.”
Like Ladell, Franzini passed the credit onto the staff at her organization. One key to the EDA’s success was making sure to “listen to the customers,” she said
“We didn’t do everything you wanted us to do,” Franzini said. “But in the end, we saw a lot of great development continue to happen across the state of New Jersey because we listened to you, you listened to us, and we got the deal done."
It was the 21st awards dinner for the Monmouth program, New Jersey’s only university to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in real estate. The event has honored a long list of New Jersey industry leaders, from Arthur Greenbaum and Steven J. Pozycki to Kevork Hovnanian and Mitchell Hersh.
That wasn’t lost on Ladell as he accepted his award Thursday.
“To be included on that roster, permanently, is incredibly humbling to me,” he said.