They say that life begins at 40. If that is so, then the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (NAREIT) is in for a heady future.

With the upcoming 2000 NAREIT Annual Convention, to be held Oct. 2-3 in Washington, D.C., the organization will celebrate both the 40th anniversary of its founding and of the creation of REITs. And, it will be doing so in the city where it all started.

On Sept. 14, 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law a cigar tax bill that contained a provision creating REITs. "The government created REITs with the intention of making large-scale commercial properties available to every investor," says Jay Hyde, senior director of communications for NAREIT. "We think we've succeeded in that." That same year, the National Association of Real Estate Investment Funds was created. That organization became known as NAREIT 10 years later.

In 1961, six REITs were created, says Hyde. Today, there are approximately 300 REITs - two-thirds of which are publicly traded, he adds. As of the end of July, the equity market capitalization of the industry was $131 billion, says Hyde.

NAREIT is expecting 1,500 attendees at this year's convention, which will be held at The Hilton Washington Hotel & Towers and will have the theme, "Preserving and Protecting the REIT for 40 Years." Hyde expects the attendees to be in a better mood than they have been in the past two years.

"After two years of decline with the NAREIT Real Time Index, the average REIT stock is up better than 21% year to date," he says.

The first day of the convention will consist of NAREIT committee meetings. The day also includes NAREIT's 12th annual workshop on public and investor relations strategies. The event is intended to help public and investor relations professionals exchange helpful ideas on how to best communicate with their company's shareholders, financial analysts, fund managers, individual investors and the media.

This year's workshop will concentrate on the Security and Exchange Commission's (SEC) new rule, known as Regulation FD, that requires a company to disclose significant information to all investors at the same time.

The first day concludes with a welcoming reception at the hotel. The second day is "the heart of the convention," says Hyde. The day begins with a morning general session entitled, "Transparency 2000: Next Year and the Next Forty."

The session will feature a six-member panel to discuss the state of the industry that will be moderated by Sam Zell, chairman of Equity Office Properties Trust and Equity Residential Properties Trust, both based in Chicago.

The rest of the morning will be devoted to concurrent sessions, which include panels that will discuss raising capital and forecasting the future economic cycle.

Steven A. Wechsler, president and CEO of NAREIT, will speak at a luncheon held on the second day. "I expect his remarks will reflect on the industry's growth and how the industry has more than lived up to the vision of Congress," says Hyde.

Two afternoon general sessions will then close out the convention. The first one, entitled, "Is Real Estate a Classic Value?" will be moderated by Anthony W. Deering, president and CEO of The Rouse Co., based in Columbia, Md.

The second session will feature a lecture by Bob Woodward, famed political journalist and assistant managing editor of the investigate division of The Washington Post. His talk will be entitled, "Democracy 2000: Looking Ahead to the Election and Beyond." Woodward will examine the impact of the upcoming election on the nation and REIT industry, says Hyde. "With REITs being a result of and subject to the political process, we felt it was natural to hear from someone so familiar with politics," he adds.

For more convention information, visit www.nareit.org or call 1-800-3-NAREIT.