CCIM Feature

CCIM Spotlight: Come Together

A CCIM works to open doors for minorities in the industry.

Byron A. Smith, CCIM, CRB, president of Metropolitan Realty Group in Vienna, Va., teamed up with several CCIM leaders and staff members to create the CCIM Institute's Cultural Diversity Education Program in 2002. The impetus was to work toward increasing the number of minority professionals in the commercial real estate industry. "Quality commercial real estate education is an effective equalizer, and it can provide an essential competitive advantage for minorities who enter the commercial real estate arena," Smith says. Smith and his colleagues knew that a diversity program was needed to help open the doors to the commercial real estate industry for minorities. The program is one of the few industry efforts directed toward this goal.

With institute funding, Smith was able to offer the CI Intro course free of charge to minority participants. In accordance with the National Association of Realtors' guidelines, the program is open to men and women who are African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic, and Native American real estate professionals.

Once students complete this course, they can take the remaining core CCIM courses at their own pace until they complete the designation course requirements, Smith explains. "If minorities come to the real estate employment table with what is recognized as the best commercial real estate education within the industry, they will significantly enhance their employment prospects," he says. To date, more than 550 minority members have participated in the program and many have gone on to become designees and be employed by large national companies. Diversity program participant Karen Drake, CCIM, became a real estate manager with Wal-Mart Stores in Decatur, Ga., while one of Smith's first Houston CDEP students, Edward Nwokedi, CCIM, went on to head the apartment division of Cushman & Wakefield in Houston. Smith notes that Nwokedi credits the institute and CDEP for providing him with the confidence and resources to pursue this career path.

Aside from students moving into positions with large companies, Smith really saw how well the program was working about two years ago on a flight from Chicago. While reading a Florida business publication, he realized that the subject of the article was one of his former students. The student had gone on to become the vice president of economic development for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. Because of this article, Smith contacted the student and generated an ongoing friendship that has helped to make Smith's recent transition into investing in the Tampa market go more smoothly.

Smith initially helped start this program to make changes and provide opportunities to minorities, but he soon realized he also wanted to give something back to the institute. He finds it satisfying to see CDEP students achieve such a high point of education, he says. It also is rewarding because these individuals have advanced their careers, adding themselves to the large networking pool of commercial real estate professionals.

This program has given minorities more opportunities in commercial real estate while also providing a web of contacts and potential business relationships. The program keeps attracting new members and has begun to change the underrepresentation of minorities in the commercial real estate industry. "The program is a work in progress and there is still much more work to be done," Smith says.

Stephanie Bell

“I went through the [recession in the] 1980s and purposely set out a market plan that would not have the boom-and-bust [nature] that comes with real estate cycles.” — Joe W. Milkes, CCIM, Milkes Realty Valuation, Dallas“We were anticipating a slowdown in the market and wanted to develop an avenue of business that would create a steady stream of income.” — Yvonne Jones, CCIM, CPM, Zifkin Realty Management LLC, Chicago“I help struggling companies rethink their business models, which includes determining the most profitable use of their real estate.” — Audie Cashion, CCIM, Alpha World Properties LLC, High Point, N.C.Stephanie Bell is associate editor of Commercial Investment Real Estate.

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