CCIM Feature

Rising Stars(3)

Education and drive land these CCIMs on the fast track to success.

In an increasingly competitive and volatile marketplace, commercial real estate professionals must make their mark on the industry in short order. These CCIMs have held the designation for less than five years and already have become leading lights in their field. Commercial Investment Real Estate recognizes these individuals for their real estate-related achievements and community-service efforts. Using their unique backgrounds and abilities, each CCIM has forged a path to success.

Robert G. Thornburgh, CCIM
The Heger Co.
Los Angeles

After joining The Heger Co. as a sales associate seven years ago, Thornburgh rapidly has risen through the ranks to become its current president — the third in the company’s 50-year history. He credits this achievement to a well-rounded, ethics-based commercial real estate education. Along with SIOR and CPM designations, the CCIM designation gives Thornburgh “a distinct competitive advantage.” In 2007, he completed 36 transactions totaling more than 1 million square feet and was named Heger Co. Broker of the Year. Thornburgh currently manages a 5 million-sf portfolio consisting of industrial properties located throughout Southern California.

Recognizing that “the CCIM designation has been instrumental in transforming and growing [his] business,” Thornburgh oversaw the implementation of an in-house incentive policy for associates interested in the institute’s comprehensive education program. “By encouraging our sales team to pursue the CCIM designation, we are emphasizing the importance of those characteristics we believe to be the standard of excellence in our industry: hard work, a strong educational foundation, ethics, networking, and unparalleled market knowledge.”

Eugen Klein, CCIM
Team Leader
Royal LePage City Centre
Vancouver, British Columbia

After several years of working with the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver on education-oriented initiatives, Klein was named president of the commercial division in 2005. Rising to the challenge, he “continued the charge to install programs in education, data comparables, and technology.” As a result of these efforts, overall membership increased by 30 percent during Klein’s tenure.

Klein also pursued technology and networking advances, which culminated in the creation of, a public commercial real estate listing Web site. “With and the persistence of a key group of volunteers as catalysts, the first commercial provincial council, the British Columbia Commercial Council, was formed and endorsed,” Klein says. He was named chairman of the council and has served in that position for the last two years.

A dearth of educational opportunities in the region also prompted Klein to take action. “There were very few regular CCIM course offerings in western Canada despite the growing thirst for education in commercial real estate,” he says. Klein was instrumental in quenching this thirst: “With an increased presence, the CCIM Institute can help shape the consumer understanding of commercial specialization within the real estate industry,” he says. With his input and oversight, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver has helped more than 100 students take the institute’s four core courses.

Adam D. Roth, CCIM
Senior Associate
NAI Hiffman/NAI Global Logistics
Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.

“The increasing cost of energy, shortage of truck drivers, and inadequate state of U.S. highway infrastructure all lead to more rail usage and an increased focus on inland ports and transportation-based development,” Roth says. As a logistics specialist, he uses concepts he learned from the CCIM courses to adapt to this evolving market. "Two aspects of my CCIM training have been particularly useful when working on these developments,” he says. “Cost benefit analysis and net present value allow me to customize a presentation based on a corporation’s specific import volume and transportation network.”

Roth’s two recent land assemblage projects tested these and other skills. Encompassing more than 5,000 acres in the greater Chicago area, the transactions involved 85 landowners and took nearly four years to complete. “Initially, tracking down and working with the owners was very time-consuming,” he says. “Several were from out of state, multiple parcels were under trust agreements, one owner was on a mission in Africa, and some only spoke a foreign language.” As Roth corresponded with each owner, however, he became well-known in the community, which expedited the process. The project necessitated local government approval as well, and Roth served as an expert witness during an intermodal development presentation to the village board. After keeping the project confidential for over three years, Roth finally added a few more links to America’s supply chain.

W. Martin Svendson, CCIM
Thornton, Harvison & Rhodes Real Estate
Baton Rouge, La.

After a 20-year stint with BellSouth Telecommunications, Svendson took early retirement and began to turn a lifelong interest in real estate into a new profession. Following in the footsteps of his father, who developed the first shopping center in Baton Rouge, Svendson moved into the commercial real estate sector and realized that he needed additional training. “I knew if I was going to compete with my peers in the commercial arena, I had to fast-track the 20 to 30 years of experience they had on me,” he says.

The institute not only provided a fast track for education but also the foundation of Svendson’s current specialization in multifamily and student-housing site selection. In May 2004, he received a broadcast e-mail from Jack Hendrix, CCIM, asking for assistance with site selection for a multifamily development in Baton Rouge. “I responded to Jack and asked if he would be willing to work with a CCIM candidate,” he says. “He said yes as he had once been a candidate as well.” Svendson closed the deal and has since completed more than $10 million in multifamily and student-housing deals. With three sites currently in negotiations, Svendson continues to thrive in this sector. He attributes this success, in part, to the institute: “Without my CCIM designation, I would still be trying to catch up.”

Michael A. Collier, CCIM
Managing Broker
National Hospitality Brokers LLC

New to the commercial real estate industry, Collier received a bit of advice from his CI Intro instructor, Ralph D. Spencer, CCIM: “He said there wasn’t necessarily one sector that was more profitable than another for brokers, but the brokers who became specialists in their field were most successful.” Collier listened. With several years of hospitality operations experience, he decided to focus on hotels.

In 2005, with only a “set of keys, a newly signed lease, and a goal,” Collier opened the National Hospitality Brokers LLC and Hotel Capital Partners LLC office in downtown Indianapolis. Within three years, he hired seven employees and personally completed 30 brokerage and 20 loan transactions totaling $160 million. This swift growth makes Collier optimistic about his companies’ future in the heart of Indiana, though some hospitality brokers have doubts about the market’s longevity. “Some fear the city is becoming too heavily supplied with hotel rooms, but many developers are betting on the continued popularity of tourism events and the expansion of the downtown convention center,” he says.

Collier, on the other hand, is betting on his professional reputation, which will allow his companies to expand in a potentially shaky market, and considers education to be an integral part of his companies’ solid foundation. He now requires each of his brokers and loan officers to attain the CCIM designation. “I know that [the CCIM program] dramatically improves their skills, our companies’ level of service, and our credibility among clients,” he says.

Michael J. Sullivan, CCIM
Second Vice President
Colliers Turley Martin Tucker

Despite the fact that commercial real estate relies on networking and cooperation, professionals who excel in these areas are sometimes overlooked in favor of top producers. But Sullivan’s peers at Colliers Turley Martin Tucker in Cincinnati did not allow his efforts to go unrecognized, honoring him with the company’s Best Team Player Award last year. By closely working with his colleagues he can “learn and share different methods and styles,” which in turn creates more opportunities for the “deal cycle” to continue, he says.

And though Sullivan’s teamwork officially has been recognized, his ability to broker big deals must not be ignored. He works with the O’Connell, Bender, and Powers CTMT team and specializes in Midwest private-market properties. His recent deals include the sale of the $22.7 million Kiesland portfolio, the $19.7 million Union Commerce Center, and the $9.2 million Anderson Medical Arts Building.

Sullivan also has been active in the Ohio CCIM Chapter, assisting with a CCIM continuing education course, “Going Green: Here to Stay or Going to Fade?” While the subject is still open to debate, “many more [developers] are beginning to build with [the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certification in mind … and tenants are demanding more green elements in their spaces,” he says. Sullivan regards green education initiatives as an investment in the future: “We feel it’s a matter of when, not if, investors will start identifying green buildings as the buildings of choice in their portfolios.”

Dimitris Vattes, CCIM
Associate Managing Director
Mortgage World Bankers
Astoria, N.Y.

Just a short subway ride from Wall Street, a New York City physician hoped to move his practice to a property in Queens and become its owner/occupant with Vattes’ help. There was, however, a catch: “The price was $1.8 million, but based on the market rental, the generated income would only support a loan of about $900,000, and my client didn’t have the difference in liquid assets,” Vattes says. After evaluating the options, he determined that since the doctor’s practice would occupy more than 51 percent of the property he could secure a Small Business Administration 504 loan and fund 100 percent of the purchase price. “The doctor was ecstatic and, more importantly, no longer a renter,” Vattes says.

And though large metropolitan markets offer ample opportunities for unique transactions, they also invite the dangerous dealings of industry amateurs: “When real estate was booming, a large influx of brokers and loan officers wanted a piece of the action [in New York], but they had no education in real estate and business ethics. This left many clients and investors asking who they could trust,” says Vattes, whose properties mostly are located in New York’s five boroughs.

He recognized the demand for more skilled professionals in his market and earned the CCIM designation in 2007. While his clients benefited from his newfound decision-making and analysis skills, Vattes still believed it was necessary to establish a local professional network that could exchange accurate information and “close [deals] in an ethical manner.” A steady increase in CCIM course offerings and the recently unveiled CCIM New York Chapter bode well for the market. Vattes already has been active in the new chapter, and he predicts that New York City and CCIM will be “making deals together for years to come.”

Alex Johnson, CCIM
President and CEO
Laurex Realty Advisors
Plano, Texas

Along with several extracurricular service projects, Johnson serves the community through his commercial real estate work. He currently is developing a 140,000-sf shopping center in southern Dallas, a low-income section of the city that has been starved for grocery-anchored retail projects for decades. “Most of the other retail centers in the area are 20 to 40 years old,” Johnson says. While finding an interested grocery store proved difficult — grocery stores in Dallas tend to focus on more affluent markets, Johnson says— he eventually secured the anchor and other tenants fell into place. This deal, however, is not simply another CCIM success story. As “a black developer using a black general contractor in a 70 percent black area of Dallas,” Johnson is making a positive impact on this community in more ways than one.

Considering Johnson’s level of CCIM involvement, it’s no surprise that he sees the institute’s vital professional network as key to this particular project. After graduating from two local leadership programs, he set his sights on the institute’s Jay W. Levine Leadership Development Academy. “With my strong desire to give back to CCIM, the academy seemed like a logical choice,” he says. Johnson received the academy’s Susan J. Groeneveld Award of Excellence and graduated from the program with a renewed sense of purpose. He currently is a CCIM Institute Board Director and also serves as treasurer of the North Texas CCIM Chapter, vice chairman of the CCIM Cultural Diversity National Advisory Board, and an advisory board member for the CCIM & IREM Success Series 2008.

Jorge A. Rodriguez, CCIM
Retail Associate
CB Richard Ellis
Orlando, Fla.

When Rodriguez began his CCIM coursework in 2004, he also sought volunteer opportunities through his local CCIM chapter. Since then, he has served on the CCIM Central Florida Chapter’s designation promotions, education, and scholarship committees — the latter of which he currently chairs. He sees his local CCIM chapter not only as a platform for networking and promotions, but also as a guiding hand, offering “help to those [industry professionals who are] seeking it.”

Rodriguez received the chapter’s 2007 Largest Retail Lease Award for his work on a 10-year lease of the 20,191-sf Oak Groves Shoppes in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Using the skills acquired from Financial Analysis and other CCIM courses, he put his knowledge to work for his client: “[The property’s] vacancy was nearing 40 percent in a sub-10 percent vacancy market. I was able to structure a net lease that allowed my client to pass through all of the property’s operating expenses, real estate taxes, and insurance while limiting … initial out-of-pocket expenses for build-out and rent commencement,” he says.

Moving from strength to strength, last year Rodriguez received the exclusive listing to lease space at Posner Commons, a 630,000-sf power center in Davenport, Fla. The center, which is one of the largest in central Florida, is anchored by Target, Best Buy, Staples, and Dick’s Sporting Goods. Like the aforementioned retailers, Rodriguez attributes this transaction and others to his successful creation of a “name brand” in the central Florida real estate industry.

Cindy Fendley, CCIM
Commercial Agent
Poe & Cronk Real Estate Group
Roanoke, Va.

Thanks to a little healthy peer pressure, Fendley pursued the CCIM designation to build on her corporate accounting background and join the ranks of the other designees in her office. This education provided the diverse set of tools necessary for success: “In a small market we are expected to be proficient with all clients and property types,” she says.

Annually since 2004, Fendley has been recognized as Poe & Cronk’s overall top producer and is especially proud of a complicated multifamily deal she closed last year. The more than $5.7 million transaction was contingent upon the completion of a Section 1031 tax-deferred exchange. Fendley utilized an “installment sale in lieu of a 1031 exchange, [and] the comparison of the long-term financial benefits of all options convinced the seller it could avoid paying an unnecessary premium for replacement property and still maximize the return on investment.”

Fendley’s real estate expertise also has benefited Virginia’s largest homeless shelter. As president of the Roanoke Rescue Mission Foundation Board, she has been instrumental in the acquisition of several donated properties and most recently secured and leased a 40,000-sf building on its behalf. Earlier this year, Fendley also led a $2 million capital campaign to refurbish two properties the Rescue Mission acquired for housing and future expansion.

Rich Rosfelder

Rich Rosfelder is vice president of strategic communications for CCIM Institute.


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