Technology Solutions

Site to Do Business Offers a Portal to Success

An online tour through the Site to Do Business at the recent 2000 CCIM Commercial Real Estate Conference and Sponsor Showcase in Chicago helped users better understand the services and information that are available to them.

STDB (stdb.com) is a member service of the Commercial Investment Real Estate Institute that enables designees and candidates to tap into the tools they need to do business from any computer by logging onto the site.

Benefiting Business The site's resources can benefit those in large and small companies, from urban or rural areas, doing deals of all sizes. "I'm not out there doing Fortune 500 deals," stressed Bruce Baker, CCIM, president of Baker Realty Advisors in Overland Park, Kan., as he led part of the demonstration. "I'm out there doing deals in my local market."

Members at the session who have used the site gave it a thumbs up.

"I think it's cutting edge," says Emerson Sutton, CCIM, a real estate associate at St. Louis Development Corp., who uses demographic information such as number of households, population, and population growth to facilitate multifamily site selection. "I like the ability to be able to download the information and be able to have it come up in Excel."

"I've been using it," adds George S. Bera Jr., CCIM, president of the Bera Group in Grand Rapids, Mich., who says it can help sell the benefits of various properties. "There's a lot of information there for demographics."

Learning by Doing STDB offers a variety of tools, but users shouldn't be overwhelmed, Baker told attendees.

"You want the easy way to learn Site to Do Business?" he asked. "Go use it. You don't have to sit with it six hours a day to do it; do it a link at a time."

For example, Baker said he began learning the site's demographic mapping capabilities by plugging in his home and work addresses because of his familiarity with those areas. He ran all of the demographic reports and worked with the mapping functions using those points of reference until he understood what everything meant. Now he is able to effectively apply the reports and maps to other locations for business purposes.

The site packs a number of business-related tools under its scope, which Baker and Dennis Holland, a senior consultant with SRC in Orange, Calif., showed attendees. SRC is developing the site.

Introduced this summer, the updated version of the site includes everything from a link for sending faxes via the Internet to checking e-mail anywhere there's access to an Internet connection.

Attendees got a taste of what's available on the site, which includes sections called Site Analysis, Financial Info, Real Estate Sites, Power Tools, CCIM.com, and News Center.

The area that Baker and Holland discussed in-depth was the Site Analysis section, which allows users to access various U.S. demographic data and create numerous types of reports and maps. Baker encouraged attendees to realize that the site is more than a place to run demographic reports or maps. "It can be an incredible business development and moneymaking tool if you learn the right questions to ask."

A variety of data is available, including population, age, and income information that can be searched in various geographic categories, such as metropolitan statistical areas, counties, zip codes, and census block groups - or users can create a custom area to analyze. The maps are interactive so users can run a particular geographic analysis, and then alter the parameters on the fly, Baker said. Users also can generate lists of types of businesses by standard industrial classification codes or business names.

MapGuide viewer - a free download - is required to view the site's maps. It requires Windows 95, 98, or NT; 32 MB of RAM; a 28.8 kilobytes per second or faster modem; and Netscape Navigator 4.0 or higher or Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher.

Other sections of the site offer links to information of interest to commercial real estate professionals.

For instance, Financial Info links users to tools such as financial-analysis services and business forms. The Real Estate Sites section offers links to various other industry sites, including real estate news, property listing services, financing sources, products and services, property valuation, and environmental reports.

Power Tools goes to online services such as Internet searches and address mapping, as well as sites that can help to send faxes and attachments via the Internet or let users check e-mail accounts. It also links to an STDB user group where users can join forum discussions and share information.

CCIM.com links to portions of CIREI's Web site. Finally, the News Center links to financial, sports, weather, industry, and other news, as well as a page that users can personalize to get news they specifically want to receive.

By its very nature, STDB will continue to evolve, demonstrators told attendees. "If you see that things have changed, don't be concerned," Baker said, "because that's what it's supposed to do." Holland concurred: "There probably will never be a last update."

Barbara Stevenson

Carol C. Honigberg, JD, is a partner in the real estate group at Reed, Smith, Hazel, & Thomas LLP in Falls Church, Va. Contact her at (703) 641-4220 or chonigberg@rssm.com. Steven M. Nolan, JD, is a member of the firm\'s environmental group. Contact him at (412) 288-4158 or snolan@rssm.com.

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