The Real Deal Miami

Slogan reveals slowdown

By Jennifer LeClaire | January 07, 2009 01:48PM

Last year, the motto was “Make the Deal.” This year, they were planning to “Close the Deal.” In the face of a turbulent commercial real estate market, the Miami Chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) is instead getting “Back to Basics.”

When newly elected CREW Miami president Danet Linares considered the theme for the 2009 campaign, she knew she had to shift the organization’s focus to accommodate harsh market realities. Her scaling back reflects the region’s troubled trip from boom-time optimism to near collapse.

Indeed, Miami’s economy has slowed significantly since the beginning of the year. Unemployment sits at 5.5 percent in Miami, according to the state’s Agency for Workforce Innovation. Miami is driven by pro-cyclical industries — finance, real estate and tourism — and remains vulnerable to U.S. and global economic woes.

Although Miami commercial market fundamentals held up during the third quarter of 2008, this year will show signs of decline.

“As the economy plummeted even further and deal flow stalled, it became clear that a new campaign theme was in order,” said Linares, who is also senior vice president and director of Real Estate Services at Foram Group, a Miami-based commercial real estate services firm.

She said Back to Basics is a regional awareness and education theme that aims to encourage industry professionals to revisit the fundamental principles of business and position themselves for future growth.

“I’m a big believer that the same business practices that brought us prosperity in recent years will help us right the ship this time around,” said Linares. “I’m going to work with members to encourage collaboration and communication.”

The 2009 Back to Basics campaign is based upon four pillars of professional development: strengthening relationships, strategic communication, exceptional client service, and civic involvement.

As part of her campaign and CREW-Miami presidential goals, Linares is launching a new Web site that will spotlight member deals and offer resources for doing business in the slumping economy.

CREW will also develop new business oriented events and educational programs with analysis from experts in various commercial real estate subsectors.

“These are trying times for both our region and industry,” Linares said. “There’s no question that the problems we face require more than a quick fix, but by focusing on the tenets of good business practices we can build ourselves back up and come out of this stronger than before.”

Gayle Bainbridge, past president of CREW-Miami and co-founder and executive vice president of Global Risk LLC, a commercial property insurance firm in Miami, is optimistic about the message of the Back to Basics program. As she sees it, the initiative will help members focus on the steps they need to take to succeeding in trying times.

“In this kind of economy, you really do need to get out and build bridges, form relationships, let people know what kind of business you are in and what you are looking for,” Bainbridge said. “That’s the way people will be successful in this economy and the Back to Basics campaign will help remind members of that.”

CREW-Miami President-elect Suzanne Amaducci-Adams agreed with Bainbridge.

“The Back to Basics campaign will be an opportunity to focus on the basic [tenets] that are critical to good deal-making – relationships, trusts and knowledge,” said Amaducci-Adams, an attorney at Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod LLP in Miami.

The bottom line: The recession and accelerating losses in employment are having a negative impact on real estate markets around the country. But Linares offers a ray of hope: Professionals can be comforted by the fact that, like the economy, the real estate market is cyclical.

“Current difficulties will eventually give way to more positive conditions,” she said, “leading to a return in demand for real estate and ultimate revival of the industry.”