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VOL. 123 | NO. 34 | Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Big-Picture Economics Topic Of Property Summit

By Eric Smith

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Commercial Property Forecast Summit

Sponsored by MAAR Commercial Council
Thursday, 8 a.m. to noon
Hilton Memphis, 939 Ridge Lake Blvd.
Call 818-2428 or e-mail mblakeney@maar.org
$40 for Commercial Council members; $60 for general public

A host of experts will discuss the bigger picture of the U.S. and global economies as well as local real estate matters at this week's Commercial Property Forecast summit, hosted by the Memphis Area Association of Realtors' Commercial Council.

The fifth annual summit is set for Thursday from 8 a.m. to noon at the Hilton Memphis, 939 Ridge Lake Blvd. Cost is $40 for MAAR Commercial Council members and $60 for the general public.

Keynote addresses will be given by Kellie Maske, economist with FedEx Corp., and Robert "Bob" Bach, chief economist with Santa Ana, Calif.-based Grubb & Ellis Co.

Also, the lineup includes plenty of heavy hitters discussing the various sectors of local commercial real estate and economic development. They are:

John Moore of the Memphis Regional Chamber, covering the Memphis Fast Forward initiatives

Bob Dalhoff of Dalhoff Thomas Daws and John Dudas of Belz Enterprises, discussing land and transportation issues

Mike Harris of Highwoods Properties, talking about office real estate

Kurt Nelson of Industrial Developments International Inc. (IDI), covering the industrial sector

Danny Buring of The Shopping Center Group, discussing the retail market

Rick Fogelman of Fogelman Properties, speaking on the multifamily industry.

Not just real estate

Despite the emphasis on commercial real estate, the Commercial Property Forecast Summit isn't just for brokers and developers. In fact, hundreds of people from all types of business are encouraged to attend.

"The content of the program is going to be something that should be of interest to the general business community in the Memphis (metropolitan statistical area)," said event chairman Jim Beaty, senior director for Houston-based CBRE | Melody. "It's somewhat targeted toward real estate, but we hope to bring in a regional factor as well as a national and global spin."

Beaty and MAAR Commercial Council president Steve Guinn said all the presentations will be noteworthy, but the keynote addresses by economists from FedEx, Grubb & Ellis and other corporations will be especially relevant for attendees.

Guinn, division vice president for Raleigh, N.C.-based Highwoods Properties, added that the Commercial Council has targeted everyone from residential brokers to appraisers to bankers, reaching out to the myriad of people who work in those sectors to attend the summit.

"Real estate is involved in any aspect of business, so we're thinking that whether you're a school or a government commissioner or a city councilman or a general business owner, theoretically you should be interested in what's going on in the commercial real estate business," he said.

Each presentation will be 10 to 15 minutes followed by a Q&A session, Beaty and Guinn said. The economists will offer forecasts related to the nation's and the world's economic growth, while the local presenters will narrow their focus to the Memphis metropolitan area.

"You're probably going to hear more of the trends that they see in other markets that may be headed locally, as well as what the current trends are in the local market for absorption, new construction, operating expenses, etc.," Beaty said.

Strong market

Forecasting isn't an exact science, but there's no denying that 2007 was a healthy year for commercial real estate in Memphis and Shelby County. Despite a nationwide economic slowdown and residential housing slump, commercial sales increased here thanks to some prominent transactions.

Commercial property sales totaled 1,162 in 2007, a 4.1 percent increase from the 1,116 commercial properties that sold in 2006, according to the latest data from real estate information company Chandler Reports, www.chandlerreports.com.

Moreover, the average sales price, total sales volume, average square footage and average price per square foot on commercial transactions all rose in 2007 from the previous year.

The average sales price increased from $1.4 million to $1.8 million; total sales volume increased from $1.56 billion to $2.12 billion; average square footage increased from 32,583 square feet to 42,192 square feet; and average price per square foot increased from $47.12 a foot to $49.80 a foot.

Will the same upward trends occur in 2008? As the summit's planners were quick to point out, there's only one way to find out.

"I'd say the answer to that is to show up on Thursday and hear for yourself," Guinn said.

PROPERTY SALES 50 226 2,557
MORTGAGES 44 145 1,731
BUILDING PERMITS 204 569 5,701