VOL. 127 | NO. 113 | Monday, June 11, 2012
SPECIAL EMPHASIS: Office, Industrial and Retail Real Estate
Singer Continues Path Down Real Estate Journey
By Sarah Baker
Mary Singer started her commercial real estate career out of necessity, managing and leasing multifamily units.
With a small child at home, Singer went to college part-time. After graduating from the University of Memphis with a degree in real estate, her first job was managing and leasing a 200,000-square-foot shopping mall.
Singer then leased a 1 million-square-foot office portfolio, and would go on to found Commercial Realty Group in the late 1980s – pioneering tenant representation in the Memphis market.
Singer is a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Real Estate Industry Council, the National Association of Women Business Owners, founder of CresaPartners in Tennessee, a founding member of Commercial Real Estate Women Memphis, a member of Girl Scouts Heart of the South Nominating Committee, and past member of the city/county Industrial Development Board.
But when asked what she considers her greatest professional accomplishment, Singer responds, “serving others.”
“I don’t consider it a job, it is a journey,” Singer said. “My work concept has been based upon listening to what business owners are saying and making their requests my priority. I am always looking for ways to innovate and add economic, environmental and social value.”
Singer was appointed regional director/Memphis for the Women’s Business Enterprise Council South in 2011 and serves on the board of directors for WBEC South. The organization – which certifies women-owned business enterprises in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and the Florida panhandle – recently named Singer Women Business Enterprise Advocate of the Year at its annual luncheon in New Orleans.
“I’m really trying to help women at the bottom of the pyramid and then work this global, regional opportunity and take better care of our resources, our world,” Singer said. “Our mission is to advance and enhance business opportunities between women-owned businesses, corporations and government entities. We also provide business development training programs, networking opportunities for our members, and alert them about new contract opportunities.”
Commercial Realty Group is a women-owned entity Singer uses when she is working with corporations that want to count real estate-related expenditures. The company aligned with Cresa (now SavillsCresa LLC) in 1994, continuing a global strategy of developing real estate solutions to optimize business operations.
Singer’s daughter, Jill Singer Schmitt, started working with her in 1999 and has now taken the leadership role for the real estate part of their companies. The duo in March represented FEDEX Employees Credit Association in its relocation from a 14,000-square-foot space at 2124 Democrat Road to a 24,384-square-foot flex warehouse space in Nonconnah Corporate Center, 2731 Nonconnah Blvd.
“I don’t do anything anymore without partnering with Jill because I’m trying to set that up as the face and the lead in regard to a real estate transaction,” Singer said.
The deal is a prime example of how Singer strives to do business – allowing the tenant to consolidate, save resources and increase efficiency. It’s a concept she’s been focusing on since last year when Commercial Realty Group converted to CRG SustainableSolutions – a series of CRG² LLC, meeting the needs of large building and plant managers wanting to identify energy savings.
“In Memphis, just doing tenant representation, you’d be dead in the water months ago because of the way everything turned for small business for tenant representation,” Singer said. “So I started seeing the writing on the wall and with my property management background, I’ve turned a lot more to helping these great big huge facilities save resources in the markets they’re in and my work is all over. We cannot ignore the urgency of saving our resources.”
Singer begins each day with prayer, Bible reading and exercise. She then has her coffee, reads the paper, and eats breakfast with her husband, Peter – whom she calls her “dearest friend” – before starting her workday.
“Many days I accomplish everything on my list and other days I don’t,” Singer said.
In the event that she has down time, Singer enjoys gardening and spending time with her three step-children and eight grandchildren.
As for females trying to establish a presence in the CRE industry, as she was 24 years ago, Singer has short but sweet words of wisdom.
“Follow you heart if it is the career you want,” Singer said. “And find an experienced mentor.”