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Kottkamp: Our best days are still ahead of us

By Staff | Jan 28, 2009

Dark economic times in the Sunshine State will ultimately give way to a brighter day.
That was the sentiment of state officials and real estate industry experts who spoke Wednesday at the Southwest Florida Real Estate Outlook Conference at the Harborside Event Center in Fort Myers.
“I really believe our best days are still ahead of us,” Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, a Cape Coral resident, told commercial real estate professionals.
Kottkamp acknowledged the current status of Florida’s struggling economy, but pointed to the state’s economic staples of tourism and the space industry as well as potential emerging sectors, such as biotechnology, life sciences, alternative and renewable energies, as evidence of a fundamentally sound economic base.
“Being from Southwest Florida I know life in the real estate world is tough right now,” he said. “What’s really changing is the structure of our state economy. It’s happening before our very eyes.”
Kottkamp said part of that change, necessitated by the contracting economy, means shifting from a service-based economy to a broader, technology-based economy.
Meanwhile, industry experts stressed the cyclical nature of the commercial real estate market, and the need to lay the ground work during the downside of the cycle to reap the rewards of the eventual upswing.
“Any time the cards get reshuffled, that’s where the opportunity lies,” said Randy Anderson, a business professor at the University of Central Florida.
While the depth and length of the current recession is unknown, Kottkamp and Anderson both said Florida’s economy is certain to rebound eventually.
Anderson pointed to the two most recent national recessions, in the early 1990s and 2001, as evidence that demand for commercial office and retail space will rise as the economy recovers.
“It typically takes about 10 to 12 quarters after the recession to see the spike in (office) rent growth,” he said.
“There’s one thing we know for certain about this downturn, and it’s that it will end,” Kottkamp said.
Commercial real estate professionals attending the conference were implored to ignore the negative macroeconomic news, stop watching cable news channels like CNBC and get down to the nitty-gritty business of selling commercial properties.
“We’ve got to take it to the streets,” said Michael Lipsey, president of The Lipsey Company, a commercial real estate training and consulting firm.
Lipsey, a flamboyant and in-demand speaker in the commercial real estate industry, invoked the leadership skills of Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jefferson and Lewis and Clark in his speech, trying to inspire real estate agents who have witnessed the market decline sharply within the past year.
“I’m a grunt. I’m in the street. I’m at 30,000 feet — there’s nothing I can know about the economy that’s going to help me get a sale today,” he said.
“Be defiant. I’m not taking part in this recession, that’s the attitude you need to have,” Lipsey added.