Real Estate Professionals are ‘Unsung Heroes’ in Economic Development

Real Estate Professionals are ‘Unsung Heroes’ in Economic Development

I’ve said it often and focused on it previously in this column space, but it bears repeating: Economic development — successful and robust economic development — really is a team effort. It’s a fact borne out weekly.

Though the EDC arm of the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council is tasked with primary responsibility for local economic development efforts, our work has the help and support of dozens of government agencies, utilities, business and community leaders, research centers, public and private organizations, already operational business enterprises, and other EDCs and chambers of commerce.

We have tremendous appreciation for all of our EDC investors and partners, some of which truly can be called “unsung heroes” in the worthy and rewarding cause of economic development. Among the “heroes” are all the hard-working commercial and residential Realtors and real estate brokers that dot the local business landscape and the commercial site selectors based in cities all across the country.

The thought about real estate professionals as unsung heroes of economic development came to mind recently when I recalled the impactful deal that brought The Fence Outlet to greater Lake Wales about 16 months ago.

You might remember that The Fence Outlet, a Florida-based manufacturing and retail company, purchased the long-vacant former International Paper box-making facility, the large complex just west of the city on State Road 60. The company came to the area with a new manufacturing mission and, just for starters, about 100 jobs to offer.

The sale of the plant to The Fence Outlet was finalized in December 2017. Coldwell Banker Commercial: Saunders Ralston Dantzler of Lakeland managed the listing and sale, with listing agent Greg Smith tirelessly, patiently, and persistently leading the effort to land a great match and buyer for the property. What the The Fence Outlet received for its very significant investment was a 50-acre commercial site with a 273,384-square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility to support its retail centers. What Lake Wales received was a great new community and business partner, almost-instant new job growth, fresh new use of a long-dormant manufacturing plant, and the business “multiplier effect” — the ancillary economic benefits new local manufacturing operations almost always produce.

The sale of the former International Paper plant was a seven-figure, headline-generating development, but every week out of every year, real estate brokers and sales associates close deals with smaller values that really add up big over time and, collectively, have a tremendously positive economic impact on the community. The real estate professionals are men and women who know the local property landscape, who know the projects, who work the deals, and who quietly make things happen behind the scenes. Without these professionals, a lot of property and other business deals just aren’t going to get done. They know the market, they know what’s coming, and they know what people are seeking.

As a group, commercial site selectors add another important element to the mix of economic development. These are the people — as in-house employees of large companies, as accountants, as lawyers specializing in real estate, or as other third-party real estate experts — who try to find suitable property for businesses seeking to move or expand operations. These site selectors do their research mostly in the shadows; they look for deals and play a game of property elimination. In many cases, local government leaders, the business community at large, and even EDCs like us don’t even know that their area is being considered as a possible place for new development. Given that fact, that experience, it pays for us to be development ready when the site selectors do come calling.

As I’ve written previously, creating a diverse, thriving, and expanding business environment doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes a lot of people working through a wide variety of organizations. Realtors, real estate brokers, and site selectors are essential players on the local economic development team, and we at the Lake Wales Chamber-EDC thank them all.