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Executives offer real estate advice to students at College of Business Administration conference


(Courtesy/College of Business Administration)

Executives offered advice to hospitality, real estate and business majors Feb. 9 in Grawn Hall atrium.

Speakers included:

  • Brian Mills — Chief of staff for Michigan State Housing Department.  Mills was also a policy director and managed policy advisors for the Michigan legislature.
  • Danielle M. Spehar — vice president of Transactions for Agree Realty Corporation.
  • Ann Kelly - president of Lodgco Management, a company that operates hotels.
  • Mike Sher -  runs a team under the Real Estate One company out of the Max Broock Realtors Birmingham office. 
  • Scott Steiner - Works with environmental regulation in a broad range of applications and companies. 
  • Doug Todd – Director of Commercial Real Estate for Berkshire Hathaway 

“(This event) creates an exposure to senior level executives and exposure to the college,” said Event Coordinator Spencer Robinson.

Students asked the panel questions that could be used as guidance for those in attendance. Macomb senior Cameron Livingston was one of many looked to apply the panel’s collective experience to her own life. 

“(I want to know) how they become successful — how they build up their image,” Livingston said. 

Troy freshman Zachary Ayotte sought to apply the advice to his major: business information systems. 

The panel was introduce by Robinson, who shared information about the field.

“The industrial field is booming because e-commerce is not going away," he said. "The short explanation is real estate is doing really well."

Mills reflected on his work in the Michigan State Housing Department. He gave credit to students showing up at the presentation, saying: “kudos to you.” 

He cited the big misconceptions as to what MSHD does.

“It’s the greatest involvement of public and private partnership," Mills said. "Rural Michigan in particular has a dire need of affordable housing.

“Work harder than anyone else around you… don’t set expectations that are unrealistic… we all have a passion, but as you start developing that passion you find an opportunity that no once else sees. Just jump on it — that becomes your passion.”

Steiner discussed Michigan’s mining and environmental regulations. The state has set up a new system of giving out mining permits to prevent environmental damage and now requires more extensive plans when those disasters do occur. While Steiner said this has made it harder to get permits, the new system has made mining safer. 

“There is a double layer of regulation — it’s a full two year process before you even put an application in,” he said. 

Kelly discussed her experience in the hotel area of real estate. Giving best practices and the importance of maintaining up to date technology in her hotels. She gave personal advice of her own later in the conference.

“You don’t have to have it all figured out today." Kelly said. "It’s going to be a path and opportunities are going to come up that are going to take you in a direction you haven’t even thought of. Don’t be afford to take a chance — to take risks."

Spehar gave her own take on the industry, supporting Robinson’s assessment of the real estate market. While physical retail is changing, she was adamant that there will always be a part of the population who prefer brick and mortar to online shopping. Retailers are changing in different ways, not all are continuing to expand, rather, they are trying to find the size of business that can weather the changes of the market, according to her. 

“We don’t believe, contrary to what you’re hearing, that retail is dying at all.. the market adapts to what the requirements are of the people who use the market,” Spehar said. 

Todd also gave his opinion on real estate as a whole. He discussed the innovation the he saw occurring in the market. 

“I encourage agents in that role to not focus on the transaction, but on their needs,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to just learn, don’t over think it — keep it simple. You never accomplish things when you have one foot in and one foot out.” 

Todd stressed that people should put both their feet in when they are interested in something.  

Sher discussed his goal of having a  “bigger sphere of influence”. To him, an important part of the job is forming personal relationships with his clients. 

“I like the theme that you could see out of their advice that was doing something the right way and with a smile on your face can get you really far," Plymouth sophomore Benjamin Smyth said of the conference.