By Paula C. Squires
When the annual Real Estate Trends Conference sponsored by the Virginia Real Estate Center at VCU convenes for the 22nd year on Oct. 9 in Richmond, it’s expected to draw a record turnout of more than 1,000.
Real estate professionals from across Virginia and as far away as Raleigh, N.C., have registered for the event at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, said Robert W. Taylor, director of the Virginia Real Estate Center within Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business, and the conference’s longtime coordinator.
“I think the reason interest has ticked up this year is because we added some residential,” Taylor said. How well houses are selling impacts commercial development and this year’s program offers a housing outlook with Ron Phipps, the 2011 president of the National Association of Realtors. Joining him are two other speakers: Anthony Sanders, a professor of finance at George Mason University, and William McFaddin, president and CEO of Community Bankers Bank.
Another new panel particularly timely for Richmond is one on “The Economic Impact of Sports and Entertainment.” The city is wrestling with how and where to build a new, $50 million-plus stadium for its Double-A baseball team, the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Plus, it’s looking to lock in a site and financing for a summer training camp for the Washington Redskins NFL football team, which will move to Richmond in 2013. That panel will include Mark Horton, president, Weston Development Co., Weston Sports & Entertainment, and Jeff Beaver, executive director, Charlotte Sports Commission.
A staple of the conference is an economic overview and forecast of the various commercial real estate sectors. It will be lead this year by Douglas Poutasse, an executive vice president and head of strategy and research at Bentall Kennedy, one of North America’s largest real estate investment advisers.
The real estate conference, one of the largest in the mid-Atlantic, began in 1990 with fewer than 100 people attending that first year, recalls Taylor. “Our primary draw is the Richmond area,” he says, which is an easy drive from Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia, Roanoke and Raleigh. Real estate professionals come to get the latest information on major tends and to network with brokers, lawyers, real estate appraisers, property managers and others from the industry who attend.
Besides educating professionals, the conference benefits students, says Taylor. “The students are very much engaged,” he adds, as they assist in the planning and staff the conference. To take advantage of networking opportunities, students bring business cards with contact information and three bullets on the back touting their strengths. “We have a lot of students who have gotten jobs or internships from the conference,” Taylor says.
Registration is $125 to $150 per person, with early birds getting the better rate. Proceeds support scholarships and other projects within VCU’s real estate program.
Something people may not know about the conference: There’s a countdown clock to remind speakers to stay on schedule. A 32- inch television screen flashes green, yellow and finally red when they are out of time. ““Most people obey the clock, but some people go over the limit,” says Taylor. When that happens, moderators are expected to intervene to keep the conference on track.
After all the planning, what’s the day like for Taylor? “Somehow it always comes together.”
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