In real estate circles, Preston Patton is known as a mover and shaker.
Patton, 55, has been involved in real estate his entire career. From 1964 to 1987, he was a commercial developer and builder. Later, he developed and built several residential projects. Construction experience was the catalyst that led him to shift his focus to commercial and investment real estate after a successful partnering venture in the early 1990s, he said.
“We were set up to redevelop several distressed retail centers in Mississippi and Alabama,” Patton said. “Occupancy rates were below 30% in some places, with lease rates below $5 per square foot. Within 18 months, we remodeled the centers and brought occupancy to 90% and rental rates up to $10 to $12 per square foot.”
“That experience let me know maybe I ought to stick with what I was doing best and that was marketing and selling commercial real estate,” Patton said.
Jackson-based Preston F. Patton Commercial and Investment Real Estate, specializing in the sale of office buildings, shopping centers and commercial land in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, was opened in 1995. Patton`s wife, Debra, is office manager and his son, Preston F. Patton, Jr., 24, works with him. He hopes their two younger sons, Taylor, 16, and Sloan, 14, will eventually take an active part in the business, he said.
One of the redeveloped retail centers was The Quarter on Lakeland Drive in Jackson.
“Anybody that drives by The Quarter can see the miraculous change that has occurred over an 18 to 24 month period,” Patton said.
Just how did he turn around the retail centers?
“I actively searched for tenants,” Patton said. “Among other things, I cold-called clients in surrounding towns in Mississippi and Alabama, and talked and begged and pleaded and told them I was going to be the best landlord they`ve ever had.”
Patton recently sold and closed 23,000 acres in multiple transactions of income-producing agricultural land in the Delta. He is actively marketing an additional 28,000 acres of cropland. Along with R.C.Rob- erts, a commercial broker, they recently packaged and sold 52 lots near Lakeland Drive to a local developer, bringing Patton`s year-to-date closings to $25 million in real estate, he said.
“I watch for lots that nobody is advertising or actively marketing,” Patton said. “Then I actively market and sell them.”
Patton doesn`t actively solicit commercial listings. About 90% of his business is repeat. With clients from California to New York, and from New Orleans to Chicago, he searches for investment property clients are looking for, whether it`s a Class A or B office building, a retail shopping center, he said.
“I have represented several local developers in purchasing commercial properties in north Mississippi, and we actively search for them,” he said.
Every Monday morning at 8 a.m. at the Elite Restaurant in downtown Jackson, Patton can be found meeting for breakfast with Phillip Carpenter, David Cox, M.S. Griffith, Jim Powell, and R.C. Roberts, other commercial brokers who are very active.
“We have done this for several years and it is really a great information-sharing time,” Patton said.
Networking, hustling, and doing homework are elements Patton attributes to success.
“Everybody`s looking for something,” Patton said. “I wear cowboy boots. I don`t wear the typical polished three-piece suits that investment brokers wear, but I sell more real estate than most of these firms.”
Patton firmly believes in separating business and family life. “We close the office at 5 p.m. every day and we try not to give this place another thought until 8 a.m. the next morning. When we go home, we`re family. We sit down and have our dinner every night, and Sunday lunch regardless of what`s going on,” he said.
Patton said he can`t imagine getting involved in other business ventures.
“This (business) has become such a success for me, and I`m happier than I`ve ever been in my business career,” Patton said.