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Both groups seek to pool resources, establish better relationships

Economic developers, Realtors partner for progress

Realtors and economic developers seem like two peas in a pod.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case.

On May 30, both groups will partner in a first-ever conference for Realtors, economic developers and local government leaders, “Making it Happen: Partnering for Economic Opportunity and Growth in Your Community,” sponsored by the Mississippi Association of Realtors, Mississippi Economic Development Council and Mississippi Commercial Association of Realtors.

“It just makes sense,” said John C. Dinkins, CCIM, president of the 5,000-member MAR, the largest trade association in the state. “If economic developers, Realtors and community leaders knew more about each others’ resources and methods and political interests in economic development projects, we’d be more successful not only in working together but also in moving Mississippi forward.”

About 150 people are expected at the conference, which will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Mississippi Realtor Center in Flowood.

“If we could work together better, there’d be no end to what we could accomplish, but the truth is that we don’t always work together as well as we should,” said MEDC president Steve Kelly. “In communities across our state, those relationships often are characterized by distrust, competition and general antagonism. And that’s a shame because economic developers and real estate professionals possess a wealth of complementary experience and perspectives and resources that, if combined, could profoundly improve the economic landscape of Mississippi.”

Andy Stetelman, SIOR, GRI, of London & Stetelman Commercial Real Estate in Hattiesburg and past president of the Mississippi Commercial Association of Realtors, said there’s probably a general misperception that economic developers and brokers don’t work well together.

“At this conference, we can clear that up and illustrate that we do, in fact, work together on a daily basis,” said Stetelman, who recently completed a lease agreement for BAE Systems North America, a leading supplier to the U.S. Department of Defense that is locating an assembly operation in Hattiesburg.

“There are times when economic developers have industrial park prospects that can go nowhere else but there and we’re probably not going to hear about it,” he said. “We can’t compete with them anyway because economic developers can throw in industrial park land for a very attractive price and our clients can’t compete. However, we understand what they’re trying to accomplish. And there are times when companies don’t want to be or obviously can’t be in the industrial park and we have the market knowledge. We can help educate economic developers about the market.”

At the conference, Stetelman, Dinkins, Chris Wilson and Johnny Morgan will lead the session, “What Realtors Bring To The Table.” Will Mayo, Michael Olivier and Tim Coursey will lead its counterpart session, “What Economic Developers Bring To The Table.”

“If the two groups mesh together, it will be smoother for the clients,” said Coursey, executive director of the Simpson County Development Foundation. “It will also help foster relationships that may need to be in existence between brokerage firms and private developers that are involved with constructing and financing third-party build-suit-lease type operations. It can tie them closer to the economic development community so both can play off the synergy.”

Coursey recently toured the world’s largest biomass conversion facility in the U.K. to learn more about its construction in preparation for a similar project in Simpson County.

“If we are successful in establishing relationships at this conference, we can share information like this, which will benefit everyone,” said Coursey. “We can pool our resources and really make things happen in Mississippi.”

Dinkins came up with the idea for the conference last fall, after a few Nissan-related issues emerged.

“I kept thinking, how do we become a positive part of the process? It’s our responsibility to create opportunities to be part of communities and sell communities,” he said. “Many times, companies will send people quietly into markets to get a pulse of the community and Realtors are often the first ones they come in contact with. We need to know what economic developers are doing, understand their role, and let them understand our role so we can be more informative to people coming into Mississippi.”

The idea was well received by MEDC, with whom he made initial contact. MCAR was receptive, too.

“MCAR has been very active with a good sense of cooperation,” said Dinkins. “For example, they just took a trip to Meridian to learn more about that market.”

The program will also include these sessions:

• “Community Building Ain’t For Sissies,” by Pat Hoban-Moore, director of the New Orleans HUD Office;

• “Understanding the Realtor and Economic Development Perspectives,” by Mark Bounds and Jimmy Heidel;

• “The Real World: What’s Going On Out There?” a panel discussion facilitated by Phil Hardwick; and

• “A Preview of the Mississippi Home Sales Report,” by R. Scott Brunner, CAE, executive vice president of MAR.

“Just because we’re putting this together does not mean we’re taking an authoritative role,” said Dinkins. “The conference is a great way to open dialogue.”

For more information on the conference, call (800) 747-1103.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at (800) 993-3392 or lwjeter@yahoo.com</a.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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