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A Mississippi Business Journal Q&A

Hitting the ground running with MAR’s new president

Since the McCarty Holman Company hired Nancy Lane as director of real estate as “a fluke,” she called it, the Jackson native has risen to the top of her profession.

Lane, a commercial broker and president of Nancy Lane Commercial Realty Inc., has become known nationally for her expertise in shopping center management and leasing. In 2003, the Mississippi Commercial Association of Realtors named her Realtor of the Year. This year, she is presiding over the 5,500-member Mississippi Association of Realtors (MAR), the state’s largest business trade association.

The Mississippi Business Journal chatted with Lane about real estate trends, challenges as a business owner, issues that concern MAR members, MAR goals for 2005 and what needs to happen to foster retail development as an economic development tool.

Mississippi Business Journal: Since starting your own firm in 2003, what area of commercial real estate has shown the most promise and what kind of growth have you experienced?

Nancy Lane: During the last year, retail growth has been very exciting and there are many possibilities yet to come as retailers who have not progressed to our market discover the value of Mississippi. My growth since I have opened my own office has been in many areas; both personally and business-wise.

As to growth in our firm, my primary goal is to provide the best quality service and to build our reputation on the knowledge of our associates, thus the size of the firm is not important to me. It is more important to me that we all have the opportunity to do a great job and have a good time while doing it. We work closely together so that we can exchange information and help each other succeed.

MBJ: What challenge as a business owner have you encountered and how did you overcome it?

NL: For any small business, there is the challenge of taking care of the many necessary parts of the business such as technology, accounting, phone systems, etc., and at the same time building the business itself. It is very easy to focus on the things demanding your attention and lose the vision of why you are there. My challenge is to remain focused on the important things, and it is something I have to constantly work on by taking a step back from the hustle and bustle and taking a look at the big picture to find the next thing that needs to be done.

MBJ: What issues most concern MAR members?

NL: There are so many things, I don’t know quite where to begin or what the hottest topic would be. However, a few of them relate to banks entering the real estate market, quality of life, insurance issues (both home insurance and the barriers their clients face and health insurance for the Realtor). What I hear from most is that they all care about their clients and they want the knowledge and tools to do an excellent job for them. They want all real estate practitioners to be educated, ethical and professional.

MBJ: What goals have you set as president of MAR for 2005?

NL: At the end of the day, I would like for each Realtor to know that they received value from MAR for the dues they paid. The association was designed to serve its members, which is why my theme for the year is “It’s all about U.” For 2005 specifically, my goal is to give back to the association that has provided so much more for me than I would have dreamed, from standardized forms to specific education to fellowship with like-minded friends to a connection with Realtors all over the U.S.

MBJ: You have lamented in the past that many people have a not-so-favorable view of real estate as a business and a career. What would you like to see communicated to help change that perception?

NL: That is a hard to answer question, but for the most part I think real estate has been viewed as an easy living. You just put a sign up and they will come. In reality, it is often hard to get everyone to the closing table and to overcome the boulders that are put in the way. Today’s climate requires so much expertise to provide the services the customer deserves. Image campaigns may do a lot of good by putting some focus on the Realtor. The improvement in image will truly come as a result of the campaign and most importantly, the performance of the Realtor. Customer’s needs above commissions.

MBJ: Tell us about the growth you see in the retail sector in the metro area in the next decade.

NL: If I were clairvoyant enough to know the answer to that, I would be out investing in properties in that area. Seriously though, we are seeing the Jackson metro area blossom in so many directions with the Nissan plant on the north end, the tremendous retail under construction east in Flowood and Brandon, the Bass Pro Shop and baseball stadium southeast in Pearl. My personal opinion is that the southern part of the city has quite a bit of growth on the horizon yet and is very under-retailed.

MBJ: Have we done enough throughout the state to foster retail development as an economic development tool?

NL: Absolutely not, but I believe that the tide is beginning to turn. In spite of the fact that there has been money available through TIFs and a few other incentives in specific areas, the incentives for industrial development have far outweighed those for retail development. What I am beginning to hear through the Mississippi Economic Council and others is that we need to be more assertive in providing incentives to the retail sector.

I think the light is beginning to come on. You need only look at the Bass Pro development to see how a retailer can light the fire for development.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.


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