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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Return of Manufacturing to the Midwest

By Michael Fonda - Chicago

The Midwest is receiving a lot of buzz lately about the resurgence of manufacturing. As recently as five years ago the Midwest had been saddled with the opprobrium "The Rust Belt."  The latest article I've come across, heralding the revitalization of manufacturing in the Midwest, is Jordan Weissmann's piece in the "Business Insider." The article is entitled, "How the Midwest Became the Epicenter of American Manufacturing Renaissance."  Click here to read it. We have blogged on this phenomena in the past.  If you would like to revisit those Avison Young  blogs, click here and here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, Part III: The Evolution of an “Entrepreneurship Ecosystem” and Foster.ly



by Dan Gonzalez

This is the third part of my focus on the Rosslyn-Ballston (R-B) corridor as an oasis of prosperity in the Washington region.  The three-mile R-B Corridor consists of Rosslyn-Courthouse-Clarendon-Virginia Square-Ballston, all with Metro stops.  This blog entry also coincides with my delivering the opening remarks at the recently held “Day of Foster.ly” in Rossyln.  What is Foster.ly?   Bisnow summed it up well by saying: "If there were doubts about the vibrancy of DC entrepreneurship, A Day of Foster.ly held on May 12th  wiped those out.  Hundreds of tech and non-tech entrepreneurs waved off the gorgeous Saturday afternoon to spend 12 hours in Arlington schmoozing, paneling, listening, learning, and getting their drink and music on.”  (for more info on Foster.ly, please visit: http://foster.ly/about )


Fosterly’s mission fits perfectly with what has been evolving for decades in the R-B Corridor; that is becoming what is known as an “entrepreneurship ecosystem.”   An entrepreneurship ecosystem is an environment where diverse people and ideas can come together and then surround that convergence with resources to grow for the benefit of the region.   As previously noted, the R-B Corridor now has high population density around Metro stops; is home to numerous corporations and government agencies; and has a wide variety of restaurants, bars, and retail to service residents and workers.  In short, the consummate entrepreneurship ecosystem.


The Day of Foster.ly was held at Artisphere in Rosslyn, a venue conceived as the crossroads of the arts and technology -- featuring four performance areas, three visual art galleries, a 4,000-square-foot ballroom, and free Wi-Fi.  Artisphere was designed for people and art to collide.  It was a great day to highlight entrepreneurship in the Washington region and the vibrancy of the R-B Corridor as an entrepreneurship ecosystem. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Culture does matter

by Mark Rose (Toronto)

The temptation to write this blog has been front of mind for some time. It is clear that our industry is in a period of consolidation, with companies announcing new acquisitions on a regular basis. Although the competition may take issue with this, recruiting, mergers and acquisitions are not just about revenue. Any student of business knows that growth – whether organic or as a result of M&A activities – can be powerful, especially if revenue growth levers a fixed overhead structure into expansion of profit margins. Simply growing for growth’s sake is a flawed strategy. Growth according to a clear strategy, best practices in governance and operations, and growth aligned with clients’ needs is what promotes and ensures longevity. When growth like this occurs within a cohesive culture based on strong aspirations, great things can happen.

Just assembling great clients and great people together does not make for a great company. Revenue and profits are critical to success, but a great corporate culture is the key to long-term value creation for all stakeholders.

Our clients want their service providers to be aligned with the client’s objectives, have a deep understanding of their business – and also possess a strategic vision and a solid balance sheet. These critical industry differentiators ensure that real estate services will be executed by an operational partner who is culturally and financially solid and capable of delivering long-term solutions. Clients are frustrated by the instability of debt-laden providers who are focused inward and who miss the opportunity to fully understand the client’s needs and execute the proper solutions. We value our debt-averse culture because it is one less distraction, and we thrive on our non-siloed structure that puts the holistic analysis and solutions ahead of business-unit profitability. By eliminating these unnatural tensions, we as the service-provider can more effectively focus on the long-term success of our clients and our business. Strategies and long-term solutions need to win out over short-term earnings or debt repayments.

At Avison Young, we believe that industry-leading top talent, working as a team, in a non-siloed partnership structure, has and will outperform all existing models to meet the needs of clients and create opportunity for long-term success. Knowing that our clients are looking for best-in-class practices delivered by a team that is governed by best practices, results in the need for alignment and a structure that supports that alignment. This alignment comes from our understanding of clients’ objectives and challenges, and is solved by a holistic approach that leads to strategic advice and execution.

Every service provider claims these attributes, but many fall short because the organization and culture do not support the objective. Today, almost every global competitor is owned and (most importantly) governed by public shareholders or a single shareholder. This means that ownership is detached from the day-to-day business of providing real estate solutions. In fact, the relationship is entirely financial. To be more concise, clients are being serviced by extraordinary women and men who deliver results everyday, but unfortunately have little or no say in the direction of the company that employs them. More importantly, they do not share in the accountability or the benefits of ownership. Clients, employees and owners all must have a deep understanding of what defines success and a real-time connection to long-term thinking in order to execute the absolute best solutions for the clients.

More than 30 years ago, Graeme Young & Associates became the foundation of Avison Young and joined with Avison & Associates to create a leading Canadian-based real estate service firm. The company was formed, in most part, by leaders who hailed from the highly-regarded Knowlton Realty in Canada, and has consistently delivered for clients over the years as a Principal-owned and led, team-oriented, solutions provider. In 2008, the merger of these entities formed the foundation of a company that recognizes and appreciates the individual – and more importantly, understands the power of the integrated team when these top performers come together and put their knowledge and experience to work for the client’s benefit.

Our Principals own the company and have, at the core of our belief system, the proper alignment of financial, operational and reputational risk on one hand and (potential) benefits of ownership on the other. This means those who manage accounts and clients are accountable to, and benefit from, client satisfaction. That is the perfect alignment created more than 30 years ago and preserved at Avison Young to this day.

Since the beginning, we have turned away from revenue producers who do not add positively to our culture and our clients’ strategic tool kits. Our mission is clear – to provide our 2 x 5 x 4 strategy (client types multiplied by service needs for each client multiplied again by strategic core asset types) in all major markets of the world. We know our culture and have hand-picked the top talent who believe in alignment, team work, and a culture of honesty and integrity. Approximately 700 individuals have joined us in the last few years and, while there are too many to mention, they have made us a better and more exciting company. The work of our leaders and managers and the success of our recruiting and acquisitions came full circle with the addition of Arthur J. Mirante in April.

Arthur, who was the former Global CEO of Cushman & Wakefield, came to Avison Young after 41 years with C&W. As we all do, he sees the prospects of a fast-growing Canadian, now North American (and soon to be global), company, whose Principals are fiercely loyal to each other, protective of our vibrant culture, and singularly focused on delivering for our clients. So, after we celebrate recruits, client wins and successes, mergers and acquisitions and all aspects of growth, the one common truth is: culture is what drives us, culture is what holds the strategy together and, therefore… culture does matter.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

By Michael Fonda - Chicago

If you're a mother, you'll appreciate reading an article authored by John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio in today's Los Angeles Times. The rest of us should forward this article to our mothers or mothers we know. The article is a preview to a book about feminine business models that John and Michael will be publishing later this year.

So, remember to send flowers, spring for brunch, and forward this article, "Want to succeed in business? Call mom."

Monday, May 7, 2012

All Railroads Lead to Chicago

By Michael Fonda (Chicago)

In today's New York Times, there is an article about rail traffic in the United States. Click here to read the article. If you're interested in learning how TEU containers move around the country carrying the products that end up in your office, home, or apartment, this article is a good primer.  The author, John Schwartz, describes the $3.2 billion in improvements that are scheduled for the Chicago area in order to help move the containers, boxcars, and tanker cars through Chicago faster so that shipments arrive at their destinations quicker.

Some of the points that Schwartz makes are:

  • Six of the United States' seven largest railroads pass through Chicago.
  • A quarter of all rail traffic touches Chicago.
  • The $3.2 billion project will:
    • Replace 25 rail intersections with overpasses.
    • Smooth the flow of 1300 passenger and freight trains each day.
    • Create 50 miles of new track.
There may be romance in constructing high-speed passenger rail but if we're going to spend the capital of  U.S. citizens on the steel wheels, let's spend it on freight trains. That's where it will make the greatest impact on the economy.

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