James Clark of EnTrust

CHICAGO—Relationships and connections drive the world of commercial real estate. But officials from EnTrust Realty Advisors, a Chicago-based minority-owned business enterprise, worry that other minority-owned firms, nonprofits and foundations don’t have access to that world, and suffer when they have make big real estate choices. In response, company officials, who largely work with institutional clients, have founded a new affiliate called EnTrust Tenant Advisors.

“We want to be the go-to guys when this group needs to make decisions,” Jud Henry, who was just hired by EnTrust to lead the effort, tells GlobeSt.com. “A lot of people, especially entrepreneurs, tend to think they can figure all this out for themselves.”

But perhaps more importantly, he adds, many MBEs feel “they don’t have someone in the business that they can trust. We just felt this was an opportunity to leverage the relationships and networks we’ve built up over the years and offer a full-service tenant representation company that wants to do business with other MBEs and provides the same services the big players get.”

In addition, EnTrust’s new venture will help Fortune 500 companies to fulfill their corporate supplier diversity mandates to include minority business among their preferred service providers.

Prior to heading up this new venture, Henry represented landlords and tenants throughout the Chicagoland area at both NAI Hiffman and CB Richard Ellis. In 2009, he was named CB Richard Ellis “Rookie of the Year” for the Oak Brook and Chicago region. Over a period of 12 months, he completed 51 transactions totaling over 300,000-square-feet. His clients included such firms as GE, State Farm and Private Bank.

“Jud brings an unusual scope of tenant expertise to EnTrust,” says Michael J. Alter, president of the Alter Group and EnTrust co-principal. “He has structured real estate transactions for publicly traded companies, not-for-profit organizations, privately held companies, law firms and technology start-ups.”

“Over the past decade, EnTrust has become a powerful MBE brand within the commercial real estate sector with $1 billion in investment transactions with the entire spectrum of global investors and operators, including institutional entities, REITs, foreign capital, private equity funds and high net-worth investors,” says James I. Clark III, EnTrust’s managing principal. “Given our extensive understanding of lease economics, real estate finance and property markets, we have seen enormous demand to bring our expertise to help tenants manage and execute their occupancy strategy.”

“There are not a lot of people in commercial real estate that look like Jim and I,” Henry adds. “And the simple fact is that many MBEs, when faced with signing a multi-million dollar lease, would prefer dealing with someone that has the same background. My father drove a forklift and my mother worked in a grocery store, and that should mean a lot in commercial real estate, which sometimes looks like a closed fraternity or boys club.”

“Obviously, things are changing,” he says. “Minority-owned businesses are the fastest growing segment of our economy expanding at more than four times the national rate. And as our world changes and more entrepreneurs start businesses, that will provide great opportunities for us.”