u201cWe have more quality appointments this year than we have had in the previous couple of years,u201d says Umansky.<@SM>u201cActivity has picked up year over year since 2007 and we expect the same at this year's conference,u201d says Duff. u201cStaying positive and spreading good news leads to new opportunities and a healthy outlook,u201d says Cox.<@SM>u201cOur economy is steadily improving, the unemployment rate continues to shrink,u201d says Reenders.<@SM>u201cHigh attendance of the show is indicative of the demand that is out there, and the amount of capital looking at retail-specific investments is huge,u201d says Tramontano.

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LAS VEGAS—“We are seeing continued recovery throughout Southern California’s Inland Empire market which is attracting national retailers, developers and investors to look seriously at making commitments in the marketplace.” That is according to Brad Umansky, founder and president of Progressive Real Estate Partners. He tells GlobeSt.com that “Our office currently has over 100 for sale and lease listings in the Inland Empire. We have more quality appointments this year than we have had in the previous couple of years.”

Umansky is one of the many executives GlobeSt.com chatted with in preparation for next week’s ICSC RECon conference in Las Vegas. Brandon Duff, regional director in Stan Johnson Co.’s Chicago office, tells GlobeSt.com that he expects this year’s conference to be one of the busiest he has seen since 2007. “Activity has picked up year over year since 2007 and we expect the same at this year’s conference.”

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At the end of last year—approximately six months before the conference—clients started asking his company for pricing feedback and advisory on assets to discuss during the conference, he explains. “It is definitely a sign of strong activity when clients are asking those questions six before the conference is to take place.”

Robert L. Moore, senior managing director in the Las Vegas office of Faris Lee Investments, tells GlobeSt.com that “In past years at ICSC RECon, there was an atmosphere of caution that in some cases resulted in missed opportunities. However, as testimony to a strengthening economy, this year [we] are seeing less caution and a more optimistic outlook resulting in more meetings with owners and investors than usual.”

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Patrick Cox, managing director and chief development officer of ValueRock Realty Partners, tells GlobeSt.com that the industry and its leadership is generally an optimistic group. “We have navigated through both hyper markets and rough waters. Staying positive and spreading good news leads to new opportunities and a healthy outlook.”

For this year’s RECon event, Cox hopes to make contacts with professionals in the healthcare sector. “Both urgent care and immediate access to physicians in a clinic format with storefront access appears to be a dynamic that is a viable opportunity to the shopping center merchandising mix,” he says. “It is our goal this year to focus on cross marketing to the retailer within all of our properties and respective space opportunities that exist, versus a selective approach or (one-off) deal-making. Because of our leasable mass, we need to be strategic about how we can influence the retailer to consider multiple opportunities within the ValueRock portfolio with one-stop shopping.”

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For County of San Bernardino economic development administrator, Kelly Reenders, the plan is to meet with retailers as well as retail developers who are looking to expend or enter the County’s market. “Our economy is steadily improving, the unemployment rate continues to shrink, and housing and retail activity has seen substantial gains, so I am also excited about the types of meetings we will have this year,” she tells GlobeSt.com.

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According to Chris Tramontano, managing director at Faris Lee Investments, “from what we have been seeing so far, this RECON show will be one of the busiest since the peak in 2007.” What’s even more interesting, he tells GlobeSt.com, “is that the retail property marketplace is seeing activity even higher than what we saw at the peak in 2007.”

And despite the conference being over on Tuesday, Faris Lee has meetings set up Sunday through Wednesday. “High attendance of the show is indicative of the demand that is out there, and the amount of capital looking at retail-specific investments is huge.”

For Faris Lee managing director Lisa Brady, in addition to client meetings, she is planning to dedicate a good portion of her time this year to meeting with lenders, servicers and receivers. “These meetings will help me gain timely insight for my clients to help them navigate investment strategies for maturing CMBS loans over the next 18 to 24 months that will affect the supply-side of the market.”