Mike Tingus, president of Lee & Associates LA North/VenturaInc., tells GlobeSt.com that, "Our goal was always to get intoVentura," which the company sees as a key market both for growthwithin Ventura County as well as growth coming into Ventura fromnorthern Los Angeles County. Tingus, who directs the new Venturaoffice as well as the firm's Calabasas and Sherman Oaks offices,tells GlobeSt.com that Lee's strategy has been to "create a reallygood regional presence" with the three LA North/Venturaoffices.

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Besides Ochoa and Harris, the other brokers at the new Leeoffice include Bill Hagelis, Linda Hagelis, Paul Capra, David Kimand Chris Staton. All were formerly with Colliers except forStaton, a recent university graduate.

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Although Lee has wanted to open a Ventura County office for sometime, "It was difficult to open in that market because office spaceis pretty tight, and it was also a matter of finding the rightbrokers," Tingus says. The seven brokers now in the office areworking mainly on office and industrial sales and leasing, butTingus plans eventually to have specialists in sales and leasing ofall property types in the office.

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A number of Lee brokers in other specialties, like retail andmultifamily, are already working the Ventura market from theCalabasas office, and some will likely move to the Oxnard location."We've been working the Ventura market and have a pretty largepresence in the eastern part of the county, but this new groupgives us more of a presence in the central and western parts of thecounty," Tingus explains.

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Tingus tells GlobeSt.com that the decision to open an office inOxnard, which is about 20 miles from the Lee Calabasas office,reflects the company's strategy of maintaining locations close toits clients.The Sherman Oaks office, for example, is only 12 milesfrom the Calabasas office.

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Although much of the brokerage industry is consolidating andcontracting, Tingus says, "We're finding that companies and brokerswant to work closer to where their homes are and closer to wheretheir client bases are, so we've decided that we want to bephysically in the markets that we serve." Another reason for movinginto Ventura, the Lee North president says, is that Ventura is oneof the first places that companies in Los Angeles look for spacewhen it gets tight in northern L.A. County.

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The Ventura market historically has been driven primarily by theindustrial sector, but that is changing, according to Tingus. Hesays that industrial now probably accounts for roughly half of themarket, with office constituting one-quarter or less and theremainder consisting of retail and multifamily. But the retail andoffice are growing quickly, so those proportions will most likelychange, Tingus adds.

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Expanding into new offices and recruiting brokers for thoseoffices has actually grown easier for regional firms like Lee inrecent years, according to Tingus. "Ten years ago, some of thebigger houses could stay ahead of us because they could spend somuch money on the technology infrastructure that brokers need, buttoday you can pretty much buy it off the shelf, so that playingfield has become level," Tingus comments.

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Tingus says that investing in technology infrastructure isimportant both for serving clients and for recruiting brokers. "Youdon't get brokers to move from national firms without having thetools in place," he says.

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Besides the more affordable cost of technology itself today, Leefinds the costs of technology easier to bear today because of thecompany's growth. "With Lee now having 33 offices and more than 520brokers, we can allocate those costs relatively easily now," Tingussays.

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