LOS ANGELES—The commercial real estate industryis beginning to realize the value of young people entering the field and what theycan offer in terms of fresh ideas, technology and insight intoother young minds. GlobeSt.com spoke exclusively withWalter F. Conn, president of brokerage forCharles Dunn Co., about its investment in youngpeople, in addition to issues affecting Los Angeles commercial realestate.

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GlobeSt.com: Your firm's professionals focus onexpertise in specific submarkets. Why does it take thisapproach?

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Conn: We are landlord and regionallyfocused, often in specific submarkets and/or property types. Thatin itself is a specialization within our industry. By focusing onthose individual markets and product types, we become dominant,sought-after experts with intimate market knowledge. This knowledgeultimately leads to more-exclusive assignments and a strongermarket share in specific areas and product types.

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GlobeSt.com: How is commercial real estate affectedby Los Angeles' ongoing transportation infrastructuredevelopments?

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Conn: Los Angeles is becomingincreasingly attracted to the idea of faster, more-sophisticatedmass transit to diminish the sprawl. Where the Metro railextensions and stations arrive, the demographics changedramatically. Along with the obvious adjustments to trafficpatterns, the services offered in these areas also evolve. From abrokerage perspective, agents and owners must anticipate the typesof businesses and services that will best meet the needs of thetransforming neighborhoods. From a property-management perspective,maintenance needs change due to changing property uses. Everythingfrom common areas, power usage, security and normal wear-and-tearrepairs are affected as submarkets evolve around public-transithubs.

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GlobeSt.com: Emerging careers in the tech andentertainment industries are flooding Los Angeles' urban hubs withstart-up businesses and young residents. What role does commercialreal estate play in supporting their growth?

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Conn: We are seeing an influx of youngpeople who care deeply about urban community. The youngergeneration is less tied to the idea of paying a higher price for abetter area. As commercial real estate agents and businessorganizations provide opportunities for these people to thrive inredeveloping submarkets, our Millennials createjobs in tech, entertainment and lifestyle-oriented businesses.

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Commercial real estate can contribute to civic growth bysupporting organizations that promote communityredevelopment. We work closely withCentral City Association, a business advocacygroup that lobbies for the revitalization of areas such DTLA'score. As groups like these secure better conditions for businessesand their specific needs, we fill and manage properties withcompanies and ventures that will benefit the communities in whichthey own or lease space. One of the most successful examples ofthis is the case of the Broadway corridor. When the CCAsuccessfully worked with L.A. City Councilman JoséHuizar to update and modernize some of the zoning in thearea—a very rare occurrence on the part of the City—both thebusiness and residential sectors of the area begantransforming much faster.

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GlobeSt.com: Speaking of young people, Charles Dunnhas been hiring and training a good amount of young brokers overthe past few years. Can you tell me about the strategy behindthis?

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Conn: Just a few years ago, almost 75%of our company was aged between 50 and 70 years. Today, almost 75%of our team is between the ages of 25 and 40. We're being proactiveabout our future in an evolving marketplace. The old CRE hiringmodel is to pay high signing bonuses to bring in veteransalespeople—which is a huge risk because clients don't alwaysfollow the salesperson, not to mention that buying experiencedoesn't guarantee a relationship with the greater team.Additionally, hiring only mature salespeople often means that theycould be set in their ways, and their sales and marketingstrategies may not be as cutting edge. Why not invest in youngpeople, who don't have preconceived notions about the nature of thecommercial real estate business, who explore and conquer newlyengaged submarkets and who adapt rapidly to the changing structuresof information and technology? Charles Dunn Co.'s response andinvestment is in our Fast Start Program, which trains emerging realestate professionals from scratch. By investing more time and moneyon them upfront, we are seeing that the most industrious of thesestudents become star players on our team. They're bringing usmarket share in new territories; they're cross-selling; they'reintroducing new practices into our industry. They also infuseenergy, enthusiasm and a renewed sense of purpose.

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Carrie Rossenfeld

Carrie Rossenfeld is a reporter for the San Diego and Orange County markets on GlobeSt.com and a contributor to Real Estate Forum. She was a trade-magazine and newsletter editor in New York City before moving to Southern California to become a freelance writer and editor for magazines, books and websites. Rossenfeld has written extensively on topics including commercial real estate, running a medical practice, intellectual-property licensing and giftware. She has edited books about profiting from real estate and has ghostwritten a book about starting a home-based business.