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ORLANDO-Although most top-level commercial and corporate real estate executives vigorously espouse the anti-race discrimination line, few will openly discuss the subject when it comes to their own operations, GlobeSt.com bureau chiefs learned in a random sampling for this article.

“I see no barrier (for minorities) to top management due to race,” George D. Livingston, founder/president of Maitland, FL-based Realvest Partners Inc., tells GlobeSt.com. “Experience, ability and success rule.”

At his own firm, Livingston concedes, hiring minorities of either gender to middle management and top-level positions, has been challenging and not always successful. “I have personally found it hard to recruit minority brokers, and we have tried,” says Livingston, a longtime committee member of Fiabci, the Paris-based organization of international corporate real estate executives.

Realvest has one African-American broker. The company’s controller is also African-American. Realvest is also scouting for an Arabic-speaking broker. “For minority brokers to advance, they first need experience and then success at what they had been doing,” Livingston tells GlobeSt.com. “Keep in mind that, until recently, there were few minorities in this business. In many cities, for many years, you saw few women running real estate companies or brokerages, but that is not true anymore. The same will be true for minorities if they get into the field and can prove themselves.”

In Chicago, real estate company owners Dempsey J. Travis and Elzie L. Higginbottom, both African-American, agree with Livingston that more minorities will be occupying executive suites in the near future, but they don’t see that change occurring soon. “I think things are changing,” Travis tells GlobeSt.com Midwest bureau chief Mark Ruda. “But if you’re looking at the speedometer, are we going two miles per hour or 50 miles per hour? I don’t know.”

Ruda reports that when Travis takes a mental tour of Chicago’s executive suites, he can see only one African-American. “We’re not part of the good ol’ boys network,” Travis says.

Still, Travis is the first African-American member of the Federal National Mortgage Association’s (Fannie Mae) board of directors and the Mortgage Brokers Association of America. “Personally, I don’t have any complaints,” Travis tells Ruda. “But I’m concerned about my brothers.”

But there’s no need for worry if brokers–of any race, creed or nationality–apply themselves and produce in the real estate arena, contends Dean Fritchen, senior associate, Arvida Realty Services Commercial Division in Winter Park, FL. “Real estate is one of the last bastions of pure capitalism, and capitalism really cares little about your ethnicity,” Fritchen, a former corporate communications director at New York’s Madison Square Garden, tells GlobeSt.com. “It cares about whether you produce or not.”

The Arvida broker says: “In real estate, this is limited only by the individual’s head. In most of this world, there is not that much middle management because most of us who labor in this vineyard are easily and directly measured by our production, be it in sales, hours of labor or ideas.”

In New York, GlobeSt.com Northeast bureau chief Glen Thompson found no real estate company executives who would discuss the minority topic on the record.

And in Portland, OR, West Coast bureau chief Brian Miller reports: “At the most senior levels of commercial real estate, the white male is firmly in control.” Among Portland’s top 20 commercial developers, Miller states, no females occupy the executive suites. In the multifamily development arena, only Hoyt Street Properties’ president Tiffany Sweitzer has cracked the male-dominated upper-echelon gate.

Aware of the minority executive issue, Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute in Chicago is allocating about one third of its 2002 national advertising campaign to diversity issues, hoping to attract more minority candidates to its CCIM designation program. “Clearly, diversity is in the minds of industry leaders,” Robin L. Webb, a member of the national CCIM Management team and vice president/managing broker of Arvida, tells GlobeSt.com.

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