LAS VEGAS-CB Richard Ellis Inc., already the largest commercial real estate servicesorganization in the world, is setting its sights on solidifying and expanding that position byunifying its approach in capital markets and client service. The company, at its annual WorldConference here this week, outlined plans for further melding its mortgage-banking andinvestment-sales divisions as well as standardizing intra-company communications in the client-services arena and other facets of its business.

Approximately 3,000 CBRE executives, professionals and staff attended the conference, whichfocused on the theme “The Power of One,” a reference to the importance of each individual in thefirm as well as the importance of operating with unified goals and strategies. The attendees alsoheard from an industry outsider, former Reagan Administration CIA official Herb Meyer, onexternal forces affecting the overall global business outlook.

Brian Stoffers and Greg Vorwaller, head of CBRE capital markets and investment salesrespectively, outlined the company’s previously announced initiative to unify the efforts of theL.J. Melody mortgage-banking division and the investment-sales division. The two divisionsalready do a substantial amount of business together and have been working together informallyfor years, they said, but the new push is to formalize and improve both the quality and the level ofcooperation between the two.

Stoffers told the attendees that unification process is “just in the second inning,” while Vorwaller described the efforts to unify the operations of the two divisions as an example of how the entire firm is focusing on coordinating resources to do a better job on all client assignments.

Chris Ludeman, president of U.S. brokerage, sounded a similar theme in outlining how the company’s strategy and new technologies are aimed at improving its performance both onthe tenant rep side and on landlord rep assignments.

Ludeman said that CBRE never wants to be “one of those companies where the client is being approached by a host of different brokers from different markets without any of the brokers knowing what the others are doing.”That new technology, he explained, will refine CBRE’s intra-company coordination in pursuing and executing assignments to levels that were “unimaginable” just a few years ago.Ludeman, who returned to CBRE earlier this year after an absence of three years in which he was a principal of his own development and investment firm, said that even in that short time theexpectations of clients have grown so that real estate services firms must learn to coordinate theirefforts in pursuit and execution of assignments if they want to remain competitive. This isespecially true in the global arena in which CBRE operates, Ludeman said.The outlook for that international marketplace was the topic of the keynote address by Meyer, who is a frequent commentator on world events on TV talk shows. He mixed history,statistics and long-range demographics forecasting into his speech, which listed the economic and geopolitical factors that he considers likely to shape the future.

Meyer cited China’s rapid economic rise, the war in Iraq, slowing birth rates that threaten toreduce the populations of developed countries and the transforming global economy as theprimary factors influencing the future of the world–and in turn the future of commercialreal estate. China is determined to provide jobs for the hundreds of thousands of people that it isrelocating from the countryside to cities, Meyer explained, and it has embraced manufacturing asthe way to provide the jobs. Those jobs are producing low-cost goods that American consumers crave, he said, creating a co-dependence between the two countries that could turn out for good or for ill.

Regarding the slowing birth rates, Meyer cited statistics showing that populations in Europe andother developed parts of the world could decline by tens of millions in coming decades if theirbirth rates continue to dwindle below replacement levels. Calling himself an optimist who believesthe US economy will adjust to the transforming global economy and continue to grow, he saidbusiness trends suggest that demand for housing as well as office, industrial and retail spacewill increase, not decline as some have suggested.

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