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CHICAGO-The highlight of this year’s RealShare Chicago, which was attended by nearly 400 industry movers and shakers Thursday, was a straightforward interview with John S. Gates Jr. former co-chairman of CenterPoint Properties Trust. Gates, chairman and CEO of a newly formed business venture, Portae Co., discussed the current real estate market and his plans for the future with Real Estate Media group publisher and editorial director Michael Desiato during the popular conference segment, “Inside the Real Estate Mind.”

Gates pointed out that during his 22-year stint at the company, CenterPoint wasn’t just an industrial real estate developer, but an infrastructure developer as well. “Our projects in Joliet and Rochelle pointed that out.” Gates was referring to CenterPoint’s Intermodal Center in Rochelle and the former Joliet Arsenal that was transformed into CenterPoint’s Intermodal Center in Elwood. These two facilities facilitate the distribution of goods into the Chicagoland area that are then redistributed throughout the country.

“Trust is necessary in this business,” Gates said. CenterPoint’s goal from the start was to be the best industrial real estate firm. It was recommendations from lawyers, accountants, bankers, not just other real estate people, who help make the firm highly regarded, he explained to the RealShare audience.Desiato asked Gates, after having experienced working under both a private and public structure, which was better. “This depends on where you are in the evolution of your enterprise,” Gates responded. “Public markets are a great way to do that.” Gates explained that “capital is in abundance right now. People, regardless of whether they are in the public or private sector, want to know that their money is working for them.”

After years of experience in a leadership position, Gates admitted that the qualities that make up a good leader are ingrained in a person. “I think that’s something that hard-wired in you,” he said. “It’s something that can’t be taught. Leaders need integrity, vision, the ability to think laterally and the ability to get others to work for their goals and vision.”

Had he not gone into real estate development, Gates said he would have worked in the nonprofit world. “There is a need for real estate talent at not-for-profits,” he said. “These boards know very little as to how to manage their real estate, their main assets,” he went on to say.

But for now, real estate is where he’ll stay. In his concluding remarks, Gates warned attendees to prepare for a different kind of market three years from now. “The privatization of public infrastructure assets, such as ports and highways, could be the future of how local governments raise more needed capital,” he said.

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