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OXNARD, CA-Lee & Associates has opened its third L.A. North/Ventura region office here, the company’s 33rd location and the sixth new Lee office to open in the US this year. The new 4,500-sf office at Arden Realty’s 1000 Town Center Drive, with seven brokers now on its roster and plans to grow to at least 16, opened with former Colliers International brokers John Ochoa and Grant Harris as founding principals.

Mike Tingus, president of Lee & Associates LA North/Ventura Inc., tells GlobeSt.com that, “Our goal was always to get into Ventura,” which the company sees as a key market both for growth within Ventura County as well as growth coming into Ventura from northern Los Angeles County. Tingus, who directs the new Ventura office as well as the firm’s Calabasas and Sherman Oaks offices, tells GlobeSt.com that Lee’s strategy has been to “create a really good regional presence” with the three LA North/Ventura offices.

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

Although Lee has wanted to open a Ventura County office for some time, “It was difficult to open in that market because office space is pretty tight, and it was also a matter of finding the right brokers,” Tingus says. The seven brokers now in the office are working mainly on office and industrial sales and leasing, but Tingus plans eventually to have specialists in sales and leasing of all property types in the office.

A number of Lee brokers in other specialties, like retail and multifamily, are already working the Ventura market from the Calabasas office, and some will likely move to the Oxnard location. “We’ve been working the Ventura market and have a pretty large presence in the eastern part of the county, but this new group gives us more of a presence in the central and western parts of the county,” Tingus explains.

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

Although much of the brokerage industry is consolidating and contracting, Tingus says, “We’re finding that companies and brokers want to work closer to where their homes are and closer to where their client bases are, so we’ve decided that we want to be physically in the markets that we serve.” Another reason for moving into Ventura, the Lee North president says, is that Ventura is one of the first places that companies in Los Angeles look for space when it gets tight in northern L.A. County.

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

Expanding into new offices and recruiting brokers for those offices has actually grown easier for regional firms like Lee in recent years, according to Tingus. “Ten years ago, some of the bigger houses could stay ahead of us because they could spend so much money on the technology infrastructure that brokers need, but today you can pretty much buy it off the shelf, so that playing field has become level,” Tingus comments.

Tingus says that investing in technology infrastructure is important both for serving clients and for recruiting brokers. “You don’t get brokers to move from national firms without having the tools in place,” he says.

Besides the more affordable cost of technology itself today, Lee finds the costs of technology easier to bear today because of the company’s growth. “With Lee now having 33 offices and more than 520 brokers, we can allocate those costs relatively easily now,” Tingus says.

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