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SAN DIEGO-Economists and commercial real estate leaders expect continued job growth here, but they are chalking up 2008 as a tough year and don’t expect to see a turnaround in the regional economy until 2009. Those were some of the themes sounded as 175 industry professionals and others in related fields gathered on Thursday at the fifth annual RealShare San Diego conference and networking event at the Hyatt Regency LaJolla.

Keynote speaker Kelly Cunningham, economist and senior fellow at the San Diego Institute, kicked off RealShare San Diego. Kelly acknowledged the commercial real estate markets in the city and county of San Diego are facing the same challenging conditions as the rest of the country. But he noted that San Diego also benefits from its coastal location, a strong biomedical industry and a growing tourism base.

“I see San Diego continuing to grow,” he said. “We will continue to add jobs.”Cunningham’s keynote address was followed by a town hall meeting that weighed in on the question, “How Will San Diego Fare in 2008?” His remarks and the town hall meeting were part of a combination of individual and panel discussions, keynote remarks and networking opportunities designed for commercial real estate professionals at Thursday’s event.

Panelists agreed that the San Diego area, like the rest of the country, is in uncertain territory, and all said they see a turnaround starting sometime in 2009.”It’s amazing, when you get out of this forest that you’re in, you see the trees,” said Jay Alexander, senior vice president with Colliers International. “In 2010 you’ll have a landlord market again.”

Ken Calegari, senior vice president and division president of Champion Development, said 2008 is poised to be a bad year, when all is said and done.”Over the next year, with consumer spending declining, we’re going to have some difficult times,” Calegari said, adding, “I’m bullish long term.”

During a session titled “Pardon the Interruption” Scott Brusseau, president of Newport National Corp. and Dennis Hearst, senior director with Cushman & Wakefield challenged each other’s views in a fast-paced exchange regarding the San Diego area’s hottest real estate and economic issues. The two discussed everything from local politics to the impact of rising fuel prices.

A session titled “Million Dollar Question” featured Jon Walz, senior director of Cushman & Wakefield; Einar Roden, commercial lending officer for Imperial Capital Bank; Jeff Schindler, chief investment officer for Equastone and John Wickenhiser, senior vice president and manager of Wells Fargo Real Estate Group.

The RealShare San Diego conference wrapped up with two concurrent sessions. One addressed “Prime Opportunities in the San Diego Investment Sales Market,” while the other presented a leasing market forecast.

“There will be a period of opportunity out there,” panelist Chris Rosenstock, managing director of Pacifica Equity Partners, said of opportunities in investment sales in San Diego. “How far off it is, is anybody’s guess. But we don’t see it there right now.”

Talking about leasing, panelist Missy Moore, vice president with The Staubach Co., said fuel costs are playing bigger roles in the decision making process of users. “That’s really been the driver,” she said. Fellow panelist Adam Molnar, senior vice president of Coldwell Banker Commercial/Almar Real Estate Group, said an increasing number of prospective tenants are commissioning commute studies to get a handle on the impact that longer drives will have on employees before they make a move. “I think we’re going to be seeing more and more of that,” he said.

The RealShare San Diego conference and other RealShare events are produced by Real Estate Media, the publisher of GlobeSt.com, Real Estate Forum magazine, Real Estate Southern California magazine and other publications devoted to commercial real estate.

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