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ATLANTA-Locally based Hunter Realty Associates Inc. is making moves to expand, with plans to open offices in Chicago and Dallas over the next couple of years. The hotel investment services firm has brought on hotel veteran John Sturgess as managing director to lead the national expansion, which includes a newly established office in Minneapolis.

Sturgess has been in the hotel industry for more than 20 years, and previously served as corporate senior vice president of development for Carlson Hotels Worldwide, where he helped increase new contracts by more than 220%. Prior to Carlson, Sturgess was vice president of development for Prime Hospitality Corp. and has also worked at Doubletree Hotels Corp. and Richfield Hospitality Services Inc.

“I have worked closely with Hunter Realty over the past eight years, and have been on the advisory board of their conference for the last five years,” which led to his decision to join the firm, he tells GlobeSt.com. “They have had a lot of success on a regional basis and now their focus is the same as mine–to go national. These guys are here for the long term, and they’re looking to position themselves so when the market comes back they are a national brand with offices in strategic locations.”

As the company expands its reach, it will look to open additional offices moving west, reveals Sturgess. For now, he will work to recruit brokers and make sure the firm has the “right talent on board,” then will continue building its client base of hotel buyers and sellers interested in major, upscale and focused-service hotel segments under branded companies such as Hilton and Marriott.

“We believe the timing is right to initiate this expansion,” said CEO Bob Hunter in a release. “Transaction activity was off some 80% in 2008 as a result of the instability in the credit markets. Our research indicates a significant pent-up demand to both sell and buy hotels, which we expect will accelerate as the year progresses and into 2010 as the credit markets begin to recover.”

Hunter Realty Associates was founded in 1978 and currently has offices in Atlanta, Washington, DC and Minneapolis. The firm focuses on hotel brokerage and investment advisory services.

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