Illinois Real Estate Journal and the Real Estate Publishing Group are in the final preparation stages for their 12th Annual Commercial Real Estate Forecast Conference to be held on Jan. 22 at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers. IREJ recently spoke with Michael Millar, a veteran marketing and public relations professional who for 19 years has been integrally involved in the production and management of commercial real estate events, particularly the Grand Daddy of them all, the Forecast Conference.
Illinois Real Estate Journal: How did this Forecast Event get started?
Michael Millar: There are really two answers to that. Going back 19 years ago as Director of Marketing at Grubb & Ellis I was tasked with planning a Grubb & Ellis client event to forecast the CRE markets ahead. In the first year I think we had maybe 250 people. From there a trend was born. In 2002 I joined Real Estate Communications Group. Mike Kramer, the publisher of the products at Real Estate Publishing Group, had a goal to get into and further define the real estate conference business. He had liked the Grubb event. In fact, they sponsored the event a couple of years. So Mike’s vision was to transform what was a client event into a major industry event.
IREJ: Is it pretty much formula-driven now?
Millar: There is a certain formula for various elements of the event, but you always have to be improving on what you did the year before; change it up. At Grubb & Ellis, after four years of individual speakers making PowerPoint-driven presentations, we went to a documentary-like format. We spent hours on location and ultimately ended up with a video program of maybe 40 minutes. It was fascinating to be part of that.
With REPG, after nine years of having an economist-like speaker open the program with a 20-minute overview, we launched a “one-on-one” conversation to kick off the event. It was 2012 and things were beginning to pick up. We were able to get Sam Zell and had Debra Cafaro interview him. The place was packed, hanging on every word of the conversation.
And so a new twist to the formula was added. Last year Chris Kennedy was interviewed by Dan Ryan of Jones Lang LaSalle.
This year we’re having Chicago Deputy Mayor Steven Koch interviewed by Shawn Mobley from Cushman & Wakefield. In fact, we just had a meeting with Steve and Shawn to prepare for the session and it really was fascinating. Here is a man who for years worked for Wall Street firms and he’s now doing high-powered public service as Rahm Emanuel’s right hand. He’s honest, direct, driven and very intelligent. It’s going to be a great discussion.
Another important change in 2014 is to contain the event to a morning, rather than creeping past lunch. So we rearranged the program a bit. We shifted the legal issues impacting real estate panel to a breakout session and added a couple other topics, too. And this year we’ll start those at a time when we’ll be done well in advance of lunch making them more accessible for everyone.
IREJ: Has the event achieved what you set out to do?
Millar: The acceptance of the event has lived up to the expectations. In the early years, the trajectory of the event in terms of increased attendance and sponsorship participation far exceeded expectations. One year, when attendance had probably reached the range of 700 to 800 people, Jay Rickey, who was then the Publisher of Illinois Real Estate Journal, declared the Forecast “the largest event in the commercial real estate industry that doesn’t serve alcohol.” I think he’s right. It’s safe to say, we believe, that the Annual Commercial Real Estate Forecast Conference is the largest, longest running event of its kind in Chicago.
IREJ: Any parting thoughts?
Millar: Just that we’d love to see as many people there as possible. It’s a great feeling, for all who are involved in making this happen, to feel the energy in the room as people are networking, talking deals, exchanging business cards or just making a connection.
The 12th Annual Commercial Real Estate Forecast Conference is being held on Jan. 22, 2014 at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers. For more information go to www.rejournals.com/conferences.
Following is a list of speakers scheduled to appear at the conference:
Welcome and Introductions Andy James, Paine/Wetzel TCN Worldwide
Kick-off Panel One on One Steve Koch, City of Chicago and Shawn Mobley, Cushman & Wakefield
State of the Market Gunnar Branson, NAREIM; Joe Cosenza, Inland Real Estate Acquisitions, Inc.; Michael Flynn, NAI; Tim Hennelly, Ryan Companies US, Inc.; Todd Mintz, DTZ; Drew Nieman, US Equities; and Tony Smaniotto, Colliers International.
There Grows the Neighborhood Susanne Cannon, The Real Estate Center at DePaul University; Rand Diamond, GlenStar; Michael Drew, Structured Development; Aaron Lanski, BMO Harris Bank; and Daniel Rosenberg, Cohen Financial
Breakout Sessions Industrial Market Roy Splansky, SIOR/Venture One; Corey Chase, Podolsky|Circle CORFAC International; John Coleman, Transwestern; Geoff Kasselman, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank; Mark Montana, Cresa Chicago; and Lori Tubbs, Commercial Advantage
Downtown Office Market Adam McCostlin, DTZ; Eric Myers, Avison Young; John Przybyla, Marcus & Millichap; and Allen Rogoway, Cresa Chicago
Suburban Office Jason Steepy, NAI Hiffman; Mike Pontarelli, Foresite Realty; Steve Rachman, Marcus & Millichap; Mike Rolfs, Hamilton Partners; and Dave Trumpy, GlenStar
Investment Susanne Cannon, The Real Estate Center at DePaul University; Marc Boorstein, MJ Partners; Matt Goode, Venture One; Christy Lockridge, Prudential Mortgage Capital Co.; Suzanne Martinez, Avison Young; and Steven Weinstock, Marcus & Millichap
Retail Market Eteri Zaslavsky, Next Realty; Scott Carr, INLAND Real Estate Corporation; Evan Halkias, Cushman & Wakefield; Greg Kirsch, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank; and Derrick McGavic, Newport Capital Partners
1031 Solutions for Investors, Owners & Brokers Duane Lund, Exchange Realty; Chris Faulkner, Breitling Energy Company; Parker Hallam, Crude Royalties
Data Centers Tom Lambrecht, Great River Energy; Scott Bergs, Neutral Path Communications; Dave Leonard , Via West; Bob Solfelt, Mortenson Development, Inc.
Legal Issues Impacting Real Estate Celeste Hammond, The John Marshall Law School; Bob Fernandez, Dentons; Mike Kurtzon, Dykema; Brian Liston, The Law Offices of Liston & Tsantilis; Marcia Owens, Edwards Wildman