Mark F. Irgens
Mark Irgens, one of the top commercial real estate developers in the Milwaukee area, has done business through several economic cycles. He says economic downturns and recoveries present unique opportunities.
"I've been around real estate long enough to have experienced the ups and downs of not one, not two, but three and a half recessions. For me, it all started in 1977, when I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and my real real estate education began.
"In the late '70s, inflation was threatening to cripple our national economy. Enter President Reagan and a new approach that tamed inflation, which led to a period of expansion. Then came the Tax Reform Act of 1986, which altered the tax code again, this time overnight, negatively affecting the way depreciation impacted funding of real estate projects, investor returns and then funding sources. Not surprisingly, a real estate downswing ensued.
"Around 1990, the real estate recession hit. Commercial real estate was being over built. Spec development ground to a near halt. Banks were lending with new rules. Sound familiar?
"Flash forward another 20 years to the Great Recession we've just survived. This is the toughest down market that I have experienced in my 35-year career. But thankfully, economic indicators are pointing up. Companies are hiring. Vacancy rates are dropping. Homes are selling. Consumers are spending.
"But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, there are a few key principles that can help guide us all through the good times and bad. Remember that downturns provide opportunities. Stay true to your core principles. Conduct business within your means.
"Our biggest asset is our employees, and we need to invest in their future too. Now is a time to look for new hires who may not normally have been available, as they were casualties from the recession. Put people in the right places, and your team will have a solid foundation to move forward.
"At Irgens, our core motto is: 'We lease for food.' We know where our bread is buttered.
"We all underestimated the depth and duration of the Great Recession. But as we emerge, opportunities that may not normally have been out there are. Now it's time to seize them."