Welcoming the World

U.S. Brokers Are Leveraging MIPIM's Global Reach to Expand Their Business Opportunities.

By: Carol Weinrich Helsel, principal of Pastiche Communications and former NAR representative at MIPIM as managing director of international operations.

Nate Johnson was eagerly working on his first international transaction. While attending an international real estate conference in 2019, Johnson had connected with a German investor. He saw an opportunity to bring the investor into St. Louis, so he returned home and got to work on a proposal.

Unfortunately, the emergence of COVID-19 scuttled the investor’s plans, says Johnson, CIPS, broker-owner of Real Estate Solutions, a commercial and residential brokerage in St. Louis. But that hasn’t dampened Johnson’s spirit. He made other connections at the conference, known as MIPIM, and says he’ll attend again in the future.

Commercial brokers from Miami to San Diego recently took advantage of NAR’s return, after a two-year pandemic hiatus, to the MIPIM international property event. This year’s event was March 15–18.

“I’m anxious to get back to face-to-face business,” said Michael Hinton, CCIM, C2EX, in the weeks leading up to the event. “We embraced meeting technology the past couple of years, but it can’t replace the experience of meeting someone in person to build a business relationship,” says Hinton, senior associate with Apex Capital Realty in Miami.

MIPIM is held annually in Cannes, France, attracting 25,000 investors, developers, corporate end users, and other commercial real estate stakeholders. NAR hosts the U.S. Pavilion, which provides participating sponsors and partners with an international stage to promote their market as a destination for global capital. The pavilion also serves as a kind of home base to REALTORS® who attend the conference to network and promote projects. In 2019, the last pre-pandemic MIPIM, 24% of the 25,000 attendees represented investment companies—including 80 of the top 100 real estate investors, representing $3 trillion in assets under management.

Tim Weisheyer, CIPS, C2EX, principal broker for dbrCommercial Real Estate Services in Celebration, Fla., attended his first MIPIM this year. “People call me from all over the world looking for land and development opportunities in the Orlando area,” says Weisheyer. “MIPIM gave me the chance to connect with those looking to invest in one of the country’s fastest-growing regions and introduce them to my listings.”

Mind-Blowing Connections

Business development at MIPIM is typically a multiyear process. Johnson first attended MIPIM as part of the Missouri REALTORS® leadership team. “By my second visit, I was better prepared to connect with investors and developers that could be beneficial to my business,” he says. “We didn’t have active listings that we thought would align with investor interests, so my partner and I put together a prospectus of the type of opportunities that painted a picture of what’s possible in our market.”

The strategy worked. Johnson connected with the German investor, who was interested in urban neighborhood investment opportunities. “I came home and pulled together enough parcels to create the scale the developer wanted and to make the numbers work,” says Johnson. “We discussed plans for the investor to come to St. Louis, but COVID changed everything. I hope to reignite the conversation, and I have other leads still hanging out there. The global connections made at MIPIM are mind-blowing.”

Johnson’s strategy is evolving. He plans to partner with large firms in the St. Louis market for his next trip to create the desired business outcomes.

Weisheyer took a similar approach to prepare for MIPIM. “I surveyed central Florida projects for large tracts of land and opportunities for mixed-use development and compiled a couple of dozen potential projects.” Weisheyer relies on a team of experts from various disciplines to differentiate himself. “My team includes a J.D. in immigration law who advises on immigration and visas, an engineer who understands what will be required to develop a property, and an MBA in finance who can work the numbers.”

MIPIM 2022 Sponsors & Partners

  • Florida REALTORS®
  • Missouri REALTORS®
  • New Jersey REALTORS®
  • NC REALTORS® (North Carolina)
  • Tennessee REALTORS®
  • Coastal Carolinas Association of REALTORS®
  • Hudson Gateway Association of REALTORS®
  • Illinois REALTORS®
  • Rhode Island Association of REALTORS®
  • Greater San Diego Association of REALTORS®
  • Miami REALTORS®

NAR's USA Pavilion at MIPIM

What To Know Before You Go

MIPIM offers business opportunities for anyone willing to work to make connections and commit to a long-term strategy to turn those connections into relationships. The brokers cited in this article offer the following advice for first-time MIPIM attendees.

  • Build a robust profile in the MIPIM database.
  • Research participating companies and individuals with whom you want to connect.
  • Request appointments, attend sessions, and visit exhibits related to your interests, but be open to chance meetings.
  • Come prepared with market information and project possibilities.
  • Follow up with contacts to build relationships.

Do Your Homework

“I was like a deer in the headlights at my first MIPIM,” says Bill Caton, CIPS, of Caton Commercial Real Estate Group in Naperville, Ill. “I wasn’t prepared for what was coming at me, but I walked away with a sense of the value that could come from MIPIM.”  Caton notes the lack of local competitors. “I might be one of a handful of Illinois brokers at MIPIM.” Caton’s business associate, Andy Velkme, CIPS, agrees. “Given the small percentage of U.S. participants compared to the rest of the world, Americans really stand out,” Velkme says.

“MIPIM was transformational to my business,” says Caton, but he stresses the need to do your homework and come prepared—including researching registered investors and developers and setting up appointments in advance. “Getting appointments is not easy, but they produce results,” says Caton, who recommends creating a robust profile for the online attendee database.

“Based on my profile, a German investor reached out to request a meeting. We spent 30 minutes discussing his interest in importing a European co-living concept into the U.S. The company owner flew to Chicago, where I had arranged appointments to view multifamily housing properties,” says Caton. The visit resulted in the lease of a Chicago building and the sale of a D.C. building.

Caton’s firm soon became the preferred brokerage for the company’s central U.S. expansion. While the co-living concept is no longer in operation (partly due to COVID-19), the original connection continues to pay off. “We have business relationships with developers all around the U.S. and clients in the U.K., Germany, France, and elsewhere,” says Caton. “That first deal elevated our business from a small boutique company to a national and international firm in four years.”

Velkme acknowledges that his firm’s success following one meeting is atypical. “MIPIM is a great place to create relationships, but business is more likely to come from repeated follow-up and subsequent opportunities over multiple years to reconnect and build on the relationship.” Velkme recommends making as many contacts as possible while at MIPIM and being open to unexpected opportunities. “Some of my best contacts came from talking to someone while waiting in a line for a sandwich,” says Velkme.

Domestic Ripple Effect

The domestic ripple effect of MIPIM is a common theme among its attendees. Jennifer Wollmann, e-PRO®, c2ex, a Coral Gables, Fla., REALTOR® affiliated with the commercial division of Berkshire Hathaway, connected with a New York–based investment group at MIPIM, where she learned of the group’s interest in the South Florida market. Wollmann now reaches out periodically about projects that may be of interest.

Alex Ruggieri, CCIM, CRE, senior investment advisor with North Star Equities in Champaign County, Ill., says he beat out local and Chicago competitors to secure a $6 million hotel listing by promoting his MIPIM network. “Ultimately, the buyer was local, but it was my international connections that got me that listing.” Caton reports similar experiences. “We get listings that have absolutely no global play but come to us because they know us from the global side of our business.”

Tony Harrington, CIPS, C2EX, a residential broker with The Property Shop in Wilmington, N.C., added international branding to his company’s profile after attending MIPIM.“Almost immediately, I got a lead from a French company looking to relocate to the region that included a residential component.” Harrington partners with local commercial brokers on commercial transactions and uses information from the region’s economic development agency to educate potential investors about the Wilmington market.

Dennis Pruitt & Nate Johnson close up, Spring 2022, Commercial Connections

@Jason Dailey Photo

Partner With Economic Development Groups

Ties to area economic development agencies are an often-cited benefit of attending MIPIM. Nate Johnson relies on Missouri Partnership — a public-private economic development organization — as a source for market statistics to provide to potential investors. Dennis Pruitt, vice president of business development for Missouri Partnership, attends MIPIM as part of the Missouri REALTORS® delegation. “Dennis is instrumental in putting together economic information that showcases Missouri as an investment destination,” says Johnson, adding that “Dennis helps people understand what ‘a Missouri’ is.”

“All of our projects involve real estate,” says Pruitt. “If we don’t have a product, we can’t win the project.” Pruitt describes the group’s relationship with the commercial real estate community as symbiotic. “We’re all interested in promoting the economic viability of our market and attracting companies to our state.”

Ties to area economic development groups deliver value locally as well. Cynthia Shelton, CCIM, CRE, with Land-Qwest Commercial in Orlando, says she made many great contacts with the Florida economic development agency while at MIPIM. “I got an education on opportunities available back home that I didn’t know about.” Shelton says MIPIM is also a great forum to meet other U.S. commercial practitioners. “You learn their niche. I specialize in retail but have met investors looking for office or industrial opportunities. I’ve made several referrals to U.S. contacts at MIPIM.”

A Showcase For Innovation

Aside from being an arena for developing a business network, MIPIM is a showcase for cutting-edge property technology. “I saw my first multistory warehouse at MIPIM some years back,” says Jose Maria “Chepe” Serrano, CCIM, C2EX, of New Miami Realty in Florida. “You see the trends and where things are headed.”

“It’s great for anyone working in development,” says Wollmann. “In addition to the networking, your business will benefit from understanding how creative uses of new construction technology can bring down the cost of development. MIPIM helps you think outside the box.”

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Building a U.S.–Based Event

After experiencing MIPIM, 2021 NAR President Charlie Oppler advocated for a U.S.-based event where commercial stakeholders could come together to share insights, source capital, and showcase investment opportunities. C5 (named for Capital, Connect, Commerce, Community, Commercial) launched in September 2021 in New York City. Despite the pandemic-related challenges (U.S. travel restrictions largely prevented foreign investor participation), attendees found value in the event.

T. Dallas Smith, CEO of T. Dallas Smith & Company in Atlanta, says C5 was a place where he met like-minded professionals. “I made some good connections there,” says Smith. “NAR provided a platform that exposes attendees to true commercial real estate. I spoke to other attendees who appreciated the transparency and the opportunity to have honest conversations about what is happening in the industry,” says Smith.

C5 2022 will be Aug. 15–17 at the New York Marriott Marquis.

C5 Summit

Check back for 2023's C5 Summit information. Commercial. Capital. Connect. Commerce. Community.

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