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Tampa Bay Area
Business Observer Friday, Aug. 14, 2015 7 years ago

Crew rows on

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The women's commercial real estate group has made inroads in a male-dominated industry.
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

Nearly 400 real estate professionals and others packed the Hilton Tampa when the region's Commercial Real Estate Women chapter held its annual “Meet the Mayors” economic summit in early June.

And while the crowd's size was largely attributable to the attendance by the trio of municipal leaders from Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Tampa, it also was a testament to the group's popularity.

“I think it's been so successful because there just isn't any other organization whose mission is the success of women in commercial real estate,” said Deborah Sheridan, a Hancock Bank commercial lender and the chapter's 2015 president. “I think that's why it has such a loyal membership and is growing.”

Started nearly two decades ago as an oasis for women in a traditionally male-dominated industry, CREW Tampa Bay today has more than 140 members and a $250,000 annual budget.

Supporters say it has become an indispensable part of the region's commercial real estate landscape.

“It's been a very natural fit for me and my company,” says Bill Muehling, vice president of business development for Tampa-based Masters Construction. “It's just good business.”

In addition to the economic summit, which also featured economist Anirban Basu of Baltimore-based Sage Policy Group Inc., CREW Tampa Bay also holds a popular annual fishing tournament and networking opportunities year round.

Those events, together with CREW's networking potential and a greater number of women entering the industry, has prompted men like Muehling to take a more active role in recent years.

“It's created opportunities for Masters it might not have had otherwise, and it's helped us develop new relationships, as well,” he says.

Sheridan, who notes she was “actively discouraged” from entering commercial real estate a quarter century ago, also believes the Gulf Coast has embraced equality more fully as a society in recent years.

“Today, it's really about bringing the best people together to do the best job,” she says.

Still, CREW hasn't abandoned its original focus.

“We wanted to create something where women could do business together and network,” says Nancy Phaneuf, founder and president of Phaneuf Commercial Realty & Development, in Tampa, and the founder of CREW's Tampa Bay chapter. “That was the catalyst, and I think we've achieved that.”

- K.L. McQuaid

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