A lot has changed since the early 1990s. Florida Gulfcoast Commercial Association of Realtors' focus on clients and unity hasn't.
A quarter century ago, the Tampa area's commercial real estate brokerage community was mostly a loose confederation of agents who did deals together but lacked any greater cohesion.
Bob Zegota and a core group of experienced agents decided to change all that. Together, they formed the Florida Gulfcoast Commercial Association of Realtors (FGCAR) to promote greater unity and best practices for clients, and to establish a mentoring program for young brokers.
Twenty five years later, FGCAR remains a pillar of the region's brokerage community, one that provides education, networking opportunities and friendship — with an aim toward better serving clients.
“I've always felt it's important to belong to something that's bigger than one's self,” says Mark Blanton, broker at Alliance Exchange LLC, in Tampa, and the group's 2014 president, during a video shown as part of kickoff luncheon to celebrate FGCAR's silver anniversary over the next year.
“In the end, this group helps make our clients successful.”
Nearly 100 members attended the kickoff luncheon, held at Tampa's Bay Harbor Hotel.
Richard Fisher, the group's leader in 2000, told the group that the ties FGCAR created have both sustained the group and “kept us relevant.”
“The key word, the common thread here is relationships,” says Fisher. “It's been great for us to be able to learn and grow and form relationships with each other.”
It was a sentiment echoed by many speakers during the event, including Cushman & Wakefield Florida market leader Larry Richey.
“The relationships I've developed at FGCAR over the years have, I believe, helped me be more successful,” says Richey, the group's 2012 president.
“It's just so much easier to do a deal with someone you know than someone you don't know,” says Steven Klein, the group's incoming president for 2018.
Richey says, too, that the group has helped the brokerage community connect across geography.
“Thinking back 25 years ago, Tampa Bay was then a very different place,” Richey added. “Commercial real estate businesses in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties were separated by the bay. But FGCAR helped bridge the bay for the industry, and as an organization I think it's also bridged the gap between large firms and small firms and put them on an equal platform.”
Since 1993, FGCAR has offered free classes and online resource pages to members, provided bus tours, held “pitch sessions,” sponsored lunch meetings, organized golf and clay shooting outings and put together an annual Pinnacle awards celebration.
The group also has forged bonds with industry groups such as the CCIM Institute, the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors, Florida Realtors, the National Association of Office and Industrial Parks and others.
Bill Martin, Florida Realtors' CEO, notes that FGCAR members were instrumental in persuading the state Legislature last year to shave the tax rate on commercial real estate leases.
“Yours is a culture that's progressive and forward thinking,” says Richard Maxson, senior vice president of Catalyst, a 15-year-old website builder and manager in more than 40 North America markets that signed FGCAR as its first client.
“You all are not afraid of a challenge.”
But FGCAR's 25th anniversary kickoff luncheon also served as a look ahead, to the coming year and beyond.
“I think the future for this organization is just as bright as the past,” says Klein, who will take the helm in January. “But you can't grow without looking back.”
And while FGCAR members acknowledge that much has changed since 1993, their commitment to the group and its goals have remained static.
“What has not changed is the co-operative spirit of the brokerage community throughout the Tampa Bay region,” says J. Patrick Duffy, FGCAR's leader in 1995.