September 10, 2015

This Morning With S.F.'s Top Foreign Investment Executives

We got some of the top minds in foreign investment to tell us what it takes to strike deals with China at Bisnow's S.F. Capital Markets Extravaganza event this morning at the historic Fairmont Hotel. Here's what they had to say.

Here are three: 

Polaris Pacific partner Chris Foley

TMG Partners CIO Matt Field
Kidder Mathews partner Skip Whitney. Matt tells us there is a tidal wave of Chinese capital coming into S.F. at the moment, with investors looking to place huge amounts of money. He says it's more efficient to find investments they like at scale. (Take the 2M SF First and Mission project TMG sold to Beijing-based Oceanwide Holdings.) While we think a couple of million square feet is a huge project, that doesn't even touch the scale in China. 

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Developers prefer passive buddies as investors, but that's not going to happen. The trick in Matt's biz is aligning with capital partners who are smart and sophisticated. Lots of Chinese investors are building US-centric front ends and hiring Mandarin speaking, US educated people. Having a language bridge in house is key. Another tip: When cutting a deal with a Chinese investor, aim for the top decision-maker early on (for example: the chairman).

California - China Office of Trade and Investment exec director Ken Petrilla, who moderated, got his java on before panels got started. Here he's with Sperry Van Ness director Catherine House, whose rock isn't shown in this pic (she tells us she tied the knot on Valentine's Day). 

Ken calls his office a “well-kept secret”; Gov. Jerry Brown established the office in 2013 and asked him to direct it. He facilitates Chinese direct investment into California and has been in Shanghai most of this year. While he plays in a variety of industries (wine, clean energy, movies) the top of the list is real estate development, so he's on a first-name basis with lots of potential investors.

At Skip's firm, people do operating agreements and presentations in Mandarin to help investors understand and do business in a format they are comfortable with. He is bracing for a rise in private equity coming out of China. These days he calls this investment environment “China 2.0.” Up until a year ago there were a lot of “tire kickers”: US developers buying potential Chinese investors dinner with no deal that surfaced. Now more are putting people on the ground and merging cultures on US soil on a day-to-day basis.

Zarsion America president Arthur Wang's Brooklyn Basin project in Oakland has a total investment of $1.5B. More and more private companies from China are showing interest and are still encouraged by the favorable foreign exchange rate. He equates a US-Chinese partnership to a marriage; the honeymoon period doesn't last long, and as a partnership you need to realize there is a big difference in culture between the two countries—so direct and early communication is key. 

Chris' condo sales firm has been working with China Vanke and Tishman on the LUMINA project. Now he's seeing one or two Chinese investment groups every 10 days stroll into his office. Anyone who doesn't think China will be a major force in the US is "crazy," he says. Culture and trust are huge issues and why it takes longer to get a deal done with the Chinese.

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Report: Moratorium Won't Help Affordable Housing Issues

The long-awaited study from San Francisco's chief economist finds no evidence the temporary moratorium in the Mission will help to alleviate affordable housing strife in the area. The report concludes the moratorium will not provide potential benefits such as opening up land to affordable housing developers and would delay the construction of up to 807 units, as many as 131 of which would be restricted for low-income residents, for 10 to 17 months. The 18-to-30 month market rate housing moratorium has been one of the most controversial political and land-use issues in the area this year. Known as Proposition I, it heads to the ballot on Nov. 3[SFBT]

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Why It May Not Be Full Speed Ahead for Downtown Oakland's Renaissance

A new report from SPUR indicates that Downtown Oakland faces numerous challenges to really take off. The Bay Area-based urban planning and policy think tank warns the area is at a crossroads, and there are no guarantees for the future. "An economic boom could stall before it really gets going. Jobs and housing could expand elsewhere, leaving downtown Oakland underutilized. Or the economy could really take off —but in a way that harms Oakland's character," according to the report. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf (whom we snapped speaking at a Bisnow event this summer) said her administration is working closely with SPUR to ensure the area's growth in conjunction with community and business leaders in the area. The downtown area has enjoyed quite the revival of late, welcoming more residents and companies as well as new nightlife and dining options. [IBA]

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Help Special Operations Veterans Transition to Civilian Life

Bisnow is partnering with Your Grateful Nation (YGN), a nonprofit foundation that helps Special Operations veterans and their families transition from military to civilian life. Founded by former Special Operators who felt more comfortable going back to the battlefield than navigating the civilian/corporate world, Your Grateful Nation can provide your firm with a pool of highly capable and determined former Special Operators. Consider the following when giving back to the brave soldiers who risked it all:

1. All donations to YGN are tax deductible.

2. You may choose to add a donation to the cost of a Bisnow ticket when purchasing.

3. Provide your expertise to YGN via education, mentorship, internships, career referrals, and other services.

4. Consider potential roles within your organization for these competent, motivated soldiers.

5. Including Special Operations veterans in your workforce provides unparalleled exposure and appreciation to soldiers who have experienced and overcome certain challenges not ordinarily faced by civilians.

Pictured is executive director Rob Clapper (prior to this, he ran the Prince William chamber of commerce, the largest chamber in the DC/VA metro region). Thanks in advance for thinking of our brave veterans. Find out more about our Bisnow partner here, and get in touch with Rob to discuss how you can get involved through volunteering or hiring.


7 Fast-Growing Fitness Franchises

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Five Reasons Not to Apply for a Bisnow Sales Rep Position

It's not a sales rep position. We're looking for someone who has the skill, creativity and determination to partner with our clients and help them reach their business goals.

It's not just selling display ads and event sponsorships. Those who notice that Bisnow is more than just ads and events—please step to the front of the line.

A job like this sells itself. Sure, Bisnow is the leading source of commercial real estate information in North America, but we don't ever rest on our laurels. We're constantly innovating, evolving and adapting, and our winning candidate should too. Not only do we welcome new ideas, we'll look to you for them.

Corporate structure and status quo make for success. Not here they don't. Bisnow is anti-office, un-corporate and pro-entrepreneurial. We emphasize individual personality and encourage the big picture, especially if they help our clients move their business forward. Those of you who work on a problem until it's solved, not until it's 5pm, step forward.

All the commercial real estate clients are already with Bisnow. Just wait until the companies that have yet to work with us find out the many ways we can help them grow. You'll be proactive, and help them realize this.

Send a résumé and an email telling us how you understand that this is not merely a sales rep position; it's much more:

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Stay tuned for more event coverage tomorrow!