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EXCLUSIVE: NFL Legend And Real Estate MVP Emmitt Smith On Charity, Fame And Vision

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EXCLUSIVE: NFL Legend And Real Estate MVP Emmitt Smith On Charity, Fame And Vision

In Part 1 of our exclusive interview with NFL legend, Super Bowl champ and budding mogul Emmitt Smith, the superstar shared his transition from pro sports to real estate. In Part 2, Emmitt discusses the responsibilities of fame, what's next—and what really matters most.

Bisnow: You were recently featured on our list of African-American real estate moguls who are not only doing well financially, but also making a difference in communities. Is this a big part of your business mission? 

Emmitt Smith: First of all I don’t see myself as a mogul, that’s No. 1. However, yes, it is. It’s a big part of our mission, and it’s a big part of our company’s philosophy. We do that through Pat and Emmitt Smith Charities, and we do that through volunteering company hours and company employees.

Bisnow: Where does that commitment come from?

Emmitt Smith: We truly believe to whom much is given, much is required, and we take pride in that. 

Bisnow: Have you always been committed to charity?

Emmitt Smith: Even when I was with the Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Cowboys always gave something back to the community one way or another. My entire life I’ve been reminded that no matter how far you go you can never forget where you come from and always give a helping hand, not a handout, but a helping hand. Right now there’s a complete disparity between the haves and the have-nots. With job opportunities very scarce for a certain segment of the population, the middle class is being squeezed, college bills are going up, medical bills are going up, so it makes it very tough for folks.

We especially believe in giving back to young people, young kids who are struggling through a broken school system in Dallas. These kids are bright, and all they need is somebody to give them an opportunity. It’s not all on my shoulders—there are a number of great organizations that are helping young people.

Bisnow: According to a recent report, African-Americans are moving away from real estate as an investment vehicle. Why do you think that is? 

Emmitt Smith: The average African-American might be buying Class-B or Class-C or Section 8 rental units and they might be flipping houses. Getting caught in a market like we did eight or nine years ago when you’re flipping houses, well, that’s not a good thing. So they revert right back to what is customary, a balance-asset allocated portfolio, which is stocks, bonds and IRAs.

Bisnow: What sectors in real estate is Emmitt Smith bullish on for 2016 and beyond?

Emmitt Smith: It’s kinda hard to be bullish on anything right about now, when people are insinuating that we’re in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning of a baseball game. The construction started in 2011 or 2012, and that normally lasts about seven years, and the real estate cycle probably began about 2010 or 2011.

So it’s going to be an interesting time for the next three years or so. From where we sit here in Dallas, there are some submarkets that are feeling some pressure, but I’m looking for cap rate pressures to go low and for interest rates to start bumping, and then we’ll see how that affects the real estate market. I think Texas itself is an economy on its own. A lot of folks outside of Texas think that all of Texas is feeling the oil pressure, but in Dallas we don’t see that.

Bisnow: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Emmitt Smith: I see our company continuing to gain our market share, represent tenants around the country, make smart decisions, better our internal processes, hire and retain quality people, just continue to forge ahead and be prepared for a downturn. In the next five years, we will probably be bigger and better than we are today, and who knows? We might be that mogul that you’re talking about, but we’re not that today.