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Influential Real Estate Heads Expect Unconventional President To Bring Conventional Growth

While many political observers around the country watch with fear and uncertainty over Donald Trump's ties to Russia, expansive business interests and erratic social media habits, the tone among top influential real estate figures is one of optimism, expecting the incoming president to bring a CEO's attitude to the Oval Office and spark economic growth.


With not only the president-elect, but also many of his Cabinet picks coming from the business world, Akridge founder Chip Akridge expressed confidence about the administration's ability to make government more efficient. 

"It gives me hope that there's a different paradigm of governing, where people who do get things done, business people, can work with some of these professional politicians, who are interested in one thing: getting re-elected," Akridge (right), speaking at Bisnow's Economic & Political Forecast: The Donald Trump Playbook event this morning, said. "I think with some different quarterbacks calling the plays, we'll see some substantial changes."

Shooshan Cos president and CEO John Shooshan added that many of Obama's Cabinet picks came from the academic world and described the outgoing president as cerebral.

"I don't think people are going talk about Trump being cerebral," Shooshan said. "He’s going to be a go-getter. That's not disparaging, I think he’s a bright guy. But he’s going to be ready, fire, aim, and it depends whether these guys can adapt to that."  

The event featured 11 speakers from all sectors of commercial real estate, including the developers above, bankers, brokers and construction execs. Not one mentioned Trump's alleged ties to Russia or the press conference that dominated news headlines yesterday. There were no mentions of a border wall and only a couple of nods to potential Obamacare repeal.

Jarvis Commercial Real Estate CEO Ernie Jarvis and Peebles Corp. CEO Don Peebles at a Bisnow event.

Peebles Corp founder and CEO Don Peebles, who met with Trump last month, is optimistic about tax reform and deregulation getting passed and boosting the economy, creating more opportunities for real estate developers like himself. That's Peebles on the right, next to Jarvis Commercial Real Estate founder Ernie Jarvis — the only person to even say the word "Russia" at the event, in an opening joke.

A self-described "lifelong Democrat," Peebles praised Obama for bringing the country back from the financial crisis, but said regulations have paralyzed business and slowed the economy's growth. With a playful metaphor, he likened Obama to a jockey who nursed back a wounded horse to racing health, but was now holding it back from its potential.

"We’re getting a new jockey and he’s going to kick the crap out of the horse," Peebles said, to laughter from the nearly 400 in attendance. "That’s what I think is happening here." 

Peebles did not worry about potential negative impacts of a growing economy and rising interest rates, saying he sees better times ahead and does not expect a recession.  

Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker

Walker & Dunlop CEO Willy Walker discussed the stock market surge immediately following Trump's election, with 10-year Treasury bonds adding 30 basis points in six hours when he expects most market influencers were asleep. If the markets were so high on Trump, he wondered, why did so many business leaders stay on the sidelines and not support the Republican nominee?

"Why didn't everyone ahead of time say 'a Trump presidency is going to be the greatest thing in the world for this economy' and say 'we need Trump'?" Walker said. "All of a sudden, those people woke up and were thinking about the implications of what a Trump presidency would do, and the 10-year started to run."  

Walker agreed with the other panelists that tax reform and deregulation will occur, but cautioned against believing it will be easy for Trump to pass those things in the first 100 days. 

"I do think that everyone is thinking the first thing they focus on is economic policy, reforming Dodd-Frank and tax policy," Walker said. "But don’t forget that we have a Supreme Court appointment that will immediately bring up all of the very sticky social issues that divide this country, and that in and of itself could slow down things."


Trump Transition adviser Ken Blackwell, the former Republican mayor of Cincinnati, opened the event by promising the administration will lower corporate and individual tax rates, expand the tax base and cut regulations that stifle business, and repatriate the more than $2 trillion in untaxed corporate profits stashed overseas. 

"Our job has been to figure out how we convert the promises of Trump into policy packages that will, in fact, do just what he promised," Blackwell said, "to put us on an accelerated pace to be great again in terms of breaking our dependency on a suffocating government."