Investing in Our Future


By Nick Banks | Business in the Heart of Florida

I’m a real estate guy. It’s what I’ve done my whole career. In real estate, we use the word investment quite a bit: investment in a real estate asset or project; investment in capital improvements for a property; investment in a new development. Investment is about placing capital at risk and seeking a return. Investment is what gets things done, and without it, we would not have office buildings, hospitals, places to live, restaurants or malls.

As a community, we also make many investments. We invest in education, infrastructure, industries, leaders, children, churches and other community needs. An example of this type of community investment is the recently announced $3.1 million in new road infrastructure improvements that the City of Gainesville’s Community Redevelopment Agency will be funding in Innovation Square.  Innovation Square is a public/private development near the University of Florida that is seen as a major job-growth opportunity for our community. According to Anthony Lyons, CRA executive director, the CRA funding a project like this is “setting the groundwork for more investment to happen.”

Recently the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted an event to kick off the new initiative for Innovation Gainesville, or iG. The event included a presentation by Rebecca Ryan, who is a renowned economist, futurist and author. In her most recent book, “ReGeneration,” Ryan talks about our country’s history in terms of four seasons; winter, spring, summer and fall. According to Ryan, we are currently in the middle of our nation’s fourth winter, and she expects we will emerge into spring sometime around 2020. As in nature, spring is a time for emergence, rebirth, growth and abundance. Conversely, winter is a time of slowing down, being lethargic and cautious—and for hibernation. A community’s tendency in winter is to hunker down, play it safe, and wait it out. But Ryan noted the communities (or nations) that emerge the strongest in spring are those that have invested, taken risks and made the best choices during winter. When spring came they were better prepared for opportunity and prospered.

Listening to Ryan speak was enlightening and encouraging. It allowed me to view my career from a different perspective. Again, I am a real estate guy. But I now realize the projects our firm is working on are so much more than real estate deals. They go beyond bricks, mortar and steel.

There are things going on in Gainesville now that are not happening in other communities. Engineers and scientists at research labs at the University of Florida are creating new technologies faster than you can chug a Gatorade. Santa Fe College is training our workforce. Individuals are writing new code for software and apps that are disrupting entire industries. Private companies are doing business all over the globe. Public/private partnerships are being created. UF is producing a large and talented pool of Ph.Ds, undergraduates and graduate-degree students every year. Governmental agencies and utilities are building and considering new projects to help lay the groundwork for growth.

I think we have clearly started to see some signs of what Ryan calls spring already in our community. If you are a business owner, what can you invest in now to prepare for the future? What can you invest in yourself as an individual? What can we collectively invest in as a community to make sure our schools, roads and workforces are prepared?

If we can collectively take risks, invest in ourselves, our companies and our community, Gainesville will become a city whose best days lay ahead.

Nick Banks is the managing director of Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group located in Gainesville, Florida.  Front Street offers brokerage, management and mortgage banking services to its commercial real estate clients.  Nick is a graduate of the University of Florida where he serves as an advisory board member to the Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies.



Nick Banks

Nick created Front Street Commercial Real Estate Group in 2002 and spent the first eight years developing and acquiring office and retail projects in South Florida as well as North Central Florida. In 2010 the focus of the firm was shifted to primarily serve third party clients and perform brokerage, property management and mortgage banking functions. Nick has personally developed and acquired nearly 200,000 square feet of office and retail properties in markets throughout Florida. Prior to founding Front Street, Nick was the Director of Finance and Dispositions for Stiles Corporation in Fort Lauderdale where he financed and sold over $500 million in commercial real estate. Before joining Stiles, Nick was an Associate Director at GE Capital Real Estate where he sourced over $200 million in financing throughout Florida. Nick is a graduate of the University of Florida with a degree in Finance and a concentration in Real Estate. He serves as a board member and current vice-chair for the United Way of North Central Florida where he also chairs the Development Committee. Nick is actively involved with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce where he serves as a board member and committee member for the Council for Economic Outreach. He is also a recent graduate of Leadership Gainesville which is a year long leadership program hosted by the Chamber. He is a member of Grace United Methodist Church where he has served as finance chair and as a member of the leadership council. Nick serves as an advisory board member of the University of Florida Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies. Nick was recently named chair of the Gainesville committee for the North Florida chapter of Urban Land Institute (ULI). He is a licensed real estate broker in the State of Florida and is a long time member of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

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