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. www.FrontStreet.net