Corporate Real Estate Director,
Title & Organization:
Kansas City, Mo.
Hallmark has 10 million sq. ft. (929,000 sq. m.) domestically and 6 million sq. ft. (557,400 sq. m.) internationally. Acreage includes 2,700 acres (1,092 hectares) of idle, excess or income- producing land. The company's 23 facilities in the U.S. are almost evenly split between properties owned and leased. Hallmark employs just over 16,000 in five countries and eleven states.
inety- seven years ago this month, Joyce C. Hall – the father of Hallmark chairman Donald J. Hall and grandfather of Hallmark president and CEO Donald J. Hall, Jr. – arrived in Kansas City to start a picture postcard business, with the inventory housed in two shoeboxes.
Forty- one years ago, Greg Long, a founding member of IAMC, started working for Hallmark Cards, coming to the property and real estate side after 15 years in manufacturing and order distribution. He retires this month from a company whose two shoeboxes have multiplied to 16 million sq. ft. (1.48 million sq. m.) of properties worldwide. We mark the occasion with a special edition of "Meet a Member."
– Adam Bruns
Hallmark fundamentally manufactures the same products. That is amazing in its own right for a company that is nearly 100 years old. About 15 years ago, we adopted just- in- time manufacturing. Today, that basic concept is known as lean manufacturing. The idea is to maintain a minimum of inventory and practice real- time sourcing and production. In terms of our real estate square footage, we really have not changed for the core business. Due to the high peaks and low valleys, juggling real estate can be a real challenge. Our strategy has been to optimize square footage. Because our business is cyclical, it is not unusual to have four times the amount of inventory on hand in September as we do in February. "Push and Pull" – instead of pushing the product to retailers and hoping it sells, the consumer now pulls from us based on demand. This controls our facility portfolio.
What does your company manufacture today vs. when you started, in terms of product mix as reflected in the square feet of your portfolio?
The Corporate Real Estate Director reports to the Vice President of Facilities and Real Estate who reports to the Executive Vice President of Corporate Real Estate, who, in turn, reports to the President and CEO of Hallmark.
To whom do you report?
I have 41 years of service with Hallmark. Twenty- six years have been in Corporate Real Estate – the first four years as a Property Manager and 22 years as the Corporate Real Estate Director. I think the single thing to which I attribute my success in corporate real estate is the time that I spent with Hallmark prior to CRE. I had the opportunity to work in several different areas, specifically manufacturing and order distribution, that provided hands- on insight into the needs of our business.
How many years have you worked in the profession?
I received a Bachelors of Business Administration from William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. I also have a Certified Property Manager (CPM) designation from the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM). I am also a licensed real estate broker. In this business, it is important to continue to learn and keep up with current trends in the real estate profession. IAMC has been an excellent source of continuing education.
Where and what did you study?
There are two individuals that influenced me the most in this profession. When I first started in this business, Mr. Hugh Zimmer, chairman of Zimmer Real Estate Services, a full- service commercial and industrial real estate firm in Kansas City, Missouri, probably taught me more about ethics, fairness and integrity than anyone. The second person was Mr. Robert Kipp, former president of Crown Center and city manager of Kansas City. He taught me the importance of, and how to be a visionary in, site selection and real estate development.
Who was a mentor to you?
When Mark graduated from college, like most of us, he was still not certain of a career path. I suggested commercial brokerage. As luck would have it, Zimmer Real Estate Services was reorganizing and looking to recruit recent college graduates. I suppose at first I was a mentor to Mark, but we have always been very close. Mark has now been in the business for twelve years. He works with some very competent real estate professionals. I have enjoyed Mark's support and his company's support these past several years. Zimmer Real Estate Services' capacity to provide global real estate market information through their network Oncor has certainly made my job a lot easier and more efficient. Another son, Matt, is a facilities manager, managing properties in Kansas City for a large real estate company headquartered in New Jersey.
How did your son and fellow IAMC member Mark manage to get into a similar line of work? Do you enjoy being a mentor to him?
It always amazes me how small the real estate
How would you describe your perception of the value of relationships when you started your career vs. today?
Years ago, the thinking of a lot of companies was to locate manufacturing facilities in small communities. The site became the sole- source of revenue in the community. While the plant was operating, the city would maintain good schools, police and fire protection, and other infrastructure necessities. But when the plant shut down, the city and community were devastated. At that point, cities rethought their economic development strategies and formed economic development councils. Led by economic development professionals, the councils' purpose was to diversify and strengthen commerce. We at Hallmark have always made it a priority to support economic development in each community where we have facilities. Several years ago, we designated 230 acres [93 hectares], owned near one of our facilities, as an industrial park. We became owner/developer, working in conjunction with a local independent developer. Today, there are eight light industrial business facilities operating in this park. This is an extreme example of private/public effort to promote economic development of which we are very proud. But in almost every community we have worked with the city to support economic development in one form or another. Today's approach to economic development and public/private partnerships provides greater stability for communities.
Describe what your career has taught you about what constitutes valuable economic development in a community.
As I look to the future, after retirement, economic development is certainly one of those areas that is of interest to me.
Are you actively involved in any kind of regional or local economic development effort, or do you plan to lend your expertise to that kind of thing once you retire?
In the late '80s Hallmark looked to diversify its interests. We acquired Univision, Hispanic television. With that, CRE was given the assignment to clean up and consolidate a portfolio of 21 properties in the Miami, Florida area into one headquarters. This was a tremendous opportunity to work with a sophisticated team of professionals.
Describe your top three transactions or projects at Hallmark. What were the projects that made you say, "You only get a few of these in a career."
The second most exciting project dealt with a small manufacturing printing company that we acquired in the late '70s. As the company would continue to grow, the previous owners would expand by acquiring another adjacent building in an inner city block. As new owners, we continued that trend until there was nothing left to acquire. We had assembled almost two full blocks. The spaces were old and very inefficient. We literally worked for years analyzing our alternatives and available options – from relocating the business to Kansas City to outsourcing the entire operation. In the final analysis, it was basic corporate real estate practices and procedures that led us to a sound decision and prosperous business outcome. Working with the local ECDC, we were able to negotiate favorable incentives to relocate from the urban area to a new industrial park and build a new 125,000- sq.- ft. [11,613- sq.- m.] manufacturing building with all new equipment in 2003. Columbus, Georgia was very prepared with a strong economic development council. We were very impressed with the State of Alabama EDC also. They exhausted a lot of time and energy assisting us through a comprehensive site- selection. We eventually sold all twelve of the old buildings to several different buyers. This was a very successful project due to careful planning and preparation.
Finally, my third favorite project was in New York City. I can remember my very first project as the Real Estate Director was an early lease termination in mid- town Manhattan. If you ever want a crash course in real estate negotiations, New York City is the place to find it. Looking back, it was the best thing that could happen. It was a tremendous opportunity. After that experience, I used to thoroughly enjoy leasing office space in New York City and the challenge of negotiations. There were several times in my 26 years in corporate real estate where we leased 20,000 to 50,000 sq. ft. [1,858 to 4,645 sq. m.] of Class A office space in midtown New York City. Any transaction there would be taken very seriously regardless of the size. Preparation is key to successful lease consummation. Our work began on New York projects at least two months before we made contact with anyone in the city.
Finally, the part of the job that I will miss the most is site selection. I cannot stress the importance of how professional site selection can contribute to the company's bottom line. I do not want to take away the significance of managing the other facets of the CRE professional, such as portfolio management, but site selection is a learned skill that is often taken for granted. The ability to approach virtually any market and successfully consummate a transaction that meets the goals and objectives of the corporation takes years to develop.
For me the value has been the deep network of real estate experts that have become close business associates and in some cases close personal friends that I can depend on for help on any corporate real estate assignment in virtually any market. As a founding member and charter board member with the opportunity to assist in the initial development of IAMC, it has also been a tremendous feeling of accomplishment to see how this organization has evolved into one of the premier professional organizations in its field.
As a founding member, what is the value of IAMC membership to you?
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