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Bergstrom Center conference draws real estate pros and prospects

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. There’s a soft spot in my heart for the University of Florida.

The place and the people have been instrumental in who I’ve become, both personally and professionally.

So it was a real joy to once again broadcast live from the University of Florida’s Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies Annual Trends + Strategies Conference in Orlando.

So many great people – and lots to talk about.

First up, Howard Fabian, owner of Bonefish Mac’s Sports Grille in Coral Springs, told us about a benefit he’s putting together to help the families of the coaches who lost their lives during the recent and horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The event will feature alumni from a variety of professional sports teams and will also include an appearance by Ky-Mani Marley, an accomplished reggae musician and son of reggae superstar Bob Marley.

Donations for the silent auction are pouring in, but there’s still time to contribute if you like. Credit card donations are also possible. Call Howard at 305-987-6041 or email

The event is Tuesday, March 6, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Bonefish Mac’s Sports Grille in Coral Springs.

Next, Andy Hogshead, CEO of The Collier Companies and Chair of the Executive Committee for the UF Real Estate Advisory Board, said self-interest initially drove his involvement with the Bergstrom Center.

After all, a company like his needs access to a deep pool of talent, so it made sense to go where the talent is, he said.

But Andy said the more he got involved, the more fun it became. And he’s looking forward to what the Bergstrom Center will accomplish in the coming year.

Turning to real estate, Andy said the rising interest rate environment is prompting The Collier Companies to lock in as much financing as possible for the longest terms available.

Then we had a conversation with Cessie Milton, a soon-to-graduate UF real estate student. She’s lined up an internship with Starwood Property Trust and will graduate with a Master of Science in Real Estate degree.

She will represent the third generation of her family to enter the real estate business, and the coursework at UF convinced her to follow in their footsteps.

Cessie said she’s good at math and money, the abstract side of the real estate business. But it’s the connection to the physical environment that really attracts her to the industry.

There’s something satisfying, she said, to actually seeing the fruit of your labor.

Michelle Pierce, Principal at Providence One Partners in Lake Mary and a member of the UF Real Estate Advisory Board, said she got involved at the behest of an employee who graduated from the program. Participation, she said, has been informative and valuable. Like Andy, she especially appreciates the ability to network with potential hires who could be a boon to her company.

Providence One, among other things, develops sustainable senior living communities. Michelle got involved after her personal quest to find a good assisted-living facility for her grandmother.

She was disappointed in what she found.

“They were really just dismal and boring. At the time I was building multifamily. I couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I can do this.’ So, I literally cashed out my 401(k), left my company, talked my partner into joining me and started Providence One Partners,” she said.

She urged anyone who is thinking about getting involved with the Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies to jump in with both feet. The gracious people there, she said, will point you in the right direction.

Finally, we had an audience with Tim Becker, Director of the Bergstrom Center. He said the prosperity in Florida’s real estate industry is generating enormous interest in UF’s real estate program.

The Annual Trends + Strategies Conference, he added, is evidence of the Center’s value. More than 400 of the top real estate professionals in Florida were gathered to not only compare notes on the business but find some top talent to add to their teams.

As for Gainesville, Tim said, it is rapidly becoming a test case for urbanization as longer drive times drive more development closer and closer to the UF campus.

These were all fantastic interviews. I’m only hitting the high points here, so be sure to listen to their entirety at the Fried On Business website.



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