Signs of re-emerging appetite for risk in real estate

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Ask any business executive about current economic conditions and you’ll hear a roll call of market illnesses that share the same symptom: uncertainty.

There is no justification to hire when bottom-line growth is primarily a result of cost-cutting and layoffs, no reason to expand when talk of double-dip recession won’t die down, and it can be difficult to pull the trigger on historically low interest rates when it’s the first time many executives have had to strategize around quantitative easing.

Still, some of the greatest financial payoffs are borne from bold moves in uncertain times, and recent Small Business Administration data suggests that business owners are recovering their appetites for risk.

Federally backed SBA loans to small businesses in El Paso County jumped 13.5 percent from the second quarter in 2009.

Ted Link, owner of Cascade Commercial Group in Colorado Springs, has seen first-hand the recent uptick in business owners willing to wrangle with the present rather than hedge against the future.

“In the last 90 days I’ve seen an incredible surge of people taking advantage of low interest rates by purchasing new equipment or expanding their practices,” he said.

Link also cites sun-setting tax laws, small business-friendly provisions of the economic stimulus bill, and a weak real estate market as factors in the spike.

He recently brokered a deal for Dr. Susan Hanley of the Colorado Springs Endocrine Clinic in a purchase of a new $550,000 office space.

Hanley took advantage of a provision in the economic stimulus bill that waives SBA loan fees. These fees can sometimes represent the costliest portion of a small-business loan, and the waiver provision is set to expire at the end of the year.

According to Link, Hanley also received “incredible financing” and was only required to make a 10 percent down payment.

As they have for the past couple of years, other business owners also are leveraging the soft rental environment to squeeze landlords for more favorable terms.

Colorado Springs Imaging recently extended its lease through the next decade. The firm will use the money it saves to invest more than $2 million into equipment upgrades. CSI plans to purchase new MRI and CT scanners, and Link said the equipment will be the envy of area hospitals.

Business owners can also examine current lease agreements with an eye for tenant improvements or landlord buyouts.

Dr. Eric Gessner, head podiatrist at the Colorado Springs Foot and Ankle Clinic, was a recent beneficiary of a heavy landlord concession. Gessner’s landlord bought out the final year of his lease, and Gessner believes that his new location will grow his business by helping him to more efficiently serve patients.

Link said that this explosion of strategic investment has made it the best year for his commercial real estate firm in the last three.

While small-business owners could be forgiven for merely dipping their toes into the water, sometimes the best way to acclimate is to jump right in.

Public sector boom times roll on

Attention all political animals: should you lose your bid to become Colorado Springs’ first strong mayor, and the juicy $95,000 salary that comes with it, you’ll want to send your resume to the City Engineering Division of Real Estate Services.

That department is in search of a real estate services manager, who for an annual salary as high as $92,000, will take on such head-splitting tasks as developing the division’s database and building upon the division’s strong customer service orientation. You might think that an advanced degree would be prerequisite for such high-paying and demanding work, but a bachelor’s degree will suffice.

Not bad, not bad at all.

Jonathan Easley can be reached at jonathan.easley@csbj.com or 719-329-5208. Find him on Facebook or Twitter.