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The Dealmaker: Kenneth F. Crimmins Interview

Marketview
“I think the economy has definitely leveled off, and I see signs of improvement. I think we’ll see modest growth, but I don’t think we’ll see tremendous growth. But even modest growth is good for the real estate business, good for the economy and good for the state. We’re coming off a banner year last year, and so far this year we’ve completed about 135 transactions to date, including office, retail, industrial and land.”

A banner year in a down market … how did you accomplish that?
“With the downsizing and consolidation that has taken place, people have started new companies, and we’ve had a lot of success with transactions in that area. Those are smaller transactions, of course, industrial space from 20,000 to 50,000 sf. The market still seems to be quite good and has not had the downward trend that the ‘big box’ business has incurred.

“We’ve been expanding … we’ve added a number of new salesmen on staff. We’ve been very fortunate, because the quality of the young people who want to come into this business is very good — it’s excellent. Some of the sharper people I’ve ever met, I’m meeting now. I think they’re going to do well for the business and do well for this company.”

What’s your market coverage?
“We primarily cover the northern part of the state, from Middlesex County north. We have had some transactions down in the south, but not as many as up north. We just did a deal in Millville that was almost 100,000 sf. We do a lot of trucking deals, and we’ve done a couple in Pennsauken recently. We will be opening up an office in Denville, and probably one down around Edison. Denville will probably be open in January.”

Statewide issues?
“We do a fair amount of business in Newark and other cities, and that, of course, benefits from Gov. McGreevey’s position on smart growth. The cities have the infrastructure, and everything is in place. That’s also where the brownfields are, and I think brownfields redevelopment benefits everybody.

“Another issue is manufacturing jobs, which continue to go off-shore. The Governor’s philosophy is to attract smaller businesses, including start-up companies, and I think the state will benefit by it.”

How did you get into real estate?
“It was kind of by accident. I was a financial analyst with Dart Industries, and I was in five different states within two years. The last state I was in was Arizona. I had two kids and I decided to come back to New Jersey. I wanted to get into the construction business, and sort of by accident I got a job with the Leslie Blau Co. I was fortunate enough to make a couple of deals in my first year and decided this is where I belong. And I’ve been here ever since — 32 years.”

What’s the best part of your job?
“You meet some very dynamic, influential people that are exciting to work with. I also enjoy seeing some of the younger people in the company and in the industry start to really find themselves. You see them enjoy helping people as much as I do and being part of fulfilling somebody’s dreams as far as getting the right building.”

Most frustrating?
“Deals falling apart … but that’s part of the business. You can work two years on a project, and then it falls apart. Unfortunately, it doesn’t just ‘fall apart.’ It falls apart five times before it finally ‘falls apart.’ You’re constantly trying to bring life back into transactions. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you don’t.”

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