Impact and Generational Wealth
Senior Vice President, Jamie, shares his perspective on creating community impact through inclusive economic development.
Tell us how your journey led you to CBREI had the benefit of having family in the commercial real estate business, so that's unique—especially for African Americans. My uncle is kind of the patriarch; he is a well-known developer in South Los Angeles. Therefore, I had a unique perspective about the early value that these communities had, even though they weren't mainstream for most traditional occupiers and investors.
I was fascinated, honestly, as a kid about development...something about when a new project would come out of the ground. To this day, I still think it's one of the most unique experiences because it really has the ability to impact and change a community—from curing blight to generating tax revenue to creating jobs. This was something, just from a very fundamental standpoint, I was fascinated by.
I've been with CBRE going on 18 years now, so it's been quite a journey. My official title—this is a new title—Senior Vice President as of February 2022. Prior to that, I was First Vice President. I'm a transaction advisor, so a fully commissioned broker. I run a dedicated team in Los Angeles that focuses on retail leasing, investment in sales, as well as commercial office and some land use development.
You began your career in Commercial Real Estate early on. Going back to your uncle’s influence, did you always have a desire to be in this industry?Prior to CBRE, I was interning at a number of entertainment companies and, at one time, I actually thought I was going to be an agent. Boyhood Jamie probably wanted to be an actor or something. But I'd have to credit my older brother who worked for the city [of Los Angeles]. He’d say, “if you really want to know about real estate, go to commercial real estate. And if you're going to go, go to CBRE.” So I’d like to say I had this vision, but he had the benefit of knowing about these guys because he had worked with some of them with the city.
I got an interview for a very comprehensive training program known as the Wheel Program, and I was fortunate enough to get on board right out of college. It's been a winding road, given the starts and stops and the Great Recession. But when you're really working—not only in something you enjoy, but in our case, in a community like South L.A. where you're really doing good at the same time—it kind of supersedes anything that’s just work. That's how I got my start at CBRE.
Exposure and relationships were key components for you on this journey. How important would you say those elements are, especially in the Black community, when it comes to an industry like Commercial Real Estate?It's a great question. You know, people often talk about access to capital as a big barrier in the business. I would say access to relationships is really the key differentiator. Because if you can find a great deal and you're in the right circles and you know who to go to...I mean honestly, the people I've seen who have succeed across all racial lines, they have the relationships. So although I didn't know much, I knew enough coming out of college to know that I'm a competitive guy. I'm an entrepreneur at heart. I wanted the ability to work in an industry where I could control my own income and my own schedule. As it was introduced to me, CBRE and brokerage specifically, it offered that opportunity. And really, what CBRE gave me was that credibility. I got in the company to learn not only what I thought I wanted to know, but also what I did not know.
When I was coming out of college, there was this kind of funny, dirty secret about commercial real estate. It was the last old-boy network, right? But I took that as a challenge because the benefit of my business model was really using my relationships and my understanding of the Black community to my advantage. I was going into neighborhoods with access to tenants and investors who otherwise may not consider the neighborhood, and I was trying to put development deals together. I had advantages because my family was active in the community. I also worked with a few broker friends of theirs who had actually made a good name for themselves, in their own right, in the South L.A. community.
Building wealth and generational legacy, how does one do that? Especially in communities that were overlooked and undervalued, but are now undergoing gentrification?It is the topic of the day, and unapologetically, it's really what we must ask for. I went from a market that, at one time, people didn't want to drive to—let alone invest in. Right now, we've come full circle. The L.A. submarket is becoming a transit community, which has basically opened up the door for by-right developments via residential and then commercial office investments. You're getting a lot of outside investors—locally and nationally—putting money into the community so gentrification becomes the topic of the day.
How do we avoid being excluded from this community we lived in for years, whether we owned or rented? From my perspective, equity and inclusion is that segue to generational wealth. We know the markets, we live in the communities today, and we know the concerns that a lot of our elected officials have because they have our voice. So as these companies are coming into these markets, I think there's an opportunity for them to de-risk some of these investments by creating economic opportunities with local job hiring, and partnering with vendors like myself, as well as local developers who are going to put money back into the community. Then it's no longer gentrification. It's equity and inclusion. And if people have a job and they're staying in their community, they’re not being forced or pushed out, right? That's how we really start to unlock some of the value that has been overlooked for a number of years.
With generational wealth, the part I didn't acknowledge about coming into commercial real estate is that I wanted to learn real estate because every rich person I knew who wasn't an athlete owned real estate. So it really was a basic premise to me. The only way to own real estate was to understand it. And now that I've been in it for 18 years, you recognize the power of being at a platform like CBRE.
When you’re not building up entire communities and creating economic impact, what does free time look like for you? What do you enjoy doing?Well, I'm obviously a big family man. I have two kids. My son, he's 3 ½, and then my daughter, she's almost 2 ½, so they're about 14 months apart. Honestly, they take up a lot of our time. My wife and I, we've been married five years now and she's amazing. But separately, I love hanging out with friends. During the pandemic, I picked up bike riding again. I live down by the beach, so I really started kind of reconnecting with things I enjoyed. I'm a pretty simple guy. If I can hang out with some buddies, watch a game, go to a game, go to the beach, I'm pretty good.
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