Since hosting its inaugural event in Phoenix on Nov. 4, 1999, the Southwest chapter of the Real Estate Investment Advisory Council (REIAC) has become one of the Valley’s most prestigious commercial real estate networking and mentoring organizations.

Founded by businessman Larry Heath, who at the time was with Vestar Development, REIAC Southwest is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. REIAC is an exclusive national fellowship of top real estate executives that offers superior educational events, networking opportunities and community service.

It has four regions in the U.S. and was established as a nonprofit trade association to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, concerns and experiences among senior executives who conduct commercial real estate transactions.

Through three of its programs, the Southwest chapter has established itself as a leader in educating and mentoring the next generation of commercial real estate professionals. Those programs include:

The REIAC/Rockefeller Challenge: The top three out of six teams consisting of graduating students from Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business, Masters of Real Estate Development (MRED) program, present their development projects to REIAC’s membership who pepper the teams with questions and comments about their proposals.  Each member of the winning team walks away with a $1,000 check from REIAC and the event sponsor, The Rockefeller Group. It completed its sixth year in 2019.

“The Challenge has changed the dynamics and competitiveness among the teams to be chosen as one of the top three invited to the Challenge,” said Mark Stapp, Executive Director of the MRED program.

• MRED scholarships: REIAC awards two scholarships to MRED students at the beginning of each academic year. The MRED faculty select six students who are interviewed by several REIAC board members. The selection criteria include financial need; desire to pursue a career in real estate development or investment after graduation and; desire to stay and pursue their career in Arizona after graduation. After the interviews, the top two deserving students are each awarded a $2,500 scholarship.

The REIAC Southwest/Junior Achievement of Arizona Land Development Pitch Competition: REIAC members present five classes per semester introducing high school students to the built environment and the real estate development process. Teams of students from Gateway Early College High School in Phoenix present their proposed developments to a panel of REIAC judges to convince them that their project is the best investment.  Each member of the winning team receives a gift card for up to $175.  It completed its first two semesters during the 2018-2019 academic year. 

“This program made our 11th and 12th grade students extremely happy and most importantly, confident as they leave our school and move on to bigger and better futures,” the students’ teacher, Karen Hawkes, said of the REIAC volunteers.

“The MRED Challenge and the Junior Achievement program give REIAC the opportunity to share our members’ expertise,” said Mark Singerman, President of REIAC Southwest and Vice President/Regional Director-Arizona for The Rockefeller Group.     

Cheri Brady, a founding board member with the REIAC Southwest chapter 20 years ago, serves as Chair of the Membership Committee. She agreed that community outreach and mentoring are signatures of the organization.

“Mark has really taken the lead with those initiatives,” said Brady, Vice President and Senior National Account Manager, National Commercial Services Division, 
First American Title Insurance Company. “He was instrumental in the outreach with Junior Achievement and the class curriculum for the high school students. He has since really expanded his role to help with our various programs and speakers.”

Brady says there are approximately 85 members in the local chapter. The Board’s goal is to field a roster of about 120 professionals.    

“Being an active member of REIAC has provided me many opportunities over the years and I attribute much of my professional success to this organization,” Brady said. “It is a privilege to regularly interface with our membership and create relationships with industry leaders. The benefits include numerous business opportunities for me and my team.

“The first year I put a toe in the water to see how it would play out. Twenty years later I’m still an active member and love what the organization has become. As a board member and Membership Chair, I have a dual incentive to encourage REIAC’s growth,” Brady said.

“Another big part of REIAC Southwest is bringing in top-notch local and national speakers for our members and their guests. Just as our members share their expertise, these speakers provide relevant and timely information in the global commercial real estate world,” Singerman said.

The networking opportunities REIAC Southwest offers its members include four main evening programs per year and four breakfast programs with panelists discussing industry trends.  The distinguished speaker program has featured national industry experts such as Dr. Peter Linneman, Hessam Nadji, John Cushman, Gerald Hines Sr., Dr. Michael Crow, Jerry Colangelo, Gary Knight, Jerry Moyes and many other industry and business leaders.