Noun, informal. A decent, upright, mature and responsible person.
Noun, slang. An awkward, clumsy, or unlucky person whose endeavors tend to fail; a loser.
Mensch of the Week:
Online Brokerage Start-Ups
Certain industries have been exceptionally slow to embrace the opportunities of online commerce. Commercial real estate has been one of the worst offenders. Only recently have CRE professionals begun to discuss how social media, blogs, multimedia, and other technology can generate and optimize business. Perhaps it’s because real estate is such an old industry. Perhaps it’s because CRE deals require a level of trust that can’t be replicated online.
Whatever the case, the office real estate sector finally is beginning to embrace the Internet in a crucial sector: brokerage. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Internet start-ups are making leasing and property information more publicly available, co-opting the role of traditional brokers with what amount to Match.com’s for office leasing.
The Wall Street Journal article profiles two start-ups in particular:
- CompStak. A source of “crowd sourced lease comparables,” the site provides users with the comps that were once difficult for most people to access. In this way, it poses a threat to CoStar Group’s near-monopoly on CRE data. What is more, the service will make leasing and other information more accessible to smaller shops–those without the resources of data-wealthy brokers like JLL and CBRE.
- View the Space, on the other hand, provides virtual tours to potential office tenants, letting them (as the name implies) view potential office properties online. This one looks like less of a threat to big brokerage and data firms. As a supplement to the leasing process, it seems fairly compatible with traditional services.
Should brokerage firms like CBRE (NYSE: CBG) be concerned? Perhaps, though such online services shouldn’t be viewed as threats so much as opportunities. The traditional broker isn’t going away; this business still relies on handshakes and in-person property visits. But if I was CoStar Group, I’d be worried. When your business relies on the control of information, another company willing to share the same info for less money poses a significant threat.
Schlemiel of the Week:
Uh-oh. This one could get me into trouble. Considering the fact that I live in Philadelphia, one of the most unioned-up cities in America, I should choose my words carefully. At least I waited until after Labor Day to do this…
(Also, I should state for the record that I’m a former union member myself, and I support many union principles, such as safe working conditions, appropriate wages, fair treatment, and a political voice. For the record.)
Recently, thousands of union members visited Philadelphia for the AFL-CIO’s Workers Stand for America rally. As the Huffpost reports,
…unions laid out what they deemed a “Second Bill of Rights” — a set of demands that the nation’s largest labor federation plans to use to try and influence the conversation during the electoral season. The group also said it would try to pressure politicians into supporting its ideas in exchange for endorsements.
While unions have seen their clout eroded in many parts of the country (e.g. Wisconsin) there’s no question they remain one of the nation’s most politically powerful groups.
But, at risk of sounding like a Republican, sometimes even unions need to relax. In Philadelphia, a months-long union protest of a multifamily development has seen protesters illegally blocking city streets, intimidating their non-union counterparts, and even starting a physical altercation.
The Pestronk brothers, two young developers working on the city’s former Goldtex building, have faced backlash over their decision to hire non-union workers. Protesters have made things especially complicated by blocking essential deliveries to the site. However, as Philly.com reports, when the developers needed to sneak a crane onto their construction site, they found a creative solution:
…the Pestronks said they devised an elaborate ruse to distract the protesters long enough to sneak the machine onto the building site. The operation required days of planning, a decoy truck, a private force of armed guards, and an extra complement of city police.
And so the project continues. Developers 1, Unions 0.