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ArcWatch: Your e-Magazine for GIS News, Views, and Insights

February 2009

Innovative $1 Million GIS Grant Program will Provide Commercial Real Estate Professionals with Esri Software, Data, and Training

By Karen Richardson, Esri Writer

The country continues to reel from the economic downturn in the real estate market and business community. Bustling commercial enterprises that once boasted high revenues are dealing with slumping sales and, in some cases, closures. The number of foreclosures in the United States is the highest on record. And money available to private citizens and businesses is drying up as the global economy slows. One of the markets hit most severely is the commercial investment and real estate market. But for every challenge this market faces, a golden opportunity rises in the face of today's challenging economic times.

To help find these opportunities and make wise investment choices, Esri has announced a $1 million U.S. grant program for members of the CCIM Institute, the largest commercial investment brokerage and real estate network firm in the world. Based in Chicago, Illinois, the CCIM Institute confers the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation on commercial real estate professionals through an extensive curriculum of 200 classroom hours in addition to professional experience. Currently, there are 9,500 members in 1,000 commercial real estate markets worldwide. An additional 9,500 commercial real estate professionals are pursuing the designation.

"GIS [geographic information systems] technology has become one of the most important tools for making more informed real estate investment decisions. Many companies trust it to provide the answers they need to better manage their portfolio, improve the site evaluation process, and develop properties more profitably," says Simon Thompson, commercial business industry manager, Esri.

Esri will award 200 grants to qualifying applicants in the United States this year. The grant money will give CCIMs access to innovative technology that will help them address changing conditions in today's marketplace more readily and develop business strategies, maximizing their return on commercial investments.

The grants consist of Esri software, data, and training. Grants will be awarded in several property types including retail, office, industrial, and multifamily.

"This innovative grant program is fundamental to what CCIM stands for as an organization-networking, education, and technology," says Charles A. "Mac" McClure, CCIM, 2009 president of the CCIM Institute. "We hope that through this grant program, our members are introduced to the most forward-thinking technology available and that they learn how to apply it and share their experiences with others."

This grant expands on a commercial property listing and data exchange service platform that Esri is currently developing for the institute. The portal will manage commercial property listings for sale and lease throughout the United States and will make it possible for CCIM members to more easily share property information, repurpose data through innovative means for marketing and analytic purposes, and collaborate more effectively on property decisions.

CCIM awarded Esri a 20-year contract to create, manage, and maintain major portions of the property portal. The first version of the property portal, planned for release in spring 2009, will contain commercial property information, intelligent maps, photographs, and detailed building and property information input from CCIM. The portal is the first open-standards, data-neutral repository of its kind and will allow CCIM members to access property information as well as seamlessly integrate the data into other property analysis software and marketing tools. Esri's professional services team will create, maintain, and host the commercial property portal using Esri's ArcGIS Online, a family of Web-based products and services that provide GIS functionality, analysis, and data that can be easily integrated into other online, desktop, and enterprise systems. There will be no need to change data formats or enter data more than once during the life cycle of the property.

The portal will ensure that all CCIM members optimize their property marketing and selections processes and gain the greatest insight in the commercial investment arena. This is imperative, since CCIM members need a reliable system they can depend on to successfully complete the thousands of transactions made annually, representing more than $200 billion in value.

"There is little margin for error in the real estate market," says Jack Dangermond, president of Esri. "Commercial real estate professionals need the best tools to assist them in navigating the marketplace, no matter what type of real estate. Our continuing partnership with CCIM has given many companies access to timely demographic information and analysis using GIS. In light of the economic downturn of late, CCIM and Esri hope to encourage businesses of any size with dealings in commercial real estate to go a step further and introduce spatial modeling, with no risk, into their business decisions and workflows."

Esri first began working with CCIM in 2007 when it replaced the mapping interface to its Site To Do Business Online (STDBonline) (www.stdbonline.com), an online service and comprehensive Web site that gives access to demographic, consumer spending, and business data. STDBonline users have found the extensive backdrop data, aerial photographs, and flood maps, along with the demographic, consumer spending, and business information, especially helpful for more profitably analyzing market potential and trends.

For those who have relied on STDBonline to help them visualize market information, the grant program is a natural second step to incorporate GIS analysis into their business workflow in the most efficient manner.

This unprecedented access to Esri's ArcView and ArcGIS Spatial Analyst software will give CCIMs the ability to incorporate proven tools for modeling suitability, site analysis and optimization, site profiling, and more, for more cost savings and effective ways of continuing healthy business strategies in the uneasy landscape of commercial real estate.

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