An executive
director at Cushman & Wakefield in Atlanta, Ken Ashley has enjoyed a nearly
20-year career in commercial real estate as one of the city’s most visible and
successful tenant brokers. In today’s Four on Friday, we get his take on Atlanta’s
recovering real estate markets and economy, his active presence on social media
… and his idea of the perfect day.

Many thanks
to Ken for his time.

Ken AshleyThis is a broad
question, but what's your take on the health of Atlanta's commercial real
estate markets?

Ashley: Atlanta
has experienced a severe real estate “flu” over the past four or five years,
but things started getting better in the second half of 2012, and momentum
toward a recovery has been building in 2013. We are still not at 100 percent,
of course. A new speculative building hasn’t been delivered in more than five
years, and any new product is still many months or even years out. It’s simply
been a tough, tough run for our city in the most recent downturn. 

forward, what do you consider the strengths of Atlanta's economy, and what
aspects are cause for concern?

Ashley: There is
light at the end of the tunnel. All the recent announcements of corporate
relocations and upsizings portend good things for our future. We still have the
best airport in the Southeast and one of the better ones in the U.S. We also
have great and reasonably priced talent. Up until very recently our real estate
has been at a great discount to many other opportunities in the U.S.

Bottom line, Atlanta is a great place to live and work, and
in the current environment, many companies can lower operating costs by
locating here. Plus, we have some of the best SEC football anywhere.

I do worry that we are kicking the can down the road on
infrastructure issues. We’ve heard of our transportation problems so much, most
of us just chuckle with a knowing smile when out-of-towners ask about traffic. But
I’ve watched other cities from Seattle to Denver to even Greenville, S.C.,
unite behind a vision that is absolutely transformative for their communities.

I like the leadership of Kasim Reed and Nathan Deal, but
those two men can’t do it all alone. We have to get active as citizens of this
great community and have the dialogue on infrastructure that will lead to
unified political will. Only then can we change our future. 

You have a
well-regarded blog and are prominent on Twitter. What do you think of
commercial real estate's use of social media, and how has the use of social
media benefitted you and your practice?

Ashley: Our
industry is adapting to social media. We are famously slow to adopt new
technology, but as more and more Millennials join the commercial real estate
world, communicating with and learning from social media is becoming de rigueur. As use in the industry
increases, more and more senior practitioners are trying to develop a presence. 

For me, being active in social media is simply an extension
of my personality. As you would expect, I’ve never met a stranger and I love to
talk to anyone. My blog, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are ways to say
hello to friends and share my thoughts on the subject of the day. I’m
passionate about the tools, and I really enjoy expressing my thoughts on our
wonderful industry in an environment where many can see them and agree – or
not! – with my opinions.

Prospects tell me that my presence online helps them feel
more confortable in doing business with me. In other words, it builds
credibility, which is of course critical in our hyper-competitive industry.

One thing I have learned, however, is that social media is a
long-term proposition. Being present online with regularity requires
commitment. The reality, though, is that any attempt to develop business is a
long-term time investment. Whether you are cold calling or joining a country club,
no one expects business to fall in your lap right away!

What's your
idea of the perfect day?

Ashley: Gathering
my family and watching the Georgia Bulldogs whip up on another SEC team has to
be close to as good as it gets!