For this
week’s Four on Friday, we got a chance to chat with Mitchell Brannen, chairman
and CEO of Atlanta-based NAI Brannen Goddard, the full-service commercial real estate
brokerage firm that he formed 35 years ago. Brannen discusses the state of
Atlanta’s commercial real estate industry, why he formed his own company and
why reflecting on his career is a form of relaxation.


BrannenMGenerally
speaking, how would you describe the overall level of activity at NAI Brannen
Goddard these days – has the commercial real estate sector made real progress
since the depths of the Great Recession?

Brannen: The
overall activity of the commercial real estate industry in Atlanta has picked
up dramatically over the last 90 days. We generally follow the residential real
estate market by approximately 18 months in recovery, and you are seeing a lack
of quality product available on the residential side, which will cause the
prices of existing homes to increase and will also lead to new construction.

There is still availability of
commercial space in all segments; however, the market is tightening. The bottom
line is businesses know the cards they have been dealt and now are willing to
make decisions based on some level of certainty. Business activity is
definitely up for us and others. Atlanta has had 170,000 new residents and
85,000 new jobs in the last two years.

You
founded NAI Brannen Goddard back in 1978. Why did you decide to start your own
firm?

Brannen: I
started my own firm because I had the opportunity to potentially become a
retail developer with a gentleman named Bob Austin. I was satisfied, content
and happy with my former firm (Ackerman & Co.), but a special opportunity
came along to work on some development projects while I continued my bread-and-butter
commercial real estate brokerage business.

We had some potential Kmart sites
under our option as well as retail pad sites for users. However, Bob was
diagnosed with cancer so I lost my competitive edge in this area of the
business. I went back to focusing on my bread-and-butter brokerage business at
26; I was just too young and inexperienced to be a developer on my own.

If you
could give one piece of advice to someone entering the commercial real estate
industry, what would it be?

Brannen: One of
my favorite sound bites is, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” All of us in the
industry know it is a simple business; however, it is not an easy business. You
have to think long term in every aspect of the industry, because once you build
a reputation, particularly at an early stage in your career, that is the
reputation you will have for the rest of your career.

What are
some of your hobbies – what do you do to relax away from the job?

Brannen: I love
sports, especially tennis, but was not blessed to be a great athlete. I really
enjoy history and travelling to see places I’ve read about. I always try to
reflect and remember just how fortunate I am to be in such a great industry, and
to remember all the special relationships I have developed over the years. Just
remembering my blessings and relationships helps me relax.