Brad Long returned to the Greater Des Moines commercial real estate market in February as managing director of KW Commercial, a division of the Keller Williams real estate company that opened a residential operation last year in Clive. He was out of the market, but not the metro area, for four years while serving as vice president of regional operations for Seedorff Masonry Inc. of Des Moines. Prior to that, Long was president of Grubb & Ellis/Mid-America Commercial in West Des Moines. Long has served since 2005 on the Dallas County Development Alliance. He is a former mayor of Grimes and also served on that community’s city council, planning and zoning commission and fire department.

Why get back into commercial real estate?

I was fortunate to be asked to start up KW Commercial Greater Des Moines as its managing director. KW Commercial is the commercial arm of Keller Williams Real Estate, which is based out of Austin, Texas. At that time, I was thinking about getting back into real estate. I really missed the day-to-day challenges and demands of commercial real estate and the rewards of fulfilling clients’ needs.

Will Keller Williams focus on a certain market segment?

We are currently working on recruiting brokers who have specific expertise in the various markets such as tenant representation, industrial, office and general transaction services. We will also focus on providing consulting services that include owners representation, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design services, due diligence, development, planning and zoning, grant attainment, site selection, and navigation of typical city processes used in real estate. Our commission structure and profit sharing along with our diverse expertise will help us in our recruiting effort.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Greater Des Moines market?

The Des Moines market is very dynamic and has adjusted to meet the needs of a down market. We are slowly working our way out of that downturn that started late in 2007. We have seen changes in large ownership blocks of class A office space, downtown office and warehouse space converted to residential and further expansion of western retail. The mistakes that real estate (professionals) made in general, in the recent past, were lessons for those who survived and have made them stronger and, in some cases, bigger. That is our weakness and strength.

What trends do you see in the market?

We are seeing certain market segments become more scarce; rates are increasing while availability is down. The markets in general are retail in certain areas of West Des Moines, stand-alone offices, apartment, stand-alone warehouse with office industrial space, and certain sizes of class A space.

What could limit a recovery in the commercial real estate market?

I think the commercial real estate market is on its way back, but economic uncertainty and government regulation could skew or divert that momentum temporarily over the next two to three years. At that time we will be closer to the next election cycle, which typically calls attention to a perceived better economic future. The gap between appraisals and loans is a problem that also stems from the economic downturn in the over regulation of banks and forced conservatism on behalf of the appraisers. Good credit and cash is a necessity of all potential projects and probably will be in the future. The highly leveraged developers of the past are gone.

At what point do you see a pickup in development activity?

There are several projects that are currently in development with local architects that should start this spring and summer. Most of the projects will be owner occupied or investment properties. I don’t see speculative development in the near future.

What do you do in your spare time?

Most importantly spending time with my family, playing golf, traveling and working in the yard (it’s a great way to unwind).

How did you make your first dollar?

I was a dishwasher at the age of 14 at a local Italian restaurant called Riccelli’s on the south side. I was soon promoted to making onion rings in addition to washing dishes. Tough way to make a dollar.