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Wilson McDowell, Cite Partners

Wilson McDowell moved from Memphis, Tennessee, to Winter Park when he was 10.

While the Cite Partners co-founder still loves the spoils of what he considers his hometown, his social life is far more YMCA than wine bar these days.

“I have two little kids now!” he laughs.

Indeed since 3-and-a-half-year-old Jack came along and little sister Haley (nearly 2), his leisure time has reverted back to something resembling what it was when his family first relocated here.

“Growing up in Orlando was awesome,” he says. “We went to the attractions every single week for two or three years – or that’s what it felt like, because all your friends and relatives from out of town want to come visit.”

McDowell still loves living here for the same reasons he did back then.

“The beaches, the sunshine, the active lifestyle….” he rattles off.

An economics major, McDowell graduated from Davidson College, located just outside Charlotte, and briefly considered staying in the Tar Heel State. Until, of course, he experienced his first real winter. “It snowed once, and I was like, ‘I’m good,’” he jokes.

He headed back home, and like his father before him embarked on a career in commercial real estate, proactively contacting several firms. Each turned him away, citing a lack of sales experience, so he went out to get some.

It was 2005, so his timing was stellar.

“I ended up working for a company that was basically flipping houses,” he explains. “It was very, very, very active. I was selling three to four houses a week – but I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

With sales now on his resume, he returned to the brokerage firms that had passed him over and landed a job at Colliers International.

“I was working with a man named Matt Sullivan, who at the time was the managing director of the Orlando office. … He’s been my biggest mentor; he really taught me the business.”

The pair have been partners ever since.

McDowell served as Colliers’ managing director of industrial services for nine years before he, Sullivan and a few other peers founded Cite Partners in 2014.

McDowell has been involved with NAIOP Central Florida since the start of his commercial real estate career.

“It has been a great way to learn about the commercial real estate business, keep up to date on all of the local, regional and national trends, and educate and network the real estate industry together in Orlando,” he says. 

He began his tenure with the association as a developing leader. He is closing out 2016 as its President-Elect, ready to lead the local chapter in 2017.

“My goal will be to build on the success that we have had over the last couple of years with membership and increase engagement from the CRE community. We want to have exceptional programs that engage our membership to be better practitioners, we want to educate and help our developing-leader members become connected with other more senior members, and build on the engagement amongst members.”

Developing leaders will be especially important, as he believes the market has been getting stronger in the past few years. Beginning his career during the boom and ensuing market bust has made McDowell better at what he does.

Takeaways from that kind of experience, he notes, are a better understanding of the upsides and the downsides of a given deal. “(During the upswing), people were making real estate decisions based on getting a loan rather than the fundamentals …. Just because the bank would lend you money doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good play.”

McDowell says he and his colleagues have been more disciplined this cycle than they have in the past.

“Now I don’t have three or four cycles to compare it to, but the industrial market has been very disciplined even in the face of being the darling asset class. First it was multifamily, now it’s industrial, but we’re still thoughtful in the development that we’ve done. The function of lending is still difficult; it’s still challenging for investors to go out and get money to build buildings.”

Though he sees multifamily cooling overall, he thinks it will stay warmer in place like Orlando – with its impressive job growth – for some time. Industrial, he says, will continue strong. Factors here include the name Central Florida is making for itself in the realm of e-commerce and shipping. “Our location makes us prime for the shipping of goods throughout the state … the triangle between South Orlando, East Tampa and Ocala, that’s where lots of distribution and fulfillment centers are locating.”

Job growth, too, along with residential and infrastructure construction, he says, will drive the market. And of course: tourism.

With the help of his two young children, McDowell admits he’ll be doing his share to keep that facet of our economy strong.

“We’ve held off on Disney thus far, though we’ve done SeaWorld and Legoland to date,” he laughs. “We went up to Tavares this past weekend to do the Orange Blossom Cannonball train with the kids  … we were in Baldwin Park recently for their Christmas parade – so it’s all family stuff these days. But yeah, I think Disney is an inevitability,” he laughs. “Taking the kids there is going to be awesome.”

A.D. Thompson
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