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Inland Empire Business News by IE Biz Hub.001
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Founder of Inland CREW

Two years ago, Ruby Simpson predicted that, by now, the Inland Empire chapter of CREW – Commercial Real Estate Women – would have more members than CREW’s Los Angeles chapter.
   That didn’t happen, and it probably won’t happen anytime soon, said Simpson, who started the chapter in 2008.
   CREW Inland Empire has about 35 members, well below the nearly 100 members in the Los Angeles chapter, which formed in 1985.
   CREW is a national networking organization for women in the real estate industry, and Simpson began the Inland chapter by breaking away from the Orange County chapter, which included Riverside and San Bernardino counties until five years ago.
   Despite some struggles, Simpson believes the chapter has been a success.
   “I think the economy keeps hurting us,” Simpson said. “We’ve kept our dues low compared with other chapters, but even then, I think a lot people don’t want to spend money when they’re struggling. But we needed our own chapter in the Inland Empire, and that’s what we have. Most CREW chapters don’t get started the way we did, by breaking off from another chapter.”
   Just keeping the chapter in business during a recession has been an accomplishment, and when the economy recovers the chapter will attract more members, Simpson said.
   Simpson, a broker who specializes in office transactions for Quackenbos-Bell Commercial Real Estate in Claremont, spoke with Inland Empire Real Estate Insider recently about the chapter’s past and future, the state of the economy and why she believe the Inland Empire office market might never reach the heights some people hope that it will.
   Q: The chapter is five years old this year. How do you assess its performance during that time?
   A: I’m delighted with it. Remember that when we started it in 2008 the economy was still good. We were in the Orange County chapter, and leaving that was a challenge, but we decided to do it and I’m glad we did.
  Q: Did you get off to a good start?
  A: We had 10 members to start with and a large board of directors, and by the end of the second year we got up to 40 members. We’ve stayed around that number ever since. That isn’t bad when you consider all of the small brokerages that have closed and all of the people who have left the business.
  Q: Besides the economy, what do you think has kept you from attracting more members?
  A: We don’t have a lot of the big companies that are willing to sponsor something like a CREW chapter like they do in other places. The big law firms, for example. We got Best, Best & Krieger to help is out, and Gresham & Savage, but that’s about it.
  Q: How involved are you in the chapter, day to day?
  A: Not nearly as much as a I used to be. I’m off the board of directors. I left in December.
  Q: Knowing what you know now, would you still start a new chapter, or would you continue being part of the Orange County chapter?
   A: Oh, absolutely I would start the chapter. Could we have been more successful in the  first five years? Yes. If we could have made the economy better, that would have solved a lot of our problems. You have to remember that the Inland Empire absolutely got hammered in this [recession]. That we could get a chapter started in this market, and that it could grow even a little, I think is impressive.
   Q: What is your assessment of the economy now? Are things getting better, and are we getting close to a recovery?
   A: I think it’s getting a little bit better, but sluggishly. It still has a long way to go. I think the economy has been so bad for so long that it’s changed the way people do business.
   Q: In what way?
   A: I’ll give you one example. When times are good brokers spend money. Some of them are crazy, wearing Rolex watches, fancy carsIt and stuff like that, but I think that’s changed. As bad as this has been, I don’t they’re ever going back to that.
   Q: Quackenbos-Bell has four employees. How has such a small operation, competing against the likes of CB Richard Ellis and Lee & Associates, survived in such a tough market?
   A: We’ve done pretty well. I had a bad year last year but I’m having a good year this year. Our overhead is low, and I don’t have to give 35 percent of what I bring back to the company. When I worked at Sperry Van Ness I had to give them 50 percent.
   Q: You’re an office broker, and as everyone knows the Inland office market has taken a terrible beating during the last few years. What is your assessment of that sector?
   A: It’s going to be the last thing to come back, and I feel pretty confident saying that it won’t come back for awhile. I’m also starting to wonder if we’re ever going to see the really big office development, the 10,000 square foot projects. I don’t know if the [Inland] market is going to come back to that.
  Q: Why not?
  A: Because who needs an office anymore? People do so much work over the Internet now. All they need is a laptop and they can work anywhere. I spend about 15 hours a week in the office, which isn’t unusual for a broker. There’s an old saying that if you’re a broker and you spend 40 hours a week in the office then you aren’t making money. But you don’t need an office. You can work out of your car if you have to.
  Q: But won’t there always be a need for office space?
  A: Yes, and what does get developed in the Inland Empire I think will come down to the battle that’s going on over Ontario [International] Airport. If Ontario gets control of the airport then the office market will come back. If not, then it will continue to struggle.

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