David Wright knows Spokane’s commercial real estate market well. He’s been in commercial property management since 1976 and began working at the downtown Spokane real estate agency that is now NAI Black in 1987. More than three decades later, Wright is retiring from his post as associate vice president of Black Realty Management Inc.’s commercial department.
On his last, rather hectic day with the company, as his phone continued to ring and coworkers dropped by with yet more paperwork to sign, Wright carved out some time to talk with the Journal about his career, the industry, and how he’s going to spend his retirement.
Journal: How did you get started in property management?
Wright: I was a lab technician before, and then a salesman, and I traveled around. When my daughter was born, I thought, I’ve got to stay home. What’s something I can do? This opening came up for a property manager. I applied, got the job, and stayed with it all these years.
What’s kept you in the industry all this time?
It’s never-ending, it’s changing every day. There’s something new every day. You work with bankers. You work with tenants. You work with the government. There’s never a dull moment. I’m sitting here now with about eight calls I have to return that I just got, and I’m trying to leave today.
This company has been great to work for. That’s what’s kept me here. The people and Dave Black. The company has treated me so well all these years that I never had the urge to go anywhere else.
What is it about the way NAI Black treats you that’s kept you here?
They’re just good people to work with. We work hard, but we all have a sense of humor — you’ve got to have a sense of humor in this business — and everybody gets along.
What have some of the high points of your career been?
You have high points every time you help a tenant who calls and has a disaster. You have high points when you put a new tenant in a building. If they like the building and they’ve liked what you’ve done for them, they’re going to renew for another five or 10 years. Every day, you’re helping somebody or solving somebody’s problems.
What are your proudest moments from the past few decades?
I’m proud at the end of every day. If I can get through the day and I’ve helped as many people as I can, and if I’ve done what we’ve said we’re doing, I’m happy.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career?
Well, on the other hand, I could say every day is a challenge. I couldn’t even name a biggest challenge. It’s about getting in, taking that challenge, and solving that problem. You’re so busy that you’re already moving on to the next one.
How has the industry changed over the years?
With real estate, it’s up and down. You have great years, and then suddenly the economy will take a dive. Spokane is pretty good, we’re pretty level. There are ups and downs in the economy. In these last couple of years, some of these mom-and-pops have been going out of business. Now you have some of the larger companies going out of business. I managed (leases for) both Hastings stores, and they went bankrupt. Now you’ve got to figure out, OK, now what? You’ve got 30,000 square feet of vacant space, what are you going to do for the owner?
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
No. I have no regrets. It’s been a good ride. I’ve been very blessed.
Do you have any advice for people who are looking to get into the industry?
Only certain people can handle being property managers. It’s a different ballgame. It’s complaints, every day. You’re getting calls ... “My heat doesn’t work, I’m cold.” ... “The sidewalks haven’t been taken care of.” You get that every day. If you don’t have a personality that can handle that kind of problem every day, then this isn’t the business for you. You have to be able to handle these calls and these situations.
There are emergencies. I’ve been called out at night. I’ll have to go to a property if the fire department shows up. It’s a 24/7 job. My phone is always at the ready. If that’s something you can’t handle, then you shouldn’t be in this business. But if you can, it’s a good business.
Any other parting words of wisdom?
You work hard, and you’re a good, honest person, and then you play hard. You’ve got to have that release of something other than work.
How do you play hard?
I play tennis. I play golf a little. My wife and I like to ride bikes and hike. We’re going to be living in St. George, Utah — I’m leaving Spokane. The cold has finally got to me. I want some warm weather.
What else is next for you?
We’re going to start doing some traveling, my wife and I. After we’re through traveling, I might get a job doing something else, try something else. I’m 70 years old, so I don’t have much time left to do anything. I’m going to start having fun every day now. I’ve had fun here, but I’m going to have even more fun now that I’m retired.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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