Spokane Journal of Business

Tomlinson, Black split operations

Black to focus on commercial, while Tomlinson re-brands residential offices

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The two main principals of the Tomlinson Black Group of Cos., which over the last 12 years has grown to become one of the largest real estate firms in the U.S., say theyre parting ways to focus on different aspects of the real estate industry.

Tomlinson Blacks Dave Black says the commercial units of the real estate company have formed an alliance with Princeton, N.J.-based NAI Global, a network of independent commercial real estate firms that claims to be one of the largest commercial real estate service providers worldwide. Starting Oct. 1, Tomlinson Black Commercial Inc. and Tomlinson Black Management Inc., both of Spokane, will operate under the new name NAI Black, says Black, who is the CEO of both companies.

Meanwhile, Bob Tomlinson and his partners in the residential units of the company, which now operate under the name Tomlinson Real Estate Group, are building on an alliance formed earlier this year with Realogy Corp., a big Parsippany, N.J.-based real estate services company. The company is re-branding its residential offices across the region to include some of the brands within Realogys network.

Black says Tomlinson Black Group has grown to the point that he and Tomlinson needed to separate so their respective commercial and residential units could meet current demand and generate more growth opportunities in the future. Theyre hoping the separate alliances theyve formed will give them a competitive edge here and in markets where they hope to expand.

We were tremendously successful in what we set out to do, Black asserts. This is a business decision to move our organizations forward. It eliminates the confusion between commercial and residential agents and enhances our commitment to specialization.

Black says he and Bob Tomlinson, both longtime real estate brokers and developers, joined forces in 1995 to elevate their companies positions in the Spokane-Coeur dAlene area real estate market. Tomlinson Realtors acquired some of the assets of James S. Black & Co.s residential brokerage division, while James S. Black & Co. acquired the assets of Tomlinson Realtors commercial brokerage and property management divisions.

Last year, Tomlinson Black Group of Cos. was ranked by real estate trade magazine REAL Trends in the 50 largest firms in the nation.

Bob Tomlinson couldnt be reached for comment, but said in a news release announcing the decision that Dave and I have enjoyed a long history together, both as partners and friends. As we grow our companies in different directions, I look forward to our continued consultation and friendship.

Although their offices have operated under the Tomlinson Black name, the move wont result in any ownership changes because of the way they had divided ownership of the residential and commercial divisions, Black says.

NAI Global

NAI Global has a network of 350 offices in 45 countries, and manages more than 200 million square feet of commercial space, its Web site says.

The alliance with NAI Global gives NAI Blacks clients and agents access to markets outside of this region, and also will give the company more exposure to outside investors, Black says. In addition, NAI Blacks agents and clients now have access to an Intranet service offered by NAI Global, through which they send e-mails, obtain market research, and view continuously updated property information and other documents on a secure Web site, he says. Its agents also will have access to NAI Globals educational programs, he says.

NAI puts us on the map in a national way, says Jeff Johnson, president of Tomlinson Black Commercial. It gives our agents a national company to market, and now we have a ton of tools to use.

For now, NAI Black operates an office in the James S. Black building, at 107 S. Howard in downtown Spokane. Its eyeing a couple of markets in North Idaho, where it also offers its brokerage and property management services, but hasnt set a timetable yet for when it might open those offices, Black says.

We see North Idaho as a market where there is growth potential, says John Bennett, president of Tomlinson Black Management Inc. Really, though, this whole area is robust, and if you think youve seen a lot of growth in the last 10 years, wait for what youll see in the next 10.

NAI Black has a total of 80 employees, including 22 commercial brokers and four agents and three staff members it employs under Tomlinson Black Waterfront Inc., Black says. NAI Black will continue to own jointly and operate that agency, which focuses on lakefront property, with Tomlinson Real Estate Group for the foreseeable future, he says.

Historically, Tomlinson Blacks commercial divisions have focused on retail properties, but now NAI Black views medical office developments as its biggest growth opportunity, Bennett says. A recent example would be Empire Health Services contract with the company to manage and lease its medical office properties, he says.

Meanwhile, Tomlinson Real Estate Group, of Coeur dAlene, says its in the process of renaming several of its offices in Eastern Washington and North Idaho to incorporate brands within the Realogy network, which include Sothebys International Realty and Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corp., says Fred Meyer, a partner at Tomlinson Real Estate Group. The company has more than 500 agents and 14 offices across the region.

We long ago decided we wanted to be regional and not just local, and our ability to grow is enhanced by the alliance, Meyer says. One brand doesnt necessarily serve all markets equally well.

For instance, the Sothebys name is better suited for resort markets such as Coeur dAlene and Sandpoint, Idaho, he says. So, last spring, the company changed the name of its residential real estate office in Coeur dAlene to Tomlinson Sothebys International Real Estate Inc. and changed the name of its office in Sandpoint to Tomlinson Sandpoint Sothebys International Inc., he says.

The company re-branded its new-construction real estate office in Coeur dAlene under the name Coldwell Banker Tomlinson Inc., Meyer says.

It also has renamed its offices in Moses Lake, Moscow, Idaho, and the Lewiston-Clarkston area.

Within the next month, the company plans to rename its office in Kennewick, Wash., and it also plans to rename its office in Kellogg Idaho, soon he says. The company is deciding when it will change the names of its offices in Spokane and Cheney, which currently are operating under the Tomlinson Black name, he says.

Although they are moving in different directions with their real estate companies, Tomlinson and Black will remain partners in real estate investments theyve made together, such as in office buildings and subdivisions, Black says. They also likely will work together on developments in the future, he says. Black declines to disclose additional details for now, but says, Were always looking at new opportunities.

Contact Emily Proffitt at (509) 344-1265 or via e-mail at emilyp@spokanejournal.com.

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