In a dynamic market like commercial real estate, innovation is one of the most important traits, and this is especially true in our current context. As a part of our Expert Insights series, we talked to Scott Acton, CEO of Las Vegas-based Forté Specialty Contractors. Scott drew from his wealth of experience in entrepreneurship and the competitive Las Vegas commercial real estate market to tell us more about the current state of the industry and how brokers can succeed even in adverse conditions.
Q: Could you start by telling us a little bit about your background and why you chose a career in real estate?
My entrance into real estate began later in life. I have a long family history of Disney projects, which, as an entity, is known for creative, unusual experiences requiring innovative construction techniques. Part of developing this skill set for me included attending “Disney University” where I learned the business and leadership skills necessary to build a successful career. I began working for my father at the age of 16 but soon realized my entrepreneurial drive was too strong to just keep working for the family business.
A third-generation craftsman, I worked a variety of odd jobs, and then followed in the footsteps of my grandfather and father. My early work comprises several landmarks across North America, including portions of Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios, and Disney, showcasing my affinity to thematic design and construction. In 2002, I started my own company called Trevi Manufacturing. I wanted to combine manufacturing with construction, a marriage not seen within the market. I grew Trevi from a startup to a $12 million company in only two years, resulting in national accolades including being named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s “Small Businessperson of the Year” for Nevada.
After being a resident of Las Vegas for 20 years, my first project in the city was Treasure Island’s pirate ships, which provide the hotel its iconic presence on the Las Vegas Strip. Today, I continue my legacy of innovation as the CEO of Forté. The name Forté is now synonymous with many of the luxury homes, hottest casinos, restaurants, and nightclubs globally.
Q: Considering the COVID-19 outbreak, what are your thoughts on the CRE market in the US today in terms of trends and challenges?
People are now free to live where they want to live. Now that living where you want and working from home has proven to be a viable option, I believe there will be a rebalancing of population density in the United States. This will be beneficial to many cities and will hopefully bring increased work-life balance to many Americans.
Q: What differentiates the commercial real estate market in Nevada from other major markets in the United States?
There are a few things that differentiate the commercial market in Nevada. First off, the favorable tax treatment of small businesses makes the state more attractive. Second, the proximity and ease of transport are convenient, even attracting Amazon to invest in millions of square feet of office space in Las Vegas and other metros. Nevada has been overlooked in the past for reasons that are no longer valid. Businesses are flocking to our state and leasing office space in Las Vegas because it is a great place to develop.
Q: How have you seen the industry evolve in the past years you’ve been involved in it?
Like everything else in life, it has evolved in so many ways! People don’t just look at real estate anymore; instead, they see a building and expect an experience. This goes for office, retail, and dining space. The experience many are seeking in residential spaces is living in a space that ultimately defines your lifestyle. Life is not always easy, so why not live in a home that makes you feel good? People are willing to pay for an experience, and as a matter of fact, they actively look for opportunities to have more experiences, to have things to tell their friends and family about. I think this trend will only continue to rise, especially post-COVID.
Q: Are there any lessons from the past few years that you would impart as an absolute must for those looking to get into the Commercial Real Estate industry?
Be bold and stand out. People are hungry for creativity and innovation! Do something different, and don’t be afraid to take risks. Be inventive and imaginative — so much of the real estate business is copying what was already done. I view the property as what it could potentially be, how we could make it different, and what the client-customer experience would look like.
Q: What is your general assessment for the commercial real estate market in 2020? Have you spotted some interesting market trends, especially considering the current pandemic?
The commercial market is strong in terms of warehouse space in Nevada and Arizona. I think office space will be soft for now. I also think the re-envisioning of office space is where the biggest opportunities are! Try to walk into space and imagine something completely different. There is an opportunity for versatility and vision.
Q: How has the evolution of online marketing impacted the commercial real estate industry?
Online marketing began to take off a few years ago, and COVID has only accelerated the trend. Things like the ability to do virtual tours, see detailed photos and videos, and schedule a Facetime tour, have all positively impacted the commercial real estate industry. While many of these options have been put in place due to necessity during the pandemic, the convenience provided to cross-country and international clients has also improved significantly. This has had a powerful and lasting impact on the real estate market and will only continue to grow. We are producing photo-realistic renderings that portray exactly what we are going to build.
Q: Any other insights that you’d like to share?
Innovation is everything in our industry! If you are not evolving in your business, your competition will evolve and put you out of business!
All opinions expressed within this article belong to the interviewee.