NAI Olympia vets join brokerage startup Alliance

January 22, 2011

Add another name to the ever-changing lineup of local commercial real estate brokerages.

Debbie Shumate Johnson

The former president of NAI Olympia Partners and two of its brokers have joined Alliance Commercial Real Estate—which a veteran of Grubb & Ellis Harding Dahm & Co. (now Lee & Associates) launched in 2010.

Alliance will have two principals: Debbie Shumate Johnson, a medical-office specialist who handled tenant-representation in Dallas and founded a chain of home-accessories stores called Creations of the Midwest before joining the local Grubb & Ellis in 2002; and Drew Augustin, a 17-year veteran of NAI Olympia who previously led office sales and leasing for F.C. Tucker Co.

Drew AugustinAugustin

The pair plans to focus on office sales and leasing, in particular for local companies. They’ve hired former NAI brokers Brooke Augustin and Bryan Augustin—Drew Augustin’s daughter and son—and plan to grow to a staff of 10 to 12 within the year.

If Alliance grows as fast as projected, it could break into the city’s top-10 largest commercial real estate brokerage companies for 2011, based on IBJ’s Book of Lists.

The real estate downturn presents an “ideal opportunity” to start a new business, said Johnson, who sold her Creations retail chain (eight stores, four of them in Indianapolis) in 2002 to return to the brokerage business.

“When times are good, people don’t look around for opportunities for improvement,” said Johnson, 49. “They’re fat and happy.”

Another advantage Alliance should enjoy, Augustin said, is a local focus at a time when competitors are joining real estate networks to make themselves more attractive nationally and internationally.

“Companies have become less and less focused on their specialties,” said Augustin, 56, whose clients include locally based Adayana and Nyhart Inc., along with Roche Diagnostics North America.

A discussion about succession planning last year led the seven principals of NAI Olympia, including Augustin, to conclude they should close the firm after a 20-year run. That left competitors to pick from more than 20 veteran office, industrial and retail brokers.

Several of the company’s employees—including vice presidents Rich Forslund and Matt Langfeldt, director Alex Cantu and property management specialists Ken Petruska, Audrey Lawson and Chris Ayres—headed to locally based Summit Realty Group.

Principal Chip Barnes and Vice President Matt Dickerson joined the local office of Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle, and principal Tracey Holtzman decamped for the local office of Midland Atlantic.

Principal Gus Miller, a 15-year NAI veteran, joined pension-fund adviser The Guild Group, a local startup.

The closure of NAI and growth of Alliance are a continuation of an ongoing shakeup among the city’s largest commercial real estate brokers. A string of name changes and broker moves have proven confusing even to longtime industry veterans.

Among the biggest name changes: Colliers Turley Martin Tucker became Cassidy Turley, dropping the locally bankable Tucker name. Resource Commercial Real Estate grabbed the international Colliers affiliation and changed its name to match. Grubb & Ellis Harding Dahm & Co. dropped the Grubb affiliation in favor of Lee & Associates. And locally based Halakar Real Estate agreed to partner with a New York real estate network and change its name to Newmark Knight Frank Halakar.•


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