Real Estate Conference to Focus on ‘Refining Your Competitive Advantage’

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — This year’s gathering of more than 400 real estate and business leaders at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center in Birmingham on Jan. 28 will benefit from dialogue, panel discussions and networking activities surrounding the topic of “your competitive advantage.”

“In this ever-changing economy, differentiating your property, service, product or company from every possible competitor requires close study and creative attention on a well-defined competitive advantage,” according to Grayson Glaze, executive director of the Alabama Center for Real Estate, known as ACRE,  at The University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Commerce.

Legendary investor Warren Buffet has often said that his success has been primarily focused on the number one attribute he looks for in a company – “a sustainable competitive advantage.” Glaze said conference participants will consider throughout the day, “if Buffet examined your company, would he find what he is looking for in a sustainable advantage?”

General Electric’s celebrated former CEO, Jack Welch, once said, “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” ACRE’s agenda is built around assisting conference participants in beginning the process of fine-tuning a competitive advantage.

Glaze defined a competitive advantage as a proposition that the competition cannot duplicate. “It is the single selling advantage that is to be used in every strategic decision regarding marketing, selling, communicating and interacting with your customer as well as your employees,” he said.

Yet, according to research, Glaze said, most companies today are in need of clarity.

“Current reports show that 95 percent of all companies have neither a competitive advantage nor strategy for how to communicate their single compelling reason to choose their company, properties, products or services,” Glaze said. “Thus, the day-long conference will focus on assisting participants in thinking and talking about developing a message that resonates with their target audiences.”

The conference agenda will begin at 8 a.m. with a session, “Refining Your Competitive Advantage,” by Cort Harwood of Harwood Consulting and a Vistage Executive Chair. The 2011 Alabama Economic Outlook, presented by Dr. Sam Addy, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at The University of Alabama, will include an economic development forum featuring top economic development executives from across the state.

The forum participants will be Rick Davis, director, Cummings Research Park; Patrick Murphy, senior vice president of economic development, Birmingham Business Alliance; Connie Bainbridge, Central Alabama Electric Cooperative; Troy Wayman, vice president of economic development, Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce; and Wiley Lott, economic development, Alabama Power.

After a mid-morning break for networking and visiting over expo exhibitors, Jim Andrews, president of Commercial Property Directory, will moderate a panel of top statewide commercial real estate executives in a thought leadership session regarding best practices, including the creation of memorable competitive advantages and their market outlook.

Panel members will include Rance Sanders, president/CEO, The Sanders Trust, Birmingham; Will Wilson, President, Jim Wilson Associates, Montgomery; Robert Simon, CEO, Corporate Realty, Birmingham; Jerome Moore, president, Coldwell Banker Commercial Realty, Montgomery, and Matt White, president, White-Spunner & Associates, Mobile.

Randall M. Griffin, CEO of Corporate Office Properties Trust, known as COPT, will provide the keynote address at lunch. In March 2010, COPT formed a joint venture to develop Redstone Gateway Business Park at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville.

Griffin’s work experience includes 37 years in the creation of real estate value through direct responsibilities in management, development, acquisitions, marketing and finance. He directed development for more than $5 billion of real estate assets, representing more than 12 million square feet of office, retail and industrial/design build space, 5,600 hotel rooms and more than 4,000 housing units. He has also been responsible for more than $2 billion of acquisitions, including land, retail, office and industrial buildings.

Afternoon sessions include “Disposition of Troubled Assets,” “Best Uses of Social Media in Real Estate” and a wrap-up session on “Your Competitive Advantage.”

“Not only is it important to begin with your own perspective regarding the single competitive advantage, it is critical to carefully evaluate the thoughts and perceptions of your employees and customers regarding the strongest and most compelling opportunity for a sustainable competitive advantage,” Glaze said. “Yet, the perspective of the customer is the key to answering the simple and core question, “why us?’”

“Once identified and quantified, the competitive advantage must be woven into the fabric of every detail of a marketing and communication plan,” according to David Lobaugh, president of August Partners Inc. of Atlanta, a strategic research and consulting firm focused on shopping center, mixed-use and retail properties.

Six hours of continuing education credit with the Alabama Real Estate Commission will be awarded to licensees for attendance and participation in this Conference.

Additional conference information and online registration is available on the conference website,

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state’s economy, is in keeping with UA’s vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state’s flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

CONTACT: Grayson Glaze, executive director, ACRE,,205/348-7714; Bill Gerdes, UA media relations,, 205/348-8318


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