Albany native and commercial real estate agent Mary Carter has come home, although technically she never left. Carter recently joined the local team at Murray Webb and Associates. Before this “move” she was with Athens-based Thomas Crane Realty.
Carter worked for Crane from her home here, and was focused on retail development in the Albany area and other areas of the state. Now all of her energy is targeted on the positive aspects of her hometown, which Carter says remain a high value to prospective businesses and developers from across the region. Carter is very aware of the harsh realities of the current economic downturn nationally and locally; as she sees it, difficult times create opportunities that would not normally present themselves. Even though the slowdown has delayed many “big box” retailers from expanding, Carter says the growth in small, locally owned businesses has a lot of potential right now.
“There are local folks recently laid off, like at Cooper Tire and such, that want to stay here. They have roots here, and they are looking to start up their own businesses.” said Carter. “Albany has the storefronts available right now to fill that need.”
She sees her job as finding the right match of property and business.
“I love what I do,” she said.
Carter predicts that Albany not only will survive this slump, but will come out of it in a stronger regional position.
“Property owners and developers understand that Albany is where the vast majority of shoppers still shop,” she said.
A 2006 study showed that the city gets an average of 400,000 customers annually. That is a figure that easily grabs the attention of retail outlets and local businesses, looking to open up or expand existing businesses. Carter believes the perception that nothing is happening in the local business and retail economy is just wrong, saying, “I’m very busy”.
Carter has built a solid reputation over the years as a proactive, positive force in real estate. Starting in residential sales in 1984, she says it has been a career that she has loved from the beginning. “It’s all about building relationships, establishing trust, working hard, and doing everything you can to match the right location with the needs and budgets of the buyer”, said Carter.
In 1994, Carter made the switch to commercial real estate. Her personable style has been matched by her professional attention to the details, giving her even more opportunities to participate in some significant business developments. Through Crane Realty, she quickly found herself connected with big players in the big world of property development. One deal that stands out with her was with Mansour’s, working closely with owner Fred Mansour to develop and open an 80,000-square-foot location in Augusta.
Some of her first deals here centered on properties in northwest Albany. Her efforts activated the business area from Logan’s Roadhouse to Backyard Burgers, with that million dollar project taking about two years to complete. It’s hard work that requires patience and people skills, but the end result is obvious to the community; jobs. It’s clear that Carter is driven as much by her faith in God and the desire to do the right thing for the community as she is a paycheck.
Carter’s drive to bring business and opportunities for growth to Albany probably sprouts from her youth, growing up with memories of a vibrant, family friendly city. She reflected, “I remember just spending the whole day downtown with my friends, all the stores and things to see. It was wonderful.”
Today, like many others, she is concerned about the redevelopment of downtown Albany, but her concern has only motivated her to get involved and do what she can to bring economic viability to the city’s core. While Carter’s efforts are spread all over Albany and southwest Georgia, one of the most valuable areas for business growth she sees here is the property along Ledo Road and Nottingham Way.
“There is a lot of activity there”, said Carter. Walden Place, a retail strip of storefronts at the intersection, and just behind the retail store for AT&T, has its first tenant. Carter has worked with the developers to adjust the rental rates, bringing them more in line with the local economy, and thereby spurring business expansion in the complex.
Carter says new construction along U.S. Highway 19 North will also continue, with one developer paying more than $1 million for just over two acres there. She is also involved in the promising ”inland port” area in Cordele, just off Interstate 75 and Georgia Hwy. As this property grows in value, it will affect the entire region, as the capacity to receive goods arriving from Savannah and other areas increases, only adding to the total retail value of Southwest Georgia.
Written by Lon McNeil. Mr. McNeil is an Albany independent marketing consultant. Find him online at AlbanyOnPoint.