The Real Estate Council of Austin is celebrating its 25th anniversary in a year in which its advocacy efforts are perhaps more important than ever, members said.
RECA, a nonprofit established in 1991, is made up of more than 1,800 commercial real estate professionals in the region and provides counsel to local leaders on policy issues affecting the local real estate industry.
Growing its membership from about 150 after its first year to nearly 2,000, RECA has become “a formidable organization in size and impact,” said one of the organization’s founding members, Tom Terkel, a principal at FourT Realty.
A former RECA president, Terkel said the organization was born out of a need for a moderate voice in the Central Texas business community.
“[RECA took a] shift in approach and attitude in what was going on from other real estate organizations at the time,” he said. “They wanted to take a sort of all-or-nothing approach; we disagreed with that. We didn’t think it would create a good long-term business environment.”
Formed on the heels of the 1980s—a decade of Texas economic tumult because of plunging oil prices—RECA sought to unite the business community and create stability in the market moving forward, Terkel said.
Another of RECA’s five founders, Gary Farmer, Heritage Title Co. of Austin president, said the organization branched off at the time from the NAIOP, also known as the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, which had local chapters in several Texas cities.
The growth of RECA 25 years later and the significant role it plays in advocating for the interests of the local commercial real estate industry speaks volumes for its merit and necessity, he said.
“We’ve enjoyed phenomenal growth,” he said. “And we have a very strong membership base—young and old and from a diversity of industry sectors.”
One of RECA’s younger members is Kevin Burns, owner of Urban Space, which provides real estate brokerage and is also a furniture store and interior design studio. Burns said he joined RECA in the late 1990s—prior to founding his business and just after graduating from The University of Texas—on the advice of a local broker. After consistently attending RECA luncheons and happy hours, he said he saw just how valuable the organization was. The events provided not just an opportunity for socializing, he said, but a foundation for building his career.
“Really it’s an organization that has a keen eye toward helping Austin grow in a manner that helps everybody out,” Burns said. “We’re kind of the watchdog for thoughtful growth and development and making sure our local government doesn’t run amok.”