How Jerry Slusky created the CRE Summit and bailed out sick commercial real estate in Omaha and beyo

Twenty nine years after its inception, the CRE Summit has become the premier industry event of its kind, bringing together the city’s most influential leaders to discuss impactful topics and bring together industry participants from across the region.

The year is 1990, and Jerry Slusky is teaching a real estate development course to two dozen law students. The real estate attorney and professor is only a month deep into teaching these courses when the economy -- and particularly, the commercial real estate economy -- tanked.

“I’m not so sure it’s worth teaching this course right now,” the Smith & Slusky Law partner told the dean at the time, “because essentially every professional that makes a living in commercial real estate is out of business.”

From lenders to engineers to brokers, lawyers, and construction, the industry was at a standstill. But Slusky knew that a new government tool would be the solution.

“The government had just announced a bailout plan called the Resolution Trust Corporation, better known as RTC, and that this would be the device the government would use to bail out all this sick commercial real estate,” Slusky explained. “The problem was that no one knew how it worked, where it worked, or who to seek for help.”

Slusky envisioned a partnership with the nearest RTC regional office in Kansas City, with whom he could work in tandem to host a conference on the subject to inform real estate professionals as to “how we’re going to work out of this mess,” he said. The dean loved the idea, and put Slusky up to the task.

The first Commercial Real Estate Workshop took place in April 1990, as 375 members across the commercial real estate industry packed a Creighton Law School lecture hall, eager to learn how RTC worked and how it could help the industry get through difficult times.

Attendees immediately affirmed that the workshop’s life must continue. If the local real estate economy is any indication of the strength of the conference’s teachings, consider that just by the third annual event, the conference was entitled “The Sun Begins to Rise,” a nod to the improving business climate in Omaha and beyond.

“From that year until 2007, we had an unprecedented growth spurt,” Slusky said. “It was almost nonstop for those 14 years. The industry was thriving. People were making money. What we did is every year, we sat down with our planning committee to ask: ‘What’s new? What’s interesting? What’s hot out there? What do we need to cover to help educate our industry?’”

Twenty nine years later, the event has become the premier industry event of its kind, bringing together the city’s most influential leaders to discuss impactful topics and bring together industry participants from across the region.

It’s an event that requires the entire year to plan, as well as the combined efforts of a 50-person board of directors whose members stem from important companies and organizations including the UNO Real Estate Center, Great Southern Bank, CBRE Mega, First National Bank, Brester Construction, The Lund Company, First American Title, E & A Consulting, Investors Realty, Burlington Capital, and more. At the start of planning season, those board members are given 2 minutes to present the most significant topics affecting their business today, and then find the local leaders who have lessons and knowledge to share in order to drive business forward.

Over the past nearly three decades, the event has hosted virtually every Midwest industry leader, from presidents of national banks to CEOs of national real estate brokerage firms and construction companies.

Three years ago, Slusky and Vice Chair Barry Zoob of Colliers International changed the very fabric of the event with a full-fledged partnership with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce as a co-sponsor.

Jerry Slusky is an Omaha icon. I am thrilled that I am now his co-chair in this event. It is the second largest gathering of the business community and influential leaders in the area next to the Omaha Chamber's Annual Meeting and we do not know of a single Commercial Real Estate public forum which has more attendees within the entire Midwest and beyond.

Keynote speakers at the summit have run the gamut from national industry professionals, to political talking heads, to inspirational athletes and even the member of Seal Team 6 who made the kill-shot on Osama Bin Laden. The partnership with the Greater Omaha Chamber has solidified the importance of this conference to the entire corporate community.

If you are in business and want to learn more how CRE affects your business, you should absolutely intend to be present this year at the Century Link Center on April 6th at 8:00. You can register at

“This teaming was instrumental in bringing the Omaha business and real estate industries together to concentrate on how they could attract more business and improve upon life in Omaha,” a statement reads.

This year, the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce is on board as a partner, as well.

“We’re trying to keep this broad based,” Slusky explained.

In 2018, the real estate scene is hotter than ever, and registrations to the CRE Summit only confirm this fact. Slusky says he’s got an unprecedented number of pre-registrations, and fully expects the event to ultimately sell out to 1,000 attendees, packing the Century Link to the brim.

This year, the event’s theme is "2020: A Vision for the Future."

“That’s what we should be thinking about right now: 2018, 2018, and 2020,” Slusky said. “What’s going to happen? Where are we headed?”

Regular summit attendees will find a few new additions this year, including two TED Talks. The first, delivered by Cydney Franklin of 75 North Revitalization Corp., is entitled “Shaping the view of your perception.” A second talk by Quinn Texmo of JEO Consulting Group offers guidance on “Closing the gender gap within commercial real estate.”

CRE Summit introduces TED Talks

9:15 am - Cydney Franklin of 75 North Revitalization Corp. "Shaping the view of your perception" 10:15 am - Quinn Texmo, JEO Consulting Group "Closing the gender gap within commercial real estate"

Another panel, sponsored by the organization Omaha Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW), will paint a futuristic landscape of a world where real estate intersects with tech.

“Driverless cars have arrived and promise to upend traditional transportation and real estate paradigms,” the program reads. “Panelists will explore the latest developments with this emerging technology and share valuable insights on potential economic, investment, real estate design and urban planning implications.”

The capstone of the event, a complimentary cocktail reception, will kick off with a special message from Bill Moos, director of athletics at the University of Nebraska.

*Tickets are still available to the CRE Summit on Friday, April 6. Student registrations are $35 and general registrations are $285. More info here.

Thanks to MorningSky Media for being a proud sponsor of the 2018 CRE Summit. *

#CRESummit #jerryslusky #CommercialRealEstate

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