All in a Day’s WorkWith a $100 million budget, a lease portfolio of almost 600 leased properties comprising nearly 8,000,000 square feet and sales of state properties generating $71 million in revenue since 2004, it’s real estate on a grand scale. For Fitzpatrick, it’s all in a day’s work.
Q: Tell us what it is the Real Estate Division does.
A: We oversee and manage all of the leasing for the State of Michigan and are the only agency authorized to do so. Due to the current state of the economy, we are leasing and building less, and we are working hard to create greater space efficiencies in both existing leased and owned space.
We are also the agency that sees to the disposition of surplus properties. We’ve sold quite a few properties over the last four years, not so much this past year. Some examples of the properties we sell are former correctional facilities or former mental health or psychiatric sites. We sold one large facility, over 700 acres outside Ann Arbor, to Toyota for their new North American expansion and sold another large site in Northville, outside Detroit, to a developer for mixed-use development.
Those were the two largest sales. Much of what we sell is for public re-use, like schools, parks or nonprofits. The annual cost savings associated with these sales is over $2,000,000 which represents costs related to maintaining and securing closed properties.
We also do statewide strategic real estate planning. In 2005, we completed the first-ever statewide plan. By 2008, when we updated the plan, we had completed 95 percent of the objectives in the original plan. We work with private real estate consultants on a contract basis in a private-public partnership on these issues. They supplement and enhance the services we provide. The original intent with this partnership was to reduce costs, and we have done this, in excess of $20 million a year. Now we are working with them to increase space efficiencies.
In 2006, we were given a national award for this private-public partnership for real estate services. We won the Innovations Award from the National Association of State Facilities Administrators.
Q: How does what you do relate to small business across the state?
A: Well, we have a lot of leases with small businesses, so that is an opportunity for them. The governor has been focused on revitalizing downtowns, so we are part of that initiative, and that affects small businesses as well. We have a lot of new development going on, new lease space under construction by private developers, and many businesses benefit from that.
Q: How many employees does your division have?
A: We have 15 employees. As across state government as a whole, we are finding that just as the demands on our services are growing, our resources aren’t. We have just six leasing agents right now and over 300 open projects.
Q: Tell us a iittle bit about your background and how you came into this job.
A: I have over 20 years of experience in real estate. I was a commercial appraiser, but I’ve spent most of that time in development. For the ten years before I came to the State five years ago, I worked for the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians as a real estate director and developer, on the casino side primarily. This work was both in Sault Ste. Marie and Detroit. I was in charge of facilities management, acquisitions and dispositions and business management and development. I also oversaw both public and private housing.
Q: When you came to the job, was it already set up as it is now, or has it changed over the years you’ve been here?
A: Two divisions have merged. One division had handled strategic planning, and then there was a real estate division that only did the leasing. So there were essentially two people doing the job that I do now. Other than that, the staff levels have remained the same.
Q: Are you Native American?
A: Yes, I am. I’m a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Eventually, I think I’d like to return to tribal work and be part of that community spirit again.
Q: Have there been any special challenges to you as a woman in this profession?
A: I think commercial real estate and real estate development have been and continue to be male-dominated professions. Sometimes it’s a bit challenging; as advanced as people think they are, sexism still exists.
But each gender has inherent strengths and we can use those to our advantage. Being a woman hasn’t held me back at all.
Curent Position: Director, Real Estate Division, Michigan Department of Management and Budget
Education: Attended Lake Superior State College (no Lake Superior State University); graduate of the Michigan Political Leardership Program, a fellowship through Michigan State University
Family: Three adult children: Paul, Andy, and Sam