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“You can’t make tacos from your bedroom.”

A shining quote from this week’s flat-out interesting ULI Emerging Trends panel discussion, which The Smart Agency was proud to sponsor.

CEO Panelists Wing Lam of Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, Bill Shopoff of Shopoff Realty Investments, Chad Lefteris of UCI Health, Alex Parker of Redline Detection, and Lucy Dunn of the OC Business Council weighed in on the top trends affecting business owners and #CommercialRealEstate leaders in a dynamically shifting market.

Here are the highlights:

Local Impact is BACK

Okay, maybe it never went away, but community impact is *definitely* top of mind as leaders shape the workforce and workplaces of the future.

Much discussion was given to the next generation and how to create real estate that will retain talent and create a true sense of place for people of all ages.

A top challenge shared by all industries was workforce development. It turns out Orange County is the fifth-largest county in the United States and its largest population cohort is aged 65 or older.

Each of these leaders discussed the great need to curate spaces and work cultures that will keep our talented younger generation living here, and loving it.

Innovate, Innovate, Innovate

No one is resting on their laurels in this business climate.

Mr. Lam, an icon of tacos and philanthropy, spoke of AI robots delivering food on college campuses, while Ms. Parker, an entrepreneur and inventor, described how her firm has achieved a 72% year-over-year business increase due to the company’s shift in focus to hydrogen fuel cell and clean power sources.

“I believe we’re entering an energy renaissance,” Parker said, speaking to the widespread business opportunities as well as the depth of infrastructure investments that will be needed to bring this renaissance to life.

Energy is Tight

Let’s shoot it straight: the electric grid is unprepared for the energy needs of our world.

Mr. Shopoff, a lifelong investor and visionary, has for example invested in a newly invented technology that converts different types of alcohol to low-to-no-carbon fuel.

“The world needs to de-carbonize,” Shopoff said, as he described the very real challenges of dealing with rising sea levels, decreasing fuel supplies, and difficulty getting power to properties. “This is not an either/or strategy – it’s and/also.”

Shopoff went on to describe how his company is infusing these principles into everything they do.

“I’m building projects with a generational mindset,” he said. “This is about curating experiences that bring life to the communities we serve while also making sure these properties will be sustainable for the long term.”

This future-forward approach was shared by Mr. Lefteris, a visionary healthcare leader who described his company’s current focus on building a new $2 billion LEED Gold and Platinum UCI Health facility in Irvine.

“This new facility will be the first in the world to have a non-fossil-fuel backup energy generator,” he explained. “All of this aligns with our focus on the future. We are a forever organization, so we’re making decisions for 10-20 years from now, and beyond.”

Each panelist agreed with this sentiment. The focus is on making this community an even better place for the next generation.

Learn more about how #CommercialRealEstate is changing the world by re-reading our ULI Spring Meeting recap.

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