Compass Commercial Celebrates 15 Years in Central Oregon


Compass Commercial Real Estate Services in Bend celebrates its 15-year anniversary this year. Since its formation in 1996, the company has evolved into a hallmark example of a progressive, efficiently managed real estate firm capable of serving all of Central Oregon. 

Founded by Erich Schultz and Steve Toomey, Compass was created, they remember, “to deliver an exceptional new level of customer service and professionalism to the industry.” During those formative years, the partners kept those goals true and clear.

Compass Commercial has grown into the largest commercial real estate company in Oregon outside the Portland-metro area and the 10th largest in the state, according to Oregon Business Magazine, an impressive accomplishment in today’s volatile market. The firm includes 18 brokers and an additional support staff of eight and, over the years, has consistently led the market by holding approximately 30 percent of Central Oregon’s commercial real estate sales and lease listings, said Compass Commercial Marketing Coordinator Michelle Anderson.
Compass Commercial started out as a brokerage, specializing in sales and leasing. Soon after, the partners added property management. The company continued to grow over the years, adding business sales and acquisitions and, most recently, a development services division. The partners also created a broker services support staff, which includes administrative, graphic design, marketing and information technology professionals.

Gardner Williams, a partner since 1999, is the company’s immediate past-president. He worked at the large Portland firm, Grubb and Ellis, for 20 years before deciding to relocate to Bend.

“In the late ’90s Bruce Kemp and I both joined the firm, and since then we’ve added four additional partners,” Williams said. “We’ve grown the company from a very small, four-person shop to a full-service brokerage.”

In addition to Schultz, Toomey, Kemp and Williams, the other partners include Cheryl Gardner, Howard Friedman, Darren Powderly and John Keba.

“Today, we have more CCIMs (Certified Commercial Investment Members) than any other firm in Central Oregon,” added Williams “Getting those certifications shows a real dedication to your career by increasing your expertise in the business. We’ve grown exponentially, even through the downturn.”

Compass also includes Certified Property Managers (CPM) and the only two  of the three Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR) in Central Oregon. Continuing education is important to the company, which provides monthly trainings and encourages its brokers to seek professional designations.

As for the state of the current market, Williams feels “we’ve definitely hit the bottom.”

“Things aren’t going to get any worse,” he said. People are starting to take advantage of the low rates on office and industrial buildings. They’re sensing the deals and are back in the market. Bend is now on everybody’s map, and there’s a huge draw here, especially from California.”

Compass Commercial has tracked the commercial Central Oregon commercial real estate since the company’s formation. Each quarter since 1996, Compass has published its market survey results, delivering absorption and vacancy rates for each submarket—industrial, retail and office. Real estate professionals, the media and investors throughout the region rely on and trust this information. The project is a big undertaking four times a year and a collaboration between Compass Commercial’s partners, brokers and staff. Anderson feels it’s an important exercise and a good investment of time.

“Over the past 15 years, our partners, brokers and property managers have proven themselves as industry leaders in Central Oregon,” she said. “That’s the bar our founders set. They use their depth of experience, education and capability to care for our clients and the community.”

It’s one of the reasons, said partner Cheryl Gardner, Compass has continued to grow and evolve, even during an economic slowdown.

“The company has grown to 26 people over the past few years and our merger with Equity Growth Management in 2010 further enhances our ability to provide for our clients,” she explained. “Our motto is ‘exceeding our client’s expectations.’ Compass is a very open and sharing company and we work together in teams, so I believe a new client that comes to us gets the full attention of the group. We build great presentation packets with color fliers and reports containing demographics and aerial photographs, a long way from when I started in this business when it was just a black and white photo copy.”

Gardner also recognizes the proliferation of information out there in today’s frenzied internet environment and the need to stay alert to change.

“The number of connections in the real estate world has grown vastly over the past ten years,” she said. “Keeping current is vital to Compass and we have staff meetings several times a month to remain on top of the latest market outlooks, rumors and news. Anything we can do to give our brokers the tools to be successful.”

Compass Commercial Asset and Property Management oversees more than one million square feet of commercial real estate in Central Oregon, making them the largest property management company in the region.

Further complementing their scope, Compass offers a development services department providing general contracting services, such as build-outs and tenant improvements, which gives them the ability to be an all-inclusive, one-stop commercial real estate firm, Gardner said.

Anderson, marketing coordinator and a member of Compass Commercial’s broker services staff joined the company early last summer.

“In my short time here, I’ve come to understand why Compass is successful, and it’s no accident that our partners and brokers are so respected and trusted in our community,” she said. “Organizations take on the personality of those who run them, and by design, Compass is an authentic company that reflects the values of our people.” or 541-383-2444.


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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