Commercial Real Estate Women of Tucson
By Tara Kirkpatrick
Launched in Tucson more than two decades ago, the Tucson chapter of Commercial Real Estate Women is advancing equity in the industry and offering members resources and networking to excel in Southern Arizona and beyond.
As they say at the monthly meetings, there’s never a cold call in CREW. “When someone calls me from CREW, I always take that call,” said CREW President Melissa Lal, who helms Larsen Baker, a commercial real estate management firm.
Part of a premier business network across the globe with 12,000 members, CREW Tucson began with roughly 30 members in 2002, and recently hit 100. The group hopes to reach 120 soon.
“To be able to get to 100 is a huge accomplishment,” said Lal. “That feeling of being able to take someone who’s new in the industry and give her the confidence and prep her for what might be a lot of intimidating situations in the future, that’s everything for me.”
Real estate is a relationship business, after all. CREW connects its members with each other locally and globally to share knowledge and support; offers education and leadership programs; and promotes real change in the industry. CREW completes a benchmark study every five years to measure equity progress as well as research reports on key issues facing the industry.
“This is like no other organization,” CREW Network board member Lynn Goessling said at a recent Tucson chapter meeting. “It has helped me develop as a leader and a professional. I went from an intern at my law firm to owner. I now do real estate deals all over the country. To be able to champion this organization has been life-changing for me.”
Lal, who is one of BizTucson’s NextGen Leaders, has particularly enjoyed CREW’s summits and events where she’s met many inspiring women and heard high-profile speakers such as Hillary Clinton. “You are meeting super-ambitious women and it just puts it all into perspective – it’s humbling in the best way.”
Barbi Reuter, principal and CEO of Cushman & Wakefield|PICOR, remembers joining CREW Tucson in its infancy. She is now immediate past president of the global CREW Network board of directors – the first Tucsonan to hold the position.
“From local leadership to global leadership, CREW is a place where you can develop your leadership chops in a safe, supportive environment,” said Reuter, a past Tucson Woman of the Year and part of BizTucson’s inaugural Women Leading the Region issue. “I would not have the ability to stand in front of people today without having tested those waters on a smaller scale.”
Reuter said her recent presidency of the CREW Network board was an incredible experience. “It’s the most strategic board I have served on,” she said. “It understands strategy and governance and bringing different voices to the table. To be laser focused on advancing women has been a tremendous privilege.”
The local CREW meetings, held monthly at La Paloma Country Club, are friendly gatherings highlighted by insider updates on new commercial projects around the region. Most recently, CREW members heard about ambitious plans for the redesigned Foothills Mall.
“Especially with what I do at Larsen Baker, it’s exciting to hear who’s building what and what the news is,” said Lal, who organizes the speakers and programs each month. “People still get really excited about what is being built here.”
Another favorite part of each meeting is dedicated to hearing how members have worked together on projects and referrals.
“When you think of a business that you need or when you’re buying a property or the vendors you need, you can think of the CREW membership first and reach out,” said Lal. “That’s a big benefit of our chapter.”
And it’s not all women in CREW – roughly 5% of members are men.
“Anyone who understands and supports the mission is welcome to be a member,” said Reuter. “We are an inclusive organization. The men who are members understand that equity is better for everyone. They are all sons, brothers, fathers and employees of women and they really get it.”
CREW Tucson requires applicants to be sponsored by an existing member or to upload a bio or resume as part of the registration process. More information can be found at crewtucson.org.
Pictured above – CREW Tucson’s 2023 Board of Directors, and CREW Network’s 2022 Past President (from left): Shaima Namazifard, Christie Lee, Teresa Vasquez, Rosemary Bright, Melissa Lal, Barbi Reuter, Karen Farrell, Lindsay Welch, Lani Baker. Not pictured: Ashley Stewart. Photo by Brent G. Mathis