Alison Powers
Senior vice president, JLL
Age: 37
Industry experience: 14 years 

As a long-time member of the Commercial Brokers Association, Alison Powers is seeking to make the 355-member group more inclusive while adding programs that resonate with the under-35 age crowd. The JLL senior vice president founded the CBA’s Women in Commercial Brokerage initiative in 2018 to support the role of female brokers. As she prepares to take over the organization’s presidency in 2023, Powers wants to broaden outreach to young brokers and bring more diverse job candidates into the commercial real estate industry. A longtime suburban broker with CBRE, Powers made the switch to JLL in August 2019 along with the three other members of her suburban team: Bob McGuire, Rob Walles and Sam Crossan.  

Q: What changes have the past year brought to the MetroWest market in terms of leasing activity, rents and development activity?
A: A big trend in the industry, on a macro level is life science, so we’re seeing a lot of activity everywhere and we have a development site we’re working on [for Madison Properties] at Polar Park in Worcester. We have two development sites: 200,000 and 150,000 square feet. The market is expanding for labs and cGMP facilities and benefiting as a whole, and that’s what kept us busy throughout 2020. Landlords are interested in capturing that demand: what can I do? Does my building work for a life science user? Even on the industrial side, properties are being looked at for cGMP.  

Q: Do you focus more on landlord or tenant representation?
A: As a team, we’re probably 50-50. I definitely veer more toward landlords. We’re represent a lot of office, flex, R&D and industrial properties – really all product lines. My larger clients include Carruth Capital, KS Partners and Atlantic Management. Suburban brokers tend to not specialize in certain product types, and now it seems like we’re all life science brokers because that’s where the market is heading. 

Q: You’re scheduled to take over as CBA president in 2023. What are the organization’s key initiatives in the short term?
A: I’m on the developing leaders board and it has always been an important initiative for me: to meet other brokers, and I’ve been involved in the organization for a while and excited to support the organization alongside [current president] Peter Evans. In terms of initiatives, our diversity, equity and inclusion initiative has been top of mind. We want to make brokerage more diverse and we want to do more for diverse candidates, to get opportunities in the industry and that is going to be a huge focus.  

I started the CBA’s women’s initiative five or six years ago, focusing on supporting women in the industry, and I think there’s more women than when I started 14 years ago. The purpose is to provide support and make sure women stay in the industry, with mentorship programs and panels with different topics such as work-life balance. And lastly, we’re trying to focus on our value proposition to younger brokers. The senior brokers have been members for years, but some of the newer brokers, we need to figure out the value proposition to them and think of programming that’s exciting to younger brokers under 35 years old. 

Q: What are your goals for CBA membership growth?
A: It’s not just brokerage. We have members that are architects, contractors – anyone we would do business with as brokers, which is important. The landlords want good relationships with brokers. It’s gotten bigger over the years as we’ve broadened to anyone in the industry. The programming we put out isn’t broker-specific. It’s industry trends, highlighting people who have been influential in the industry. 

Q: What did this year’s CBA award-winners indicate about market trends in Greater Boston?
A: 2020 was a challenging year for brokerage and commercial real estate in general. A lot of companies weren’t back at work, and tenants were looking at real estate differently. It was interesting to see there were still a lot of important transactions that happened. There were a lot of creative deals. It wasn’t just about leasing more space, it was, “How do we help you get through this challenging time?” 

Q: How are changes in employment structure affecting the brokerage industry?
A: That’s something becoming more prevalent in the brokerage industry: being asked to become independent contractors and it does affect your taxes and your investments, so it’s something that the CBA needs to educate brokers about. If you’re asked by your company to be an independent contractor, what does it entail? As I’ve gone through that process, it was something that was new to me and it was challenging. Mainly, you’re going to have to think about your taxes differently and you’ll be able to invest more money pretax. 

Powers’ Five Places to Travel Post-COVID 

  1. New York, New York 
  2. Amalfi Coast, Italy 
  3. London 
  4. Charleston, South Carolina 
  5. Vail, Colorado 

A Big Tent Approach to Brokerage Group

by Steve Adams time to read: 3 min