Unfazed by a nearly $60-million loss in 2009, David Bowden notes the company's marked improvement in 2010.

David Bowden talks about the post-recession resurgence of Colliers Macaulay Nicolls, the Vancouver-based arm of global commercial real estate specialists Colliers International. (Return to B.C.'s Top 100 of 2011.)

In hindsight, David Bowden seems almost amused by the economic instability that has besieged commercial real estate for the past few years. As CEO of Colliers Macaulay Nicolls, the Vancouver-based arm of global commercial real estate specialists Colliers International, Bowden gives the air of someone settling into the calm after the storm. 

“Well it’s really been quite interesting,” he says with a hint of a laugh. “The economic downturn of 2009 really knocked the wind out of the commercial real estate asset class as an investment opportunity, but in 2010 it came roaring back.”

Compared to 2009, when the privately held company reported a nearly $60-million loss, 2010’s figures are a marked improvement. Revenue topped $860 million, moving it four spots higher on our list of top earners, although the company still suffered a loss of $12 million.

Bowden is unfazed, explaining that the loss was intentional, stemming from strategic capital investments made as Colliers expanded its reach in the U.S. and Europe and made an initial foray into Latin America. “It takes a lot of capital to become a global real estate player,” he says.

Here at home, the Canadian market exceeded Bowden’s expectations in 2010, with the market stabilizing much quicker than the company had forecast. Vancouver, which claims the biggest slice of Colliers’s Canadian market share, led the recovery, and from Bowden’s 25th-floor office in downtown Vancouver it’s easy to see why. 

His windows frame a breathtaking panorama of the North Shore Mountains, Burrard Inlet and the Port of Vancouver. The immutable landmarks encapsulate Vancouver’s unique geographical advantage, which Bowden believes will ensure its continued reputation as a top destination for investors and tenants – regardless of the economic climate.

“Vancouver has always been one of the most popular cities in the world, but a lot of the investors were worried the vacancy rates would increase significantly and they were worried about whether or not rents would fall back. That certainly hasn’t materialized. Vacancy rates are low, rents are high and expected to go higher and that’s created a whole new enthusiasm,” he says. 

The encouraging trend also extended to the Greater Toronto Area and Alberta, the company’s other primary Canadian markets. Commercial vacancy rates in those locations did climb slightly, but the rate of increase actually fell short of Colliers’s own predictions and are holding steady, Bowden reports.

Adding to his aura of post-recession tranquility, Bowden says 2010 also saw more young people interested in entering the commercial real estate field, and the phenomenon couldn’t have occurred at a better time. With Colliers looking to incorporate new technology and social media into its business strategy in the coming years, Bowden intends to capitalize on the energy and skill set of a new generation. “It’s heartening to see so many young, very bright people looking to get into our business. We think the future is very bright if that momentum continues.”