Meet a Governor: Lewis Agnew

Lewis Agnew

Lewis Agnew, President, Charles Hawkins Co.

Why did you make the decision to become a Research Foundation Governor?

My participation in the Research Foundation Visionaries program played a significant role in my future involvement as a Governor. The Visionaries program introduced me to the work and value of the Foundation, and once I was aware of all that it offered, I knew I wanted to continue my involvement. I immediately liked the people, products and work, and it was a very easy decision for me to deepen my involvement as a Governor after my term as a Visionary ended.

The Visionaries bring a lot of energy, ideas and enthusiasm to the Research Foundation. Certainly, we have different perspectives on business and industry trends as we are motivated to keep learning and still climbing in our careers. Blending that youthful drive with the wisdom of the more seasoned industry veterans creates a great synergy, and I really enjoy the camaraderie between the different generations that comprise the Foundation’s Governors.

How has the Research Foundation’s work benefitted you personally?

So much of what the Foundation publishes offers a national perspective or features different markets than my home market of Nashville, and that has offered a lot of useful insights and information that I may be able to employ in my own business. That type of knowledge is powerful.

One of the most interesting reports to me recently was “Repurposing Retail Centers: Profiles in Adaptation, Repositioning and Redevelopment.” There’s not a city in America not looking at a dark mall right now and imagining what it could be, and that report offered tangible ways these types of properties could be reshaped to bring new value to their communities.

Industrial real estate is hotter than ever, including Nashville. What are you seeing?

The demand for industrial is higher and hotter than it has ever been. My company’s portfolio, which is mostly industrial, is 99% occupied – and every tenant needs more space. With huge surges in e-commerce and increasing numbers of people moving to Nashville, there is just not enough space out there. Demand is significantly greater than supply – and everything from rents to sale prices are rising quickly.

What is the biggest change to commercial real estate as the pandemic’s long-term impacts become clearer?

The most interesting immediate impact – which may not be permanent, time will tell – is the acceptance of remote work. Companies that never would have agreed to it for their employees prior to March 2020 are embracing it. That’s not to say that the office is going away, but neither is the growth of remote work. We’ve all heard anecdotes of people not planning on returning to the office full time, and I think the shift to a more balanced or hybrid work week will continue to grow and to be more acceptable in the future

What professional advice would you offer to those just starting out in the industry?

This is going to sound the opposite of what I just said, but don’t work from home! Go to the office, show up early and stay late. As you’re building your career, this is where you’ll learn and grow the most. Creating a balance is key, but being present early in your career is crucial to building valuable relationships and knowledge. When it comes time for promotions – or layoffs – I expect in-person employees will fare better in the long run.