Cliff Long, CEO at Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association, came to real estate by way of politics. It was his previous role with the State of Florida a few years before he entered his current field that would lead him to a position as governmental affairs director for a local Realtor association. As Long learned during his time in both fields, the potential to make a positive difference and work closely with policy can be a huge part of the job of a Realtor. “Seeing how NAR and Florida Realtors administered government affairs and advocacy initiatives fascinated me,” Long said. He would go on to build a strong presence in his field in both Alabama and Florida before coming to his current role with the ORRA, a nonprofit working across counties in Florida with real estate professionals to provide resources, effect change and empower those in both the commercial and residential sectors. Here he discusses his own path to fulfillment, Orlando’s vibrant landscape, and what he hopes for the future.
What did you want to be growing up?
As a child, I wanted to be a professional football player. Seeing “Mean” Joe Greene and Tony Dorsett inspired me. I loved sports then and still do today.
What was your first job, and what did it teach you?
My first job was as a roofer. A local roofing company allowed both myself and my next-door neighbor to work for cash one summer. They offered us $10 per hour, which was more than we had ever made at the time. I learned that they were getting the better end of that deal. Standing on 110-degree shingles in the middle of a hot Alabama summer and carrying 50-pound bundles of shingles on my shoulders up a ladder taught me that I did not want to be a roofer. I traded in my work boots for a briefcase and never looked back.
What brought you to your current role as CEO of ORRA?
When the Realtor® Association CEO who hired me for my first governmental affairs position left to work closer to his hometown, the board of directors asked me to step in as interim CEO. The bug bit me from there. I developed a passion for serving and still have that fire.
What is a typical day like for you in your role? What kinds of things do you oversee?
Today I am focused on ORRA’s strategic plan and making sure all Realtors in Orlando know they are loved by their association, literally. I also know that my staff is a gift to me, so I focus on helping them achieve their personal goals. Lastly, I spend a lot of time within the realm of community affairs, both locally and globally speaking.
How would you describe the current state of the Orlando commercial real estate market? How does it differ from others you have worked in?
Orlando’s commercial real estate market is very strong. We have some of the most professional practitioners around, and our economy is great. I encourage everyone to count the number of construction cranes that have sprouted up in downtown Orlando. Our growth is visible. Orlando is growing both up, with regards to multistory buildings, and outwards. Our future looks great.
We are unique from other markets in that our economic drivers are distinctly different. We are the most visited city on Earth, and our airport is now the busiest in Florida. These resources help to guarantee a strong commercial market even in the midst of downturns in other geographical areas.
What trends have you observed in the Orlando market? What do you hope for the future?
Mixed-use buildings and neighborhoods seem to be the flavor of the day. Endeavors such as LIFT Orlando are helping to spread the notion of broad-based prosperity, and that in itself is the hope for our future. My hope is that Orlando continues its current renaissance and lives up to the name of The City Beautiful. I desire a city that is an inclusive community where residents can live affordably and where businesses can prosper.
What kinds of classes/resources does ORRA offer for commercial Realtors?
The Orlando Regional Commercial Council regularly provides classes for real estate professionals who seek an introduction to commercial real estate and its many aspects. ORRA also partners with commercial entities such as the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) Institute to ensure that a higher level of professionalism is taught and promulgated into our commercial real estate community.
Can you tell me more about RPAC? What are some of the legislative actions and proposals that would interest the organization?
RPAC is the Realtors Political Action Committee. It promotes the election of pro-Realtor candidates and supports pro-Realtor policies and interests. RPAC accepts voluntary contributions from Realtors who understand the importance of campaign fundraising and politics.
Politics influence zoning policies and regulations that directly affect commercial development and leasing. RPAC is very influential in local government and commercial-related policy. For example, the Florida House Civil Justice Subcommittee recently passed HB 469. This bill repealed a requirement of two subscribing witnesses for leases longer than one year. Florida is one of five states that require certain commercial lease agreements to be witnessed. A few more RPAC victories include reduction of the business rent tax (lowered for commercial leases by 0.2%), approval of online remote notaries, and reauthorization of the 179D Energy Efficient Commercial Building Tax Provision.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
My mother told me, “Son, Orlando didn’t make you, so don’t you let Orlando break you.” What she meant was that I was to never compromise my morals and beliefs for anyone and to never bow down to any system or authority. My past and present were forged with prayer, sacrifice and hard work, and I am to never forget that. ■