The 24th Annual IREM Forecast Breakfast was awash in cautious optimism as the commercial real estate industry is slowly rebounding from the most difficult recession in our lifetimes. For 2012, each of the presenters, whether it be for office, retail, industrial or apartments, forecasted modest but steady improvements in both occupancy and rental rates for the Portland real estate market for the coming year.

But I would prefer to focus my commentary today on the presentation given by Nawad Othman, Chief Executive Officer for Otak, Inc. Mr. Othman, a self-described “optimist” gave a compelling presentation about current world affairs that he described as a time of uncertainty and an age of complexity. It would be easy to focus on all the real and ever pressing issues that confront us, and they are legion! Or we can, as Mr. Othman did, focus on the many things that truly make us the envy of the world. I would like to take the liberty to expand on Mr. Othman’s list.

• We live in a country of laws that protect our civil liberties. We should never take this for granted. Franklin Roosevelt described them as our four fundamental freedoms: freedom of speech and expression; freedom of worship; freedom from want; and freedom from fear. These freedoms are the bedrock upon which our government was founded.

• Our business environment fosters, promotes, and encourages innovation like no other country in the world. It isn’t by accident that Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon.com, to name just a few, are American corporations. China may be able to make things cheaper but they have no ability in creating the next new idea. They, and the rest of the world, look to us to do that.

• Our kindergarten through high school educational system may not be stellar but our universities are the best in the world. Students from all over the world flock to our universities.

• We have a strong commitment to fostering and maintaining a viable middle class. Unlike many countries of the world, we believe in public education. We believe in the American dream where someone who works hard and takes risks can rise to the very top of our society.

• Unlike many countries of the world (Japan, China, Europe) we have a growing population base. People from all over the world want to come to live in our country. Population growth is absolutely vital in order to have a healthy economy. And if you believe in Social Security, Medicare and other social welfare programs that help the most disadvantaged among us, a growing population is absolutely necessary to fund these programs.

Yes, we can focus on all of our problems or we can pause for a moment and see how blessed we are as a nation. So are we willing to view the proverbial cup of water half empty or half full? Even those of us who have gone through tough times (as most of us have during this recession) deep down realize there is no better place to live then where we live right now at this time in history.

Have a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah and a prosperous new year! If this closing offends you, get a life! 🙂

Source: IREMOregon.com; 2011 Forecast Breakfast Transcript, December 8, 2011.