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Mike Smith. Photo provided

Real Estate Accelerator Lab recently graduated its first class of Cincinnati region early- and mid-career professionals through an eight-month training program designed to expand the diversity of race, ethnicity and gender in commercial real estate and give participants the opportunity to gain technical skills and make deep connections to top local development executives.

On May 21, 25 members of the Real Estate Accelerator Lab (REAL)’s first cohort graduated in a virtual ceremony, “attended” by their mentors, instructors and industry professionals from multiple disciplines within the real estate and community development industries. For their “final exam,” class members prepared and presented proposals for redeveloping vacant or underutilized sites in Bond Hill/Roselawn, Price Hill, Walnut Hills and West End neighborhoods in Cincinnati. All graduates receive an associate-level membership in Urban Land Institute (ULI).

REAL provides essential immersive training in commercial real estate development and investment fundamentals for women and people of color, who prevously have been under-represented in the industry, especially in its higher-profile positions.  REAL was created in 2019 by the local chapters of Urban Land Institute (ULI) and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and is supported by dozens of Cincinnati regional firms that represent all facets of commercial development, design, finance, and economic and community development. 

Michael Smith is a supporter and sponsor of Real Estate Accelerator Lab, a 2019 program developed by two nonprofits Urban Land Institute and Local Initiatives Support Corporation to expand minority leadership in commercial real estate. He is a VP of business banking at Fifth Third Bank and founder of Ironsmith Development LLC, consultancy that helps connect African American-owned businesses and entrepreneurs to resources, focusing on wealth-building through real estate investment and development

“My company, Ironsmith Development, sponsors the REAL program, because wealth-building for African Americans is very close to my heart and the primary mission of my consulting practice,” Smith said. “As a banker with years spent focusing on real estate, I encourage young professionals to build a strong financial future and accumulate wealth. Real estate can play a part, either as an investment or as a profession. REAL program equips its participants with the technical skills and relationships needed to forge their financial goals and expand their influence on the Cincinnati region’s growth and community development. I am proud that my son, Michael Smith Jr., is a graduate of the first class.”

Michael Golden Jr. is another graduate of REAL 1.0.  As a Real Estate Development Associate at the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, Golden said he especially appreciates expanding his relationships through REAL. “As I think about the future, one of the things I am really excited for is maintaining those relationships and continuing to grow in the real estate and ULI community.”

Applications for REAL 2.0 are now being accepted and are available online at: The cost for non-ULI members is $1,500. The ULI website offers information on scholarships available. Classes for the 2020-21 program, except for the orientation session, will meet at 1819 Innovation Hub at 2900 Reading Road. 

“The program is enriching and inspiring – hard work, yes, but so important because more minority participation in real estate development, equity investment, ownership and operations of commercial real estate increases the development capacity and resiliency of our region. I encourage you to participate or send the link to someone you think would benefit,” the senior Smith said.

Smith adds his congratulations to all program participants of the inaugural REAL 1.0 program: Kemo Aakhutera, eMerge CoLab; Brandon Black, Drawnversation and Greater Appreciation LLC; Dureka Bonds, Plum Tree Realty; Samantha Carmine; Anita Clark, Picture Perfect Rental Properties; Christine Crowe; Micah Dickson, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber; Michael Golden, The Port; Lindzie Gunnels, Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation; Keitha Johnson, Eurie Realty; Jalen Johnson, Ultimus Fund Solutions LLC; Alexis Kidd Zaffer, Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses; Kyle Ludlow, Macy’s; Sean Mahaffey, Robbins, Kelly, Patterson & Tucker; Joseph Malek, City of Cincinnati Department of Community and Economic Development; Brady Melton, Green Harbor Holding LLC; Marcus Parrish, Keller Williams Advisors Realty Greater Cincinnati Realtist Association; Samantha Reeves, Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation; Morgan Rigaud, Queen City Hills LLC; Taylor Ross, Domicile Realtors, Inc.; Emily Scovil, Ann Buys Houses; Michael Smith, Jr., Corbus; Nique Swan, Gravity Management Group; Allen Woods, MORTAR; and Brian Yagyuen, Triversity Construction.

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