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Pierce DeGross: Building the Chapter While Building a Career

​Pierce DeGross sits bemused in “The Social,” at Hilton’s global headquarters in McLean, Virginia that he helped to create. He is marveling at a triumph unrelated to his Hilton success.

As head of Global Workplace Services for the hotel giant, DeGross has overseen the creation of exciting and productive workplaces for Hilton Team Members around the world. But closer to home, he has been integral to the development of the CoreNet Global Mid-Atlantic Chapter and the launch of the chapter’s first Awards Gala.

The First Gala Almost Didn’t Happen
Recalling the inaugural honors, he is amazed by its inception and success story. His team, which included Karen Fields, Henry Chapman and others on the gala committee, started from scratch with a big vision and a lot of heart. The chapter was young, born out of the merger of two other organizations. To fulfill bold ambitions to provide the education, research and networking opportunities that members need and want, DeGross knew they would require funds. “The chapter had a relatively small sum—about $20,000—in the bank. We had to raise money to become a viable chapter. That first gala would help get us there,” DeGross said.

A Novel Approach to Securing Sponsors
Lacking the resources to stage the event themselves, the gala team hit on a novel idea—approach developers to bid for the opportunity, likely tapping into their marketing budgets. The ask? Give us a venue and $35,000 and we will bring our members to experience your building/location. After an RFP was pitched to half a dozen developers, Mitchell Scheer of Vornado stepped up. Vornado saw the opportunity to show off changes the company was making in Crystal City streetscape to 300 corporate real estate executives and the service providers who support them. With a major sponsor secured, others followed wanting the connection, networking the brand exposure from the one organization that delivers the full cycle of commercial real estate: End Users and Occupiers, Developers, Tenant Brokers, Architects, Project Managers, General Contractors and Property Management in one event.

Setting the Standard for Awards Judging
Another first for the debut gala was the recruitment of CoreNet judges from outside the region to select winners for the inaugural Awards of Excellence for CRE Professional of the Year, Service Provider of the Year and Project of the Year. That approach gave the honors gravitas and set a standard that has been replicated by other CoreNet Chapters around the country.

The first gala was held in a tent in Crystal Park in front of celebrity chef Jose Andres’ new restaurant Jaleo. The 300 attendees included Peggy Binzel the CEO of CoreNet Global at the time, who traveled from Atlanta. The execution of the event was seamless, raising sufficient funds for a scholarship at the Johns Hopkins Graduate School of Real Estate and an infusion for the chapter treasury.

“The first gala and its successors have helped the chapter move from farm team to major league status.” DeGross says.

CoreNet: The Building Block of a CRE Career
DeGross also notes that the chapter and CoreNet Global have helped him take his career to into the big leagues. Right out of college, he was induced by a premier training program to join CBRE and learn the ins and outs of commercial real estate. Later in the late 1990’s, a friend who was a recruiter at Booz Allen asked DeGross if he had given thought to corporate real estate. He hadn’t, but tossed his hat in the ring. After landing the job, it would take only a few years to become Booz Allen’s Global Real Estate Manager working on leases outside of the U.S. 

CoreNet Global helped make DeGross’ career shift from the landlord focused property management and leasing to corporate real estate a success. He earned his MCR in 2002 and actively participated in the Mid-Atlantic chapter, as well as the global organization, building a strong network and taking advantage of the learning opportunities offered at the local, national and international levels. 

After more than two decades in corporate real estate, DeGross is proud of his impact and the work that has taken him around the globe (“…although I still haven’t been to Australia!). 

Being at the Top of His Game
At Hilton’s headquarters in McLean, Virginia, DeGross has also worked closely with CEO Chris Nassetta and several senior executives on the vision for the gathering place that became “The Social” and with the HR Leadership to create a dynamic workplace that now includes a newly opened on-site medical clinic, as well as other amenities. Hilton was recently named #1 Best Place to Work in the US by Fortune Magazine.

As DeGross has risen in his career, CoreNet has been with him at every turn, providing the knowledge, connections and resources to propel success. As he often advises others in corporate real estate, “Join CoreNet. If you aren’t doing it, you need to make the investment. The three pillars of education, research and the network are indispensable.”

The 15th Annual CoreNet Awards of Excellence Gala is May 30 at the Organization of American States. For sponsorship and other information, please click here.