Leading real estate developer Charles Quarles sits down with students

Cal State LA alumnus Charles Quarles came back to the aerie on Tuesday, October 25 for an inspiring lecture titled ‘Professor for a Day,” hosted by the College of Business and Economics. Having Graduated with his bachelor degree in Business Administration in 1972, Quarles is now the CEO of the Bedford Group of Companies, one of Los Angeles’ leading real estate developers.

According to Quarles’ biography on the company’s website, Quarles later earned his MBA from Harvard University, and worked shortly as an accountant for Price Waterhouse and Company, and then reconstructed credits for Wells Fargo Bank. After several years in the bank industry, Quarles joined his father’s construction firm EAC Construction, and later established the Bedford Group of Companies in the early 80’s. The firm worked to provide quality housing in Los Angeles, Oakland, Las Vegas, and New Jersey.

The lecture was given in the form of an interview, led by Dean James A. Goodrich. Quarles shared his own path to success and much insight into today’s real estate business.

John, a senior Marketing major, asked how Quarles would prepare for the next economic crash. Quarles said that you could never know when the next crash would happen, but you could “engage it when it’s taking off, it’s a lot more difficult to sense when it’s going to crash. It just happens and people get caught. The best thing you can do is to make sure that you don’t go over leverage, you can always cover your cost, and try not to go out too far that you can’t come back from it. You evaluate the deal based on that if you lost it, will it take your entire company? So you don’t get into deals that could take you totally.”

Quarles’ daughter and Marketing Director Starlett Quarles brought modern day promotion strategies to the Bedford Group when they went from affordable rental housing to for sale housing. Prior to which, Quarles and his team saw an opportunity in the field of for sale housing and made the shift timely.

“When Reagan was President, he ended what was called ‘Section VIII program’, that kind of took away a part of the market. Then they brought in what they called ‘Tax Credits’, [which provided funding for the development costs of low-income housing], we got involved in the ‘Tax Credit’ party, we were one of the first developers in that field. Then the ‘big boys’ found out about it and it became very competitive,” said Quarles. “Affordable housing actually costs more to build, it’s very expensive…then we decided to go into for sale housing because all our for sale housings sold out before they were even built, and we sensed there could be a market for it. And we have been in the field of for sale housing ever since.”

When asked if his accounting background was much help to his career as a developer, Quarles expressed that his skills acquired from being an accountant was the foundation of his later success.

“I’ve always had a facility with numbers, and I think it helps any business,” said Quarles. “Business is all about numbers, understanding how it works, how to calculate cost, set prices, turning margins, and figure out how much to hold on to.”

It was a wonderful opportunity for students to hear from successful professionals in the industry. Students expressed much appreciation to Dean Goodrich for hosting the event, and to CEO Charles Quarles, a successful Cal State LA alumnus and an award-winning developer born and raised in Los Angeles, who once held President Obama’s Breakfast Fundraiser at his home.

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