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Chapter Leader Focus - Kyla Willis

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Kyla Willis is a real estate metrics expert who loves the thrill of the deal. As Leasing & Development Associate at Duke Realty she has the opportunity to pursue her passion for analytics and apply it in new creative ways. Her Oakland based team focuses on growing the company’s portfolio in the East Bay, Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Peninsula and Central Valley markets, and also oversees the company’s growth in Seattle.

When Willis joined Duke Realty, an industrial-only REIT in 2011, she was in the reporting group where she focused on leasing metrics including rent and same-property growth. “I think having a deep understanding of how Duke (and thus the greater market) analyzes and reports its metrics, gives me an edge over the rest,” she said, “I know what it takes to get deals approved.”

One deal that recently got her inspired was a redevelopment project that required Willis and her team to amend the existing 40+ year old CC&Rs of a 210+ acre business park before they could acquire the land and develop a new Class A logistics facility. They needed to gain consent from 2/3rds of the owners in the park and successfully did so over the course of several months. Of course, this required great patience and flexibility during the course of the process. “Other buyers shied away from the deal. However, we rose to the occasion”, she said. “I love the real estate game because it is never boring. There are always new challenges to overcome, and I love thinking creatively.”

What Willis finds most rewarding about her career is the chance to make a difference. “While industrial buildings are far from glamorous, they can most certainly be transformative for a community,” she said. “By cleaning up problem areas, bringing in high-paying jobs, and allowing new industry to take hold in under-represented communities we contribute significantly to the local economy, and I find that inspiring.”

Relative to NAIOP SFBA, Willis joined in 2020 and serves on the Industrial Committee as well as the Sub-Committee that organizes the annual Spring Industrial Breakfast. Additionally, she was recently accepted into the NAIOP Executive Development Program (NED), class of 2022 which will kicked off this spring.

“I am very excited about the journey because of the rich curriculum of personal and professional development as well as the networking,” she said. “I’m new to the Bay Area and NAIOP has already given me an excellent platform for meeting people. The NED program will help accelerate the process. ”

In terms of advice for emerging professionals, Willis encourages them to release their fear about starting at the bottom. Her first role at Duke was in lease administration and she considers it an important steppingstone that helped get her where she is today. “I am very grateful for the experiences I had earlier in my career,” she said. “If you embrace the opportunities to grow, you will gain critical knowledge from every role. Also, never be afraid to explore different domains of the business; speak up and ask for what you want!”

On the personal front, Willis hails from a suburb of Indianapolis, Indiana. She left home to attend Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee where she loved being surrounded by music. She moved back home after college and began her real estate career. In 2019, she moved to the Bay Area with the support of Duke Realty to help grow the company’s presence in our Northwest markets. These days she lives in Walnut Creek with her husband of 17 years, Dwain and their three children Cyan (15), Cora (11), and Quinn (10).

A lover of modern art, architecture, and interior design Willis and her husband can be found visiting modern art museums, Frank Lloyd Wright homes and buildings, and modern furniture boutiques. She also loves exploring all the beautiful outdoors that California and the greater Northwest Region has to offer. “We will never run out of parks and places to visit!” she said.

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