Growing OmahaMar 13, 2019 05:14PM ● By Scott Stewart
Trenton Magid and Jeff Beals share their vision each week for a bigger, better Omaha.
The co-hosts of KFAB’s Grow Omaha have a dynamic that’s rooted in their childhood friendship and intertwined careers in Omaha’s commercial real estate market. It is also rooted in their own attachment to the Omaha community and their confidence in the city’s future success.
“People are very interested in the success and advancement of the city,” Beals says.
Their radio show discusses what is happening in commercial real estate, and it explores economic development more broadly—the excitement and challenges of deliberately growing a city. Magid says commercial real estate covers everything that’s not single-family homes, including vacant land, retail, industrial, multi-family residential, and special-purpose properties.
“Commercial real estate is a very niche business,” Magid says.
The show’s popularity is built around how interested people are in the place where they live, Beals says, and he believes Omaha has a particularly strong civic pride. The show is also “cocktail party fodder,” as people want to know about new businesses, skyscrapers, shopping centers, and neighborhoods. Its mission is to boost confidence in Omaha’s community and the economy.
“I wouldn’t quite call us cheerleaders for the local economy and for the city, but I would say we’re unabashedly positive,” Beals says. “We will point out negatives when we think that it will help make Omaha a better place, but, for the most part, this is a great economy, a great business community, and a great place to live—except for the weather—and we try to really accentuate the positive.”
Magid says people reach out to the hosts with tips, and they will hear rumors about what may happen. The duo lands scoops, too, such as announcing The Cheesecake Factory was coming to Westroads Mall, which Magid says they learned a year early because of a premature announcement of an HVAC contract.
Tom Becka, a longtime KFAB talk show host who is now with KPTM Fox 42 news and a residential real estate agent at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, says Magid and Beals work well together on the radio because they’re informative and entertaining. They know how to tell a story, Becka says.
“They build a good relationship with their audience, but they also build a very good relationship with their sources,” Becka says. “When those rumors or whatever come to fruition, it helps build trust with the audience because they know that these guys know what they’re talking about.”
Neither Beals nor Magid set out to become radio personalities, although each had the background for it. Beals studied journalism as an undergraduate at UNL and Magid spent a year in Hollywood producing television commercials and public service announcements before going into real estate. Now they reach an estimated 15,000 listeners and have the most downloaded podcast among iHeartMedia’s Omaha stations.
The idea for Grow Omaha started after they appeared as guests on local radio shows to discuss real estate growth and construction. Beals says they realized there was an appetite in Omaha for something that went beyond politics and sports in the talk radio market.
Grow Omaha debuted on Jan. 10, 2004, on KOIL (which used call letters KKAR at the time) as part of a six-month experiment. The show stayed on the air and moved to KFAB in 2006, where a stronger signal takes the show as far as Kansas City. It has flourished alongside Magid and Beal’s careers, and the economic clout of Omaha, over the past 15 years.
“It’s hard to believe how fast that time has gone by,” Beals says.
Magid and Beals work for NAI NP Dodge Commercial Real Estate, which they joined in 2016. Magid is executive vice president, and Beals is vice president of marketing and community relations.
La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig says the duo are the “yin and yang” of each other, with the more reserved Beals bringing detailed research and the more outspoken Magid bringing a down-to- earth perspective.
Kindig has co-hosted with Magid on several occasions and says the show generates a lot of buzz and covers a lot of material—everything from new start-up businesses to La Vista’s $200 million project to build a new downtown district.
“I hear people talk about their show all the time,” Kindig says. “Whenever I’m on it, I’m always surprised by the amount of people who will say something to me who heard it, so I know they have a great listening audience.”
How will Omaha grow in 2019?
Several major development projects are underway in Omaha, and their progress will be among the most visible signs of growth this year.
“What you’re going to see continue is both downtown and inner-city development,” Magid says.
One major project is Kiewit Corp.’s new headquarters in North Downtown, which will link TD Ameritrade Park and the CHI Health Center Omaha arena to Creighton University. The former Civic Auditorium site is also poised for redevelopment.
The downtown district will start to transform as part of the “tri-park initiative” to revitalize the riverfront. There’s also plans to transform part of the former Conagra campus and CHI Health Center’s Lot B near the baseball stadium.
Out west, Beals says work will begin on Heartwood Preserve, the former Boys Town site southwest of 144th Street and West Dodge Road that used to be called West Farm. There’s also the “Project Wizard” data center project in Papillion.
“The outlook for Omaha’s economy is still very, very rosy for the foreseeable few years,” Beals says.
In fact, Beals predicts a slight acceleration of growth in the coming year, as the city continues to grow denser in the urban core and continues to land major business investments, such as the new LinkedIn campus at Sterling Ridge near 132nd and Pacific streets.
Single-family residential growth will also fuel the local economy, Beals says. Bellevue, Papillion, Gretna, and northwest Omaha are seeing a “shocking” number of new subdivisions, and he expects to see that trend continue to reduce some of the pressure on the metropolitan area’s housing market.
Suburban growth shouldn’t slow the pace of projects on the eastern side of the city, either. Beals says that 13th Street near the former Bohemian Cafe “could pop the way that Midtown and Blackstone have,” and there’s also redevelopment potential along 24th Street and the Vinton Street corridor.
The challenge will be continuing to attract talented people to the city while retaining a workforce that many cities would love to pillage, Beals says. He says Omaha could become a community with a vibrant economy similar to those of Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; or Austin, Texas.
“We have made huge strides in that effort over the past 10 years, but we have a long ways to go to become the type of city that we could possibly become,” Beals says. “It is going to take constant effort and we have to do the things that make the talented people want to come here.”
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