On June 23 and June 24, the greater New York chapter of Inc. Magazine's Business Owners Council met to discuss the commercial real estate market.

Focusing on current opportunities created by the disruption in the economy and credit markets, real estate expert Phil DiGennaro from Withers Bergman along with successful entrepreneurs Jim Berlin, CEO of Logistics Plus and Shelly Kahan, CEO of Interstate and Lakeland Lumber spoke about the role of real estate in their strategic thinking.

Jim Berlin, who was last featured in the March 2009 issue of Inc. magazine, shared with us how his firm's purchase of the Erie, PA train station had opened up new facets to his business life and transformed himself and his $90 million trucking company into a civic leader in the community.

Shelly Kahan, the 3rd generation of Kahan to run this Connecticut-based lumber company, has been thinking about real estate for as long as he's been running the family business. Today, his business owns critical transportation-friendly hubs throughout Connecticut, providing a competitive advantage for his business and a platform for the next generation to grow.

Both of these extremely successful business owners shared their strategies and their process for making the savvy real estate moves that have been instrumental to their success.

Later, Phil DeGennaro, real estate expert and attorney from Withers Bergman, offered us his golden rules of commercial real estate:

1) Whether leasing, buying or selling, find out everything you can about who you're negotiating with. This can help set the course of your negotiating strategy.

2) Be creative when it comes to financing. The current credit crisis has led to some new financing opportunities, such as "seller-financing" and "lease buy backs".

3) Consider developing a relationship with a local community bank. They are focused on helping local and regional businesses succeed and are still actively financing quality companies. (Last month we introduced the attendees to Herald National Bank, a New York-area community bank that serves the middle-market category of businesses.)

4) Do not enter into real estate deals that threaten the successful running of your core business. That business, and the cash-flow it produces, is the jewel in your crown.

Norm Brodsky offers advice to a colleague who got in over his head with real estate debt.

The attendees, business owners from Long Island, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut peppered our experts with questions as we enjoyed house tours of beautiful estate homes and a fantastic sunset from the boardroom of Inc. magazine's downtown NYC headquarters. A good time was had by all!

For more information on Inc. Business Owners Council, click here.