From the Ground Up
When Murphy Cheatham received his Master of Real Estate Development (MRED) from the W. P. Carey School of Business in 2007, he expected that the rigorous transdisciplinary approach would prepare him well for any number of opportunities. But, he graduated into a real estate market and global financial system on the brink of collapse, so it’s not surprising that he ended up working for a non-profit. What surprises Cheatham is that he finds this work so fulfilling.
Today, Cheatham is a key part of the team within the National Development Council that oversees the development of affordable housing and commercial properties from Mississippi to Texas and from the Gulf of Mexico to the Canadian border. “Before joining NDC, I would have had difficulty articulating my dream job,” he says. “I may not have been able to describe it, but this is what I have always wanted to do.”
NDC was founded in 1969 with a simple but powerful mission: increase the flow of capital for investment, jobs and community development to distressed communities throughout the country. Since then, the organization has become one of the leading national non-profit community and economic development organizations in the United States.
Cheatham’s MRED degree and his multi-faceted experience and training in accounting, human resources and real estate makes him ideal for his current role. “NDC is working in the worst areas of the cities and counties we serve. The benefits we reap for these communities are twofold. We are helping to raise the income levels of residents while at the same time raising the tax basis for the local and state governments,” Cheatham explains.
NDC’s influence and reach are broad. It partners with more than 65 municipalities and numerous financial institutions, including several leading money center banks. As a result, it has the potential to bring many sources of capital into a region. Cheatham revels in the ability to help change lives and provide sweeping benefits to the individuals, families and communities that otherwise barely register on the socio-economic scale. “It has long been my personal mission to help people who need it most. Not with handouts, but with support and confidence,” Cheatham reflects. “What better boost than to bring new houses, new community centers and new jobs to an otherwise ailing town? This is truly rewarding work.”
Cheatham credits his MRED degree for much of his success. Specifically, he says it taught him how to identify potentially successful deals and, importantly, to protect his goals through the negotiation and structuring phases. Also he notes, “This program opens doors that you cannot open yourself.”
“MRED is a tough program. It’s more like a full-time job than a run of classes,” Cheatham says. But in the end, “this one year (in the program), without question, changed my life.”