OZMaps Creator Built It Because He Needed It

John McCarthy

The Opportunity Zone Expo Podcast
OZMaps Creator Built It Because He Needed It


Jack: Well, welcome back everybody to the OZExpo Podcast. I am your host Jack Heald. Joining me today is John McCarthy, who is a senior managing director with Newmark Knight Frank, which is a commercial real estate firm out of Minneapolis. John, it's a pleasure to have you on the show.

John: Well, it's great to be here and it's been fun to meet you.

Jack: I get such a kick out of you people from Minnesota because it's like, Yup. John is definitely from Minnesota.

John: You betcha. You betcha.

Jack: Do you have, what's it called? Hot dish.

John: Macker, we do have hot dish. I mean we have a lot of things that were pointed out when we had the Superbowl a couple of years ago.

Jack: Uh huh.

John: We had a lot of fun with that when people came to town. A great place to be. Great place to live.

Jack: You knowit really is fun because one of my passions is culture and you know, we're here at this, what is essentially a national exposition with people from all over the country. And depending on where you're from, you bring the vibe of your place with you. And just last night as we were chatting at happy hour, I just thought, he is the very embodiment of that Midwestern get-along-with-everybody ethic. To me, it's the salt of the earth that kind of holds the country together. 

John: That's a nice compliment to hear.

Jack: And then we have people from other parts of the country who would just as soon tell you where to stick it if you say hello and that's a different issue. Okay. I'm way off track here. I always liked to find out from my guests a little bit about them before we get into the business side of things. So, John McCarthy, who are you, where did you come from and why are you here?

John: That’s an open-ended question.

Jack: Yes, it is.

John: I could write a book, but I grew up in Minnesota, have always lived there, went to college there, raising my family there and just a great place to live. I always tell people when all the iceberg's melt and New York and California things flood, everyone's going to come to Minnesota. But you know, I grew up, I went to college, got a real estate degree, actually been in real estate since ninth grade when I bought a duplex with my mom.

Jack: Ok, I've literally never heard of a ninth grader buying real estate.

John: Well, I…

Jack: I interviewed a guy who was a 17-year-old stock and bond trader, but not ninth grade real estate investors.

John: Well, my mom was, is why I'm here. You know, back in the ‘70s when contract for deed flipping was happening, she was one of those. And you know, we made like $15,000 in like two years and I'm now in 10th grade or 11th grade at that time. And I'm thinking, “Well, maybe it's real estate I should go into.” And then there was a state university called St. Cloud State. It's known as Harvard to the North that had a real estate program. And so I thought, well that's obvious for me. And so I went there and have been in real estate ever since.

Jack: Alright. And Newmark, boy that is not an easy name to say. Newmark Knight Frank, there's a lot of “K”s. You guys are commercial real estate. What's your specialty?

John: Well, I want to mention something to cause you. Newmark Knight Frank is actually a global company. We have like 400 offices around the globe. You mentioned from Minneapolis. Minneapolis is actually a new location for Newmark Knight Frank, me and a colleague named Jim Damiani and Brent Ericson kind of founded the local office a couple of years ago. And we're growing rapidly and trying to be a full-service real estate firm in Minneapolis. We're up to 40 employees after a couple of years and not even in an Opportunity Zone.

Jack: So are you guys doing any Opportunity Zone work right now?

John: Yes. And that's why I'm here. But I year ago, my son gave me a podcast on the financial side of the world.
My son said, “Dad, you gotta listen to this.” And I said, “What is it?” And I listened to it on the way into work and he was interviewing Steve Glickman at the time. And I'm like, “Oh my, if this is true, this is going to change my world.” And from that day I, I haven't stopped. I really believe in the program. I like what it stands for. I like how the government was in and now they're out.

They set the rules. Okay folks, go do your work. There's just a lot of good things about it and it's kind of along the lines of what I've been doing anyway, but now I can focus on different things. And so it's certainly not something I can work on entirely because I have other projects that I work on, but I tell ya, it has sparked me over the last year and I've had so much fun.

I have met so many new people, we were talking about this last night, it's a full new batch of people I'm meeting and now that the business stuff is going to start growing, that's another thing we do. We represent companies to go find the best spot for for their business. And you know, it will be my responsibility or brokers at our shops’ responsibility to make sure they expose these zones to these companies and understand the benefits if they reside there.
And, it's just kind of a neat to see how much has happened. You go into that room behind us and there's a thousand people in there and a year ago none of us were thinking about this. Nobody was thinking about it. And anyways, it's been a lot of fun, but I wanted to come out here and meet some people. There's a lot to learn about it, but it's exciting. I think one thing I wanted to show some people; I made a tool for the business that I needed.

Jack: You know, I was really interested in that. You’ve got this a mobile app that looks pretty cool. Tell us about the genesis of this app, why you wanted it, and what it does.

John: Well to be a marketing guy. I suppose I should say the name right?

Jack: Well that would be helpful.

John: OZ Maps and you can, you can get it on Google play and the app store approved it last week, actually.

Jack: Very good.

John: I've never done anything like this. It was just something that I thought was very helpful for what I'm doing on a daily basis, which is going out and trying to connect buyers and property.

And up to this point, everybody uses the CDF CDFI. It has very good demographic information. But it's only really good when you're in your office. And so being a road warrior, I'm out and about all the time. And so I wanted to know when I'm in a zone and when I'm out and if I'm in it and I see a property, I want to be able to identify it and follow up on it. You can't really do that from your desk. At least I can't.

It was really bothering me. I thought, I need to figure this out. I need to create something. And I Googled an app developer you know, woke up one morning and went to Google and this gentleman called me back in about an hour and he got it. He understood it, took them about three weeks to develop, takes another three or four weeks to get it approved at the app store.

And it works and it's been really fun. What it is, is all 8,700 zones across the country are on the app. And so you can search by address, you can search by scrolling through the map. Some people here have it and it's kinda fun cause they open it up and you know, the hotel we're in right now, isn't it a zone and you can see it but you know it, it uses your GPS on your phones.

When you're biking or walking or traveling, it follows you. So you know when you're in or out a zone, which is sometimes very critical because a lot of times the corners of these zones are an intersection and you need to know, cause we've heard stories that people think it's in the zone but they don't really know, well you'll know with this app.
Another tool that I put on because this developer really asked me how I do my business and I said, “Well, I'd really like to be able to know who owns these buildings immediately. Right when I'm out there, see if I recognize a name, see if any other ideas come.” So every parcel of America, you can tap on it and they'll tell you who the owner is and the size and show the lot line.

Jack: Good grief.

John: Yeah, it's, it's an inquiry. It's almost overwhelming to think that you can do this stuff, put it together and communicate and I just hope that other people can use it and it's not necessarily something to make a lot of money from. I've given it to clients. We always are told as salespeople, we got to give some value away before somebody will work with us.

Well, this has value. And I get great reviews from clients. Funny story, there was a review. Somebody did a review on the app the other day and she said something about I don't do Opportunity Zone work or anything, but I'm a residential realtor and I sell lakeshore. And she goes, “I realized the other day I was in my kayak and I was kayaking and I open the app and now I can see who owns lakeshore property, when I'm going in my boat and my kayak, you know, who owns that, who owns this.” And so hopefully there's some things I haven't thought of that people could use and we'll see where it goes.

Jack: I can assure you once you release a piece of software out into the wild, speaking as an ex- software developer, the people who use it will come up with ideas for it that never ever occurred to you. Yeah. You may end up with a new career here, my friend, if you're not careful.

John: Well, I like what I do. This is a tool for me, but I do need somebody else to operate it because I do think it there's other things you could do. You could add other layers of information. You could add tax credits or different types of city incentives that are being offered at different places. And it's kind of a go -to place for that. But I wanted to make it useful not only for the Opportunity Zone business, but for people who are out and about where it's important to know who owned something.

Jack: Yeah.

John: And you know, we'll see where it goes.

Jack: Is the data that it pulls up just for the census tracks insight and Opportunity Zone?

John: Or is it, it actually uses Google maps and you open it up and it looks like you're using Google maps, the same search bar, everything. It just has the zones overlaid in colors with..

Jack: I'm talking about the owners, the ownership information.

John: The ownership information got pulled from county records and I believe that the software developer that I hired, went out and there's different places you can get that. I just wanted the owner size and the lot line because I'm not going to be in my car and do much more than that. There’s a lot of information available now as far as when did it last sell, what's its value, all those things. I could have put that on there, but I thought, you know what, it's kind of a prospecting tool. You would do that back at the office. But I did tell the developer to figure out a way to give me one button to push that when I'm out in a zone and I see something, I can push the button and it automatically sends that information back to my desk or my intern or something where I can follow up and he did and there's a little one button I pushed and bam, I can text it or email it simultaneously.

Jack: The best ideas for software generally come from people who don't develop software. I don't know if you run into this phenomenon now, but sometimes when you're really skilled at something, you’re self-constrained the way you think about it. And that's generally helpful. But then somebody who's an utter and complete outsider comes in, has no idea of any of the conventions or the rules or the good ideas are the bad ideas and will occasionally just do something extraordinarily brilliant. 

John: Well I knew it was coming, just because I see the wide-level of interest and Opportunity Zones around the country from businesses to real estate people to interviewers on podcasts, I mean everybody, and to see the government involved and seeing Scott Turner, his passion, it's ...

Jack: He's a passionate guy.

John: ...passionate. And you know what made me feel good? We have somebody like that at Washington leading this and he's perfect for it. It's touching everybody. And so I knew it was coming. I thought, I'm an idea guy. I have about four or five other ones in a top shelf that I got the Mac measure from 20 years ago that still hasn't been invented, if you want. That's another interview. I knew it was coming in one morning. I thought John, darn it follow through on it. Just do it right. And so wrote I the check and did it and I’m still not quite sure cause it was just approved last week. And I don't know how to market it. I don't know what to do. I just know it's a good tool. So hopefully this interview, we'll get the message out.

Jack: We'll will definitely get the message out to to the group of people who would want to use it, I suspect. There might be more who are interested in it. And again, we'll come up with ideas for you. You might be really careful about giving out your contact information. Your inbox might be overwhelmed. Well John, this has been a great conversation. I'm glad I was able to squeeze you in here before the Opportunity Zone Expo is over for the for Las Vegas. Any last words for us before we sign off?

John: Things that I think about regarding the Opportunity Zone. I hope more people start to show some interest in it because I do believe that it can have a lot of impact on our neighborhoods and our communities and in a good way, and it's the same neighborhoods I was driving through it two years ago, but now I drive to them and look at them a little differently and stretch your imagination what can happen. And I think it's just good to see that somebody thought of how can we direct money toward places that need it.

And I think if this works, this is the perfect example of a public private program, I hope the model can be used for other things as well. It's going to be fun five years from now, six years from now to look back and see what happened. And you know, some of the projects that were developed. I’m also working with investors. I'm not sure the most important thing is the return. You know, I said 5%, 6%, 7% people want to… There's more impact than I expected. I thought, yeah, the impact people would like to impact the community, but it would really come down to the return. No, I think people really do want to do good because this isn't their first property they’re buying usually. Right. And they want to do good and I've just met so many neat, amazing people, including yourself. It's been really fun and refreshing.

Jack: It's a very positive, optimistic, hopeful time for what I think is a very positive, optimistic, hopeful program.

John: Yeah, I agree. You know, maybe it's not going quite as fast for some people. And you know, you go out into the expo there and there's people raising money and have projects. There'll be an article that comes out soon, probably negative. It just always has to happen that way. We just have to keep going. Right. And it’s going to be fun to watch.

Jack: Well, the APP is called OZ Maps. It's available in the apple store and Google play are developed, are the, the, the brains behind it. John McCarthy has been my guest here.

John: There is website

Jack: Oh, there is a website?

John: It's a ozmaps.us.

Jack: ozmaps.us.

John: Then I was told not to give that out because you should just tell people to go the app store. Yeah. Well, I just created an extra step, but if you want to see some screenshots and things of it before you go buy it or look at it, you can go to the website.

John: Awesome. Very good.

John: Thank you.

Jack: Well, for John McCarthy, I am Jack Heald for the OZExpo Podcast. Thank you for listening to us. Be sure to press that subscribe button so you're updated anytime. There's a new episode. There's plenty coming out all the time, and we will talk to you next time.

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