FM Spotlight

FM Spotlight: Joseph Portelli – Marubeni America Corporation

This month’s FM spotlight is Joseph Portelli. Joseph has been with Marubeni America Corporation, a Japanese owned general commodity trading / private equity investment concern for 17+ years.

He is responsible for Marubeni America’s 14 offices, which includes approximately 140,000 RSF across the US. In his tenure he has successfully worked to expand his role from a single location FM to that of an in-house consultant on all facets of real estate and facilities management. He works with Senior Management and Executives of Marubeni America Corporation’s 43 portfolio companies to develop a strategic view of space (rather than simply transactional) to achieve long term space stability and cost benefits. He is able to ensure that costs to undertake renovations and new space build-outs are optimized, given his deep knowledge of construction. The group portfolio covers a wide berth of industries ranging from Alaskan seafood, oil and energy, transportation, solar and wind energy, and agricultural and textiles to name a few. He not only develops and maintains physical space; additionally, he does not forget the human element as he looks to educate, grow and coach his staff on an ongoing basis.

“Joe is an important part of our group’s real estate advisory practice; he provides guidance to our group companies through the oftentimes tricky real estate project process. He is a trusted, knowledgeable force that clearly knows our organization’s fabric and needs, which gives management piece of mind, and he treats every project as vitally important no matter what the size and type. It has been a pleasure working with Joe for the past 17 years.” - Eric Smith, SVP & GM, Administration Team Marubeni America Corporation.

What is one thing that no one knows about you?
“In college, I worked at a Chelsea condominium covering various roles (doorman, porter, handyman, super ) and became heavily immersed in the operations of a residential building.”

How did you get into the Facilities field?
“I have been blessed with a gift for creating with my hands, being able to perform everything from crafting fine mill work to welding a custom BBQ smoker. In my senior year at Pace University, I interned at a publishing company where I wound up supporting their moves and renovations. This came about as I was the only one in the Human Resources there who understood what the vendors were talking about and got everyone on the same page. I realized facilities would allow me to leverage my construction knowledge and abilities in a corporate setting. I was thereafter hired at my current company as a Facilities Coordinator and have risen to the level of Director of Real Estate / Department Manager - Facilities Management.”

Tell us about a favorite project highlight?
“I have worked on so many projects that I am not able to really choose. The part of every project I enjoy most are the positive looks on the staffs' faces when they arrive on a Monday morning to find their work space transformed.”

What is your greatest success story?
“My greatest success would be my Son, Ethan, however, professionally it would be the relocation and build out of our 90,000 square-foot NY headquarters facility. It was the largest project I had worked on up to that point in 2007 and it was completed on time and on budget with an excellent project team. I was deeply involved in every facet of the project from site selection and lease negotiation, to construction administration and our grand opening breakfast.”

Tell us about a challenge or obstacle that you face in the Real Estate/Facilities World 
“The challenge that I face is one that is now common to many in the facilities world. As technology advances at a breakneck pace, we have to develop our spaces to allow our staff to work (i) most effectively with new tech (ii) in harmony with new tech (iii) in layouts that foster communication and maximized productivity. As our staff are cross generational, from millennials to Baby Boomers, this is difficult but not insurmountable.”

What learning experience would you pass onto future FM’s?
“Never stop learning. Take advantage of YouTube and learn construction terms and techniques to increase your ability to communicate what you are looking to achieve in a project between vendor and end user groups. Ask questions – the only dumb question is the one not asked. In the end, keep in mind we are Facility Professionals – nothing is ever impossible; we just may not have figured out how to get “it” done YET. If you can keep these points in mind you are well on the road to success.”

Interviewed by Sonya Verny of Colliers International, IFMA NYC Secretary