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Bill Beall makes mark in Ozarks' commercial market

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by Christine Ballew-Gonzales

SBJ Contributing Writer

While many college students finance their education flipping burgers or working in retail, Bill Beall said he found a way to raise tuition money that suited him better.

At only 19 years of age, Beall, originally from Chicago, decided he wanted to buy an apartment building, thinking that the cash flow provided by the apartments would help him pay his way through the University of Missouri-Columbia.

The teenager borrowed a down payment from a Columbia banker and bought an apartment house. The banker who helped finance that first venture, Al Price, later became one of Beall's development partners.

Beall completed college and graduate school, earning bachelor's and master's degrees in economics at Mizzou, then did two tours of duty in Vietnam.

Once back in the States, he scoured maps and economic surveys to find an area that offered the way of living and opportunities he was looking for.

He chose Springfield, heading to the Queen City for a new start without the safety net of family, friends or any contacts to speak of.

Bill Beall Co. Inc. was established in 1977. Beall got his start in the real estate profession with residential properties, but his interests drew him into the commercial real estate market.

"I like to develop properties and lease them out, and I do it a lot. It's a maturing market for me, and it's what I enjoy," he said. Now, Beall's company handles commercial properties exclusively. His penchant for commercial development has led the businessman to develop such sites as Lowe's, Circuit City and Target.

Beall's expertise has expanded over the years to include such services as commercial and industrial site selection, industrial park development and commercial property management. In addition, Beall acts as a consultant, offering market analysis information, help with zoning issues and handling special access problems.

From the Beall Co. signs that dot Springfield's commercial real estate landscape, the public might conclude it is a large company. But Beall said that is not the case.

"I have three ladies in the office and myself," he said. "It's a one-man show, but it's a show."

Beall is a former member of the board of directors of NationsBank, and is a director of Signature Bank. Beall has built a diverse client base, ranging from the Dallas Cowboys to Kmart, and said a large portion of his clientele is made up of repeat business. According to Beall, many of those relationships have existed for as many as 20 years. Beall said "a record of success and satisfaction" has been the key to sustaining those active client relationships over so many years.

There are several factors that have played a role in Beall's overall success, but even he doubts that they are much of a secret. Hard work, diligence and honesty have been the cornerstones of Beall's commercial real estate success over the years, he said.

Learning the business wasn't easy, but Beall said he began gaining experience starting with that first apartment building while he was still in college.

"That was my stepping stone," he said. "I gained a lot from the guidance of other businesspeople who took the time to help me learn. There was some trial and error, but more things went right than wrong."

What would Beall say to a budding entrepreneur, perhaps reminiscent of a young Bill Beall?

"I would advise a young person to associate himself or herself with someone who is highly successful in business," he said. "I would tell them to learn from their experience and capitalize on that."

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