It's no wonder that Joe Cosenza starts his day at 5 a.m. In 18 months, he has overseen $4.6 billion in 247 acquisitions for the Inland Real Estate Group of Cos.

At No.6 on Retail Traffic's top owners of retail space ranking for 2004, the Oak Brook, Ill.-based firm owns 77.2 million square feet of retail property, including about 500 shopping centers and 100 single-tenant properties around the country.

Cosenza supervises a staff of 19 engaged in property acquisition and due diligence, and that keeps him busy these days. As of Aug. 10, Inland had acquired $2.1 billion in property so far this year, and Cosenza expects that volume to double by the end of December.

That buying power is fueled largely by the publicly traded Inland Real Estate Corp., as well as the firm's two private REITs — Inland Western Real Estate Trust Inc. and Inland Retail Real Estate Trust Inc. “When you have three very large funds growing, you then have the ability to find more deals that you like,” says Cosenza, Inland's director and vice chairman.

And Cosenza is out there hunting for those deals himself. The same competitive drive that was instrumental in getting the business off the ground when he cofounded the firm in 1968, still pushes Cosenza today. One cold call he made resulted in Inland's $85 million purchase of the 334,454-square-foot Eastwood Towne Center in Lansing, Mich. this spring. In fact, Cosenza is personally responsible for about half of the $2.7 billion in purchases Inland completed in fiscal 2003. “Whatever I do, I have to try to be the best I can at it,” Cosenza says.