Mark Burkhart knew that creating a national real estate services firm during the depths of one of the worst economic recessions in U.S. history was a gamble.

But when four major firms — Colliers Turley Martin Tucker, Cassidy & Pinkard Colliers, Colliers Pinkard and Colliers ABR — merged in January 2010, Cassidy Turley was born, and Burkhart became CEO. From the start, he knew the competition from household names like CB Richard Ellis and Cushman & Wakefield would be formidable.

But in 2010, its first official year of existence, Burkhart led the new company's expansion from 50 to 60 offices across the country. And this year, partner firms are joining at a brisk clip. The company has amassed 427 million sq. ft. of managed space and penetrated 21 national markets. Besides transactions, Cassidy Turley also provides capital markets and corporate services across the country.

For the four founding companies, making the leap to a single, untested name was daunting. Identity was a key issue. “When we came together the number one concern was that we had no name and no brand,” says Burkhart.

His firm, Colliers Turley Martin, had been founded in 1924 in St. Louis. “When the Cassidy Turley name and brand were created, that jumped out and everybody immediately loved it.” Although founding the firm wasn't without its difficulties, Burkhart saw the larger goal.

“We felt we were going to be privately held, share the culture and entrepreneurial spirit that got us to this point, and we were still going to be leaders and partners in what we were doing.”

In February, Dallas-based CapStar Commercial Real Estate Services, founded in 2000, joined Cassidy Turley. “We looked for a leading firm with great expertise in office building leasing and management and a firm we clearly shared the same culture with.”

CapStar's principals, Bret Bunnett, Johnny Johnson, John Patterson, Trey Smith and Chris Taylor, now are partners at Cassidy Turley, and responsible for growth in Texas.

What's next? Burkhart hopes to partner with more firms in major markets. But he also aims to expand locally. “There is great opportunity in 2011 and 2012 to grow with our clients.”