Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Fun Part

Sky wanted to know what the FUN part of my work is.

Dad and mom bought 160 acres of farm land when I was not yet 3 years old. It was in the country then. But 57 years later it is a not-so-little island of land in a sea of development. Dad and mom wanted to live and die on their farm and asked me and my brother to not sell anything until after their deaths.

It was hard keeping that promise and in fact I really thought I likely would not be able to keep it. But as it has worked out nothing has been sold so far. Over the years we've had many inquiries. A few years ago I leased some ground to a large retailer. That got us into the development business.

But not being able to sell land reduced the opportunities although we continued receiving inquiries. One of the fun parts is listening to all these ideas and learning about such a wide variety of businesses. I am continually amazed at how different and specialized each business is. Their need for a location and a building is just as varied and specialized as the businesses.

We want to control the quality and appearance of the development. So we've been pretty choosy and particular about what we allow. But even thinking about how the land should be used and where different things should go and how it all should work together is rather difficult. But that's one of the fun things, too.

Working with architects and engineers to create designs and plans that satisfy all the parties and meet the needs of the community is very interesting and some of it is a lot of fun.

The actual building process is really a great experience especially when the building begins to emerge. I thought I knew quite a bit about certain things but I've just now begun to learn the depth of my own ignorance. But learning like that is fun, too.

You can't just build anything you want or imagine.

There are reams of government regulations that have to be satisfied. Plans have to approved at several places including appearing before a city council meeting. And there citizens can come and voice their disapproval. And usually someone is against whatever it is. Some might not like the use or the tenant or the design or me or most anything. There's a certain amount of politics to it.

I don't like that part very much. I am not very good at it right now but I am getting better.

It is a competitive business, too, and some of the developers are not very nice. I don't like that part much. I subscribe to Stephen Covey's abundance thinking. But some developers subscribe to the scarcity thinking. So for them everything is a competition and they want to win by most any means.

Most other developers are really nice though and will work with you and help you. It reminds me of our farming neighbors from bygone days. I like that part.

I've noticed that when you live in town and have a big piece of land that some people have very little respect for your property. People walk (or drive) across the yard even when the gate is closed and they'll cut through the pasture. When it was country we would never have had a neighbor do that. We wouldn't have minded but they would have asked if they could cut across. But the more the town crowds in around us the more disrespectful some people become. I think they believe it must be some kind of public property or something. They just can't conceive that someone would have a large piece of land like that.

I don't like that part and it worries me given that people can sue you for anything.

It takes a lot of money to develop. That means dealing with banks and financial brokers and lawyers.

Most of that stuff isn't very fun. Although I have met some wonderful people.

Another thing that isn't very fun is the negotiation process with the potential buyers or tenants. Deals come along and then die and resurrect a thousand times. It is a lot like the emotional roller coaster of caregiving. Every time I tell myself I am not going to let myself care about some new deal. But it never works because some deal comes along and if you get enthused about it then you want it to happen but you have all these constraints you have to consider. And you have to be willing to let the deal go.

That's not fun for me but some people just relish that part.

One of the deals we did is a Starbucks and we designed it and built it. There's a really nice patio. When I see people sitting out on that patio it makes me really proud. I think Dad and Mom would be proud of that, too.

That's a fun part.


~Betsy said...

Dave does a lot of those public meetings you talk about. Most people are terrified of blasting - controlled or not - and they fuss on as if their houses will be blown to bits.

As the consulting engineer, one of Dave's jobs is to explain the process to the layman. Not so easy a task, but he has gotten really good at it. We came up with a visual aid: a fish tank with water in it (1/3 full) to explain sound and vibration waves. Seemed to calm folks down a little. But there is always one or two squeaky wheels.

I'm glad you are enjoying the work. It sounds like a challenge but some fun at the same time.

SKYGIRL said...

WOW! Flinty, you are a nice developer! I never knew! And a sweet guy that "Starbucks" has to rent from, you are my Hero! I LOVE Starbucks!

This town of Bozeman is growing so fast, you wouldn't believe it! But I like it, beause it's starting to remind me of home! They are doing an exellent job too, trying to keep everything in the tradition of the mostly red brick, and big wooden beams, of the Days of old.

They are building a gorgeous Grocery Store, with a Health Food Store attached, just a few blocks away from me. The entire project sounds interesting.(It is a 75 Acre project, but the Grocery Store & a new Bank are the anchors) They are going to have allot of walk ways, and grass, and water falls, etc. If I can get ahold of the name of the Developers, or their plans, I will shoot them over to you.

We just finished building a 15 Million Dollar Library. Well the City didn't help a bit,they fought it every inch of the way! But some rich philenthropic guy did. (Maybe Ted Turner?) They actually made it the first "Green" building, in the entire State of Montana!

Very cool. I like new. I know that makes me a bit strange! I have to be happy about all the new development, in private! LOL!

cornbread hell said...

what an interesting job you have. thanks for sharing.

Lori1955 said...

Oh that would just be way too stressful for me. It's wonderful that you want control over what is built there but I would just sell it all and let someone else worry about it. I don't know how you do it.

nancy said...

how nice, everytime you stop by the starbucks you are reminded of your parents!

SKYGIRL said...

"Your Project!" I found a listing, and artist rendition, of the 72 Acre, Grocery Store Anchored, Development, on 72 Acres, just two blocks from my Condo! I will try to post it here. I also found the PDF formated documented blueprints, let me know if you'd like to take a look at them too!

"The Fun Part!" N.Mc. ;-)