By Mitch Cox
Knowing the year is more than halfway over, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on our journey as a company as well as speak to the direction we’re headed in.
Our path has not always been clear, but this is changing. The future is now one of clarity, scale, and focus for Mitch Cox Companies.
Our mission “To create opportunities for others to succeed®” is taking a new, more defined shape. We’ve distilled our capabilities and talent into two central avenues: apartments and hotels.
Before 2008, we built small strip shopping centers, office buildings, and other types of commercial buildings primarily in Johnson City. We also ventured off into a couple of residential planned communities and hotels; and along the way had accumulated too much raw land. In reality, we had spread ourselves too thin.
Then, as we all know, the economy went south in 2008 and the Feds turned off the money supply. As a result, the hospitality industry experienced the worst year in its history, raw land sales became non-existent, and it became difficult to sell any real estate. Fortunately, all of our commercial leasing remained strong. Our commercial occupancies never dipped below 90%.
We did however, have to do something about the excessive supply of raw land. I had a friend, Shane Abraham, who was building apartments successfully. I approached him about doing a joint venture on a tract of vacant land that we had. He agreed, so we built them and he and his team leased them as fast as we could build them. Then we went to the next vacant tract and did the same thing again. Nine years later we have built over 1,000 apartment units, all of which are leased, and we have about 500 more in the pipeline. We’ve developed all of my vacant land and are now buying land from others to continue the growth.
What started as a significant concern has turned into the largest growth phase in our history. In accordance with our mission statement of “creating opportunities for others to succeed” we were able to put a lot of people to work, and also create affordable housing for hundreds of young families.
Also, in 2008, we had just finished building three hotels and invested in three more when the hospitality business experienced its worst year in history. We had never been in this business and didn’t know how to run one hotel… much less six. We hired a consultant and my son, Philip got actively involved in learning the business. Nine years later, we own and manage 20 hotels, which are for the most part, doing great. We were very fortunate to catch the wave of both the apartment growth and the hotel growth.
We see apartments as a good fit for our firm going forward, but you can only grow as fast as your market grows. We feel we are close to maxing out the Tri-Cities market and we are now looking toward Sevierville, Asheville, and the Carolinas.
The other avenue we’re focusing on is hotels. Buying them, not building. Philip Cox has been doing an outstanding job growing this wing of the company. I’ll let him cover his updates in this newsletter below.
So we’ve become more focused. We used to do a little of everything. Now, we’re focused on hotels and apartments. We’ve restructured our leadership team and hired new personnel to hone in on this new direction.
All of our companies are having an outstanding year. We have a clear vision and I couldn’t be more proud of our team.
First, as we expand geographically, we will always consider Johnson City our home. We started here and we plan to continue living here. This is where we have invested in our business, our charities and our community.
Second, the people you partner with make all the difference. Our company only exists because of the smart and hard-working people in and around it.
Lastly, as time passes and I get older, people ask me when are you going to retire. I tell them that I’m doing what I love doing and as long as I can do it – and play some golf on the weekends – I’ll keep doing it.