Published on May 1st, 2013 | by UC&D Magazine0
The Boyer Company
Under leadership of President/CEO Jake Boyer, son of founder and Chairman of the Board H. Roger Boyer, company has 40 projects in the works that total more than half a billion dollars.
By Brad Fullmer
In the Sugarhouse area of Salt Lake City sits a modest 20,000 SF building near Fairmont Park. The otherwise inauspicious building is notable in that it was the first project ever developed by H. Roger Boyer after he started The Boyer Company in 1972.
From those humble beginnings, The Boyer Company stands as one of the largest commercial real estate developers in the Intermountain Region, with more than 280 completed projects totaling over 30 million square feet, including landmark developments in Utah such as The Gateway, One Utah Center, Huntsman Cancer Institute, and scores of others.
“The funny thing about our business is we’ve been doing – in many ways – the same thing since the beginning,” said Boyer, 72, who handed the reigns of the company over to his oldest son, Jake Boyer, in 2006, but continues to serve as Chairman of the Board and still contributes to various aspects of the business as he sees fit. “It’s a risky business, but it’s bite-sizes. Each project is an entity unto itself – has its own PNL and source of equity. We always try to mitigate risk and reduce it. We haven’t been a big speculative developer; it’s more the mentality of can we commit somebody to pay rent and lease the building. Lenders like to have commitments from sub-tenants and fortunately we’ve had a good relationship with banks and other lenders.”
The elder Boyer has always been ambitious, and in the case of son Jake, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. After earning a Masters degree from Harvard Business School in 1967, Roger teamed up with another iconic Utah developer, >> Ellis Ivory (founder of Ivory Homes), and started Terracor. The firm developed areas like Bloomington outside St. George and Stansbury Park in Tooele and had great success. Ellis left the firm in 1971, and a year later Roger started The Boyer Company. In 1974 he brought Kem Gardner into the fold as a partner (Gardner left in 2004 and started The Gardner Company), and the firm set about developing a wide array of projects, including retail/mixed-use, government, office, medical/life sciences and residential.
Jake followed in his father’s footsteps, mainly because he shared Roger’s passion for development. Jake started with the company in 1995 part-time while in college and has been full-time since earning an undergraduate degree at Brigham Young University and a Masters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The 41-year-old Boyer became President in 2006, and was named President/CEO in 2011.
“I’ve always known I wanted to be in this business,” said Jake. “My father never put pressure on me to be involved, but it got in my blood. Many times dad and I would be on a trip and he’d want to look at office buildings, shopping centers, developments – it was always part of our life. It’s been a great experience.”
“We’re very much alike in how we think,” Roger says of Jake. “We’ve said to each other that his mind is my mind, and visa versa. I don’t think I’ve ever had to sit down with Jake and give him advice. We’ve worked together for so long, that if you separated us and gave us the same problem, we’d likely come to the same solutions. As I’ve taken a more distant role, I know Jake’s decisions would be what I think are good decisions.”
Jake points to The Gateway – arguably the firm’s most notable and high profile development – as a project that taught him many valuable lessons about the business.
“We worked side-by-side trying to get The Gateway off the ground and developed – it was a baptism by fire, so to speak,” said Jake. “I had been in the medical group and worked on various developments, but this was a whole different experience, a complicated, downtown mixed-use project.
“We think a lot alike,” he says of his father. “He never had to give me any big advice. Fortunately he has trust in me and it’s a blessing for me to access him when I need him. I’ve tried to pattern my leadership after the things he implemented in the company.” >>
Roger’s son Nate Boyer, who is 10 years younger than Jake, also works in the firm’s government properties and office division.
Although the company is owned by the Boyer family, it has many key executives who have a wealth of individual and collective experience in real estate development. Both Roger and Jake acknowledge that they are only as successful as the good people who work with them.
“We have a unique company model,” said Jake. “Even though the company is family-owned, as we do new projects, the project managers share in the equity of that project. If the project manager finds a new deal, they become a partner in that specific project. It’s helped us to be successful.”
The Boyer Company has completed projects in 20 states, and of the firm’s 40 projects currently in its pipeline, 25 are outside of Utah. Jake said those 40 projects, which are in various stages of development, total $551 million and more than 2.75 million SF. The company also manages more than 15 million square feet of commercial space.
“We have projects in Billings, Montana, McAllen, Texas, Las Vegas, and Kansas City, Missouri, for example, so we have a lot going on,” said Jake. Current local projects include a new headquarters for L-3 Communications off I-215 in Salt Lake, a recently finished building for the IRS in Ogden, and a renovation of the old Questar Building in Salt Lake. Another notable project which broke ground in March is the 101 Tower in Salt Lake, east of the old Questar Building. The 101 Tower is a $38 million, 7-story, 146,000 SF office building that was designed by Salt Lake-based Babcock Design Group and is being built by Jacobsen Construction of Salt Lake.
Jake Boyer believes the future is bright, particularly in the Beehive State, and hopes the recession from a few years ago remains a distant memory.
“No one can predict the future, but we’re cautiously optimistic about the direction things are headed,” said Jake. “We feel like a lot of companies on the sidelines are starting to make decisions and have more confidence in our market. Construction costs are more competitive than they were and it’s a good time to build. We feel good about the direction of our economy.”
Both men realize the family business could not be successful without the long-term, valuable relationships The Boyer Company has developed with firms working in the architectural, engineering, and construction (A/E/C) industry.
“Those firms basically carry out the ideas we have and make sense out of them,” said Roger. “I think we have good relationships with those professionals. Our role is the team leader, where we bring in the players and have them coordinate and work well together. We’ve tried to be transparent and fair with the professionals we deal with and hope they want to do business with us over the long haul. We like to have access to the best professionals that are available and we try to be fair with them.”
“We’re looking for innovation, people who keep up with technology, accuracy in drawings, and creativity,” said Jake. “We like people who come up with new ideas and bring solutions to the table on both the contractor and architect side. We try to engage contractors early on to mitigate cost issues when it makes sense. The biggest thing we dislike is surprises in construction. We live and die by our numbers and set lease rates from those numbers. We want accuracy and a contractor who is honest. No one likes to get nickel and dimed on little things.”
Jake said his firm has done projects via various procurement methods, including low-bid and design-build. Consultants and contractors are typically selected on past performance, what each firm’s strengths are, and the type of project that is being developed.
“We obviously have past history with almost every architectural firm in the state; each has different strengths and weaknesses,” said the younger Boyer. “We try to match up strengths with the projects we’re doing. For projects out of state we usually go to bigger firms who are suited for that kind of work. We’re doing 25 projects in other states right now and in each of those instances we try to select the best contractor in that market. On Utah projects, we lean towards staying within the state and selecting local firms.
“We look at each project and the timelines involved,” he continued. “If we have the luxury of time we’ll try to move the drawings as far along as we can without bringing in a contractor. If it’s a highly technical project, where we need contractor feedback, we’ll bring someone on early. A lot of contractors argue that it’s best to select them early on, and I agree with that sometimes. We’ve been burned at times when we brought someone in and the bid came in higher than we expected.”
He added that firms that have not done work in the past with The Boyer Company are welcome to throw their hat into the ring, provided they have the experience and qualifications for a certain type of project.
“Sometimes it’s easier to take the path of least resistance and go with somebody you’ve worked with, but we’re always looking for qualified firms,” said Jake. “We recently did a building in Park City with a contractor we had never used before. If they’re good at what they do, we value that. It’s a win-win situation. We’re open to contractors and architects who are creative and want to get their foot in the door.”