Explosive growth: Dayton-area company now has $2B in assets

Smart investments cement record earnings

The Connor Group has grown to more than $2 billion in assets since the early 1990s and the company saw around $147 million in earnings last year.

None of that success would have happened without the company’s employees, owner Larry Connor said

Connor’s company, the Connor Group, is a real estate investment company. Its business model is deceptively simple: Buy the right luxury apartment complexes at the right time at the right location at the right price, then sell those properties after they appreciate in value the right amount.

If the Connor Group makes a tricky task look easy, it’s because it has a team that knows what it’s doing, Connor said in an interview last week.

“Even though we’ve developed a lot of unique operating systems and strategies, they’re worthless if you don’t have the right people,” Connor said. “At the foundation, it’s about having really talented people who are really committed to our strategies.”

Based at the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Miami Twp., the company owns “class A” luxury apartment communities in 11 markets across the country.

In his industry, transactions are the buying, selling and refinancing of properties. Connor Group performed $1.4 billion in transactions in 2016. From that, the company garnered earnings of $147 million.

The trend has been clear, according to the numbers the privately held company offered.

The company was born in 1992. Four years later, the company did $45 million in transactions. Ten years later, it executed $346 million in transactions.

Earnings tells a similar story. Twenty years ago, the firm did $5 million in earnings. Ten years later, it was $25 million in earnings.

“That’s pretty good,” Connor said.

No one has a crystal ball, but Connor predicts that his company and its 33 partners will see more than $2 billion a year in transactions by the year 2020. By 2025, it will be $3 billion a year, he said.

In terms of geography, the company is happy with its current array of markets, but firm principals are examining adding Denver and the Tampa-St. Pete areas to its portfolio of possible properties.

“Right now, we have a lot more money than we can find places for,” Connor said.

He and his partners look for properties in the right spot, with an opportunity to improve the bottom line of the complexes by at least 50 percent in at least three years. That takes revenue “enhancement,” cutting expenses or probably some combination of both, Connor said.

To get to the point where properties appreciate, it takes operating the properties in the right way.

“You improve the customer satisfaction, and your revenue goes up,” he said.

Connor acknowledges that he did consider moving the company to North Carolina at one point, several years ago. But a survey of company employees put an end to that plan quickly enough.

“We asked people, ‘Hey, what do you think?’” Connor recalled. “Over 75 percent of the people said, ‘Good luck to you; we’re not moving.’”

He is at peace with that decision.

“Dayton, Ohio is way underrated,” he said. “Obviously, we operate in a lot of high-profile cities — Nashville, Austin, Minneapolis, Chicago, Dallas — the list goes on.”

Great quality of living, great workers, little to no traffic issues, solid schools — Connor lists those as the “positives” he sees in being based in the Miami Valley.

Those were the reasons behind the company’s head-turning $18 million headquarters — Connor uses the term “central support office” — at the busy intersection of Ohio 741 and Austin Boulevard. The building’s angular lines still turn heads, and a company spokesman tells the story of a motorist once calling in to say that the building was “crooked.”

Seventy people work at the central support hub; the company has about 400 employees nationwide.

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