Posted on May 20, 2014

Industrial Powerhouse

Burnaby, BC
Beedie Development Group celebrates 60 years in business.
By cheryl mah

One of B.C.’s most well respected names in development and construction is marking a rare milestone — achieving 60 years in business.

The Beedie Development Group has played a key role in the development of more than 500 industrial buildings throughout Metro Vancouver totalling over 20 million square feet. Today it is the largest industrial developer and landlord in B.C.

Meeting and exceeding clients’ expectations for six decades have ensured the Beedie name is synonymous with high quality, value and integrity.

For company president Ryan Beedie, the anniversary invokes nostalgia and pride, and he at- tributes the company’s remarkable longevity to, “the people we have connected with — employees, subtrades, clients, tenants — and the many relationships we've built.”

The industrial powerhouse was founded in 1954 by his father Keith Beedie (today chairman and CEO) who started out by building homes and gradually diversified into industrial and commercial buildings, and eventually ownership and leasing.

Since Beedie took over the reins, the company has undergone calculated risk managed growth over the last two decades which has seen revenues explode by more than 500 per cent.

“We've been opportunistic but it’s also been good luck,” he says.

It’s no surprise when Beedie cites his father as his greatest influence and mentor, giving him the core values needed to grow the company.

He also credits his involvement with the Young Presidents’ Organization (since 2002) for helping to develop his business acumen; while Joe Segal has been a big impact on his philanthropic endeavours.

Beedie supports many charities through Beedie Giving such as BC Children’s Hospital and the Vancouver Police Foundation. In 2001, Beedie and his father established the Beedie School of Business at SFU with a $22 million donation (largest in the university’s history).

“Investing back into the community and doing what we can is important,” says Beedie, who was named the Pacific Region’s Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009.

Headquartered in Burnaby, the company is currently comprised of 70 in the office and 130 in the field. The company specializes in the design, construction, development and management of industrial projects in Metro Vancouver and Calgary. It also owns and develops commercial and residential real estate.

Beedie says the company’s success comes down to values and their reputation for treating clients fairly and respectfully. He explains clients essentially have a “life time warranty” on its buildings and when it comes to deals, his priorities are building relationships long term.

“The Beedie brand is a promise that you’ll be taken care of. It’s about our name, our brand and our reputation,” he says. “If I get 80-90 per cent of what I want in a deal, that’s a win. I’m not going to nickel and dime someone. It’s about the bigger picture and a long term and happy customer.”

With large banks of land to draw from, the company can offer clients custom build to suit packages in business parks throughout the Lower Mainland. Notable projects include a 500,000 square foot facility for Kruger Products (B.C.’s largest single phase, one floor warehouse building) in New Westminster and a 460,000-square-foot structure for Brewers Distributors in Port Coquitlam.

“Until a few years ago, those building sizes were not heard of and now we've done a couple of them,” says Beedie, estimating in a year they do about 15 industrial buildings, ranging in size from 30,000 to 400,000 square feet.

Currently the company is building a 260,000 square foot build-to-suit facility for Masonite (an existing tenant) in Langley’s Gloucester Industrial Estates. Other recent projects include the 46,000 square foot Damco Distribution in New Westminster and 114,000 square feet for Canterbury Coffee in Burnaby.

In addition, the company has several speculative large bay industrial strata projects on the go, which they only started doing a few years ago — a first in the industry. “There’s been a lot of demand in Metro Vancouver and Calgary,” notes Beedie.

As president, Beedie oversees the executive team and provides overall strategic direction for the company. While he is no longer directly involved with negotiations and working with clients (something he really enjoyed), Beedie is still very involved with final approvals on land acquisitions, deals, developments and more.

“There are a million different things going on at any given time. Every day is different with lots of decisions to make. Pretty awesome,” he says. “What I enjoy now is knowing that we are doing a great job for our customers and watching these buildings going up. I’m still in awe of our holdings.”

That sense of awe was developed at an early age when his father used to take him on Sunday drives to project sites around Metro Vancouver.

“I remember looking at all these big buildings and being very impressed,” says Beedie, who is the only child from his father’s second marriage.

Born and raised in Burnaby, the 45-year-old Beedie never consciously planned on following in his father’s footsteps but it was natural fit. He had early exposure to the business at a young age, from family discussions at the dinner table to those Sunday drives.

“I've always been interested in the work my father did and knew I would wind up here one day,” he says.

After earning his undergraduate business degree from Simon Fraser University and then an MBA in real estate from the University of British Columbia, Beedie officially joined the company in 1993.

With his older brother on the construction side, Beedie took charge of leasing, land acquisition and build-to-suit projects. But he quickly realized leasing wasn't his real interest.

“I liked leasing but was much more interested in new development,” says Beedie, who worked with his brother for five years until he left the company.

As both developer and builder, the company provides a comprehensive range of services including acquisition, development, construction and property management all under one roof.

“We've been somewhat unique over the years in that we have this vertically integrated model where we buy the land, tend to design and construct all the buildings and if we're going to lease them out, we retain ownership and manage in house,” explains Beedie.

He applied that business model to his first major project which was the purchase of 60 acres of land in the Tilbury area of Delta.

“I understand our business model and thought here’s a chance to build in Delta. We need large tracts of land that we can develop into industrial parks — it was perfect. I just took [my father’s] model and scaled it up,” he says.

Beedie became president in 2001 and since then, the company has grown significantly. In the early 1990s the company had a portfolio of 2 million square feet of industrial. Today, it owns and manages about 8 million square feet of industrial space, and has more than 200 acres of raw industrial land in B.C. and Alberta. Its assets are worth more than a billion dollars.

Part of that growth has come from diversification and geographical expansion. The company moved into the Alberta market in 2009 and has projects in Airdrie and Calgary, while Beedie Living was established as the residential development division.

“We’re very fortunate that we have tremendous cash flow from our industrial portfolio but that market is only so big. We need to do more to grow,” says Beedie about the recent changes. “So our first step was to enter the Alberta market. We’re making inroads in Calgary and I would like to move into Edmonton.”

He adds there are definitely differences between the two provinces such as expectations and costs but “we're developing relationships. We're hiring Alberta people and we want to be there for the long haul.”

On the residential side, the company is completing its first high rise tower in Coquitlam called the Austin. In Burnaby, the Station Square redevelopment (in partnership with Anthem Properties) will be a five-tower residential addition to the neighbourhood. The first tower is set to complete in 2015.

“With our reputation and land holdings, it was sort of a natural fit for us to get into residential. We own numerous sites around Metro Vancouver and we’ll be developing those out over the next few years to expand our residential brand,” says Beedie, noting the company will start self- performing its own residential projects soon like they do with their industrial properties.

He describes the current market as competitive and exciting but not without its challenges. One of the key challenges continues to be municipal approval times.

Beedie says municipalities pay lip service to the issue but he has not seen any real significant change.

“We’re constantly struggling with municipal approvals,” he says. “A client comes to us and wants us to build a building that would take six months, but sometimes it takes a year just to get the approval. It shouldn't take that long. It doesn't make sense.”

The long municipal approval times are detrimental to businesses and economic growth, he asserts. “The amount of money we’re spending carrying land, paying property taxes is a fortune.

There is a desire for improvement but then the steps aren't taken.”

And when it comes to the issue of sustainability, the company has had a long standing commitment to the environment.

“Our whole mindset has been forward thinking in that regard,” says Beedie. “We've been looking at ways to save energy and creative ideas for stormwater management in terms of how we build our industrial buildings before it became en vogue.”

He adds though that “being green” has to make sense economically as well.

“The key is to come up with solutions that are good for the environment but that make economic sense too. If something is not economically viable, it’s not sustainable. Sustainability has to include economics as well as the environmental aspect.”

He cites as an example Port Coquitlam’s green roof bylaw that requires green roofs for all large format buildings over 5,000 square metres.

“It’s insane. The cost to put a green roof on an industrial building has a big impact on the cost of the project for very little benefit,” says Beedie, noting while they managed to do one industrial project in Port Coquitlam because it was allowed a variance, they can't really build in that market anymore because of the bylaw.

On the residential side, he believes green roofs make sense and their projects are targeting various levels of LEED certification.

Asked about the industrial real estate market, Beedie says demand is good and while there might be a looming industrial land shortage, it’s not an issue today.

“For your average 50,000 to 100,000 square foot user, there are quite a few options,” he says. “I think in the medium to the longer term there’s going to be an issue but there are many different sites in Metro Vancouver that could come online to take care of rising demand.”

All indications are that the industry is entering a very busy cycle with many optimistic about the outlook for the province including Beedie.

“If LNG comes through — even if one or two — that will have a massive impact on the province. Lots of great things happening in Western Canada,” he says.

Successfully sustaining a family business into a second generation is not easy but with his vision and ambition, Beedie has proven it can be done. Will there be another generation to continue the Beedie legacy?

The father of three (ages 19, 17, 15) says it would be nice but no pressure.

“I’m encouraging my kids to do their own thing. I want them to go and have their own journey,” he says. “If any of them are interested in being in the business down the road, that’s great.” Married for more than 20 years, Beedie resides in West Vancouver with his family and loves music, travelling and living an active and
social lifestyle.