FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Andy Baxter
December 24, 2013
For that last 14 years since I returned to Calgary I’ve crossed paths many times with Andy Baxter, Leasing Manager at Yale Properties. Yale have substantial holdings here, mostly office properties they manage for their joint venture with Standard Life. Each time I’ve talked with Andy about the market, toured clients through space in his buildings I’ve always found him helpful, affable and a good guy to ring up for a good joke on a chilly winter’s day.
His group operates what I call ‘mature buildings’, A- and B+ types so he is absent the hype that comes with marketing the next biggest new thing. I like his down to earth manner – always have, but I don’t know him that well. So, I sat down with him over lunch and asked him to spill some stories, some history and some perspective. He didn’t disappoint . . .
Born in Leeds, UK, he came to Canada at 17. His mother and younger sister had been to Edmonton – visiting family – and returned to Scarborough, UK where they were living and convinced his father who worked in the printing business that they should come to Canada. They arrived in Edmonton Dec. 22, 1974 to -38C weather.
After a year and a half at EastglenHigh School where people making fun of his accent stands out as a memory, Andy entered an Arts program at the University of Alberta. After 1 year he pursued a milkman career, then back to school to secure a Business Diploma at NAIT. His schooling led him to a job as a Municipal Intern at the Town of Airdrie where he spent 7 years as Construction Manager, moving into Economic Development about the same time NEP became everyone’s favourite word.
Andy left to work at a series of commercial real estate firms (Dalex Real Estate Strategies, Manulife, Morguard, Sunlife on his resume), before joining Yale in 2008 as Leasing Manager. While his career has involved many moves, he’s still happily with starter-wife Nancy, a physiotherapist, after 30 years. They have two children, 27 and 22.
I asked Andy how he sees the office leasing market over the next quarter; what’s the marketplace like for the next 90 days?
… not much. Oil & gas tenants seem to be hunkered down. We (our portfolio) are about 94% occupied. Rental rates are down marginally over the last year.
And over the next 5 years?
…. for the first time in 25 years I am concerned about over-supply. At some point somebody building right now will get it wrong.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… I appreciate being sold! I’m a loyal customer, but I price-check. Suppliers need to be competitive and reasonable. Value added is important. I want our suppliers to make a profit.
What distinguishes you that causes people choose Andy to deal with, why do they choose Yale Properties – why are you been selected over your competitors?
… life’s too short to be harsh. I do the basic things really well. Responsive. I’m an easy guy to phone, friendly, I don’t play games - I appreciate a short no to a long maybe and I think people we do business with appreciate it too.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… my kids. I don’t worry about a lot. I’m mostly a contented person.
How has the stroke impacted you?
… I had no epiphany after my stroke (Oct. 2010). I was 6 weeks in hospital and couldn’t walk but was told my chances for full recovery were very good. The silver lining was that I found people were friends that I didn’t know were friends.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… coming to Canada (I miss the beer and the pubs). My wife Nancy. She’s pushed me to exceed! And my dad. He gave me my sense of humour. He’s the happiest person I know. He’s 82, retired and living in Victoria. Good and decent is a good thing to be.
Work life balance?
… golf (15 handicap), working out.
What do you read?
…. mystery/crime thriller novels, everything John Grisham writes. A big fan of Stewart McBride’s work
… 2002 Honda Accord for my daily 16 km. trip to work from Lakeview. My wife drives our Lexus SUV
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