James Ramos brings a forward-thinking approach to his property business, from a custom home to a real estate office posing as a coffee bar.
With his background in corporate America, playing catcher for the University of Florida baseball team, a podcast and a side gig as a motivational speaker, James Ramos has the type of resume that could launch a political career.
Instead, the 48-year-old, of late, has focused on cultivating a successful career second act in property development and investment.
'You can't sit back and wait for the phone to ring.' James Ramos, CEO and founder of Ramos Companies.
The third-generation Tampa resident hails from a family of entrepreneurs, and even though he found success at multinational giants like General Mills, Unilever and PepsiCo, building a business was always his endgame.
Now, behind a trio of multimillion-dollar investment funds providing resources for ambitious commercial and residential projects in South Tampa, Ramos is well positioned to weather whatever highs and lows might come. He's getting there by combining an always-hustling style with an ability to find opportunities and revenue streams in nearly every nook and cranny.
The entities are all under the Ramos Cos. brand. “You can't sit back and wait for the phone to ring.”
Thanks to his multifaceted business, Ramos rarely waits for anyone. Ramos Development is the acquisition arm, buying six sites in June alone, while Ramos Design Build is the construction company. RE/MAX Bay to Bay, which Ramos founded in 2011 after his exit from corporate America, markets the developed properties.
“I look at it as a fishing boat — having a bunch of lines in the water,” Ramos says. “We grab a lot of opportunity, whether it's newly on the market or just coming on the market through our network. But it’s one thing to buy a parcel. It’s quite another to have the ability to put together the right package, the right design and actually put a price on it and a date for when it can be completed.”
The SS Ramos is catching a lot of fish. Revenues, for example, are up 152% since 2015, from $4.69 million to $11.81 million last year. Ramos also now has 30 full-time employees to complement the 130-plus real estate agents and other contractors affiliated with his companies.
Ramos has been particularly aggressive in South Tampa because of the area’s high-rated schools but low inventory of premium home sites. Ramos Investment Growth Fund I and II have backed $5 million and $15 million, respectively, worth of projects in the area. Most of the funds comes from Ramos, including profits from the business he re-invests. He also has a few local investors.
Ramos' core commercial real estate model is to assemble build-ready parcels of land — his current inventory includes a five-acre parcel in Westchase and a one-acre parcel in Indian Rocks Beach, both zoned for multifamily development — and create what he calls unique, “plug and play” projects. He then seeks to generate high returns from long-term, productive tenants in spaces that utilize hospitality to generate foot traffic.
To test the concept, in 2016 Ramos acquired a local coffee company, Indigo, and proceeded to build a combined RE/MAX Bay to Bay office and Indigo café at 514 N. Franklin St. in downtown Tampa. The 1,100-square-foot location, which opened last year, has space for 30-40 patrons.
“We get 3,500 walk-ins per month,” he says. “The agents are super-excited — they get a tremendous amount of leads.”
Ramos also owns a 30,000-square-foot warehouse in Ybor City that's a staging area for parts and materials required for his construction projects. But his company uses only about 5,000 square feet of the space, so he plans to activate the empty part for another innovative CRE project that will make sections of the warehouse available to lease to entrepreneurs and startups, as well as members of Dakota Design Build Cooperative — another Ramos endeavor that serves as a co-working and events space and showcase for his building projects.
Ramos expects the warehouse space to open for business in January and says it will help local businesses, especially those just starting out, save money by being able to shop around for suppliers. “This will offer space for storing a shipment of product,” he says. “You won’t be tied to buying from a certain distributor because they have a space to store” materials until they’re needed.