Rex Jensen Q&A
SARASOTA-MANATEE RANCH INC. (SMR)
Years in the business: 21 (Jensen has been with SMR for 15 years)
Past notable developments: Lakewood Ranch; helped annex about 40 square miles of property at the Tampa Palms development in Hillsborough County.
Square feet of commercial real estate development: About 2 million square feet
Where he lives: Bradenton
What's going to drive development over the next 18 months to five years? "Low interest rates that have driven it for quite some time, and demographic trends, which are longer lasting than the particular interest rate climate. I think the population, consisting of baby boomers who are nearing the age where they're beginning to slow down and move to Florida, is going to really be a huge engine that drives the development climate over the next couple of decades. I think that's going to be more powerful than whether interest rates are temporarily up or temporarily down.
Do you see the rate of growth increasing? "Absolutely. Anyone who doesn't isn't really looking. They may be whistling past the graveyard if they are a no-growth type of person. However, if they are in a planning department, they ought to be planning for this because it's going to happen."
What are the risks that concern you the most over this period? "That people won't plan for what is really going to happen, and that people will arrive, and we will be even further behind in infrastructure than we are today. I think there are a lot of people who hope it won't happen, and they're going to be sadly disappointed. I think the rest of us who think it will happen may be disappointed, too, if the community doesn't pull together and plan for the infrastructure that we know in our hearts we're going to need."
What advice would you give to public officials to deal with new development? "They should do like Manatee County did years ago: look ahead, think ahead and plan for it. There is a strong risk that people won't have the courage to do that today. The focus on planning in this county has lessened, and I hope someday they will get it back."
What mark do you want to leave on this area? "If I could point to one thing, it would be better schools for the kids. I have helped the schools get their sales tax passed so we can get the existing schools in Manatee County renovated and several new schools that we all knew we needed for years under construction. That's the one thing I'm most proud of professionally."
Where do you go to escape the office? What types of recreation do you enjoy? Woodworking and furniture building.
Favorite restaurant: Fred's, Bijou Cafe, Michael's on East, Lakewood Ranch Country Club
How do you stay ahead of the pack? "By using the best team around. The people in this company I think are the best in the business. It shows in the results that they achieve. I associate myself with people who are very, very good. We try to think ahead. We try to think for the long term and try to do things that add value to the rest of the property that we have."
Key gadgets on his desk: Laptop computer