Two decades after its founding, Fort Myers commercial real estate brokerage firm Land Solutions Inc. is plowing ahead with an expanded focus, new services and leadership that the company says will position it for 2019 and beyond.
In addition to negotiating land deals, the company intends to expand into other commercial real estate sectors, such as office, industrial and medical.
It also intends to start beginning this month to offer appraisal and development services to clients through a revamped structure. Land Solutions will be folded into a new umbrella firm, LSI Cos., which also will be home to LSI Commercial and Development Solutions.
Overseeing it all will be Justin Thibaut, 31, the son of LSI Founder Randy Thibaut, who joined the company in mid-2016 and was named director of sales, a title he’ll retain, later that year. The former Bechtel Corp. and Chevron worker was named LSI’s chief operating officer in January, overseeing the 23-person firm.
“What drove this exercise was that we’ve been in business for 20 years now, and our thought was how best we could position ourselves for the next 20 years?” says Randy Thibaut, 56.
“So we spent a lot of time looking at the growth of Southwest Florida and considering the businesses and services we wanted to offer and the market needs.”
He acknowledges, too, that changes in the Southwest Florida submarket prompted the restructuring, the process of which began two years ago.
“There was very little competition in the brokerage arena here in 1999,” the elder Thibaut says. “There were a lot of opportunities and a lot less challenges and costs were a lot less.
“Today, there’s a lot less open land to sell, so we as a company have to look for other opportunities to expand our revenue sources, which is why we’re doubling down on commercial sales and sales of buildings, because it’s a natural extension of what we already do.”
Land Solutions is best known for representing property owners, such as Investors Warranty of America, for whom the brokerage sold a 4,000-acre tract in Bonita Springs known as Edison Farms to Lee County in late 2017 for $42.42 million, and working with home builders such as D.R. Horton, London Bay Homes and Lennar Corp.
But in the past two years, it has slowly expanded into representing commercial projects such as Hope Preserve, a planned 46-acre development that healthcare provider Hope Healthcare is planning in Fort Myers.
There, Justin Thibaut is marketing some 17 acres for sale for as many as 92 apartments, a boutique, 40-room hotel and roughly 134,000 square feet of retail, storage and other space.
Hope Healthcare also is planning 148 beds of specialized senior housing, a 320-slot daycare operation and up to 160,000 square feet of office space that could include a new corporate headquarters for the hospice and palliative care provider.
The Thibauts say that providing appraisal and development services also were strategically selected because both represent an extension of current offerings.
“We’re known for collecting and disseminating an intense amount of data, so by adding appraisals going forward we think we’ll be in an even better position to see challenges and changes that might come to the market,” Randy Thibaut says. “If there is some sort of slowdown in the works for 2020, as some people and economists suggest, we’ll be among the first to detect that.
“A lot of builders are funding projects now, and they’re looking at their land positions in projects, so we believe there will be a great deal of business for us since we provide accurate information,” says Randy Thibaut.
“And what’s always set us apart from the competition is that we don’t just do real estate brokerage, we have in-house legal services and research that other firms do not,” he adds. “We tend, too, to specialize in more complicated, higher-end projects because of the skills and talent we have developed over the years.”
Internally, Justin Thibaut says he is planning a series of technological and other changes intended to modernize LSI.
“Everything that’s being done is meant to take steps toward facilitating further growth for the company,” the younger Thibaut says. “That’s the reason we’re updating all of our software, for instance.”
By 2024, the Thibauts say they would like to add between five and seven new sales agents and have at least three appraisers on board. The company hopes to have three people devoted to government affairs by then, as well.
Randy Thibaut is adamant, however, that what is not happening amid the restructuring and repositioning is his retirement.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he says. “I’m only three-quarters of the way through my career. But this succession plan is being rolled out now so we have a roadmap for the future. Within five years I see myself primarily focusing on investing and land acquisitions and helping clients, and mentoring Justin. But by then, he’ll definitely be running the lion’s share of the company — he basically is now.”