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Keen foresight and a sense of adventure

As a child, Amy Tait was an introverted bookworm and incredibly shy. She learned to hide it well as she got older.

A severe car accident when she was in college—two fellow passengers were killed—brought her out of her shell. As Tait let others in to help her heal, the incident served as a turning point, showing her she could go further working with others than she could marching on her own.

Today Tait is chairman and CEO of Broadstone Real Estate LLC. With a team approach and a penchant for solving problems, she leads a business that today owns more than 1,000 commercial and residential properties.

Tait earned a BSE in civil engineering from Princeton University and an MBA from Simon Business School at the University of Rochester. She knew her undergraduate degree would provide a helpful framework for a business career.

“Engineering is a fabulous background. It teaches you to think logically and solve problems,” she says. “These skills helped to ease me through business school and apply directly to growing a business—even though I never get to use differential calculus.”

Tait began her career in commercial real estate lending at Chemical Bank, a subsidiary of Chemical Financial Corp. But being an entrepreneur was in her bones. Going home and working in the family business, she decided, would be a great next step. After three years, she did just that.

In 2001, she retired to spend more time with her two children, launching a volunteer career serving on local boards and community initiatives.

“Over time, I became nearly a full-time volunteer and had the opportunity to chair the United Way board through some very challenging years as we entered the recession,” Tait says. “I love the fact that so many people in Rochester come together to ‘turbo-charge’ the community in the areas most needed.”

Tait returned to working with family in 2006, co-founding Broadstone with her father and mentor, Norman Leenhouts, and her husband, Robert Tait. Leenhouts, an expert in residential and commercial real estate, planted the seed early. He and his twin brother, Nelson Leenhouts, started a Broadstone predecessor, Home Leasing Corp., in 1967.

What began as a way for her family to invest in real estate grew into a $2 billion business. Broadstone manages commercial and residential properties in 34 states.

Of the company’s 75 employees, 55 work in Rochester. Others are based in Atlanta, Dallas and Palm Beach County, Fla. Broadstone’s profit-sharing plan for employees encourages staff to think like owners. Employee autonomy and trust  are important, says Tait, who aims for an approachable management style.

“I have very few individual accomplishments. They are all done as teams and communities—the most effective way,” Tait says.

Broadstone manages Broadstone Net Lease Inc., a private real estate investment trust that now has close to 2,000 investors around the country and abroad. It uniquely includes research and development for investing in many different property types, including commercial, residential and even farmland.

“It has evolved from a transaction-based real estate company to more of a financial services firm,” Tait says.

Broadstone’s approach to serving high and ultra-high net worth investors is unique in the business; other investment vehicles target either small retail investors or large institutions.

“We structure funds that provide accredited investors and their advisers access to real estate investments that are well diversified and tax efficient, with low volatility, low fees and no brokerage commissions,” Tait says.

Broadtree Homes Inc., another Broadstone unit, is a diversified residential income REIT that has expanded in recent years. Tait says growth in the rental home market is proof of a necessary service and a success story for the company.

“My strength is always looking ahead five years from now and having the drive to address challenges and opportunities that others may not be thinking about,” Tait says. “My husband and co-workers deserve the credit for making (achievements) a reality.”

In 2012, Broadstone donated the historic Rochester Savings Bank building to Rochester Institute of Technology. Now beautifully restored, the old bank houses RIT’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship.

James Watters, RIT senior vice president of finance and administration and treasurer, is a board member at Broadstone Net Lease and Broadtree Homes. He says Tait has a dynamic way about everything she does.

“Undoubtedly returning sustained superior performance to shareholders is front of mind for Amy,” Watters says. “She is always ensuring that her employee associates and rental partners are respected in the process.”

The lines separating work, family and fun are blurry, Tait says; she likes bringing them all together. The Taits several years ago bought and restored Woodside, the East Avenue mansion formerly housing the Rochester Historical Society, and they live there now. Tait has a lavender field in Tasmania, Australia, an alpaca farm in Canandaigua and with her husband is building a house in the Costa Rican rainforest.

She is most proud of her children, Alex and Margaret, both Princeton graduates like their parents.

“Of course, I don’t deserve any credit for their accomplishments,”

Tait says, “as they are both highly self-motivated.”

Debra A. Jacobson is a Rochester-area freelance writer.

9/30/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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