Andrew Wright founded real estate leasing and management company Franklin Street in 2006 when he was only 26. To better weather market downturns, Wright’s Tampa-based firm later branched out into insurance services, lending and appraisals. “I wanted a balance of offensive and defensive businesses,” he says.
The strategy served him well. When the mortgage loan business began collapsing as the recession hit in 2007, “our insurance business was taking off,” Wright says. “In the downturn, the banks needed property management and valuation appraisals. When the market picked up, we were able to recruit brokers and grow our retail business.”
In addition to its Florida offices – in Tampa Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale – Franklin Street has an Atlanta branch. The company now employs more than 200 and recently hired a new president of real estate and management services, Kurt Keaton, formerly with JLL. Wright envisions Franklin Street becoming a national brand within the next five years.
In 2014, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik tapped Franklin Street to oversee the leasing and management of Channelside Bay Plaza, the waterfront entertainment center in downtown Tampa. Wright says the plaza eventually will tie into Vinik’s bigger plans for Channelside and downtown Tampa.
More generally in Florida, Wright sees opportunity in the apartment building and office sectors. “The rents are strong, and there’ a demand to buy properties.” Wright also views retail as a hot sector because of rising rents and tightening of space. “There’s a lot of demand for well located, high barrier-to-entry retail,” he says. “I see a lot of opportunity to reposition assets.”
Wright also has seen opportunities that intrigued him as an investor. He has invested personally in several real estate and finance transactions, careful not to invest in anything that would compete with his clients, he says. In some instances, his investments are partnerships. “Sometimes clients want us to co-invest in their projects so we are not just in it for the fees, and we do it.”