Coffee Hour with Beat

I am cruising over the Atlantic, on my way from Zurich to Chicago, 10-hour flight today, and plenty time to think about our business plan over the last 25 years, and the next 25 years… 

 25 years ago, in the fall of 1997, Avalon Park Group, broke ground on Avalon Park Orlando, at the time in the middle of nowhere, nobody lived within a 3 miles radius of Downtown Avalon Park. Today there are more than 60,000 people that live, learn work and play within that same 3-mile radius, representing around 5% of Orange County.  

 It was not easy. We had to take out a bridge loan from a bank to build the bridge over the tributary of the Econ River at the entrance of the community. What started out as being just a bridge, turned into what is now Avalon Park Boulevard. When Joe Lambert, the Banker from Regions Bank asked his colleagues to approve the loan, he told them, “Well we are being asked to finance a bridge which is going nowhere.” The loan did get approved and later paid back and plans for the main boulevard through the community began. 

 These days, I am often asked 3 questions: 

 

  1. How much profit has Avalon Park made since breaking ground in 1997?

 

  1. When will you retire?

 

  1. Will we have a recession and how does that affect what Avalon Park Group is doing now and what I should be doing now?

 

Here are my answers: 

 

  1. I do not think it would be right to measure the profit of the Avalon Park Orlando development in dollars and cents, there is so much more to it. Sometimes I answer the question by taking the person who wants to know on a tour of Avalon Park. I start at the entrance to Avalon Park from Alafaya Trail. From there I drive around for about 1 hour, where they see the bridge, Founder’s Square, Downtown Avalon Park, Avalon Elementary School, Timber Creek High School, Stone Lakes Elementary school, Avalon Park Middle School, Avalon Pinecrest Elementary Charter School, Live Oak Park, and the community swimming pools. I continue to drive by Encore the Assisted Living and Memory Care community, several thousand single family homes, the 24 Restaurants and so much more. We eventually end up at the entrance again and I explain how twenty-five years ago we started right there with nothing but a cow pasture, so everything you saw is profit. Profit for many stakeholders, homeowners, students, Orange County, business owners, and yes for Avalon Park Group.

 

  1. I am a spiritual man and use the Bible as my guide.  You will not find the term retirement in the Bible; therefore, it is not my intention to ever retire. Additionally, you will not find the word retire in an entrepreneur’s vocabulary. There is an ongoing, unwritten “job description” that changes over time.  With experience and age I am prouder than ever of my team. I am able to rely on them and do not have to be in the know of everything going on any given time 24/7 around the globe. Avalon Park Group’s main asset is not an asset one can sell in the stock market or through a broker, it is a team. Led by 7 top managers, an executive vice president and senior vice presidents, many other managers around the globe, and all of our team members. Our manager in Kuala Lumpar office in Malaysia, Ravi Kumar just spent 3 months in the APG corporate office in Orlando.  He provided a report to me regarding our headquarters, and while he had many great things to say, he felt our senior management team is “too old.” We checked and the average age of the top management is 48 years. Ha, of course if you are 29 years old, somebody like me is really old. I am proud of the diversity in our group, in age, nationality, gender and personality. We consider the team our business family and one does never retire from its Family.  

 

  1. On Wednesday of last week the FED Chairman announced another 0.75% interest rate increase.  He also said, “In my opinion the US economy is not yet in a recession.” Just one day later, it was announced that the GDP shrank by 0.9%, annualized in the second quarter and in the first quarter the GDP growth was -1.6%. That means the GDP fell for 2 consecutive quarters, hence we are in technically in a recession. 

 In business for around 4 decades, I have seen a few recessions, interest rates well above 10%, banks going under, companies declaring bankruptcy, and sadly homeowners losing their homes to foreclosure. 

I think the most important advice would always be: Think long term! I believe most economical turmoil could be spared, if the business, government and private sector would adhere to a long-term thinking mindset. 

 When you look today at your investment portfolio it is likely that it has lost value since the beginning of 2022. Your home may have a lower value than it did 7 months ago. However, it is very likely, even with inflation adjusted (which we all feel is high at present) when you look back 10 years, the value of your home and investments have still grown at a considerable rate in Central Florida over that time.  

There is the old saying “buy low and sell high,” a rule best practiced by a long-term view and not selling when many want to and buying when few do.  

 The APG group as well has been selling assets over the last 12 month and realizing profits. I learned over the decades; entrepreneurs often are not prepared to sell when times are too good to be true. Quite the opposite in good times they build, buy and acquire more and more. We sold Avex Homes, apartment buildings and stock participations in the last 12 month. Times were good and that is when you can sell at a profit. When things are not so good it is generally the time to buy. For instance, we bought 3,000+ acres in Daytona Beach in the middle of the worldwide pandemic lock down, exactly 2 years ago. 

 So, what is APG doing now? 

 Short answer: A LOT, but we are being careful. I think it is not the time to sell or yet the time to buy. However, if you think about the next 25 years, and not just for a profit in the next quarter, you will do business and private investments differently. 

 Here are just a few things we are working on: 

 -Last month we broke ground on a $23 million, 73,000 SF mixed use building in Avalon Park Wesley Chapel, North of Tampa. Upon completing it will have a Marketplace, similar to the one in Avalon Park Orlando, retailers, offices and apartments.  

-We continue building lots for single family homes and townhomes in Wesley Chapel, Tavares  and the Suburbs of San Antonio Texas. 

-Several projects are underway in Switzerland, from developing an entire neighborhood in Liestal, near Basel, to building a grocery store in the same area. 

-We have increased our stake in VOXX International to over 25%. 

-We manage, supervise, control or co-control a group of companies with over $1.5 billion in assets, with close to 1,500 team members, in 20 countries on 5 continents. 

 It will take us another 25 years, and then I hope there is yet another 25 years to plan after that. However, we never forget that everything started with that bridge from Alafaya Trail into Avalon Park Orlando, 25 years ago.  

 

Beat Kahli