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Geis Cos., with aggressive growth plans, promotes next generation of executives

Michelle Jarboe

Geis Cos., eyeing substantial growth in Florida and steady deal Jow in Northeast Ohio, has promoted several key members of its leadership team.

Owner and CEO Greg Geis believes the construction and development business, based in Streetsboro, can double the size of its operating companies over the next 12 months — with the exception of Geis Hospitality Group, which is responsible for the Metropolitan at The 9 hotel in downtown Cleveland and a handful of restaurants and event spaces.

"The bulk of our development work is going to be Northeast Ohio and Florida," Geis said during a phone conversation from the company's office in the Sunshine State.

Founded in 1967, Geis has evolved from a regional industrial design-builder into a close knit group of companies focused on construction, development, property management, interior design, architecture and engineering. The businesses do a mix of in-house and third-party work.

Now Geis is elevating a next generation of leaders.

Jeff Martin, the longtime president of Geis Construction, is now its chief operating officer. Martin has worked at Geis since 1997.

In early 2020, he was part of a group of employees that opened a Geis oUce in Bonita Springs, Florida, a coastal town tucked between Fort Myers and Naples. That's where Geis spends part of the year — and where his son Conrad, who joined the business in 2018 and serves as president as Geis Development, is now a permanent resident.

Geis has roughly $400 million worth of construction projects, including apartments and warehouses, underway in Florida. There's $1.2 billion in additional development on the drawing board in the state, at various stages of planning and preconstruction.

"The amount of work that's going on here is far greater than in Northeast Ohio, because Northeast Ohio is a more mature market," Geis said.

The company's Cleveland-area pipeline spans about $500 million worth of projects, a combination of in-house development and third-party work. That portfolio includes a mammoth warehouse, totaling 1 million square feet, that Geis is constructing in Portage County through a joint venture with Stonemont Financial Group.

Martin said Geis is seeing significant interest in that speculative project, located in Shalersville along the Ohio Turnpike. But it's too early to discuss prospective tenants. The building should be ready for occupancy in early August.

Bob Fridrich has replaced Martin as president of Geis Construction.

He previously was a senior vice president, shepherding projects through the design-build process. Fridrich started working for Geis in 2013 and served as project manager for the company's transformation of the historic Ameritrust complex in downtown Cleveland into apartments, a hotel, offices and retail, including a grocery store.

Brandon Kline, the former director of design development, is now vice president of design for Geis Construction.

An architect who joined the company in 2012, Kline focused until recently on the company's multifamily and urban projects, along with the Florida portfolio. Now he'll also carry industrial projects through predevelopment and public approvals.

"We have a lot in the works," Kline said, noting that the company also is active in North Carolina, South Florida and Texas and is working with industrial clients across the country. "Financing is tricky, but creative measures persevere."

Geis also has promoted Kevin Watts, a project executive, to a management role. He's now serving as vice president of construction.

Those moves will give rising talent room to grow — and make it possible for Greg Geis, at 55, to devote more of his attention to large-scale, mixed-use Florida projects.

"It's really the idea of making sure that, generationally, as the new guys rise and Jeff and I are still around, everything goes well. … We're staffed pretty well," Geis said. "Jeff and I have spent decades training our replacements, which then enables us to do things that I think we're ready to do. I think we're ready to tackle some major development."

Across the businesses, Geis employs nearly 500 people. In addition to the Streetsboro headquarters and the Florida office, the company has offices in downtown Cleveland and Los Angeles.

Higher interest rates and economic uncertainty are making deals more challenging. And it's taking longer to bring projects from concept to completion, due to extensive public approval processes, labor shortages and supply-chain snarls.

So far, though, Geis isn't daunted.

"I do see a recession coming," he said. "I think it's going to be much softer in Florida than it is up north. I think up north is going to take it a little heavier. But I don't have a crystal ball. I thought we'd be in a recession a year ago. … We've got a pretty signibcant backlog, and we're signing signibcant projects weekly."

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