Robert H. Ledbetter Jr. is the CEO of R.H. Ledbetter Properties, a family-owned real estate development and management firm based in Rome, Ga. The company, which also acquires existing properties, specializes in retail, medical and childcare facilities. Its portfolio covers more than 1.8 million square feet of properties in Florida, Georgia, Indiana and Tennessee.
In today’s Four on Friday, we talk with Ledbetter about the history of his firm, its strongest markets and the best piece of advice he’s ever received.
Ledbetter: Our family business is now in its 81st year and its third generation. We have been involved in highway construction, grading, aggregates, ready mix, trucking, mining and real estate.
HS: Of the various property types your firm is involved in, which one is the strongest right now?
Ledbetter: There are three Georgia retail markets that stick out: Rome, Cartersville and Dalton. All have experienced the pain of this recession in some form or another. Other than Cartersville, these markets never experienced a housing boom, but certain industries located in them that are tied to housing felt the pain, which led to double-digit unemployment for Northwest Georgia.
We have retail assets in all of these markets and for the most part have weathered the storm. Good real estate will always be good real estate. These properties have all maintained 90-percent-and-higher occupancy rates with the exception of one property in Rome, but now it’s being back-filled with Hobby Lobby, which will get us to 100 percent.
I think the other markets we are in have, for the most part, experienced better-than-average occupancy. Tenants seem to be doing better, and receivables are shrinking. All our properties require intense management, and we are fortunate to have professionals who do great work in this area.
HS: What's the best advice you ever received?
Ledbetter: That's tough. I think one of the simplest bits of advice came on the front end of my marriage and can in some ways pertain to my business. It was free, too: “If mama ain't happy, nobody's happy.”
HS: Fill in the blanks:
A) My favorite movie of all time is ___.
B) My favorite band of all time is ___.
C) My favorite food is ___.
A) Any James Bond or Clint Eastwood movie.
B) Neil Young.
C) Latin American food and good BBQ.