Diversifying business

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Gill Properties Inc. has come a long way since president Ray Gill founded it in 1983, and much of the company’s growth has come through diversification.

Gill started the company with brokerage and then moved into developing land and building residential and commercial properties. The company focused mainly on retail development.

After a few years, he started getting into the self-storage business as a way to even out the ups and down of development.

“It was a feast or famine business,” Gill says. “It’s so cyclical and I wanted to even out the cycles.”

The company has built three storage facilities and bought one for a total of four properties with 400,000 square feet of space.

The lone purchase was its last acquisition, when then the company bought a 100,000-square-foot facility and its major competitor in Jackson, Tenn., Metro Storage LLC, in February for $3.5 million.

When building storage properties, Gill Properties took more of a retail approach than the industrial approach many think of when it comes to self-storage.

Self-storage facilities, like mainstream retail properties, need convenience, safety and cleanliness, Brown Gill, vice president, says.

The company uses designs with brick exteriors, heavy landscaping and a natural light inside to make them attractive.

“The design of orange doors and chain link fences wouldn’t encourage growth,” Brown Gill says. “We decided to use architecture and style to improve the product.”

Many developers think design is too costly, he says.

“It may be a slight cost component, but successful developers, in my view, need to use good materials, quality design and human-scale proportions to enhance their property and compete better,” Brown Gill says.

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