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Weekend Interview: KMT Partners' Greg Boler On Why Now Was The Time To Launch His Own Industrial Development Firm

This series goes deep with some of the most compelling figures in commercial real estate: the deal-makers, the game-changers, the city-shapers and the larger-than-life personalities who keep CRE interesting.

Greg Boler has only recently begun to forge his own path in industrial real estate.

KMT Partners founder Greg Boler.

After 13 years working for JLL, Transwestern Development Co. and most recently the industrial arm of Bridge Investment Group — where he led the development of more than 15M SF of warehouses up and down the East Coast — Boler launched his own industrial development and advisory firm, KMT Partners, in February.

But unlike many logistics specialists, Boler didn't come to the industry via family or personal connections. He studied to be an engineer at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. While working for a mechanical engineering firm, Boler said he quickly soured on making a career as an engineer. 

“The office looked terrible, and there weren’t too many people there. There wasn't too much interaction between anybody there,” Boler said. “For an extrovert like myself, it was just not appealing.”

Boler dipped his feet into CRE when he was recruited by a JLL executive who came to FAMU to recruit graduating engineers to be project managers. He got the job, fell in love with CRE, and the rest is history. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Bisnow: What motivated you to start your own company, particularly at this time in your career?

Boler: I kind of looked across the country and didn't see any other Black-owned and very slim minority-owned industrial development platforms. I realized that that was an opportunity, that was something that needed to change. I was fortunate enough to be equipped with the right experience and the right relationships to be able to do so.

The best time to start a company from a real estate standpoint is either in a downturn or during a recovery. I'm very much bullish on industrial. I'm bullish on Atlanta, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and other markets that I'm focused on. I just want to be able to go after those opportunities with less restrictions and more around what would I have a conviction for and can support and work with the partners that I want to work with.

Bisnow: Do you have any current deals you're working on?

Boler: So currently, [KMT closed] on the first land deal for a [industrial outdoor storage] development on Moreland Avenue [in Atlanta]. We'll start construction in three to four months. That's around 13 usable acres. That will be paved and lit and 20K SF pre-engineered metal building that we're doing on a spec basis, delivering Q3 of next year. There are also two other deals in Atlanta that are in the pipeline I can't share right now. Those are warehouse developments. But those will start construction next year. And then two deals in Pennsylvania, as well, that will also start construction next year. 

For deals that have heavy entitlement risk, that gives me the time to be able to mitigate that entitlement and move forward from there.

Bisnow: What spurred your interest in engineering?

Boler: I gravitated to cars and engines and planes, and really kind of understanding how these things are able to move so quickly and or fly. I ended up going to Northeast High School, which has a magnet program solely focused on aeronautics. So, a lot of math, a lot of physics. And these are things that are just kind of my strengths. They came a lot more natural to me. 

Bisnow: You were a four-year college football walk-on at FAMU. Tell me a little bit about how that happened.

Boler: In high school my senior year, I was actually playing football, basketball and track. I just gravitated to football a little bit more and love the game a little bit more. And so the plan was to get a scholarship to play football in college. My my senior year, though, in high school and training camp for football, I ended up tearing my lateral meniscus. And the tear wasn't a small tear of the cartilage to where it could just be cut out and you could bounce back. It was one that needed to be kind of folded back under between the bones and mended down. And so that was a slower healing process. So, you know, my team ended up making it to the playoffs, I was rushing to get back to make it to the playoffs in the championships. But the doctor said I wasn't allowing it to heal. And so they put me in a cast. 

At that point, [the injury] knocked me out for basketball and for track. And so I was fairly depressed my senior year. Thankfully, there was a physician who was a FAMU alumnus. He would take kids, inner-city kids from Philadelphia, down to FAMU every year and just get them exposed to the school. At that point, I was thinking I was gonna go to West Virginia actually and major in mechanical engineering. So I went on the trip to Florida A&M, and I fell in love with everything it had to offer. I mean, obviously, it's Florida. The weather was great. The people were awesome. Totally different from Philadelphia. You know, southern hospitality.

Football-wise, the school was Division 1. I did end up walking on the spring of my freshman year and made the team and then ended up earning a scholarship. So I did exactly what I said I was going to do. 

KMT Partners founder Greg Boler with his wife Jenee' and sons Gregory III, 10, and Greyson, 6.

Bisnow: What drew you to Atlanta after college? And what drew you to commercial real estate?

Boler: I was open to leveraging the degree, looking for another way that I could also leverage my character and personality. At FAMU, [JLL] recruited architecture majors, engineering majors and construction management majors. They ended up taking 12 recruits up to Chicago for about a two- to three-day interview with several regional directors. I ended up getting selected and hired. That's how I got to Atlanta and commercial real estate.

The recruiter, who was my mentor, Patrick Davis, explained to me what a project manager is. You manage the engineers, you manage the architects, you manage the general contractors. And so for me, I was like, “Oh, it's a promotion.” Day one, I went from being an engineer to managing engineers.

Bisnow: How did you eventually gravitate to focusing on industrial? What was that evolution?

Boler: That gravitation really came organically. I started out with the student housing group. Then I ended up joining [JLL’s retail group], and doing a ton of renovations and expansions and retrofits for Family Dollar, Dollar General and Chick-fil-A's all around the country. I tell a lot of folks that I got a chance to see what America looks like. You know, urban cities and suburban and Podunk towns.

I wanted to kind of get back to more ground-up, larger, more complex developments and industrial had an opportunity. And so Eskridge Louise, he's at CBRE now, he was running the industrial team at JLL. He brought me over, and I was able to do a couple of different build-to-suits for Syncro as well as for Summit Racing, which, again, I'm a car guy. So doing a build-to-suit for Summit Racing was awesome. I just really kind of fell in love with how simple it looks from the outside, but then when you get inside of it and you talk about the racking systems and fire suppression systems and the sprinklers and how they were designed, it's extremely complex. So this is sparking my nerdy side, the mechanical engineer side. These companies, they weren't focused on what color the pillows were in the office or something like that. They were solely focused on making sure that they had the best location and the best optimization for their supply chain needs. And so that is what attracted me the most to it.

Bisnow: How do you feel that the industry can do better to reach out to HBCUs and HBCU students about careers in industry? What can industry do to convince HBCUs to have more degree programs?

Boler: The main focus is making sure that the demographics of the industry are reflective of the demographics of that city that it's in. Well, we are clearly way behind here. And I don't think that necessarily adding real estate programs at HBCUs will do it. A lot of my peers, colleagues, mentors that I know throughout this industry did not major in real estate. It comes down to relationships. A lot of those relationships are either through nepotism, or friends of family, or somebody who went to the same college, which is fairly homogeneous. [The industry needs] to make sure that we're just being intentional on just recruiting top-performing students. Those who are well-rounded, meaning that you're smart, you work hard, you have a great personality. People want to be around you. 

Real estate is not complicated. There's very simple math in the way we approach it, and the data that we use to support our developments and investments is not complicated. That is a big reason why I was a part of founding the diversity in commercial real estate internship through NAIOP’s Georgia chapter. We're actually going on our fourth summer now, directly recruiting at local HBCUs as well as Georgia State, which is heavily diverse, and other schools as well. Saying, ‘Hey, we're focusing specifically on people of color because that is where the lack has been for a very long time.’ 

Bisnow: Shallow-bay and last-mile warehouses are what's in demand. But that often puts developers in the crosshairs of nearby residents. What do you think the average person misunderstands about the logistics industry, especially when they attempt to fight against warehouse proposals in their neighborhoods?

Boler: The biggest misconception is that the demand is being driven by consumer demand. That is probably the No. 1 thing that I share with most folks. Who in here has Amazon Prime? A majority will raise their hand.

If you lived in an area that has a lot of older, obsolete, industrial that are certainly eyesores, the thought is, “Oh, we don't want any more of that.” But when you do see what is built as far as new, Class-A industrial, that can certainly upgrade that area. From a workforce development, which is a big thing for me, you're providing these job opportunities for people who can have upward mobility, and they don't need a college degree to do so. 

KMT Partners founder Greg Boler during a Quest Community Development ground-breaking.

Bisnow: As a board member with Quest Community Development, what are your views on the city's efforts to address affordable housing currently? And what do you believe needs to be done more? 

Boler: I love what Mayor Andre Dickens is doing, has done and continues to do, supporting his goal of hitting 20,000 affordable units. I am [Quest’s] investment committee chair, and currently, they have around $110M across three developments. That's around 300 units of affordable housing. Not only are they providing housing, but they are also providing financial services to help [residents] get the benefits that they deserve as well as the services that they need. 

I'm just happy to be a part of it. I think we're on the right track, but it's just a lot to be able to fill that gap. And I think as long as we're all kind of growing in the right direction, we'll certainly get there. 

Bisnow: Give us a bold prediction for the rest of the year.

Boler: There will be no rate cuts this year. I think at the end of the day, that's not a bad thing. Capital markets can now price through that and actually figure out where cap rates should be for industrial. For industrial, we are starting to see some cap rate compression because there isn't as much uncertainty around the rates increasing, and that's a beautiful thing.

Bisnow: What's your favorite weekend activity?

Boler: My boys kind of take up the majority of my week, day, afternoon and weekends. They play a lot of sports. So it's football, basketball, track and golf. My weekends are solely spending time with them and my wife.