Posted on October 08, 2009

Ryan Beedie: 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year

While for much of 2009 corporate Canada fretted over balance sheets and talked of retrenching, for the hungry entrepreneur, it was nothing but go, go, go. This year’s overall winner of the Pacific Region’s Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year program, 40-year-old Ryan Beedie, summed up the entrepreneurial spirit in refreshingly blunt language: “We’re here, kicking ass.” 

Striding into an air-conditioned boardroom on a hot August morning in Burnaby, Ryan Beedie, president of real estate developer the Beedie Group, looks positively relieved to be at work. Back from a two-week Mediterranean cruise with his wife and three kids that would have most other travellers walking on air, Beedie describes the holiday as being close to torture. “I felt like I was on a floating prison,” he admits, only half joking. 

 It only takes a few minutes with the 40-year-old entrepreneur to understand how being forced to spend days in a confined space – albeit a luxurious one – would grate on his nerves. Despite confessing to not being a morning person, Beedie – in striped dress pants, blue button-up shirt but no tie – exudes a hyperkinetic energy. And that energy has evidently been put to good use. 

 Since taking over the day-to-day running of the Beedie Group in 2001 (his father and the company’s founder Keith Beedie, now 83, remains chair and CEO), Beedie has overseen a massive expansion of the industrial real estate development business: revenues have grown by more than 500 per cent, the company now owns and manages more than seven million square feet of industrial space, and today it has about 120 hectares of raw land in its bank. “From the early days of my involvement here, I knew what I wanted to do,” reminisces Beedie, who first began working for the family firm in the ’90s. “I took the structure that we had in place and just scaled it.” 

That structure, which continues to this day, integrates acquisition, development and property management under one roof. “Instead of doing one-off building projects where you go and find four acres over here for this company, it’s like, ‘Look, here’s 90 acres and we’re going to design and build every building in the park,’?” he explains. 

 Beedie admits his father was initially wary of his aggressive methods. The first major project under the expanded vertically integrated model was a 24-hectare industrial park in Delta in 1993, and, as Ryan recalls, the elder Beedie took some convincing: “At the time, my dad was in his late 60s and he just didn’t have the same vision. How could he? I was 25, like, ‘Let’s go!’?” But Ryan Beedie credits his dad with granting him the authority he needed at that young age to go out and make the deals he envisioned. 

Since then, the projects have only got bigger and more daring. In the past year, despite the economic slowdown, the Beedie Group has developed more square feet of industrial land than in any year in its history, including a leased 460,000-square-foot site for Brewers’ Distributors Ltd. in Port Coquitlam and a leased 400,000-square-foot site for Home Depot in Delta. “It’s been an interesting year for us because we’re building and have just completed the most substantial projects in the history of the company that we’re very, very proud of,” Beedie says, beaming. But that’s not to say the global financial meltdown has left the company unscathed. “Typically in a given year, we’ll do maybe 15 buildings, ranging in size from 30,000 to 200,000 square feet. With the slowdown, we’ve seen a real reduction in that bread-and-butter local business who wants to own 30,000 or 40,000 feet,” Beedie concedes. 

 The Beedie Group is showing no signs of retreat, however. In November it received zoning approval for a massive mixed-use development in Coquitlam, the first of its kind for the Beedie Group. As Beedie explains, the project includes 3,700 residential units and 300,000 square feet of commercial and industrial development and will take 20 years to complete. 

 And to Beedie’s delight, this summer the company inked its first deal outside the province: it will be building a new leased headquarters for the world’s largest vehicle glass repair and replacement company, the Belron Group, on Beedie Group-owned industrial park land in Airdrie, Alberta. “We went head to head with four other Alberta developers,” he enthuses. “Seven of us flew out and did a full pitch for them, and we won the business, and we’re going to start that in a couple of weeks. It’s just so exciting,” he continues, brimming with the hubris and zeal of youth. “It’s like, ‘Wow, we beat the other guys. We’re here, kicking ass.’ ”