Tracy Vance – Rocky Mountain Companies
The Primary Health Medical Group being among his employer’s prized clients, Tracy Vance would go the extra mile to satisfy its need for another location in Idaho’s Boise Valley.
But in 2018, what seemed a desired location at a Boise intersection was too small for another outlet for Idaho’s largest independent chain of urgent care providers. Vance, having honed his legal and commercial real estate savvy in private law as well as in-house, thought well outside the proverbial box as general counsel for Rocky Mountain Companies, a Boise-based property management and development company.
He oversaw the purchases of that parcel as well as three abutting commercially zoned properties to enable Primary Health to enter another joint venture with its owners having a significant stake in the facility that Rocky Mountain would build. One of those lots used solely for storage, its owner was amenable to exchange it for another property Rocky Mountain bought specifically for the owner’s needs. The storage lot was then conveyed to another owner for additional parking in exchange for Rocky Mountain being conveyed some of that entity’s property to complete its development for Primary Health.
By late 2021, everything had been accomplished and, by all accounts, to the satisfaction of all parties involved. For Vance, it was business as usual.
“I enjoy deal-making, seeing projects from start to finish, and making partners out of our tenants,” he tells Vanguard in July while in the midst of another complex transaction. “I like to make situations that, whenever possible, are win-win for all parties.”
The real deal
Vance has orchestrated around 20 such projects with Primary Health, the latest having opened in April in Nampa, Idaho. He’s also been the force behind Rocky Mountain enlisting other franchise operations, including Del Taco and NAPA Auto Parts, into similar projects, mostly in the Boise Valley but sometimes stretching into Oregon and other parts of the Pacific Northwest.
The formula works best, Vance says, when these partners entrust Rocky Mountain to do what it does best, which is fashioning joint ventures. Rocky Mountain typically retains majority ownership of the land and in many cases, buys more land than its partner originally sought. Then Rocky Mountain takes the lead in developing the remaining property, and all parties benefit.
“Most business owners don’t understand real estate,” Vance explains. “They are experts however in their own business. We show them the value of being both tenant and part-owner and take the development process off their plate.”
Rocky Mountain being well-versed in real estate in this part of Idaho, much of the property it secures isn’t even on the market. On this count, relationships matter and Vance, like the rest of the company’s executive team, initiates and sustains ties with those in the know. Brokers and tenants may call them if they have a sense that a prime piece of property is soon to be for sale.
This modus operandi was well in process when Vance left his prior position as senior counsel to another Boise-based developer, Hawkins Companies, to join Rocky Mountain in 2010. As he recalls, commercial real estate was in the doldrums following the earlier collapse of the market that brought on the Great Recession of 2008.
But Rocky Mountain was in better shape than most of its counterparts, he says, crediting its chief executive officer and chairman, Mike Fery, for having sold off most of his hospitality portfolio prior to the crash and thus having cash and credit. So, Rocky Mountain was positioned to aid other companies, including the franchise operations, not just to expand but to be part of the innovative joint ventures.
He means business—and law
A native of Boise Valley, Vance sandwiched his undergraduate and legal education at the University of Utah around an MBA curriculum at the University of Phoenix. Having earned his degrees in accounting and business, he started his career in real estate in 1989 as a commercial appraiser in Salt Lake City, where he earned his Member Appraisal Institute designation.
“I always assumed I’d be going to law school,” he says. “I did the MBA while working as an appraiser. It kept me in classroom mode.”
He returned to the University of Utah in 1993, enrolling at what is now the S.J. Quinney College of Law and cutting his teeth with the Salt Lake City firm of Suitter Axland from 1995 to 1998. Afterward came a 1998 to 2004 stretch with Meuleman & Miller in Boise, and then in-house with a former client, Hawkins Companies, for nearly six years.
When practicing real estate law and business, he says it’s not about simply going by the book. Reliability and trust are just as essential.
“A developer doesn’t make money if they’re in court,” he says. “We do our best to stay out of litigation.”
Due diligence goes a long way to pre-empting issues, Vance goes onto to say, and when he spoke with Vanguard, he was doing much of it with complex deals pending. Having just closed two deals, he had two more to seal, and all four intertwined. The unfinished two were IRS 1031 tax-deferred exchanges in which investment property can be swapped for other property with deferral of capital gains taxes.
One transaction involved Rocky Mountain exchanging a new tire store development for 11 vacant acres to be held for future development and investment purposes. It’s a complicated transaction with all parties needing the other’s money to complete the deal, and when consummated, Vance envisions Rocky Mountain utilizing its new holdings by building facilities for an express carwash, urgent care center, automotive store or other enterprises.
A married father of two grown sons who also live in Boise and one grown daughter working on her degree at the University of Utah, Vance says his career might be winding down, but what a fulfilling one it’s been. An in-house role has always suited him, as has the collaborative approach Rocky Mountain expects.
“You don’t make as much in-house but the quality of living is a lot better,” he says. “You’re not worrying about billable hours and you have one client as opposed to multiple clients. The nicest thing is you take on more of a business role and not just being the attorney.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Fall I 2023 Edition here.
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