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Rick Griffith Properties

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As the U.S. economy continues to strengthen, economists and analysts suggest that the national real estate industry is expected to build momentum across the board. The Business Magazine recently asked Rick Griffith, president and founder of Rick Griffith Properties in Erie, Pennsylvania, to share his thoughts on this key industry and the growth of his own successful real estate business.

Please share how you got into the real estate business and why.
We entered the real estate business in the early 1980s after being in the electrical contracting business for 10 years. As an electrical subcontractor, we had very little control of our destiny. By owning the buildings, you control your own fate.

You founded Rick Griffith Properties in 1982 and presently manage more than 1.7 million square feet of rental property in Erie County. Please give our readers a snapshot of some of the commercial and residential properties that this includes and your outlook for the local market in 2015.
By geographic region: Summit. We own two properties for future development on Oliver Road, Five Guys, Planet Fitness. Upper Millcreek: We own Erie Institute of Technology at the mall, Howard Hanna office on Peach Street, Great Lakes Institute at 5100 Peach. West Millcreek: We own 4500 and 4504 West Ridge Road, the site of the old 84 Lumber company. West to east in the industrial corridor: We have 2755 West 17th, 1801 Pittsburgh Avenue, 1510, 959, 901, and 801 West 12th Street. We also have Toni and Guy at 10th and Peach and, naturally, the entire Lovell Place complex in midtown, which is more than 20 properties. We are upbeat on the Erie area real estate market. Manufacturing is recovering nicely. Erie downtown is being rediscovered.

In 2003, Rick Griffith Properties was named Employer of the Year by the Economic Development Corporation of Erie County for your job creation efforts both with schools and the reuse of old industrial buildings. What do you consider to be your greatest real estate achievement and why?
I am extremely proud of what our team has accomplished to date. Some of my employees have been with me over 40 years. But as for greatest achievement, hopefully, that is still coming. Erie is a vibrant community, and we look forward to helping it rebuild.

In real estate, location is everything and many of your properties are located near busy intersections where you’ve used your signage to create meaningful interactions with passersby. What’s the reason for posting these often bold and inspiring statements?
The signs are our way of interacting with the Erie people. The citizens of Erie have to become the cheerleaders of the area.

In addition to running a successful business, you’ve given back to the community through the many boards and nonprofit organizations that you are involved in. Why is philanthropy so important to you?
Erie has been exceptionally kind to me and my family. Giving back to the community of both my time and resources is my way of trying to repay that debt. I will never be able to fully repay what I owe to this great town.

In 2014, you gave a property donation to the Roar on the Shore® charitable motorcycle rally to benefit St. Patrick’s Haven, a homeless shelter and ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Northwestern Pennsylvania. What prompted you to donate such a generous gift?
The Sisters of Saint Joseph, in fact all the groups of nuns, do so much for our region in a quiet way. Thirty-five years ago, one of the first properties we owned was on Peach Street between 4th and 5th. St Patrick’s Haven was right beside us. Now we are neighbors again in midtown. You help your neighbors whenever you can. It could be any one of us that could need a place to sleep on these cold winter nights. St Patrick’s Haven does not judge. They just open the doors to those that need it.

What do you believe is the secret to your success?
Rick Griffith Properties did not grow to where it is because of me. It is a team that works together always trying to give the tenants exactly what they need. It is the team and family that bring about the success.

Is there anything you would like to add?
Believe in Erie.