Community Supporter of the Year
One of The Connor Group’s core values is “Do the right thing.”
It’s an ideal represented in a number of ways, perhaps most notably in The Connor Group Kids and Community Partners, an endeavor that was recently recognized for its work. On Sept. 10 Multi-Family Executive, our industry’s top trade publication, presented us its annual Community Service Award. The following week, the Dayton Business Journal named us a finalist for Community Supporter of the Year.
Some of the projects we’ve worked on in the past year include the Montgomery County College Promise Program; the rehabilitation of Sandalwood Park here in Dayton; an after-school program at Mary Queen of Peace, an inner-city school also in Dayton and our annual Christmas toy drive. These projects were more than just check-writing opportunities. They allow our associates a hands-on opportunity to give back to the community.
The Connor Group Kids and Community Partners plans to expand its efforts in 2014, helping turn good causes into great programs.
Connor Group in the Community
The neighborhood surrounding Mary Queen of Peace School on the westside of Dayton hardly looks like a healthy environment for children. Houses are boarded up. Yards are overgrown. Crime is prevalent.
Fortunately for the children who attend the elementary, they have a safe haven once the school bell rings.
Inside Mary Queen of Peace, an old school in an old part of town, is a new program that offers new growth opportunities for a new generation. Five days a week, the Mary Queen of Peace After-School Program, run with the help of the Connor Group Kids and Community Foundation, enriches the lives of students with tutoring, athletics, learning centers and educational programming.
The Connor Group became involved with the school after months of researching after-school programs locally and nationally. In the end, it found a fit with a school in its own backyard.
Like our business, the program is highly structured and planned. Connor Group partner Mike McQuiston, who heads up the foundation, said it was important to find a school with like-minded administrators and teachers, a school that welcomed our help in planning the program. We found that at Mary Queen of Peace.
“In our foundation, we don’t want to be a checkbook,” he said. “We want to do the things we can be very involved in, and our associates can contribute.”
Associates are also making a hands-on contribution in another worthwhile endeavor. The Montgomery County College Promise Program, which The Connor Group helps fund, offers college scholarships for students who participate in a four-year high school mentoring program. Now finishing its second year, the program includes five mentors from The Connor Group. Mike said that number should rise to eight by next school year.
If you’re interested in contributing to the foundation, contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Associates and vendors pitch in, help out
As one of the largest privately-held real estate investment firms in the country, The Connor Group has plenty of contacts and experience in property improvement. This fall it put both to good use.
The company, in conjunction with the City of Dayton, led a team of associates, vendors and neighborhood volunteers in major improvements at Sandalwood Park in North Riverdale. The renovation process began in mid-October and ended November 9. That’s when approximately 40 volunteers took over the park and added the finishing touches.
Connor Group managing partner Larry Connor and Dayton mayor Gary Leitzell rededicated the park, which now features more than $75,000 in improvements. The projects included a running/walking trail, a rehabbed shelterhouse, newly-painted fences and play facilities, resurfaced tennis courts, newly renovated entryways, newly-planted trees, new playground equipment and new soccer and football goals.
“Giving back to the community is a key part of our culture,” said Larry Connor. “For many of our associates, the Dayton area is home and they’re passionate about making it a better place. It’s great to know the people and companies that help us do business feel the same way.”
Among the vendors that donated time, materials and labor to the project include DMG Contractors, Oakley Blacktop, SR Davis, All Skill Services, Sherwin Williams and KAP Signs.
Members of the Sandalwood Neighborhood Association appreciated the contributions.
“Your company has answered our prayers,” said local resident Chari Curtis. “It’s just great to hear buzz around the neighborhood so positive. It’s bringing neighbors out and bringing them together.”
The company is involved in a number of philanthropic endeavors through the Connor Group Kids and Community Foundation.
New office building a big, bold breakthrough
Like anything it does, when The Connor Group decided to build a new Central Support Office building, it set clear expectations. And it set them high.
“We told all the architects that we met with that this project would win awards and be something nobody’s ever done before,” said VP of capital Chris Mullins. “The ones that said ‘we’ll try,’ they didn’t make the cut.”
The new building, being designed by nationally-renowned architecture firm Moody-Nolan, will be a one-of-a-kind structure. In both form and function it will be — like the company that occupies it — totally unique.
“We want it to be a place that makes people excited to come to work,” said managing partner Larry Connor. “Like everything else, we want it to be the best and we want it to be innovative. The building has to represent that.”
The two-story building will be built on a seven-acre piece of land at Wright Brothers Airport in Miamisburg, Ohio. It will cost approximately $15 million, consist of 39,000 square feet — about two-and-a-half times the size of the current central office — and should be completed in 18 to 24 months by Messer Construction. It will be modern in design and emphasize open air and light. All offices will have at least two walls made entirely of glass.
It will feature a brushed aluminum façade and a central atrium space providing all employees with access to natural light. The facility will capitalize on the newest technologies and environmental planning ideas and will feature a number of sustainable design features including stormwater management, rainwater harvesting, recycled materials and optimized energy performance.
Moody-Nolan CEO Curt Moody, who collaborated with Larry on the design of the building, called it an “iconic statement” and “a jewel for all of Ohio.” Before planning began, there was a chance the company’s new home wasn’t even going to be in the Buckeye State. Larry said he contemplated a move out-of-state, possibly to North Carolina. But after talking to associates, he decided to invest in the Dayton area.
“Quite frankly, the area could use a win,” he said. “And we’re going to prove that Dayton can be a center for innovation and technology.” Larry said although he’s wanted to build this kind of office for years, now was the right time. When the piece of land, owned by the city of Dayton, became available for lease, we made a proposal that resulted in a 40-year lease with a 10-year renewal option.
“Right now, building costs are very good; financing is very good,” Larry said. “And we’re in a position financially where we can pretty much do whatever it is we want to do.” That meant design meetings were free-thinking brainstorming sessions. No idea was too outrageous.
Along the way, Mullins sought design input from associates. He said the process has been incredibly rewarding.
“It’s the coolest project I’ve ever been involved in,” he said. “I’m going to get to drive by one of the coolest buildings in the Midwest and know I was involved in it from beginning to end.”
The Connor Group delivers with holiday toy drive
Connor Group associates collected more than just rent in December.
Properties in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and North Carolina collected approximately 800 toys from residents and vendors, reviving the company toy drive that had been dormant for nine years. Associates delivered the toys two days before Christmas.
The program also helped buy Christmas dinner for 80 needy families.
Addison in Atlanta held its own toy drive, collecting 70 presents and $90 in gift cards to help 10 area families in need.
Also in December, our Atlanta properties started a winter coat drive in conjunction with Fugees Family, an organization that aids refugees from worn-torn countries.
Promise Made: TCG associates now mentors
The Connor Group has partnered with the College Promise Program to help provide a life-changing opportunity for students in the Dayton area.
Due in large part to a substantial contribution made by The Connor Group, and the mentoring efforts of several Connor Group associates, students whose lives have been impacted by poverty, will be awarded scholarships that allow them to attend college at little to no cost to them or their families.
The program’s mentors, who will help 50 select students a year, will help guide the students through high school
Pat Dorsey, Mike McQuiston, Lisa Dillahunt, Mollie Courtney and Pat Rini recently were assigned incoming freshmen to mentor.
Associates makes global impact
In June, Northlake sales associate Shantel Strong was part of a team that earned a The Connor Group a $2.6 million bank refund. In July she made another huge impact -- one you can’t put a price tag on.
She spent 10 days on a life-changing mission trip in Banteay Meanchey, Cambodia.
“I just wanted to do something different,” she said. “If I could use my vacation time to help other people, that’s what I wanted to do.”
Shantel applied for the trip through her church and was accepted. The group departed July 21.
Cambodia has endured decades of war, rampant disease and an ever-growing orphan population. Shantel and her group spent the majority of their time in an orphanage, delivering food and running a bible school
She didn’t wear a watch. She didn’t check her e-mail. She devoted her time to the children.
“They’re so amazing,” she said. “They have a bed and a clothes basket, and that’s about it. But if they had a bracelet, they’d give it to you just to see you smile.
“There were 21 kids at the orphanage. And everyday I was greeted with 21 hugs and I departed with 21 hugs.”
Shantel, now back at Northlake, said the trip was refreshing and renewing.
“The experience was way beyond my expectations,” she said. “It makes you stop and think about where you should be seeking happiness.”