Real estate, rail magnate hails oil's impact
Broe, who founded The Broe Group in Denver in 1972, doesn't often speak publicly and almost never speaks to the media, was interviewed by two top students from Colorado State University's College of Business to end the conference.
Calling real estate "the most outstanding profession," Broe fielded questions from the students about the various arms of his company, including railroad.
Railroad "is probably the most undervalued real estate in the world," Broe said. Rail can transport goods at one-third the price of moving goods by truck, he said.
The Broe Group's involvement in rail began in 1986 when it purchased a portfolio of real estate assets from the bankrupt estate of a large industrial company, including a railroad in Northern Colorado that became Great Western Railway near Windsor. Many more railroad acquisitions followed, and The Broe Group now owns one of the largest privately held railroad companies in North America, called OmniTRAX.
As the oil and gas boom has grown in Weld County, rail has become an increasingly important part of Broe's business, attracting companies such as Halliburton, which built a sand terminal in the Great Western Industrial Park, also owned by The Broe Group, and which uses the Great Western Railway to transport its sand to various customers.
Broe, whose company drilled 150 wells in the 2000s, also discussed oil and gas at the conference, including his take on what might happen if assorted moratoriums being discussed at different levels of government are passed.
The impact of such bans, if passed on a broad scale, would be "devastating," Broe said, because of the magnitude of the economic impact of the industry on Colorado. In 2012, the oil and gas industry's economic impact in Colorado was $29.6 million, according to a study by the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business that was commissioned by the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission.
While Broe's company is built on old-fashioned industries such as oil and rail, he believes the businesses of the future are in technology and information.
Information and research are the most important things in his business, Broe said, because it allows for more educated decision making, something that is vital for protecting the company's asset portfolio, which includes more than 10 million square feet of commercial property in multiple states across the nation.
"I'm obsessed by research," Broe said.
Beyond research and information, Broe finds motivation in setting the direction in his company and trying new things, he said.
Even though The Broe Group's reach extends far beyond Colorado, Broe believes in the sense of community in Colorado and its ability to attract new people and businesses.
"People are going to come here for the lifestyle," Broe said, and although he disagrees with some of Colorado's political leanings, that lifestyle still suits him as well. Northern Colorado in particular has a spirit of cooperation that other places don't have, Broe said, and the "phenomenal atmosphere" will keep bringing people to the area.
"Even though we have a lot of Democratic politicians, I still love it," he said of Colorado, eliciting a laugh from the crowd of about 400.
But for all the successful business deals Broe has done to build his asset portfolio, if he could do it all over, he said he would have spent more time on a different kind of asset:
"The people side of the business."
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