Owner of Jerry Kyser Builder and founder of Kyser Property Management, Jerry Kyser is a veteran of Montgomery’s construction and real estate industries, building his first home in 1967. Fast forward to the early 2000s, and he was a pioneer in the revitalization of the capital city’s downtown. This MGM native shares his thoughts on his life’s work so far and the progress and still untapped potential of his hometown.
How many employees do Jerry Kyser Builder and Kyser Property Management businesses have? The staff in our office totals about 15, but that does not include the employees at the apartments we own, our construction employees or the employees of the restaurant we own, Central. We are also involved in Kyser furniture store and Kyser Office Works, which is furniture leasing. All together, we probably have about 250 employees.
What drew you into building and real estate? All through junior high and high school, I worked in the summers with my best friend’s father who was a home builder. That really got me interested in building. But I realized I didn’t want to only do houses. I moved into commercial building and the other aspects of the businesses to diversify income. The housing market then and now has real peaks and valleys, so we needed to ensure we had other sources of revenue to navigate the ups and downs.
What are the primary services of Jerry Kyser Builder and KPM? Kyser Property Management is a full-service commercial real estate company that provides property sales, leasing and development services, and Jerry Kyser Builder provides construction in tandem with those services. We recently completed the last phase of Peppertree Shopping Center; we converted the former Dreamland location to the Taproom; we just finished a great office building out east.
What motivated you to get involved in the city’s downtown revitalization? There was actually a wave of revitalization that happened in the late 1970s, when businesses like Beasley Allen and others refurbished old downtown buildings for their offices as part of a federal program. Then, there was complete stagnation for years. When Bobby Bright became mayor, there was a renewed interest in doing more downtown, and I had already been buying up properties downtown for several years. Others like Mike Watson and Jere Beasley were making investments, and we were all encouraging the city to do more, including bringing the Biscuits here. That led to the opening of the Renaissance Hotel, which was really the catalyst that took things to the next level. We opened Dreamland downtown and then Central, and then came the second wave of investment, including the Kress renovation. I’ve been involved since the beginning because I believe it’s important to expose more and more people—residents and tourists—to our downtown and to Montgomery’s story. We have such a rich history, and downtown best shows that off. Now, we’ve got all the national and international history from what EJI has done, and that’s been a tremendous boost. The challenge now, after COVID, is to get back to where we were. But Dexter Avenue is still here. It’s amazing history has not changed. I think the unique story our city has to tell will bring visitors back. And the Whitewater project will only add another layer to what we have to offer.
What is the most rewarding part of your work? It is definitely gratifying to have played a small part in downtown redevelopment. Having grown up in Montgomery, I have enjoyed seeing all the changes that have happened here in the last 60 years. We’ve made a lot of headway, and we still have a long way to go. I do think we made a big step forward in the last year passing the property tax increase. The biggest obstacle we face is educating our young people, giving them opportunities and keeping them here in Montgomery.
How have building and property management changed? Technology has changed everything and changed it a lot. In the construction, we can now plan the day a roof goes on a building three months in advance. That’s great, but it requires higher skilled subcontractors because they have to plan months in advance and hit that timeline just right.
What is the main challenge facing construction and real estate in the River Region right now? COVID really affected construction. Getting materials has been challenging. Appliances are hard to get. Demand has driven costs way up. The price of lumber has increased more than 200 percent. And there’s a lot of construction going on, which is a little unusual to me. I know interest rates are very low, but you still need a job to build a new house. Another issue is workforce. We need more young people to enter skilled trades. Electricians can out-earn lawyers and other professionals, but I’m not sure all students know that. I’d like to see more emphasis on getting that message out.
Why do you choose to be so involved with and supportive of The Chamber and its work? I learned early in my career that being involved with associations related to your industry and to business in your community are very important. I’ve been involved with the state Home Builders Association since the 1960s and remain involved today. As for the Chamber, I’ve always been very impressed with the work it does. If a small business gets involved in the Chamber, they’ll find so much opportunity and so many resources, many that are free. Just the networking aspect alone is amazing, but there’s so much more. And everyone at the Chamber is committed to businesses’ success and is so helpful.
All Work, Now Some Play
“The first 25 years of my career I was working seven days a week, so I didn’t do much else. I really don’t have a lot of hobbies. I own some land in the country and spend my leisure time there enjoying the outdoors, entertaining friends, fishing and improving the area for the resident wildlife.”