The FORT Podcast: Mike Berry – President of Hillwood

Mike Berry is the President of Hillwood, one of the top industrial, commercial, and residential real estate developers in the country. He has been the leader of development efforts in AllianceTexas, one of the largest global logistics hubs in the world. They discuss how Alliance developed from concept to reality, the future of transportation for both people and freight in the next decade, autonomous vehicles, and buying your home online. This is one of our most fascinating episodes—enjoy!

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(02:47) –  Mike’s Background and Career

(07:22) – The Story of Hillwood

(10:02) – How Alliance was Conceived

(15:23) – Could something like this deal ever come together in today’s world?

(17:50) – What is a foreign trade zone, and how do you get a foreign trade zone designation?

(21:22) – Was the Alliance vision originally to become a city?

(25:05) – Mike’s job as part of this growth and how he’s changed as a leader over time

(28:59) – Alliances Mobility Innovation Zone

(35:31) – Why DFW/Hillwood Offers More For This Type of Testing Than Other Testing Sites

(38:47) – Freight and Human Capital in Autonomous Driving and Autonomous Vehicles

(43:45) – What’s it like inside these forward-thinking businesses like Amazon?

(47:31) – What is something you would say the world will have in 10 years that people will find shocking?

(50:01) – The Talent at Hillwood and Adapting to These Changes

(51:53) – The Trends in Residential Living and How They Are Changing 

(59:37) – How have you been able to balance your family and work?

(1:01:13) – What advice would you give your 21-year-old self? 

(1:04:25) – Is there anyone you look up to?

(1:07:31) – Picking Sides in Today’s Society and The Amount of People Work That Goes into Building a Building 

(1:11:04) – The NextDoor Analogy with Determining Market Demand and How it Slows The Process  


Episode Summary

Mike Berry, renowned for his extensive experience and insight in the real estate landscape, offered a wealth of knowledge on various pressing topics in the industry. Berry’s profound understanding emanates from his years of navigating the complexities and evolving trends of real estate, making his insights invaluable for listeners keen on this sector.

In a world constantly transformed by technological advancements, Berry emphasized the criticality of evolving in tandem with these changes. He discussed the integration of fiber into homes years ago, highlighting the anticipation of market needs and exceeding them. The conversation shed light on the importance of integrating various home systems, from security to energy management, to offer a seamless and advanced living experience. This approach, as highlighted by Berry, is not just a luxury but an expectation in today’s market, underscoring the need for continual innovation in real estate offerings.

As the dialogue progressed, the perennial challenge of affordable housing took center stage. Berry illuminated the difficulties of delivering products within a $250,000 range, a pressing need in the current market. He highlighted potential strategies to mitigate this issue, including the exploration of townhomes, increased density, and smaller lot sizes. These approaches, while offering solutions, also present their own sets of challenges, underscoring the intricate balance required in addressing affordability in housing.

Berry delved into the future of real estate transactions, offering a visionary perspective on online home purchases. He postulated the significant shift towards online platforms for designing, choosing, and purchasing homes within the next five years. This evolution, akin to the current car purchasing trend, emphasizes the burgeoning role of technology in transforming traditional real estate transactions, making them more efficient and aligned with contemporary consumer preferences.

Discussing operational efficiency, Berry offered insights into the use of drones for land surveying, a technological leap from traditional methods. This innovation stands as a testament to the industry’s move towards cost-effective and efficient solutions, meeting the demands of a rapidly evolving landscape.

In a scenario marked by labor shortages, Berry highlighted the increasing role of robotics and automation. Technology emerges as a beacon of hope, promising to maintain operational efficiency amidst the scarcity of skilled labor, ensuring the industry’s growth and development are not hampered.

The conversation also touched upon the innovative realm of 3D-printed homes. Berry’s insights into this groundbreaking technology shed light on the potential to revolutionize affordable housing, offering cost-effective and timely construction, making homeownership more accessible and feasible for a wider population.

Navigating the regulatory landscape, Berry highlighted the significant hurdles faced by developers. The complexity and time-consuming nature of obtaining permits and approvals emerged as a major challenge, emphasizing the need for technological solutions to streamline and expedite these processes, ensuring projects are not bogged down by bureaucratic delays.

The dialogue underscored the additional challenges posed by community opposition, further amplified by social media platforms. Berry’s discussion on this aspect illuminated the intricate web of obstacles faced by developers, contributing to project delays and increased costs, ultimately impacting the consumer adversely.


The Fort is produced by Johnny Peterson & Straight Up Podcasts

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