Conversations With … Clark Lipscomb of Fraser
February 2, 2012
Editor’s note: This marks the return of “Conversation With …,” an occasional feature highlighting Grand County personalities.
Who do you work for?
I work for Cornerstone Holdings as the President of Real Estate. I am also a partner in Grand Park. I manage real estate projects in several states including Hawaii, Florida, Colorado, and New York.
Some are commercial projects and some are resort-based projects. In Aspen I am involved with residential projects, condominium conversions, and ranch development.
I put ideas on the ground. Our company studies the market. We have a pretty good understanding of what can be complementary to a project such as the village idea.
When I moved to Grand County in 2004 I was amazed how underdeveloped the entire area was. My first impressions of the Fraser Valley and the [Grand Park] property was how beautiful it was and its proximity to the ski area. It was easy to get to.
Grand Park is a generational project – a 20 year project. It’s going to have its ups and downs. We are well positioned when the market comes back.
The Fraser Valley is similar to where I grew up, and where my wife, Meredith, grew up, too. We wanted to be here. It fit our lifestyle, and the quality of life we want. We love living here, it’s a great community.
The fact that I live here and can experience the valley provides an advantage that developers from out of the area don’t have. I get to interface with people to see the positive and negative aspects of the community. Particularly when you are raising a family, you get a unique, community perspective. You learn how to integrate a project of this size in the community, and learn what makes sense and what is needed.
I have a better perspective of those components than other competitors from out of the area.
What is the future of Grand Park?
With Grand Park there is now something to do after skiing and that is what we are endeavoring to do.
How do you get more people to come into this area? How do you get people to move here and buy a second home?
You create a village with things to do such as bowling, a recreation center, establish more restaurants and bars. With a recreational component, that should make restaurants and bars successful in the village.
The Grand Park location provides a more year-round business opportunity given its location. What do you gain? Locals come during the off season, shoulder seasons are survivable, high seasons (summer/winter) are very successful. When we talk to business owners, we build around an eight-month business cycle in the town Fraser. It’s about creating an energy. A lot of what we are doing in the village creates high energy and activities. If this village is successful, it could allow for redevelopment to happen.
What is your organization’s mission?
It’s about doing good and being financially successful. We build great places that satisfy a need, and success will come with it.
To be able to say we made a great place is pretty cool. To be successful long-term you help address current needs, such as the recreation center. We now have a bowling alley complex, another great recreational opportunity.
There are three core big-picture things we can help with in the Fraser Valley: education, transportation, health care.
We want more people to move here full-time. Younger families and couples will move here for recreation. Aspects of the valley just doesn’t measure up socially and culturally. So, when a family wants to move to the mountains, why would they choose here? We want to help with that.
I want to help bring a 6th-12th grade school, and a community college component to the Fraser Valley.
We need transportation on par with other ski areas similar to us.
Medical care is not unlike retail business, you need to look at population base and historical emergency calls. Not having these things is detrimental but they are also job creators.
How do you think you influence commerce?
Influence comes from the property, what happens outside Grand Park I can’t influence.
From my perspective, Grand Park will have an influence on the area by attracting more visitors and residents. The money spent on development and employing people filters through the local economy.
More people are coming here as we build houses – adding a population base has an influence on the economy. The bowling alley is money pumped into the economy. If we can create a commercial core instead of people saying I’m going to Steamboat, that benefits everyone.
We want to do the right thing and we want it to be successful – and we want those around us to be successful. If everyone worked together a little more to improve the area – “rising tide floats all boats” – to me that’s what it is all about. If our impact on the community is that there are great things to do, and someone wants to move here, that is our goal. We need to bring people back. In my view the big fix to the economic woes is population growth, but in order to have population we need amenities and services.
Who has had the biggest impact on you as a businessman?
Two people: my dad, and my business partner Tom McCloskey.
My father is a successful entrepreneur. My grandparents had a dry goods business for 65 years. I talk to my dad all the time. He is level-headed and thoughtful. Entrepreneurism runs in my family. My parents have always had their own businesses, and it’s part of the never-give-up mentality.
I’ve known Tom McCloskey since I graduated from college. I’ve worked with him on many deals and seen so much – he is Cornerstone. He’s fun, energetic, reads a lot, and is involved with so many things. After graduating from University of Texas with a degree in accounting and finance, I moved to Aspen and was a ski bum. I was going to go back to Texas to be in the family business when I took a job with Tom as a staff accountant. Tom is a family guy and it was a family business. And, I learned a lot. I ended up in real estate because I started doing work that other employees didn’t want to do. I took the ball and ran with it. Two years later Tom asked me, “What do you want to do?” I told him I loved the real estate business – creating places. I met my wife in Aspen, she was an environment consultant. Now, we’re married with two children, a daughter, 2, and a son, 6.
At the end of the day, you do it for your family. I have so much fun with my kids. They put a smile on my face.
What advice would you give to someone coming into a leadership position in Grand County?
I was at an event and a longtime local came up to me and said you handled the rec center wrong. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I recommend studying and learning the history of Grand County. Know who succeeded and why. Know who failed and why.
Having the largest project is going to be controversial. There are people who don’t like development. The best thing one can do is to understand the success and failure historically and learn from it.
Set your mind to what you want to do, and what is the right thing, be tenacious and don’t give up.
I think this project will be an overwhelming success, long-term. There are going to be ups and downs. There are going to be people who like you, and don’t like you.
It’s an interesting time. This area is a value-oriented mountain resort and I see the opportunity for a younger population coming in here. It’s about affordability. This group has wants and needs. They are in touch all the time and they want services – quality services.
We are more affordable than our competitors. I think there are 20- and 30-somethings coming here. The recreation center vote was a close vote, there were editorials in the paper, people were mad at the 40-somethings with 2.5 kids – that is the wrong message. We all have a voice but I think it’s wrong to beat up a class of people because they wanted a great recreation facility. It’s been a wild success and what is under construction will be a wild success.
Historically in Grand County there is a lot of criticism about what someone might want to do, but lack of ideas of what we should do. It’s easy to criticize but hard to come up with ideas.
If you build quality spaces with necessary services, it will be successful.
Everyone has a right to their opinions but it’s how you deal them that sets you apart in a leadership position. I think I know what Grand Park needs to be and how it can improve the quality of life. I’m going to continue to be tenacious to see it through.
My advice for any new entrepreneur: Don’t give up, be tenacious, stick with what you know is right in your heart and run with it – you will be successful. If you know it will work, put everything in it. This is America.