Read about internal stories within the company that share our core values.
Hartman Values Stories
Hartman’s Resilience in the Storm
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated the city of Houston and surrounding areas. Several Hartman employees were directly impacted by the storm in many ways.
Not only did it impact our employees personally, but it created a willpower and determination within our team. With this devastating event, we were able to generate added value for our investors through our crisis management response. Our team had procedures that were precise and in place to ensure a timely and thorough response to all situations. Our team’s follow-through and focused attention on both investor returns and tenant relationships helps to minimize financial impact to owners, tenants and our investors.
A few of the procedures were put into place to ensure positive responses were the following: Daily Companywide Calls: During the storm our team had morning and evening calls with between 20-30 team members on the line to discuss who needs assistance and what kind of assistance is needed. We also received daily updates on damage to the properties and what kinds of help we needed to deploy to those buildings.
Employee Assistance Committee – Benevolence Fund: Team members in Dallas and San Antonio spent several days booking blocks of hotel rooms across the city; a very difficult task, as most of Houston was under water and without communication. This allowed us to provide immediate shelter to those who were displaced. We helped team members register for FEMA assistance and also scheduled pet pickups and relocation across the city. In addition to 80 hours of paid time off (PTO), we provided employees with cash to help them cover essentials.
Community Involvement: Hartman’s team members volunteered at their churches across the city of Houston. Hartman has a team of dedicated employees who worked around the clock with little to no sleep to help rebuild our communities and businesses. Many team members reported to their properties even though their own home, or their family member’s homes, sustained damage.
Some employees relocated their families to the properties and used air mattresses. Some rented 4×4 trucks, with their own money and without being asked to do so, to move from property to property to assess damages and create individualized recovery plans.
In appreciation for all the support of our employees, Hartman hosted an awards ceremony to celebrate Harvey Heroes.
Hartman Income REIT Management, Inc. announced the successful prosecution of a property tax valuation case in the 127th District Court of Harris County, Houston, Texas. The suit challenged the conventional thinking with respect to the approach to value known as uniform and equal taxation. The subject of the suit was the Hartman warehouse property located at 2300 Quitman Road, Houston, Texas.
Hartman brought the suit against the Harris County Appraisal District for excessive taxation for tax years 2013 and 2014, based on a uniform and equal taxation provision of the Texas Property Code in Section 42. In 2013 the HCAD assessed the Quitman property value to be $6.4 million dollars, an increase from the 2012 valuation of $2.2 million dollars. 2014’s HCAD assessed the Quitman property value at $5.9 million dollars.
The Quitman property has 9 warehouse buildings; approximately 100-years-old. The disagreement in the lawsuit was that the increase in value was attributed to the improvements and not the land. Hartman brought the suit against HCAD based on the concept of separating the value of the land from the value of the improvement using the uniform and equal approach to property’s tax value.
Hartman retained an appraisal expert, Mr. Mike Slevens with Tax Recourse Inc., a licensed Texas appraiser, who used Hartman’s argument and approach to the equity value the of property, by separating the stable land value from the improvements for the purposes of valuing only the improvement for comparison purposes. Mr. Slevens separated the stable land value from the improvement value of the buildings so that only one element of the property was under consideration, in this case the buildings. Mr. Slevens compared buildings of similar age and size making the necessary adjustments to account for the differences in age, construction, and use, of comparable warehouse properties.
Mr. Slevens’ report and testimony in the case, including his ability to defend the reasoning behind separating the two taxable elements in combination with making necessary adjustments, was an acceptable approach to value, when there are no other comparable properties in the market place.
Hartman was able to prove to a 12 member jury that while the land value may be stable, the HCAD‘s 281% increase in the assessment value of the 100 year old warehouse buildings was excessive and did not meet the test for uniform and equal taxation of like and similar warehouse properties, particularly since there were no other 100 year warehouse buildings that the Quitman property could possibly be compared against.
The jury agreed, awarding Hartman a total taxable value of $1.7 million dollars for 2013 and $2.8 million for 2014. The Court also awarded Hartman $39,000 in attorney’s fees, believed to be the highest attorney fees award in a property tax case in Harris County. Andrews & Kurth represented Hartman at trial.
“To see such inflated values for this property was unjustifiable. We are proud of our in-house tax team and their diligent efforts to ensure our properties, tenants and investors received justified taxes. We hope that our experience brings change to how HCAD’s system sets properties taxable value and other tax payers don’t have the same problems,” said Al Hartman, CEO.
In 2008, Danyale Edwards came to Hartman on a temporary assignment, filling in as a receptionist. By the end of the day she was recruited by a property manager to work as her administrative assistant. One day turned into ten years and counting. She is now a Property Manager responsible for the management of multiple key properties in the portfolio. She feels blessed by the opportunities that Hartman has provided her, and she loves the women’s employee Bible study program. As Danyale said, “I am grateful to be part of a team where I do not have to compromise my personal beliefs and values.”
Hurricane Ike – 2008
A prime example of our ability to execute came in 2008 when Hurricane Ike, with its nearly 100 mph winds, headed for a direct hit on Houston. During critical periods of the storm, Hartman had personnel stationed at virtually every property in our Houston portfolio. We knew that power would likely be lost at most, if not all the buildings, and significant structural damage was possible. Our focus was to immediately survey the after effects of the storm and get customers back in business as quickly as possible.
As Ross Donahue, our former COO states, … “Prior to Hurricane Ike making landfall, Hartman, like many other property owners, prepared for upcoming issues and challenges that typically arise from natural disasters. Personnel was assigned, supplies were on hand, appropriate training was completed, and a crisis recovery strategy was ready to go. We soon learned that preparation is only part of the total response. Torrential rain, wind, traffic jams, flooding, downed trees, and the loss of power created significant obstacles in responding to even minor issues.
When Ike first hit on September 13, 2008, its winds were not exceptionally strong; however, the storm surge in Galveston was categorized as a 5 and caused tremendous damage. Many waves reached heights of 13 feet or greater. Damage in Houston was primarily the result of wind combined with 10 inches of rain. Loss of power was widespread and impacted traffic flow, creating significant backups and hazardous driving conditions. Within the Hartman portfolio, most buildings were minimally damaged, the major exception being our Westheimer Central Plaza property.
Westheimer Central Plaza had wall panels blown off the rooftop elevator penthouse and suffered a partial removal of the roof, which resulted in exposure of the entire building to the persistent rain that accompanied the storm.
Hartman executive staff and engineers were called to the property by one of our engineers, who, along with his family, rode out the storm at that location. Our executive staff was the first to arrive at the building and quickly discovered the extent of the damage. This set-in play our “crisis response program,” and calls were immediately placed to personnel assigned to this location. The building’s property manager, our engineers, and other staff members who had safely arrived on site moved to immediately contact clean-up and construction vendors. Within 24 hours, over 50 people were on site writing contracts, calling tenants, conducting inspections of the building and removing debris from the premises. This rapid response was critical in making temporary repairs that saved both landlord and customer property from further damage. Additionally, our staff cleaned up and salvaged customer furniture and other equipment from various locations throughout the property.
Hampering our efforts was the complete loss of power, making every task significantly more difficult. Lack of elevators, water, lights, air conditioning, and restrooms made even the simplest of tasks formidable. Conditions inside were hot, humid and most uncomfortable, and each of the ten stories in the building could only be accessed by stairwells. Every piece of equipment, debris, and all materials had to be carried by hand for days. The CEO, managers and I spent countless hours in the following days assisting our recovery teams in overseeing the complete regeneration of the property. Hartman staff worked an average of 15 hours per day in order to get repairs made. When we were hit by the outer rain bands of the hurricane the following evening, teams that had already been on the property for over 24 hours remained in place throughout the night to help protect vulnerable property. After the last wave of rain subsided, we needed to find temporary roofing materials. This required waiting in line for hours, as tens of thousands of people across the city were trying to purchase materials to repair homes and businesses. Many retail stores did not have power, so purchasing such materials could only be done with cash. Fortunately, Hartman staff pooled together their own cash to buy the necessary materials. I am proud to say that Hartman employee perseverance, dedication and resilience allowed the building and the tenants to return to operation after just one lost workday of access.
Longer-term repairs to the building included replacing the elevator operating system, the roof, carpet and wall covering on two floors, as well as the extraction of water which came in through the roof, walls and elevator shaft. We ended up saving approximately $1,200,000 in repairs by taking such prompt corrective action. After the storm, it was revealed that many buildings in Houston with similar damage were down for weeks and months, with several buildings reported as a complete write off by the insurance carrier. This down time left many tenants at competitor properties without offices to conduct business. We are very proud that the time, resources, and physical endurance our team demonstrated at Westheimer allowed our tenants to be back up and running far more quickly than most. It also showed our customers how important they are to us and that we truly care for their wellbeing.
Al and I were both extremely proud of our staff during this storm. Never once did anyone ask for compensation, even though managers and several employees pooled $2,000 of their own cash to protect the company’s assets. We can say with certainty our people are truly a blessing to the business.”
A recent example of this process in play concerns our current Chief Information Officer, Daniel Robinson. Daniel started at the company in 2002 as an administrative assistant and has worked his way up to become the executive in charge of the company’s Information Technology division. Daniel exhibited strong leadership and problem-solving skills early on in his career, and as a result we gave him a defined career path to advance and succeed. Along the way we’ve exposed him to training and access to some of the brightest minds in the field. As Daniel said, “Hartman has given me the opportunity to learn, grow my skill set and let me do something I am passionate about.”
Hartman deeply cares about its employees. We take the time to celebrate our success and socialize together. When one of us endures hardship or pain, others rally around that employee to lift his/ her spirits and support them through their tough times. Recently, Patty Baird, our Accounts Payable Specialist, had two of her sons deployed overseas. One son was stationed in the Mediterranean on the USS Virginia, and the other (in the army) was deployed to Afghanistan. Both sons’ tours of duty were for six months, and as any parent would be, Patty was concerned with their safety. Hartman personnel, including Mr. Hartman, decided to lift her spirits by sending “care packages” to both men. Each package contained a wide array of food, games, tapes, books and personal messages from Hartman Employees. Patty said, “this was an extremely thoughtful gesture on the part of all Hartman employees, and the support meant so much to me and my boys.
A True Team Effort
A perfect example of Hartman departments pulling together and exercising true leadership occurred in the summer of 2014 when Hartman personnel had to close on two significant projects, both occurring on the same day. One involved the purchase and closing of the second largest commercial property acquisition in our company’s history, and the other involved a $48 million-dollar loan refinancing of properties inside one of our investment portfolios. In order to make this unprecedented confluence of events happen on schedule, our legal, acquisitions and finance teams had to work together as one unit. It took 16-hour days from everyone, including some Sundays to put in the man-hours necessary to accomplish this Herculean task. Managers and staff came in early, left late and did what it took to get the job done on both fronts. As a result, our entire customer base of investors, tenants and financial professionals were rewarded with the value and benefits that both successful closings brought to our organization.