Matt Brandman Is Right at Home

There comes that moment for Matt Brandman when he knows he chose the right career. The plumbers and painters have moved on. The newly planted trees are swaying in the gentle Gulf breeze. The kitchen is gleaming. The bathrooms are spic-and-span, and the bedrooms are ready for a night’s rest. Finally, the new homeowners appear.

Building Homes, Creating Communities Beazer Homes’ Matt Brandman has a vision of growth for Northwest Florida By Buddy Nevins Originally published in the Dec 2010/Jan 2011 issue of 850 Business Magazine

There comes that moment for Matt Brandman when he knows he chose the right career. The plumbers and painters have moved on. The newly planted trees are swaying in the gentle Gulf breeze. The kitchen is gleaming. The bathrooms are spic-and-span, and the bedrooms are ready for a night’s rest.

Finally, the new homeowners appear.

“I actually get a lot of satisfaction from watching the moving truck drive up to a customer’s new home and know that we have made their experience in buying a new home the best possible,” said Brandman, president of Beazer Homes’ Northwest Florida Division. “That is what I love most about building homes.”

Brandman has helped build a lot of homes in his eight years with Beazer, one of the country’s largest single-family homebuilders, with operations in more than a dozen states. Admittedly in the last few years, homebuilding has not been easy.

“We continue to face the same challenges that we did when the housing-market decline started,” Brandman said.

Yet the 36-year-old product of Middle America is well equipped to handle the pressures of helping steer the company through the current economic fog. Brandman, who classifies his roots as solidly “Midwest, middle class,” grew up in a family very similar to a lot of Beazer’s Northwest Florida homebuyers. Dad was in sales for document imaging companies. Mom worked at a Toledo, Ohio, newspaper.

“My parents are extremely hardworking people and taught my brother and me that you had to work very hard to get anywhere in life,” Brandman said.

Home was Temperance, Mich., a northern suburb of Toledo with about 7,000 residents. College was at the University of Toledo, where Brandman took courses in marketing research and got a degree in marketing. His first job was helping shape the first love of Americans after their homes — their cars.

Hired right out of college, Brandman became a market research analyst for a consulting firm that had a contract with Chrysler Corporation. He was part of a multifaceted team of product marketers, design engineers, advertising executives and top-level managers. Their job was to study future vehicle design concepts. Team members traveled throughout the United States and Canada, interviewing car owners and showing them versions of the Dodge Ram, Dodge Dakota, Chrysler 300M, Chrysler Concorde, Jeep Grand Cherokee and PT Cruiser. Some of these vehicles would help Chrysler regain its image for building quality, stylish vehicles.

“I absolutely loved this job,” Brandman said. “I was able to be a part of some of the most successful, popular Chrysler vehicle platforms in the mid-to-late 1990s.” But after two years, the job started to leave him cold — literally. “It was 10 below zero that winter, and my locks froze on my car.”

Goodbye Detroit. Hello, Florida.

His first job for Beazer was in market research and land acquisition. It was 2002, and the Tampa Bay area, where he was headquartered, was booming.

Brandman’s resumé at Beazer got longer as he moved to the firm’s Atlanta headquarters in 2003 as director of market research. He then went back to Tampa in 2004 as vice president of land acquisition. In 2006, he was named division president to lead Beazer’s big move into Northwest Florida, the post he holds today.

He recently moved his family from Tallahassee to Rosemary Beach, just west of Panama City in Walton County, to be closer to Beazer’s three Bay County developments.

At around the time that Brandman moved to Northwest Florida, the company did a macroeconomic study of Tallahassee and the Panhandle. Brandman told the Tallahassee Democrat that the study found “long-term growth potential and economic stability.” In Tallahassee, Beazer discovered a market for “established professionals,” active adults who were working in the state’s capital. In the Bay County area, the profile was for second, resort and vacation homes.

Making it all possible was a strategic partnership with The St. Joe Company. Beazer’s plans to build new neighborhoods fit perfectly with St. Joe’s plans to remake Northwest Florida. Under Brandman, the deal allows Beazer to build homes on St. Joe land that the two firms select.

As Beazer and Bay County grow, the profile of the potential buyer expands.

“There will be a complete spectrum of buyers in and around Bay County in the coming years,” Brandman predicted. “This will always be a destination place, where second homes are a large part of the market. But we will also see a large increase in the primary demand for new housing, new commercial and new commerce in general.”

Janet Watermeier, the executive director of the Bay County Economic Development Alliance, said Brandman has good instincts concerning Northwest Florida’s future.

“Matt has selected land parcels for Beazer Homes in the path of growth in areas where medium-priced homes are in demand,” she said. “The planned communities with pools, clubhouses, sidewalks, lakes and landscaping are a trend that we should continue to see as the area grows. I would say Beazer Homes under Matt’s direction is a pioneer in what should become the future norm.

“Beazer Homes is one of the first national builders developing planned communities in the Bay County market — a trend that hopefully will continue. They took a risk in the market place which we think will turn out to be a very smart move for the company.”

It was tough going for several years for Beazer in Northwest Florida. Under Brandman’s direction, the company stuck with its plans, weathering the downturn by tightening its belt. The Fortune 500 company’s deep pockets helped. Brandman said the company’s capital structure allowed it to keep building the same quality homes at “extremely affordable prices” — and even added more energy-efficiency in recent years. Most of all, Brandman remained dedicated to what his crystal ball had long predicted — the explosive growth potential of Northwest Florida.

“We have believed in this market for quite some time, even as the markets declined,” Brandman said. “We have worked to become more efficient with much less as we navigate through this cycle.”

The company is selling three neighborhoods in Bay County, with prices from just over $145,000 for a three-bedroom townhouse to around $300,000 for a top-of-the-line three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath, single-family home. All three developments advertise the amenities that make the area a growing economic powerhouse:

  • Whisper Dune Townhomes advertises that the beach is just a half-mile away.
  • Hawks Landing is within 10 miles of Tyndall Air Force Base, a key selling point in an area where the military and 1,900 aerospace and defense businesses are major employers.
  • Turtle Cove at Lake Powell is billed as just 14 miles from the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.

Brandman’s experience may be a lesson for others in the business community buffeted by an economic storm. But when asked for any advice he could give others, Brandman said, “I really don’t have any advice but the creed that I live by every day: Failure is not an option.”