Three young entrepreneurs return to Metro Detroit to start their real estate business.
With philanthropy as its cornerstone, ROCO Real Estate in Bloomfield Hills is looking to make its mark on Metropolitan Detroit. The 2-year-old firm has already acquired more than 1,500 multifamily units across the Midwest and is on pace to grow exponentially. Driving the company’s growth is the youth of its three principals: brothers, Michael and David Colman, and lifelong friend Tyler Ross. The three grew up together in Bloomfield Hills and attended Cranbrook Schools. Now they share an office at Governor’s Place off Woodward, not far from their old neighborhood.
ROCO started with a passion shared by Michael and Tyler, both 27, which they explored while learning their trade at Edward Rose & Sons in Farmington Hills. “We were both very interested in the multifamily sector,” Michael says, “but between us we didn’t know much about construction. So we decided that with our understanding of finance and the industry as a whole, we should start buying existing properties, picking up great assets at a discount. It was the perfect time to get into the market.”
With the state and country not fully recovered from the recession, ROCO is still seizing on “great deals at great prices” across the country.
Both Michael and Tyler spent time out of state before returning home. Tyler studied economics at the University of Chicago and earned his juris doctor at Fordham Law School in New York City. Michael studied political science at the University of Wisconsin before moving back to Michigan.
Michael’s younger brother David, 25, attended U-M’s Ross Business School before moving to New York City to join the analyst program at BlackRock Investment Management. After three years at BlackRock, David decided to make the move back to Michigan to team up with Michael and Tyler.
“I had an amazing experience living in Manhattan and working at BlackRock, learning from some of the brightest minds in the industry,” David says, “but at the same time I wanted to do more, to be my own boss, and I’ve always considered myself an entrepreneur. When I saw the initial success Tyler and Michael were having, it made the decision to come back that much easier.”
The three attribute their success to the ROCO business model, centered on buying existing apartment buildings of all types, from walkups to high rises, and then hiring local management companies to run the units for them.
“The predominance of our properties are in Michigan and Ohio today, but we plan to start making acquisitions in the South,” Michael said, though he’s quick to add ROCO isn’t going anywhere.
“Our headquarters will always be rooted in Michigan. We’re working on growth here, and we’re bullish on the state. There’s a lot of great talent, and we feel we’ve gotten a head start on those still talking about moving back. We’re excited to be in on the ground floor.”
In a community shaped by national leaders in the real estate sector, the three friends and business partners realize they have big shoes to fill.
“We’re not trying to copy what other successful real estate companies have accomplished. Rather, we want to build our own name and do our own thing, though we recognize there’s a clear Jewish real estate legacy,” Michael says.
David adds, “It’s important to us to have a good name because at the end of the day we hope to be around for many years and our name is really all we have. We want to be successful, make money, be smart in how we run our business, but it’s really all about being moral, having a good reputation and being known as a company that others want to do business with.”
Beyond their buildings, Tyler said he and his partners share a passion for philanthropy and look to make a commitment to giving back with their business.
“It’s a priority for us to do more than just make money. This is the community our grandparents helped shape, and now we want to focus on giving back to the causes we’re passionate about,” Tyler says.
That’s a “huge part of why we’re so hungry and so motivated to succeed,” David says. “We don’t just care about monetary success. We care about Detroit Public Schools, local hospitals and the Jewish community. The sense of accomplishment that comes from giving back, that’s what we’re all chasing after.”
– By Ryan Fishman, Special to the Jewish News