Rodney Ghan and his wife Dr. Sheryl Ghan along with their son, Stuart moved to Fort Smith in 1996 when Dr. Ghan accepted a pediatric position.
It was late November and the Christmas snowflakes lit up Garrison Ave. It was their first visit to Fort Smith and the Main Street feeling of downtown as they came over the Garrison bridge was impressive. As the Ghan’s explored Fort Smith and received opening arms from the medical community, the decision was made to make Fort Smith their new home.
After a couple of years of the family settling into their new community, Rodney opened R. H. Ghan Commercial Properties, specializing in commercial real estate sales and leasing. He had been licensed as a real estate agent since 1982 in Oklahoma. Recognizing that Fort Smith was lacking in many of the retailers he had seen in other cities, he became inspired to make it his mission to bring national retailers to the Fort Smith community.
After a few years of establishing himself as a successful Broker he began expanding his Real Estate business by including Development, Property Management, Ad Valorem Tax Consulting and Construction.
Under Rodney’s leadership his company experienced steady growth. During this period of growth he invited Bob Cooper Jr. and his son Stuart Ghan into the company as partners. The new partners shared Rodney’s passions both his business and the Fort Smith community.
Dusan: What is your current role with the company?
Stuart: I oversee all the property management of the company for our personal and client portfolios. I also deal with commercial development, strip centers, retail….
Bob: What makes the partnership work is that each of us has our own niche. I do brokerage but Stuart knows how to put the development together, run the costs and get the project to the contractor: I’ll be able to find the site, find the tenants and everybody has a job. Ultimately I believe it’s important to have fun with what you do. There’s a lot of family working here and it’s something we enjoy.
Dusan: What qualities do you value and appreciate most in your other two partners?
Stuart: With Rodney, it is obviously his experience. It is no doubt the most valuable thing he brings. He has seen a lot of things and I try to file away all those experiences that he’s taught me. I can’t imagine not having his experience--that helps us avoid a lot of pitfalls.
Dusan: How about Bob?
Stuart: I appreciate a lot of the things he brings to the table including his creativity and critical thinking. To look at a piece of ground and to see a use for that land--be it a What-a-Burger or McDonald’s or whatever it is. Because you’re either listing for a client and trying to figure out what it would be good for or developing it for yourself. Or maybe you want to produce something for the community--provide a service or something we don’t have.
Dusan: What is the commercial scope of Ghan & Cooper?
Bob: The scope of our business is to find ways to make life better for Ft. Smith. How do we make life simpler and better for residents of Ft. Smith? How do you take a property that has deteriorated over the years and give it a second life? How do you clean up corridors of the city and revitalize those properties?
Dusan: How has the company changed since the two of you joined it?
Bob: We’ve taken the company to a different level. We’ve grown to 10 employees which gives us exponential ways continued company growth. Ultimately, we can never stop growing. There will always be opportunities for people to buy and sell properties. You want solid growth, not fast growth.
Stuart: Ft. Smith is in transition. You can see that in the success of the University of Arkansas Fort Smith and the growing student population. And the Osteopathic College. I think it’s going to be a fun time for Fort Smith--logistically, educationally, and business in general. It’s not going to happen quickly--over the next 5 to 10 years.
Dusan: In general, how would you describe your most important mission statement.
Bob: I would say service. We are a service oriented business. Without the customers, the people who lease the properties and buy them, there wouldn’t be a business.
Stuart: Service is the key. Everybody should have the opportunity to get the best value out of their property that they can. Management side, I would say performance. Investors expect certain things. They expect a certain performance out of their property. In development, product is most important. What am I building and showing to the community. I would like to think that my father, Rodney, instilled in every employee here the importance of putting out a quality property.
Dusan: What is the economic impact of real estate sold and managed by Ghan & Cooper in the Fort Smith community?
Bob: Our end of the year numbers aren’t important. I know we have to make money, but ultimately if the customers quit walking through the doors and you’re worried too much about the numbers, you’re losing site of the goals.
Stuart: It’s hard to quantify the impact. For instance the medical clinic on 74th & Dallas. It was empty for 5 years or so. We bought and revitalized it. Now the Mercy admin offices are there. It’s hard to put a dollar value on the impact of that development.
Bob: The Whirlpool property on Jenny Lind was empty. We sold it and the company that bought it occupies over 620,000 square feet. Now they’ve purchased the Riverside property across the street and they leased 400,000 square feet. They are not from Fort Smith, but they’ve leased out over a million square feet of property. That’s a big impact.
Stuart: I see that (purchase) as a logistics indicator. A company not from here has made large commitments--that says something. We have river, rail and interstate. It would be nice to have I-49 completed, all the way to Canada. And that’s happening. It’ll come.
Bob: It’s not just about Stuart, Rodney and me. We have employees who depend on the company. We have a responsibility to them as well.
Recently Rodney’s passion has moved to the revitalization of downtown. He currently sits on the Central Business Improvement District as a Commissioner, 64.6 Downtown and Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee as Economic Development Chair. The company is also actively involved in the development activities at Chaffee Crossing and other areas of town.
Now called Ghan & Cooper Commercial Properties the company still holds its core values to customer service and client satisfaction. They have achieved great milestones in the past 15 years. They are the 6th largest Property Management Company in the State of Arkansas and the largest Commercial Real Estate Company in the River Valley.
The growth and possibilities in the Fort Smith area are readily apparent. In the midst of all of the activity, Ghan and Cooper Commercial Properties continues to be uniquely positioned as a leader in our city’s economic growth. For more information contact Ghan & Cooper at 479 478-6161 or visit rhghan.com
by Dusan Stojanovic
Dusan Stojanovic is a graduate of the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith with a Bachelor’s degree in communications. He is currently employed in marketing at Choctaw Casino in Roland OK.