Highland Place Group Inc.
Cohen MacInnis: entrepreneur, innovator, community booster, driving force – oh, and one more thing, 19 years old. That’s right, at just 19, MacInnis has a two-business track record and he is poised to announce his largest project ever.
It was back in 2006 when MacInnis, already the owner of an Avis Car Rental franchise, launched the Highland Place Group, a real estate investment and property management firm located in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Within a year, Highland was doing so well, MacInnis sold the rental franchise to focus on his new enterprise, now one of the fastest growing real estate companies in the province.
MacInnis may have the energy of youth, but it’s his commitment to service – and community – that has propelled his success. “We take pride in the level of customer service provided to the tenants of all our properties,” he says. “We strive to create a higher standard of living and a happier, healthier environment.”
Inherent in that higher standard is a helping hand and a friendly smile. “We get along with our tenants. That makes all the difference in the world,” says MacInnis.
And Antigonish is just the place to foster that approach as MacInnis learned first hand when he and his family moved to the scenic town eight years ago. “People are proud to live here, proud to have grown up here, proud to have gone to school here,” he says.
MacInnis takes that neighbourly approach to his tenants. He makes a point of meeting every one. He also wants his tenants to meet each other, so he hosts events, such as holiday functions or wine and cheese receptions, where they can come together informally. “We want to create a welcoming place. We want people to know their neighbours,” MacInnis says.
“When they know their neighbours,” he adds, “they respect where they live.”
That pride of place is linked to a community spirit that emphasizes giving back. For Highland Place, that means preserving the best of the community as well as working with local groups. The former is reflected in MacInnis’s approach to real estate investment. Big, shiny and new are not necessarily best for the Cape Breton native or his firm.
Recently, for example, he purchased two buildings in Antigonish and renovated them, rescuing one of them from the wrecker’s ball. “We have to invest back in the community,” says MacInnis. “We do that every day of the week. We’re always looking for the diamond in the rough.”
It’s proven to be a successful approach, but MacInnis recognizes it is not a short-term approach. “I’m in this for the long haul,” he says.
And Antigonish affords him the business case he needs to succeed. In addition to community support, there is geography. The town is only two hours drive from Halifax in one direction and roughly the same distance to Sydney in the other. “You’re right in the middle of the province,” notes MacInnis.
As he expands his business, which already includes property in Antigonish and neighbouring Guysborough counties, this central location will prove even more advantageous.
St. Francis Xavier University in the heart of the town is another benefit. “Access to university graduates is a plus,” says MacInnis, “There’s a shortage of qualified workers right now, and being in the middle of a university community is a distinct advantage.” Not to mention the creativity, energy and resourcefulness young people bring to a community – and the businesses in that community.
Some of them might even need a place to live, and MacInnis is always delighted to help. His company, a member of the National Property Management Association, provides furnished and unfurnished homes, apartments, condos, vacation rentals and shared accommodations. In Antigonish, the company specializes in executive suites.
Recently, MacInnis became the proud new owner of The Maritime Building, at eight storeys the tallest building in New Glasgow and a community landmark. In the last 12 months, the young entrepreneur has acquired 13 residential suites and more than 22,000 square feet of commercial space in three Nova Scotian communities.
Innovation is also part of the mix. “We use the latest in communication devices like Blackberrys and cell phones’ with instant text messaging and email,” says MacInnis. “We connect to people the way they want to communicate. An application can be emailed to someone before they even schedule their viewing of a property.”
Highland Place’s Rental Property Notification Service also enables interested individuals to receive all new rental listings in Antigonish in a single email. It’s the little things like this, MacInnis believes, that make a big difference.
Accessibility and dependability are critical, too. In fact, MacInnis built his business around them. “Highland Place Property Management has a full-time team who are on call 24/7,” he says. “That means if an emergency happens overnight, we are able to handle it. We also have a professional website, administrative staff and an office location to service our clients and their tenants.”
Such attention to detail is one of the things MacInnis learned from the people of Antigonish and their pride in place, and people. “I’ve experienced tremendous community support,” says the business owner. “I’ve had people rally around me and mentor me.”
That giving back is paying forward today. MacInnis serves on the board of directors of the Antigonish Junior A Bull Dogs Hockey Association, and sits on the Antigonish Chamber of Commerce Membership Committee.
“Pride in your community doesn’t cost a thing,” says MacInnis, “but its value is immeasurable.”
Feature story written by Donalee Moulton