Editor’s note: Chad and Troy McWhinney, recipients of the 2001 Bravo! Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Loveland, have developed their own mixed-use project, Centerra, at Interstate 25 and U.S. Highway 34, and guided development of other projects, such as the ConAgra Beef Co. headquarters in west Greeley’s Promontory Business Park. The following profile of the brothers is excerpted from a story that originally appeared in the May 18 edition of The Northern Colorado Business Report, when McWhinney Enterprises topped NCBR’s “Mercury 100” list of the fastest-growing Northern Colorado companies.
Bravo! Entrepreneur — Loveland
Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce workers’ compensation safety group program received a group dividend of $308,806 from Colorado’s largest workers’ compensation insurer Pinnacol Assurance. Safety group policyholders who contributed to the overall success of the group during this group year were eligible to receive a portion of the dividend.
Chad and Troy McWhinney, McWhinney Enterprises
LOVELAND — McWhinney Berries had no “Inc.” or “Co.” or “Corp.” attached to its name when it opened on a Southern California roadside in the mid-1980s.
Chad and Troy McWhinney, then in junior high school, hawked berries produced by a farmer who leased Orange County fields owned by the McWhinney family. The youngsters sold the strawberries from a makeshift stall on Beach Boulevard, one of the region’s busiest thoroughfares.
“It didn’t take long to realize that we could make more money selling strawberries than we could doing chores around the house,” Chad McWhinney said. “We got $20 a week for our chores, and could make $300 a week selling strawberries.”
Two other McWhinney brothers saw the light and enlisted. By 1991, McWhinney Berries peaked, operating 28 stands that employed 75 people and churned more than $1 million in sales during a four-month season.
Chad was 19, Troy 17.
A decade later, the brothers have done with land development what they did with California strawberries.
McWhinney Enterprises, the development company that has turned 3,000 acres of east Loveland farm fields into a master-planned project called Centerra, more than tripled its revenue during 2000. During the year, revenue climbed to within a few dollars of $26 million, up from $6.3 million in 1999.
The accomplishment has lots of components: Centerra boomed during 2000 with new retail, hospitality, housing and office projects. The Prime Outlets, the factory-store mall that for years served as the core moneymaker for the McWhinney business, continues to post lofty sales figures. A California arm of McWhinney Enterprises has completed work on three major hotel projects in Anaheim and Garden Grove, and has new hotel projects under way.
And with most of its vast acreage spanning both sides of I-25 just north of U.S. 34 awaiting development, Centerra has just begun to show its promise.
The people most familiar with the McWhinney brothers and their company say that success stems from locking onto a philosophy that real estate developers can make money by doing the “right thing.”
“When I first met them, I was incredibly impressed with their maturity and their business acumen,´ said Kathleen Cherroff, a friend of the brothers’ late father and who now serves as chief financial officer for the company.
“They have another rare quality: They are always, always conscious of trying to do the right thing.”
Cherroff is a charter employee of the company, having joined when McWhinney Colorado Enterprises LLC first incorporated in July 1994.
Since then, employment has grown from three to 23, and likely will continue to surge as the company prepares to move to new quarters in a 30,000-square-foot office building that will open next year on the shores of Equalizer Lake, a prime Centerra location north of the current headquarters.
Troy McWhinney attributes much of the company’s success to the contributions of employees, most of whom have joined the company in the past two years.
“The key is the team members, our employees,” he said. “Some of the people we have working for us have done a wonderful job of opening our eyes. We really try to empower them. Nobody second-guesses anyone else here.”
The McWhinney brothers serve with representatives from construction companies, architectural firms and even local governments on a design review committee that applies standards on Centerra development that are, in some ways, more stringent than those imposed by Loveland’s planning-and-zoning department.
The McWhinneys, still in their early 20s when McWhinney Enterprises was incorporated, credit the advice and counsel of other developers in the region for helping them move their projects forward.
Chad McWhinney mentions names: Stu MacMillan of the Everitt Cos., David Neenan, founder of the Neenan Cos., Bill Neal, partner in Wheeler Commercial Property Services, and Tom Hoyt, who heads McStain Enterprises, the Boulder-based home builder that will construct most of Centerra’s planned 5,000 homes.