May 10, 2016

The right environment

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

 Charlotte Sun –


The right environment

David Dunn Rankin

The world’s first solar city is sprouting in southern Charlotte County just 15 minutes from downtown Fort Myers. Quiet electric autonomous cars will pick you up at your home, drive you to downtown Babcock Ranch for dinner and park themselves. Then when you summon the car after dinner, the car will pick you up and drop you off back home. The grand reveal of the world’s most cutting-edge new town happened on April 22. Six hundred people were in attendance. Syd Kitson, the founder of Babcock Ranch, named almost all of them individually, in giving thanks for bringing the venture this far.

But really, it is Syd who gets the credit. Syd quietly sits atop a massive real estate empire. Babcock Ranch is merely the sixth residential community developed by Syd. The firm owns over 1.5 million square-feet of commercial space with four times that much under development.

When we think of real estate promoters and developers, some of us think of Donald Trump. Loud, loose with the facts, little commitment to the local communities. It’s all about me, me, me. That’s the caricature of a real estate developer.

Syd Kitson is the anti-Trump. Almost everything you think of, when you think of Donald Trump, think the opposite and you get Syd Kitson. Humble. Quick to give credit to others. A man for whom you would enjoy working.

I’ve known Syd for a decade, and I’ve never known him to play fast and loose with the facts. I’ve never known him to go back on his word on anything. In fact, there are times he’s struggled to keep his word, but prevailed, because for him, keeping his word is part of his soul.

Very early in his career, he was partners in a real estate venture that went bust. His partners went bust too. Rather than walking away like so many real estate developers do, he went to the creditors, said “work with me and I will get you paid.” Even though it took years, Syd made sure they got their money.

Where does that caring for others, commitment to truth, and sense of fair play come from? Syd would probably tell you it comes from being a New Jersey kid. His parents would tell the kids to get out of the house. Play outside until dark. With no adult supervision.

And they did. Picked their own teams. Made their own rules. Decided their own infractions. With no adult supervision.

They also settled their own disputes — not always amicably but the next day they were still friends because they had to find a way — they lived in the same neighborhood and were going to continue to play together. In that environment, trust is important. Your word is important. Building sustainable friendships that stand the test of time and stress is important. If you step out of bounds, you call the infraction on yourself and turn the advantage back to the other team. If someone on the other team calls you out of bounds, you trust them, turn the ball over and continue playing.

In that environment, you couldn’t stray from dealing fairly with others, or sharing credit with others, because if you were too self-centered, soon you would have no friends. That environment shaped Syd Kitson.

What environment shapes our kids and grandkids today?

What do you think?

David is CEO of the family- and employee-owned Sun Coast Media Group that owns this newspaper.