Each year, Midwest Real Estate News inducts a new class into its Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame. Here is a look at the busy career of one of our new members, Susan Harvey, senior vice president with the Detroit office of Ashley Capital.
Susan Harvey recently reached an impressive milestone: her 25th year as senior vice president in the Detroit office of Ashley Capital, a New York City-based industrial and warehouse developer.
And these 25 years have been successful ones. During her tenure, Ashley Capital has built a portfolio that has grown from 3 million square feet to more than 24 million. The Detroit office now has a staff of 30 people.
What’s interesting, though, is that Harvey didn’t plan on building a real estate career. She earned a degree in criminal justice from Michigan State University in 1982 and a law degree in 1999. She graduated into a weak job market, and, without many options, took a position with a local multifamily housing developer.
To Harvey’s surprise, she enjoyed the work. This inspired her to remain in real estate, where she steadily took on more demanding positions. During her career, she has worked for Johnstown Properties in Southfield, Michigan; Cushman & Wakefield in Atlanta; Colliers in Melbourne, Australia; and PM Realty Group in Southfield.
“The best part of the business for me is the absolute absence of monotony,” Harvey said. “The challenges I face this week and this year will be different from the challenges I faced last week and last year.”
When Ashley Capital offered her the vice president position in 1996, Harvey was hesitant. She had no experience in industrial real estate. But Harvey took the jump. And the results speak for themselves, with Harvey calling the move the best career decision she has ever made.
“I’m pretty good at distilling large amounts of information down to essential and non-essential factors when making decisions. In other words, I’m not easily distracted by ‘noise,'” Harvey said. “Mostly though, I’ve been successful because Ashley Capital is run by two very smart guys, Rick Morton and Paul Rubacha. We recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses and invest our time and energies accordingly.”
“Steps along the way that have contributed to my career success include getting a law degree, being broadly focused on all aspects of real estate, and surrounding myself with highly skilled people that I like spending time with,” Harvey said.
Despite the rigors of building a successful real estate career, Harvey also focuses on helping to improve the lives of others. This includes her work founding Adopt-A-Family at the beginning of her career. This organization provides food, clothing and gifts for children during the holidays. Organizations such as Alternatives for Girls, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Focus Hope have come to rely on Adopt-A-Family during the holiday season.
Last year, Adopt-A-Family raised more than $55,000 and provided hundreds of people with food and gifts.
Harvey also gets involved in political campaigns and will not hesitate to join a protest march for causes about which she feels strongly. Before the 2020 presidential election, she raised funds to install more than 35 billboards throughout the Detroit area aimed at increasing voter turnout.
Throughout her career, others have recognized Harvey’s talents. Crain’s Detroit Business named her one of its 2021 Most Influential Women in Michigan. She has also received awards from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and was recognized as a leader for International Women’s Day.
When she’s not at work, Harvey spends much of her time with her family. But she also enjoys traveling, reading, music, biking and skiing. She is also what she calls a “very amateur” woodworker.