The Swartz Report: Ringing in the New Year with a strong addition to our team. Introducing David Swartz.

By Donald Swartz, President

Introducing David SwartzHappy New Year to everyone and I trust the year if off to a fast start! I know a popular thought to begin the new year involves New Year’s resolutions – losing weight, exercising more, eating healthier, watching less television, spend more time with family… The list is extensive and if we’re honest, can be quite repetitive.

My resolution and goals heading into 2023 are simple, yet challenging. Namely, I want to think outside the box.

What does that mean? I want to find additional ways to create value for our clients and prospective clients within Indurante and Swartz; I want to create a larger footprint so more people know about our companies and services we provide; I want to become a better promoter of my companies (not necessarily my strongest asset!)

For me, thinking outside the box to accomplish these goals has been accomplished in one fell swoop.

 

Please say hello to David Swartz.

After 30+ years in the financial industry, working with various insurance products and wealth advisors, David has decided to join the company and focus on business development. As David says, he is both a Swartz and an associate of the company, so this seems easy and natural.

Living in Des Moines, our hope is to build on our solid foundation created over the years and grow our client base. David’s strengths match our Core Values – he is ethical, professional, entrepreneurial and client focused. (Not to mention older and wiser!) We’ll work on the expertise side together. 😊

I am very excited to have him join the ranks and look forward to his presence, thoughts and energy as we get started in 2023.

Don and David Swartz

This will be a challenging and fantastic year rolled into one.

With reassessment in many states occurring in 2023; adjustments continuing in interest rates; supply chain issues easing in the rail world and many other factors presenting themselves in valuation of equipment and real estate, I believe I have already achieved the goal of thinking outside the box. Have you?

As always, I appreciate your feedback and commentary. Please email me directly at dswartz@swartzaii.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com.

To reach out to David directly – please contact him at David.swartz@swartzaai.com.

The Swartz Report: LinkedIn, Websites and the Art of Telling Our Stories

LinkedIn And StorytellingBy Donald Swartz, President

Last week, I met with our web designer; LinkedIn guru; bourbon aficionado and all around great guy, Jason Terry of Blue Gurus. We decided to meet after Swartz employees had our month end marketing meeting. As you may know, 2023 will be a significant reassessment year in IA, MO and CO and we anticipate a lot of activity. Sales have been hot, hot, hot over the past two years, but the recent increase in interest rates and the slowing of the economy has seen a softening on the real estate market and other sectors over the past few months.

But back to our marketing meeting…

After reviewing our website, discussing our use (or lack of use) of LinkedIn; social media  and other platforms, we agreed it is probably time to “spruce things up” a little bit. We will be meeting with Jason before year end to update a few things and spend time re-learning how to use LinkedIn to provide interesting stories and information to our clients and potential clients.  I am very excited to go through the process again and see just how much has changed over the past eight years. (In many respects, I’m a little nervous, too!)

Indurante and Associates, Inc.

One of my goals for 2023 is to spend more time discussing Indurante and Associates, Inc. I purchased this company just over four years ago and really could do a much better job of promoting the company. Focusing on owners of private rail cars, we are the leading provider of property tax services to these owners; handling the filings to the respective states (and counties in some situations), verifying assessments and paying the taxes on behalf of several clients. We are literally the back office for property taxes for many of our clients. Our client base consists of almost 70% of the private fleet market and almost 30% of all private railcars in service. This is a really big deal, but the private railcar industry is so small and familial, I tend to forget to discuss the nuances of the business.

The following items are just some of the services we provide annually:

  • Filing of the property tax returns
  • Reviewing assessments and tax bills
  • Completing speed study analyses
  • Filing for tax credits relating to repairs and maintenance
  • Obsolescence and idle capacity studies
  • Processing and payment of thousands of tax bills on behalf of clients
  • Year over Year comparative analysis of taxes paid

This is a partial listing, but as you can see, our group is top notch and we are entering the renewal period for our clients as the 2023 filing season is just around the corner. This service compliments our Swartz & Associates work so well, as we truly handle state AND local property tax matters!

More to come in December, but for now – Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I hope you have a peaceful and restful holiday!

As always, if you have any questions or comments, you may reach me at dswartz@swartzaai.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com.

The Swartz Report: RSI Expo and October Happenings

RSI Expo and October HappeningsBy Donald Swartz, President

Last week, Kristen Canfield and I attended the 2022 RSI Expo and Technical Conference. We made the decision to attend based on the fact we hadn’t been able to go to conferences and felt this would be a good opportunity to see clients and potential clients face to face. Additionally, the technical sessions would provide us with information relating to the railroad industry for the coming year – trends, supply chain issues, technology updates…. all components we are interested in for potential discussion with State Assessors on the valuation of railcars for property tax purposes in the coming year.

The conference did not disappoint, as we were able to meet several individuals throughout the conference who were either interested in our services, were existing clients of Indurante or wanting to become more involved in the industry. It was a great couple of days and we look forward to attending next year’s Expo in Indianapolis.

A big thank you to our client, Trinity Industries for hosting a wonderful dinner at the Ashton Depot.

Ashton Depot

Ashton Depot

October Happenings

This has been a busy month as we recently completed our 2023 planning meetings for both Indurante and Swartz. With reassessment looming in Missouri, Iowa and Colorado for the 2023 tax year; rising interest rates, a softening of the real estate market and several articles focusing on a short term (or longer term) recession, property taxes will be a topical concern for most, if not all, owners for commercial real estate, machinery and private railcars. We anticipate a busy year and we want to make sure we’re ready to handle the needs of our clients.

Undoubtedly, counties will be relying on sales data from the past 2-3 years to support their opinions of value for the coming year. Will these sales be reflective of the market place as of January 2023? For income producing properties, what capitalization rates will be employed to calculate values based upon the Income Approach?

These are the big questions taxpayers will face and we’re preparing for the appeals process set to occur in the spring and summer of 2023. As we finish up a successful 2022 season, we know our services will be in high demand heading into 2023!

Please reach me directly to see how we can be of benefit to you – dswartz@swartzaai.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com.

The Swartz Report: What does Elton John have to do with Property Tax Valuations?

Elton John and Property Tax ValuationsFor the past several years, around this time, I’ve been writing about road trips to take my kids back to college. Many memorable excursions indeed, but I thought my travels to Syracuse may be over and my college campus visits would be limited to my alma mater. 😊 Well, there is always the exception as the family congregated in Syracuse (with our other friends) to see Elton John’s Farewell Tour.

As my son professed after the concert, he has never heard the crowd at “the dome” so loud for a football or basketball game as compared to the concert goers. Elton did not disappoint, especially the last 45 minutes! At 75, he can still command an audience. While his theatrics have calmed down over the years, the video board and close ups of his piano playing were all I needed for an entertaining evening. If you have a chance, I would recommend making the effort to see the Farewell Tour – Good Bye Yellow Brick Road before he closes in Los Angeles.

So, what does this have to do with property tax valuations for railcars, equipment and commercial industrial buildings?

Elton John and Property Tax ValuationsAbsolutely nothing… unless we look at the importance of experience, knowledge and command of a situation.

While not a seasoned entertainer of 50 years, I will be completing my 36th year of appealing property tax valuations. Over that amount of time, you meet people of all personalities; see all types of properties; attend hearings ranging from the local, one-on-one meetings to cases before the State Supreme Court.  Additionally, we’ve endured challenging economic times – the Dotcom bust of the early 2000s, the market collapse of 2008-09 and more recently, the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

These experiences, while challenging at that particular moment, help define who I am as an individual and who we are as a company. I would like to believe these situations have made our company stronger and better able to serve our clients today and more importantly, into the future.

Catering to our Audience

Elton John and Property Tax ValuationsLike Elton John, we should be able to cater to our audience, perform to (and exceed) expectations and know we have given our best efforts to get maximum results. After all, patrons of a concert are really clients of the performer.

Thank you, Sir Elton John, for your excellence of music. And thank you to our audience for allowing us to provide our excellence in the property tax world. By the way, any thoughts on the valuation of a yellow, brick road? Replacement cost, less depreciation… any functional or economic obsolescence???

As always, you may reach me with your thoughts or questions – dswartz@swartzaai.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com.

The Swartz Report: Conferences, Entrepreneurs Organizations and Property Taxes

Conferences, Entrepreneurs Organizations and Property TaxesBy Donald Swartz, President

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Wichita Property Tax Conference (formerly the Appraisal for Ad Valorem Taxation Conference). This is an annual conference attended by State Assessors, members of respective State Departments of Revenue, consultants in the property tax area and businesses with property tax liabilities valued by the state (properties such as rail, pipeline, telecommunications, energy, etc.)

This year was the 50th anniversary of the conference, and the first in person meeting since 2019.

I initially attended the conference in 2017 during my early conversations with Pete Indurante and the prospects of acquiring his company.

At the time of the 2018 meeting, we had not quite finalized the transaction, so I again attended as an interested consultant. Unfortunately, I missed the 2019 conference due to my accident and the in-person conference was not held in 2020-21 due to the pandemic. I was anxiously (and excitedly) awaiting the 2022 conference as this would be my first conference as owner of Indurante & Associates, Inc. (Indurante)

Indurante is a member of the influential Railway Supply Institute and as part of the RSI Tax Committee, we annually share in hosting a hospitality suite during the conference.

To say my expectations were met would be a complete understatement.

Members of the committee were warm and engaging; excited to learn about me and the technology we have implemented within Indurante.  Mark Phillips (Manager) and Noelle Giacomino (Director) attended the conference with me and to see them interact with various governmental officials, our clients and other RSI committee members was a true pleasure for me to witness.

I attended the educational breakout sessions and speakers, but my true focus this year was to show my face as the “face” of Indurante. Very exciting and very fulfilling!  I am already looking forward to the 2023 conference.

Speaking of conferences, in September, I will be attending the Entrepreneurs Organization’s EO XCentric in Cincinnati.  As a member of EO Kansas City and Board Member of the Kansas City Chapter, this is an event dedicated to the US Central Region of EO Chapters. I have not previously attended this event, but if it is anything compared to the EO Global Leadership Conference earlier this year, I am very interested to meet fellow business owners, entrepreneurs and the learn from engaging speakers spanning a full spectrum of topics.

If you are a business owner and would like to learn more about EO, I strongly encourage you to click on the following link – Entrepreneurs’ Organization Home (eonetwork.org) or contact me directly (email below) as I would be thrilled to let you know more about my involvement and what EO membership provides for me.

It is hard to believe the summer is coming to an end, but the fall looks exciting as we begin to ramp up for reassessments in Iowa, Colorado and Missouri in 2023. We are also looking at the relaxing of sales in the residential and commercial markets and will be interested to see how the counties respond with their valuations next year.

Thank you for your continued interest in Swartz & Associates and Indurante.

As always, please reach me directly at either of the following addresses as I would love to hear from you and what issues would be of interest to you. dswartz@swartzaai.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com.

The Swartz Report: How do you define success?

How do you define success?By Donald Swartz, President

How do you define success? Since I started working 36+ years ago in the business world, the question seemed fairly obvious to me… “it’s all about revenue.” And success is defined by how much that revenue exceeds expenses. While this may be a result of success, does it define success? Are there more components making up a successful model than purely the financial component?

The readership of this monthly blog appears to be increasing. By definition, this should be considered a success as my reach is growing month over month and year over year. But what if the message is stale or there’s no reaction/interaction? (Comments positive or negative, responses of similar or shared experiences, etc.) Is this still a successful and worthy component of the business?

What measurements do you consider when determining success?

KPIsYour feedback is of great interest to me – what measurements do you consider when determining success? Is it purely financial or are there emotional consideration as well? How do you factor in quality-of-life issues, the retention of employees and their “happiness” at the work place? What would you consider your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to be in your respective industries?

As we begin to prepare for the 2023 tax year, these are aspects we need to keep in mind. If we don’t tend to the little things, we will never accomplish the big things and I am curious how others view success.

On another note…

I read my blog from July of 2021 (if you’re interested in reading it as well, please click here.) And while there were no road trips with my daughter these past 30 days, I was able to create a trip with my son as he begins his professional journey.

Similar to last year, we started our trek to Syracuse, albeit not as direct as previously executed. This included a quick stop in Walcott, IA, home of the largest truck stop in the country. (Oh, and by the way, a current client! To learn more about Iowa 80 Group, please click here.)

After that, dinner in South Bend and overnight in East Lansing. A quick little drive around Spartyville and off to Ann Arbor for lunch before heading over to State College. Unfortunately, significant traffic delays along Interstate 80 forced us to scrap dinner plans at Penn State, so we hustled straight to Syracuse.

Being a Big 10 guy, I enjoyed seeing the other campuses and with all the conference realignments occurring, maybe ND will join the best conference some day! I will take Iowa City over all of them, except when walking across the Iowa River in January and February. 😊

Enjoy the rest of the summer – stay safe, stay cool, be considerate of others and as always, thank you for your confidence in our companies.  Please share any comments or suggestions by replying to the blog or email directly at dswartz@swartzaai.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com.

The Swartz Report: Are you ready??? Change is coming.

Change is ComingThis morning on my way to the office, I made the decision to stop for fuel as the needle on the gas gauge illuminated a bright yellow warning, “Don, let’s not be stupid about things…” So, I casually filled the tank until I decided $50.00 was my limit. Well, that did not quite get us to the “F” but close enough for the weekend. Just under $5.00/gallon currently, which I know doesn’t seem too bad if you are reading this from either coast or living in a bigger city, but for Kansas Citians, this is a BIG DEAL.

Watching the Dow drop 1,000 points this week; the Federal Reserve increasing rates an additional 75 basis points; utility costs rising and the overall cost of living on the rise, I am concerned when the real estate market, both residential and commercial, will be negatively impacted. Not IF, but WHEN…

In the property tax world, valuations continually lag what is transacting in the current markets. 

Assessors must value property on a particular lien date, in many cases January 1. When the pandemic initially hit in March of 2020, the pushback from most counties came in the form of, ”As of January 1, we were not in a Pandemic”, and even more challenging, several states assess properties every other year, so the valuation date may have been January 1, 2019.

Interest rates remained historically low during 2020 and 2021, creating opportunities to purchase/invest in real estate and take advantage of the low interest rates being offered. Investors were willing to accept lower yields on their investments as the cost to borrow was so inexpensive.

We have now witnessed in the past 2-3 months how quickly things can change.

How will all of these real estate acquisitions which have transacted over the past 24 months affect the value of real estate from a property tax perspective? Will jurisdictions push to keep values high based upon sales the past two years? Will they factor in rent concessions which took place in 2020/21 in order to keep existing tenants in place? Will residential, multi-family, warehouse and distribution type properties continue to soar in value, or will we see a softening in the market place over the next 6 months? What about the sectors that have been slower to recover? Hospitality, retail, office, sit down restaurants, theaters… Certainly reasonable questions, but the answers may be a little more challenging.

Approaching my 37th year in the property tax world, I have witnessed and participated in the highs and lows of the real estate market. I can assure you we will be ready to assist owners and property managers with their valuation needs. We anticipate the 2023 – 2026 could be bumpy ride for owners of commercial, industrial and residential real estate. Let us help make the ride a little smoother.

As always, I am appreciative of my clients and my always growing readership. I would welcome feedback to either email – dswartz@swartzaai.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com as well as posting in the comments below.

The Swartz Report: Congratulations and Well Done to 2022 Graduates

If you are a regular reader of my monthly blogging, you know that I try to provide you with a little personal insight by sharing family events that have taken place since I first started contributing in 2014. While I try to mix in a little “work tonic”, this month’s blog is all personal!

Syracuse UniversityPreviously, I have regaled about fantastic road adventures with my daughter, commencing the start of another year of college. Well, the college portion of my writing will soon be coming to an end as we celebrated the graduation of my son, earning a double major in communications and business from the Newhouse and Whitman Schools at Syracuse. Throw in a side of a Master’s in Pubic Affairs from the Maxwell School (also from Syracuse) for my daughter and I’m practically bleeding Orange!

2022 Graduates 2022 Graduates

As parents, we could not be more proud of the accomplishments our children have achieved at this juncture of their lives. The educations they have received; the friends they have met and stay connected with and the lasting bonds of deep friendships they’re sure to experience in future years – truly a wild wave of emotions for all.

Our kids may be saddened to say good-bye to all of their friends they’ve met at school. But we, as parents, are also experiencing an emotional swing as well. Reminiscing about our first days of “college drop off”; becoming empty nesters; respective parent’s weekends; holiday breaks; summer vacations and now, seeing them cross the podium – Whew, I have to admit, it was hard to see clearly with the tears blocking my view.😊 However, it’s comforting to know there are graduates all across the country who are compelled to make this world a better place. I’m energized, knowing we will be in good hands with the next generation.

To Aaron, Miriam and to all recent graduates, I say, “Congratulations and Well Done!” You’ve earned the right and opportunity to make your voices heard and to put your talents to good use. I cannot wait to share the next chapter of your lives with you.

2022 Graduates 2022 Graduates 2022 Graduates

The Swartz Report: Finding the balance between doing the work and prospecting.

By Donald Swartz, President

Donald SwartzIn our weekly Monday morning meeting, my challenge to the group for 2022 is to spend more time discussing contacts we have made, marketing efforts, events to attend and other concepts to promote brand awareness. Over the past several years, we’ve used our Monday meetings to discuss current caseload, property tax hearings on the horizon and general bantering about our pipeline of property tax cases. I have found when we focus too much on the appeals and work we do, we can lose sight of the potential opportunities in front of us.

The Balance

The challenge of balancing the work in place and seeking opportunities to expand your customer base is a fine line when operating as a small business. There are certainly tools available to assist in the organization and follow up (CRM software, database development, and in person events.) But ultimately, the burden falls on your team members to make things happen; to initiate conversations; to attend various events…. Sometimes that can be overwhelming and hiding behind a desk and working on the projects in front of you allows people to stay in their comfort zone. While this can create work efficiencies, it’s important to get out of the comfort zone and create interactions.

Finding the balance between doing the work and prospectingFace to face interaction is finally coming back – in person meetings are being scheduled; conferences and seminars are being attended and conversations are taking place. The conversations may be politics, issues in Ukraine, the cost of gasoline, the cost of groceries, rising interest rates and maybe even sports! For those who read my blog regularly, feel free to blast my non-sense about my Hawkeyes reaching the Final Four, while the J-Hawks are left watching on the sidelines. I guess I missed that prediction by… “just that much…” No betting sports app for me just yet!

Anyway, the fact that these conversations are occurring and opinions are being offered, provides an opportunity to listen and determine how this will affect our businesses. Will continual increase in interest rates slow down the hot residential and commercial real estate market? Will the rising costs of labor and materials slow down new construction demand? How is the remote working environment making its mark on office space?

I was on a conference call this afternoon and the discussion turned to a downtown Central Business District in a decent sized metropolitan area possibly reaching a potential 40% vacancy rate by mid 2023. That will have a significant impact, not only on the landlords, but the surrounding supporting businesses – restaurants, convenience stores, specialty retail, etc.

Counties have been aggressively raising property tax values in an effort to match the market.

We need to keep an eye on the summer and fall activity, but my hunch is that it will be time to put the brakes on rising property tax values. Whether this occurs in the fall of 2022 or summer of 2023, the conversations I hear tell me there is change in the wind.

As always, we will be here – ready to answer any questions and representing your property tax interests. Thank so much for your continued support.  If you have any questions about your commercial property taxes, please reach out to me at the following: dswartz@swartzaai.com or dswartz@indurantetax.com.

The Swartz Report: Machinery and Equipment Appraisals

AppraisalsYesterday, Gary Stone and I had lunch with good friend (and Advisory Board member of Swartz + Associates, Inc.) Laird Goldsborough and the managing partner of his company, Jason Roos. We wanted to discuss the necessary components, skills, ego (??) and any other attributes in growing a business or a sector of a business.

One of the takeaways from our meeting is the fact that it’s too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day activities; to continue to be an analyst and not a marketer; to sit behind a desk and only work on the projects in front of you. Does this sound familiar?

My focus over the past several months has been placed primarily on the following:

  1. The increasing values of real estate.
  2. The software development and efficiencies we have created with the Indurante practice.
  3. Business personal property consulting and compliance filing for our clients.

Machinery and Equipment Appraisals

Rarely do I find myself presenting a niche practice within our business. This niche is appraising machinery and equipment for our client’s needs. Whether a bank needs a valuation on equipment for collateral purposes; an attorney needs a valuation on equipment as part of family trust; an accountant needs a machinery valuation as a carve out to a business valuation for a merger or acquisition or an owner is considering liquidating assets, this is a specialized area where Gary is the recognized expert.

ASA LogoAs an Accredited Senior Appraiser of the American Society of Appraisers, Gary earned the ASA designation in Machinery and Technical Specialties. In fact, he is only one of a handful of accredited appraisers for this specialty in the Midwest. This area is underserved and my goal is to promote this practice, create awareness and cement relationships with those who may need this service on a consistent basis.

So, consider this my initial effort to promote our equipment valuation practice. I promise to report updates throughout the year as we make this a concerted effort. Stay tuned!!

March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention St. Patrick’s Day and the annual March Madness surrounding these next two weeks. I’ve reviewed my last few years of the March blog and at least I’m consistent!! The difference this year? Look for my Iowa Hawkeyes to be in the Final Four 😊 (This will disappoint my KU friends and associates as we could potentially meet in the Round of 16). It has been 42 years since we have graced the Final Four and who knows… and Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone!

Please reach out to us with any questions concerning equipment valuations, property values and railcar assessments. As described above, please reach out to Gary directly with questions concerning the appraisal of equipment. You may contact him at gstone@swartzaai.com.

– Don
Dswartz@swartzaai.com
Dswartz@indurantetax.com