Randy Forister, Director of Commercial Real Estate
Randy Forister’s path to Tampa International Airport, where he’s now overseeing a major office building project that will impact Authority employees, took various turns and twists to get him where he is today. The Director of Commercial Real Estate could not have predicted he’d be handling important decisions regarding construction, contracts, developers, technology and design at an airport, say, 35 years ago when he worked for an electronics company selling sound mixers, recorders and TVs.
But if you look at how he followed his instincts over the years, it makes sense that he wound up where he did.
“I started out in sound,” Forister said. “But I always had a little bit of interest in real estate.”
Born and raised in Cleveland by a pipefitter father and schoolteacher mother, Forister grew up with a fascination with fixing anything he could get his hands on – cars, home repairs, boats – and wanted to be a machinist when he grew up. As a teen, he tried to convince his father to buy cheap houses and fix them up with him, an offer his father declined.
Shortly before he married his wife, Patty, he bought a house and fixed it up himself. He also began a job working with sound systems and other electronics, and while there he became interested in the “new” Apple and IBM computers that were beginning to get popular. He then got a job at Computer Depot, a chain that used to sell and repair computers inside department stores, and climbed his way up to regional manager as he moved to Columbus. While there, Computer Depot filed for bankruptcy.
After getting a job at another computer shop, a new and unexpected opportunity. His wife’s boss, an attorney, worked for a real estate developer and he convinced Forister to come work for them. Forister got his real estate license and began a career developing, leasing and selling small office sites and other commercial property.
Over the next several years, Forister became somewhat of an expert in both real estate development and construction. He started a tenant improvement contracting firm that did a lot of interior improvements to office spaces in the 1980s and 1990s. After some time, he sold the construction company and focused more on consulting.
“Construction is a lot of dust,” Forister said. “I hate dust.”
His first taste of airport real estate redevelopment came when Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus needed to develop 5,000 acres of ratty World War II buildings into a Class A warehouse distribution park and cargo airport, a $500 million project. Forister began working for the Rickenbacker Port Authority as a consultant then an employee, after 12 years he went to Pittsburgh International Airport where he ran the real estate department there, developing airport land into office and warehouse parks including Dick’s Sporting Goods headquarters.
After 12 years, Forister was looking for a new opportunity. He heard about Tampa International Airport’s Master Plan and some of the exciting things brewing in real estate, and around the time they were breaking ground on phase 1, he joined TPA’s team.
“The real estate development opportunity is strong here,” Forister said.
His biggest project right now is the SkyCenter office development, a $100 million project that will include new Authority offices as well as floors for other potential tenants, a trail, a new gym and several other amenities that will make it easier for employees to collaborate, work more efficiently and enhance their wellness.
“It’s going to become our home for the next 50 years,” Forister said. “We’ve got to get it right.”
Forister, who is accredited by the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and is a Certified Commercial Investment Member of the National Association of Realtors, spends a lot of time reading documents, as one might imagine. But when he’s not working, he’s spending time with Patty, his wife of 39 years, or biking. Forister is a huge cycling enthusiast and loves riding the Tampa Bay area trails.
He and Patty have two grown children: Ryan, 33, who lives in Columbus, and Kaitlin, 30, in Pittsburgh.
“My wife and I joke that we dropped a child off in each city we lived,” he said.