A Moment with Carson Brown
Question: Carson can you run us through your background and how you arrived at the point in life that you are today?
Carson: I’ve got an interesting background. I come from a pretty large family, my mom was engaged at 16, married at 17, my dad was in the Air Force and they had nine children. The first six were born in the first eight years of their marriage and then there’s a ten-year gap and then they had three more. I have a sister a year older and a sister a year younger. When I was four in 1982 my aunt and uncle were killed in a plane crash so my mom’s brother and his wife which resulted in five of my cousins came to live with us when I was four. So I had I had a cousin that was a year older than me, same age as me and a year younger so there were six kids that were five and under. So I grew up in a very big family in Mesa Arizona. My dad worked for APS, which is an electrical company there in Arizona. We grew up from very humble
beginnings. There were a lot of hand-me-down clothes and shopping at all the discount stores. We had a very simple life.
Question: So between high school and becoming that entrepreneur- self-employed individual- how did you how did you run through that that process out what you wanted to become.
Carson: I didn’t know what I want to become. My mom didn’t finish high school, my dad had it took a couple college courses and that was about it. I would say when I was fifteen, I went up to Vancouver British Columbia to visit with my sister and her family, she had five kids, twins that were a year and a half and a three-year-old. She was just overwhelmed and she said hey Carson why don’t you would you be willing to stay up here for a year and help me out. I said yeah, I’d be a great opportunity. I stayed up there for a year, went to school and I think that really opened my eyes. I grew up in kind of a bubble in Mesa Arizona, never lived anywhere else and so having that experience where you’re kind of in the city- I could take the C taxi to downtown Vancouver and kind of see a different part of the world that really opened my eyes and I thought you know there’s a lot more to this world than just my little bubble. After high school I served a mission in Japan for two years, learned Japanese and then came back to Arizona. I went to ASU and graduated and got my degree in global business and thought you know I wanted to do something with Japan. My last semester, I was doing an internship my last semester in college with a local politician and he had some real estate businesses and I’d mentioned that real estate is interesting to me and so he said, if you want to learn real estate there’s only one guy to learn from and this gentleman’s name is Connely Wolfswinkel and in Arizona, he’s a big land developer and has got holdings all throughout the greater Phoenix metro area and it was just very fascinating to me. So that I kind of got started in the real estate business there and I’ve been there for about 15 years now.
Question: Currently what’s your role with the development company?
Carson: I’m partners in some deals. We’ve got holdings anywhere from a ten acre parcel to five to ten thousand acres. We probably got about fifty thousand or so acres under controller management and just various stages of the entitlement process. For the most part they’re out on the fringes of growth so we buy in the path of growth, we entitled the land then we sell off to the home builders, the commercial developers and such.
Question: Have you found any secret sauce to how do you identify the right growth trend or patterns?
Carson: I don’t think there are any secrets today, I mean too many people have written books and kind of given away their secrets but I think it’s really just understanding a market. We just focus on Arizona. We purchased some properties outside of Arizona and they haven’t gone as well but you stay in a market that you really know and understand and look for where a future freeways going to be, where the major roadways going to be, where growth is headed, why is it headed there and sometimes you look at opportunities where property may be zoned for something that isn’t the highest and best use in that area and you see an opportunity there where you can go in and workout and structure a good deal with the landowner and get it re-zoned and change it to something that you think could be better.
Question: Are you seeing any challenges with water and land development?
Carson: Water is definitely a big issue. In the southwest we’ve been in a drought for quite some time and that’s always going to be an issue and I think in the future water is going to be more valuable than oil, it’s the lifeblood of that region and the only way to grow is through water so you got to make sure that you have sufficient water. Arizona has done a really good job. We’ve got a hundred year sure water supply that you have to have before you can go build these communities and so I think Arizona has done a pretty good job.
Question: Now there’s another unique aspect of your day-to-day living that that that involves horses, can you elaborate on that?
Carson: I’ve got a brother-in-law, He’s an immigrant from Germany, came over to the US with really nothing in his in his pocket. His father was killed during World War two and he came over here with nothing and built up a furniture empire called United Furniture Warehouse and spread out across Canada and the northwestern United States, I think he got up to about 155 stores and then he sold out and he put all his money in a foundation and he is now giving back. He he’s really dedicated his life to helping young men and women who struggle with addiction and he’s created a program- a therapeutic community it’s a two-year minimum program where young men and women come in and really learn how to live a sober life. We’ve got a facility in Vancouver, British Columbia, Seattle, Washington and just outside of Phoenix in Arizona. The one in Arizona has an equestrian ranch. We take care of about a hundred and twenty horses. We’ve got about 50 [individuals enrolled] there and they have different responsibilities on the ranch and learn how to work how to hold a job how to be responsible how to be honest how to how to work and be a contributing member to society. I’m on the board, I’ve been involved for the last probably seven years and to see some of these men change their lives has really helped me as an individual and really help my family as we watch the growth of these young men that maybe have gone down a wrong path but to see them get back on the right path and to lead successful lives is just rewarding.
Question: Is trying to find the time to fit it all in challenging?
Carson: I’ve got five kids, it’s been very challenging fortunately this ranch is about three miles south of my house so it’s fairly close. Once you go down there people don’t realize how much you gain from giving back and from helping and I think you’re seeing it more and more with the young people in America today, they’re looking for opportunities to serve and give back and do these volunteer efforts all throughout the world so I’m just fortunate that I can do it right down the street from my house and my kids can really benefit from that as well.
Question: Can you tell us what a person in the program goes through with the horses?
Carson: So when you first come in the program we have what’s called a blackout period. For the first two months they don’t have any contact with anyone from the outside world. During the next five months they get to write two letters a month, they get two letters to send out and two letters to come in, then in next five months they’re allowed phone calls and then in the next five months they get to start to see family members again in person and then they start transitioning into life. On the ranch we’ve got horses that the ranch owns but most of it is horses that other people own that that board there. So these guys are shoveling the poop, they’re feeding them, there they’re taking them out walking and then they’re also working with their own horses. Equine therapies is a part of it but really it’s just that work therapy and helping these guys really learn how to be good people.
Question: If you were to give a message for to the young generation today coming up, what would that be?
Carson: Find out where you want to go in life and pursue your dreams. You hear stories all the time where somebody’s told them no they couldn’t do it or don’t go and do that and you see them defy the odds and they go out and are extremely successful so I would say, find what you want to do and stick with it and if you if you love what you do you’re going to wake up every day and you’re going to be happy doing it. The other part is you see everyone either playing video games they’re on their phones they’re so distracted and not really present but I think getting our kids out and the young people today and volunteering whether that’s going to a homeless shelter and feeding the poor but really getting out there and seeing how you can make a difference in this world and I think that’s going to open up more doors for you than anything else. Stick with what you what your heart tells you and what you want to do and then volunteering & philanthropy.