Tom Tomaszewski is president of The Annex Group, a major multifamily housing development firm headquartered in Indianapolis.
He has been involved in the creation of over 5,000 apartment units and $1 billion in real estate and construction during his tenure at the company. Tomaszewski along with founder Kyle Bach are principals of The Annex Group.
What was your first job?
I was a caddy after I turned 13. However, my first real job was when I was 16. My father put me on the back of a garbage truck that summer. I learned a lot about myself and what hard work really was. Several of the areas we served were rough. In some of the neighborhoods, I would get asked for money because people there knew I had a good job. Some of the garbage we picked up would come from people whose utilities had been shut off and didn’t have running water. I saw how people lived and the state of their housing. This impacted me very much, as I had been very fortunate to that point in my life. I built some of my first affordable housing projects in these very same neighborhoods a little over a decade later.
What skills have helped you the most in your career?
I can say that the relationships I have been fortunate enough to maintain throughout my life have been the most important. I rely on my relationships every day. Almost all my successes in life have been due to a relationship I have with someone. The more people you can befriend and help, the more you will get back in return. I have also sought out mentors in my career, and those have been some of the most rewarding relationships I have to this day. I also really look to do the same and be a mentor for anyone who seeks out my advice.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
My high school physics teacher told my dad that I would never make it at Indiana University. It gave me a drive to prove him wrong. To his credit, if I acted the same way in college as I did in his class, I would have never made it. I still use how I felt in that moment to create my ambition to this day. At Indiana University, I was fortune enough to meet my future business partner and fraternity brother, Kyle Bach. Now, every night over 7,000 people and counting go to bed in housing that we have built and developed together over the last 15-plus years.
What is your company’s “secret sauce?”
Our people, without a doubt. I am surrounded by some of the most dynamic and intelligent individuals. I am amazed at the level of passion and drive our entire team has. We are all working toward the goal of creating a positive impact with the people who live, work, and are involved in our communities. It is beyond humbling to see communities we create become a catalyst for growth within those areas.
What’s a smart move that The Annex Group has made in the past year?
We have really leaned into our partnerships more and have found creative ways to get a project to the finish line. In today’s environment, it is extremely difficult to get deals done, so we need to assemble the right stakeholders and all be in lockstep as we develop the deal. We are also very good at seeking out soft funding and various economic incentive or tax abatements to get a project to pencil. In my 20 years of doing this I have never seen deals with so much financial support while at the same time being so razor thin when it comes time to close. We are very fortunate that a lot of affordable housing champions have gone to bat for us as an industry and obtained more funding to get affordable housing across the finish line. Our 2023 projects are mostly set and on a path to close, but as we go into 2024 and beyond, I worry that some of these funds will start to disappear or run out. We do rely heavily on our advocates at the National Association of Home Builders, the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition, and the National Council of State Housing Agencies. I am confident that we as an industry will continue to figure out how to build and develop affordable housing.
Tell us about a project that you recently opened or are working on.
We have worked on a project that recently closed and is under construction with a local nonprofit partner. This partner had a huge need for housing for various refugee groups entering our country. In many cases, these individuals and families have helped the United States in their own country and are being resettled by the government with the assistance of our partner. The local housing market made it extremely difficult to find housing for this population. Our project will be located conveniently and will create a community where additional resources will be available. This particular partnership has been very successful so far, and I really look forward to creating a new community to serve this need.
What will be the next trend or evolution in affordable housing?
I believe it is going to be the incorporation of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) and additional environmental investments. Affordable housing really checks all of the boxes within ESG, and I believe the investment into affordable housing will rely heavily on ESG investors in the very near future. In addition, with all the new energy credits enacted, there is going to be substantial investments into the building systems—not only making them more energy efficient, but also utilizing systems that will produce energy and lower the carbon footprint of housing communities. The Annex Group is working internally on our own ESG plan and look to use it as a benefit to our communities as well as our employees.
What’s next for The Annex Group?
We’re always looking into new ways to fill needs and are excited to have over 1,600 units under construction now with more to start that will keep us busy in 2023 and beyond.
Favorite fictional character and why?
George Bailey. Every time I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life,” it makes me feel good. The theme of thoughts of insufficiency and not knowing who you have affected is an easy wormhole to travel, and many people do. Seeing that story play out, along with the creation of housing in the town of Bedford Falls, is inspiring. Of course, as an affordable housing builder, I realize this is somewhat cliché.
If you could take a crash course on any subject, what would it be and why?
I would love to take a crash course in culinary arts. I do a lot of cooking for our family at home. I have a couple go-to meals and Polish soups down, but I am not the greatest at the rest. I would love to learn how to be a better cook and meal planner!
If you unexpectedly had the day off, where would we find you?
If I could make it there, I would be on the mountain somewhere destressing on my skis!
What’s next for Tom Tomaszewski?
I love what I do, and I am so happy to work side by side with some of the best and brightest in the industry. I am going to continue to work hard with our team to elevate all aspects of our company and our communities. There is a serious housing problem in this country, and we are and will continue to be part of the solution!