Over Forty Years Later: The Galesi Group No Longer a Quiet Giant
A step back in Galesi Group history…
GALESI GROUP: A quiet giant begins to make noise.
Well know in the fields where it excels, real estate and industrial parks,
“Telecommunications put us in the headlines,” notes CEO.
Until recently, you probably haven’t heard much about the Galesi Group…if you’ve heard any thing at all.
However, it’s hard to keep a corporation as big and as active as Galesi Group a secret in Guilderland Center for very long –not that Wayne Wagner and his administrative team were trying to keep Galesi Group quiet. They were too busy making money.
Galesi Group is the name of a broadly diversified company whose roots are in the real estate business founded by its chairman, Francesco Galesi, in 1964.
The first major acquisition Galesi made to his infant empire was his purchase of a government surplus aircraft plant in Buffalo during the 1960’s.
Galesi Group president and CEO Wayne Wagner describes his boss as an entrepreneur with vision – a man “who causes a lot of this to happen.” Galesi apparently saw the coming market for industrial parks very early. The aircraft plant became the 1,300,000 square foot Western New York Industrial Park.
In 1969, the Town of Guilderland reportedly approached Galesi and asked if he would take a look at the old Voorheesville Military Depot, explains Wagner. According to Galesi Group senior vice president Anthony DeLorenzo, Galesi believed if he could acquire the depot it could become the biggest distribution center in the country.
The banker from New York who arranged the financing for Galesi’s Voorheesville acquisition eventually took over the reins of the burgeoning Galesi empire - Wayne Wagner.
Galesi followed that acquisition with the purchase of the nearby Schenectady Depot. Today, they are the Northeastern Industrial Park and the Rotterdam Industrial Park – operations which total 6,000,000 square feet of covered space, combined 4,500,000 square feet of outside storage area.
Add to that Galesi’s latest acquisition, the Scotia Naval Depot, and you have an extremely important part of the local business world, not to mention the Galesi empire.
E. Graham Thompson is the senior vice president in charge of Galesi’s Industrial Parks Division. He admits that there are several selling points to these parks, not the least of which is security and a constant attempt by his division to “take care of our tenants.”
Location is another important point. You have heard people crow about how wonderful the Capital District is because it is only a few hours from New York, Boston or Montreal (choose one). But if you are in business and want to get the most out of your manufacturing or distribution center consider this: Galesi’s local parks are within 250 miles of at least a quarter of the United States’ population, industry and national income.
Working hand-in-hand with Galesi’s industrial parks division is its distribution division (Distribution Unlimited) described by executive vice president Leon Hammond as the corporation’s “material handler.” Warehouse and distribution are the basics of this division, but like most Galesi operations, they are done in a big way.
To describe Galesi’s warehousing operations as merely public warehousing doesn’t do it justice. Hammond says the concept is the same, but Galesi’s extreme size (remember, it owns those millions of square feet of industrial park space), its financial capabilities and ability to expand set it apart.
Hammond’s Division will operate the Capital District’s first-ever foreign trade zone, once it receives federal approval. Graham Thompson sees the FTZs opening up new opportunities for this area and Galesi Group, “We would like to see more manufacturing operations here,” he says. “We look for clean industries which open jobs for the community.”
The man who is responsible for “keeping this vast empire leased,” is Peter Cornell, vice president in charge of Galesi’s Real Estate Division.
Recognized as the base of the Galesi empire, the corporation’s holdings span a rainbow of categories – commercial, office, residential, recreational and agricultural
Cornell says the group is always looking for new customers for its industrial parks. While Voorheesville and Rotterdam are practically filled, he said efforts are currently centered on filling Galesi’s new acquisition in Scotia, not to mention its oldest, in Buffalo.
A couple of glamour holdings are projects on Long Island and on the island of Jamaica. Cristiana Point in the Hampton’s is a townhouse condominium project where price tags will start at around $400,000 - $500,000. The Flint River Plantations in Jamaica could become another condo community, Cornell notes, but first Galesi Group would like to get assurances from the Jamaican government.
Closer to home, Galesi Group’s Real Estate Division is on the home stretch with its Equinox project in Manchester, Vt. Famous as a resort and inn for more than two centuries, the Equinox Hotel was purchased by Francesco Galesi in 1974.
“He had no business plan in mind when he bought it,” Cornell notes, but there certainly is plan in motion now.
First, there is a historical rehabilitation of the hotel. Then there is the Equinox on the Battenkill condominium project, the Equinox Jr. retail operation, the Opera House office complex, a health club and the Equinox golf course. On a back burner is a high tech center.
In addition to these holdings, Galesi Group also operates several other properties, including an office building in New Rochelle.
Asked if the corporation has any plans to advance its holdings in this area, Cornell says they are considering getting involved in the downtown Albany revitalization, but “If we do, we’ll go into it in a big way.” He explained that Galesi Group would more than likely build a new building rather than renovate a $250,000 brownstone. They can make more renting a large building and most of the best old buildings have already been snatched up.
Cornell is also looking at property in Niskayuna for residential development as well.
Speaking of developments, the corporation’s latest is in satellite telecommunications. Heading his division is Galesi Group’s executive vice president for operations, George W. Bott.
Again, the genesis of the corporation’s becoming involved with something new came from Galesi, himself. Argo Communications Corp. is Galesi’s voice and data transmission operation and United Satellite Communications, Inc. is an entertainment, news and sports programming operation.
According to Bott, Galesi saw the future in satellite communication of voice and data back in 1980, predating the divestiture of AT& T and the open market which followed.
Galesi got transponder rights from the FCC after acquiring a satellite and operates its own satellite network leasing communications to various organizations, such as WATTS carriers.
“We’re looking for large customers with a large volume of traffic to take advantage of our network’s size,” says Bott. “We want to be carriers’ carrier,” he laughed.
In addition to the satellite operations, Galesi Group is also applying for ownership of a large FM radio station on Long Island, as well as a license to operate a microwave communications system.
Bott said that projected gross revenues for Galesi’s satellite telecommunications division, over the next 18 months, is in the $500 million neighborhood.
Perhaps not as glamourous, is Galesi’s Manufacturing Division. Not as glamourous, but a moneymaker, nonetheless. The manufacturing division consists of several diversified companies which Galesi acquired in the early 1970’s.
CEO Wagner explains Galesi saw diversification into manufacturing as a hedge against any problems in the real estate business caused by an economy gone haywire.
Galesi acquired the Ohio Tool & Die Co, in Toledo and renamed it Vulcan Industries. Then he bought a Caterpillar Tractor forge in Mercer, Pa. Together, they forge, machine, heat-treat and assembly armored vehicle treads for the military. New products are in development, however.
The other company in the division is Transglobal Industries, Inc. in Whitehall, NY. Which manufacturers chasis for compartmentalized overseas shipping, plus converter dollies and flatbed trailers.
Galesi’s final division is its services division, which includes a capital and leasing operation, computer services, real estate brokerage and consulting, security services, oil and gas exploration and executive air charter service.
How large can Galesi Group become? According to senior vice president David Buicko, who is also Galesi’s chief financial officer and chief of staff, Galesi “has built up a base to where the sky’s the limit.”
“We don’t look at boundaries,” he said, “we look if we can manage a project.”
Buicko said that if a project made economic sense to the corporation financing is no hurdle.
And what does Buicko’s boss Wayne Wagner see in the future for his corporation? “We’ll continue to move in the areas we do best,” he said.
Wagner doesn’t quite fit the stereotype of the CEO of a major corporation. True, he has an Ivy League background and came from one of New York’s major banking institutions, but his straightforward style and earthy demeanor would be accepted in any of Galesi’s warehouses as it would in any corporate boardroom.
In fact, Wagner probably spends more time on his feet than any of Galesi’s warehouse workers. There is no broad expanse of mahogany monolith – the executive desk – in his Guilderland Center office. Instead, there is a stand-up desk against one wall because staying on his feet helps Wagner keep mind and body sharp.
The decisions he is making, in conjunction with chairman Galesi, will direct the future of the corporation. He says Galesi would like to see the corporation expand beyond its Northeast base. Should Galesi Group have major operations in St Louis or Atlanta? Which new ventures will be the telecommunications of Galesi Group’s future?
Wagner doesn’t believe the corporation would move its headquarters out of the Capital District, though. He notes that it is less expensive than say, New York City, and there is that constant selling point – location. “We really are at a crossroads here,” he explains, adding that people have vied for possession of this area since before the Revolutionary War. Nevertheless, it is going to be increasingly difficult to keep the Galesi empire quiet for much longer. You know how the word gets around small towns like Guilderland Center.
Especially when you have your own satellite telecommunications systems.
Hesch, Joseph. "Galesi Group: A Quiet Giant Begins to Make Noise." Capital District Business Review [Albany] 29 Mar. 1985, Vol. XII No.2 ed.: n. pag. Print.