Case Studies

Kalinka B. Ivanova – HOLT CAT

Optimizing HOLT CAT’s expanding property portfolio

Texas is in growth mode and so is HOLT CAT. Conveniently headquartered in San Antonio, it’s the nation’s largest dealer, leaser and servicer of the heavy Caterpillar equipment and engines used to build roads, bridges and myriad other projects from the Red River to the Rio Grande. But HOLT’s growth, like that of the Lone Star State’s, must be executed in a smart way.

Kalinka B. Ivanova is there to make that happen, having left a similar post at Canadian Pacific Railway last summer to be HOLT’s vice president of real estate. When Blueprint caught up with her in December, the company had undertaken a dozen new projects and had entrusted her to complete the developments and optimize land value.

Kalinka B. Ivanova | Vice President, Real Estate | HOLT CAT

Kalinka B. Ivanova | Vice President, Real Estate | HOLT CAT

In May, HOLT CAT bought from the city of Anna an 82-acre business park. There’s much expansion planned in and around that North Texas city with Ivanova among those reviewing plans for design of a new construction equipment dealership. The company having standardized much of the process for new facilities, Ivanova envisions this flagship dealership operating by first quarter of 2024.

Business also is booming for a HOLT CAT sister company, Texas First Rentals, which rents aerial, dirt and portable power equipment, with Ivanova immersed in its expansion. And new to the fold is Summit Truck Group, which was recently acquired by HOLT Truck Centers. Summit having locations in Wichita Falls and Oklahoma, HOLT is positioned to reap more business in the Sooner State.

Other acquisitions are likely in the mix, and with HOLT owning or leasing 265 facilities in 72 locations, that’s a lot of terra firma for Ivanova to oversee. Though she’s still relatively new to the operation, Ivanova tells Blueprint she fits in well with her new colleagues in San Antonio and is excited for the growth

Fixed on results

“I look for results, not salutes,” says Ivanova, who fronts a real estate team and facilities development of 30. “I take calculated risks and build up my people.”

Her early impressions: HOLT hasn’t caught up with the state’s aggressive growth and thus isn’t exploiting the best value of its holdings. That’ll change, says Ivanova, who meets monthly with the company’s Real Estate Leadership Committee, which includes the senior vice presidents from all departments. While Ivanova can’t say what’s pending, she emphasizes how the company must look upon every parcel as a potential revenue producer.

Kalinka B. Ivanova | Vice President, Real Estate | HOLT CAT

Where there’s demand, she says HOLT will build more dealerships with the new Anna site meeting the criteria. With her input, grounds will soon break for a flagship dealership to serve the burgeoning North Texas construction market with 90,000 square feet of office, showroom, warehouse, service shop and a wash rack.

In addition, Texas First Rentals—one of 10 subsidiaries—will develop its own facility adjacent to the dealership. Other upgrades are to include construction equipment display and storage areas, a drop box for parts, a yard tech building, equipment-charging stations, fuel tanks and utility infrastructure.

The market in Texas having yet to be saturated, she anticipates much negotiating in her immediate future and not necessarily as a hard-liner.

“It’s not just about compromise,” Ivanova says. “When negotiating a deal, it’s also about finding a balance between what matters to you and what matters to me.”

A legacy sustained

That’s the modus operandi which CEO Peter M. Holt sustains from great-grandfather, Benjamin Holt, who developed the first practical track-type tractor in 1904 and aptly named it “Caterpillar.”

“The vision now is that we’re expanding into a couple different markets with key high growth,” she says about HOLT CAT’s footprint that stretches into 118 counties. “We are exploring options of acquiring different land parcels in terms of development.”

Ivanova came to HOLT after working for four years in Calgary as director of North American real estate for Canadian Pacific Railway. There as here, she identified and assessed the potential of underused land to maximize value and oversaw the fine print of transactions. Her senior leaders lauded her role in developing railway lands and terminals for more efficient cargo transport.

“The magnitude of the vast U.S. and Canadian territory along with the complexity and volume of projects that I directed at CP have helped me tremendously,” she says. “I learned a lot at CP but there comes a time when I just need to move on.”

Kalinka B. Ivanova | Vice President, Real Estate | HOLT CAT

All the better, Ivanova says, that she got to move 2,000-plus miles south to answer HOLT’s needs for a real estate leader.

“Today it’s minus 4 [Fahrenheit] in Alberta with a foot of snow and 70 degrees in San Antonio,” she says with a laugh. “It’s a big and welcome change. I don’t like snow. I like sunshine and palm trees.”

She’s since planted seven palm trees in the yard of her new home and says the brood has taken well to life in the biggest state of the Lower 48. Only it’s not so big that they can’t reach Padre Island or Corpus Christi Bay in a couple hours. She loves the ocean, and it was a long way from the foothills of the Canadian Rockies to the Pacific Coast.

The move also is the latest adventure in the life of this woman who was born in Bulgaria and came to Canada at a young age. Asked whether she’s ever had a hard time acclimating, Ivanova reminds that she speaks six languages and is always ready for a new challenge.

“The past few months I’ve been too busy to go to the rodeos,” she muses. “I’d also like to explore the many trails in San Antonio. I love the outdoor life with my family, and I can do year-round what I couldn’t do in Calgary.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. III 2023 Edition here.

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