Changes in Self-Storage Construction: 5 Questions With BETCO's Terry Huber

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In May 2011, Terry L. Huber announced he was retiring from his post as president and chief operating officer at BETCO Inc., a single-source manufacturer of self-storage buildings. A native of New Athens, Ill., Huber has spent a lifetime in the metal-building business. He joined BETCO in 1995 as vice president of manufacturing, later became president, then president and chief operating officer.

Inside Self-Storage caught up with Huber to recap his career with the BETCO and talk about the future of self-storage construction and development.

Tell us about your early years at BETCO.

I first became involved in the manufacturing of self-storage buildings in 1985. At that time, the typical building was 20 by 30 feet wide, no insulation or vapor barrier, and the average-size job was about 3,000 square feet. The business was just beginning to be recognized as having a much better return on investment than traditional real estate. When Wall Street made this discovery, competition increased and more and more investors came into the business.

How has the business evolved?

In the late 1990s, the business model grew into wider buildings with larger per-unit storage capacity, and then eventually evolved into bi-level buildings and climate-controlled units for customers who needed a humidity-controlled environment for certain storage items.

Due to the escalation of land costs and the scarcity of available land, multi-story buildings started to appear in the eastern half of the United States in the early part of the new millennium. Building height, size and complexity continues to grow every year. The industry has presented a continuous challenge to its suppliers to meet the growing demands.

What challenges do self-storage developers face today?

The major challenge for today’s self-storage developer is two-fold: Finding property at a reasonable price and location, and being able to secure financing. The Great Recession tightened available financing to the point that new construction suffered. As a consequence, potential new owners were sidelined, and existing owners had to resort to modest expenditures on refurbishing their facilities or adding another phase.  

What do you predict for the industry on the next five years?

The need for additional self-storage will continue to grow as the economy heals and financing again becomes more available. This means competition will increase. Even today, there are six to eight competitors in the average self-storage market. This will eventually translate to certain markets becoming mature. It also means owners will need to be smarter and more willing to spend additional dollars on ancillary services to attract customers.

What’s next for you?

I have immensely enjoyed myself at BETCO, and helping to meet the challenges of an industry that has had a rapid growth since its inception in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I intend to continue working with BETCO on special projects and consulting. Additionally, I have dusted off my golf clubs and found the fishing gear, and will be moving to Little River, S.C., along with my wife and two Yorkies to begin the “honey to-do” list she started many years ago.

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