Gary Oborny is a true Renaissance man.
Oborny, 47, the chief executive of Occidental Management in Wichita, is best known as a real estate developer. His projects are all over town, and the area.
Here's what you don't know about Oborny: He's an accomplished high-level volleyball player.
"Or I was, until the injuries started to pile up, the legs, things like that," he said.
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Oborny's business interests run way beyond real estate, into alternative energy, oil and gas, organic farming, a liquor store and construction.
And in the past, he's dabbled in landscaping construction, his first business, and seeding.
So Oborny's not afraid of taking on diverse projects — including two boys, ages 6 and 3, with his wife, Gretchen.
"We were so busy having fun with our careers and traveling that we're late bloomer parents," he said, chuckling. "Two extremely enthusiastic, active little boys."
Let's start with Occidental Management. What is the company's mission?
"We're a turnkey real estate development, property management and brokerage firm.
"We build from the ground up and we buy existing buildings. It's all value-added, meaning that we're not a retail cap buyer. We don't buy for a single-digit return.
"We'll buy land and develop it, we'll buy buildings and rehab them, we'll do retail, we have industrial and we have office, so we play in all three categories."
What are your other real estate interests?
"When oil was $9 a barrel I got into oil and gas investing, and I'm still in that through a number of different partnerships — drilling projects, developing sites.
"When the RTC (Resolution Trust Corp.) was formed, we got into buying foreclosure properties. And then the real estate market started coming back and I couldn't find anything to make a good buy on, so I started buying land and going from the ground up, building shopping centers. I carry a Class A international building certificate, so we can build in-house. We do use a number of general contractors in Wichita, as we typically have two to three projects and three to five tenant finishes going."
What are some ways you've diversified your company?
"We own EcoGen, which is focused on ethanol development and primarily wind energy now. Alternative energy is the focus.
Then, I own a liquor store _ Auburn Hills Wine and Liquor. I own Verdant Farms, 120 acres at 143rd and 254 that I used to live at that's now really doing well as an organic farming site. It's nice to get some fresh vegetables, really amazing to get produce within 24 or 48 hours of being picked, versus two weeks."
And then there's volleyball. What's the connection?
"I used to run the Wichita Flyers program in town. My wife and I played at a fairly high level and then you have a few injuries, a few surgeries and the age clock keeps running, so I decided the best way to give back to the community was working with kids who wanted to play ball in college. Division 1.
"There's a fairly high level of training time involved, to reach that kind of proficiency.
"Personally, I played on the East and West coast, doubles sand, things like that. My wife played D-1 for the University of Houston, and played a little professionally in Australia."
How do you handle so many varied projects on one plate?
"I've always had a fairly entrepreneurial background. I had a landscape construction firm that I started at age 18 while I was a freshman at Wichita State.
"And I bought a hydro-seeding company, both things I sold off in 1997.
"I think I've always had the ability to drill down to the details on anything and just execute. Some people struggle with that.
"I've always had a curiosity to know about things, the ins and outs all the way through the process, because I like to learn. I want to be knowledgeable about the things I'm involved in."
Who planted the seeds for this career in your life?
"My mom, Marie, was a very upbeat, positive person. My dad, Lester, who passed away in October, was a mechanical engineer who worked a lot at NASA.
"What I got from my dad was no matter what I did, he'd always ask 'Did you ever think about what would happen if you did it this way?' That was a source of frustration growing up, but in my 20s I began to understand where he was coming from.
"Celebrate your successes, but learn to be comfortable with discomfort. You're going to make mistakes, but unless you get comfortable with that mindset, it's hard to stretch yourself to new boundaries."
What's next for you and your companies?
"Wichita has been good to us. One thing we're trying to do is get a lot more involved with the community.
"It's a bigger thought process besides doing what we do business-wise, and we are going to expand our community involvement."