When it comes to multifamily operations in the Southeast, few in the business know the turf as well as Ray Hutchinson. Hutchinson has spent the past 17 years serving at the executive level for two REITs in the region, Charlotte, N.C.–based Summit Properties and Birmingham, Ala.–based Colonial Properties. So when it came time for Greystar, headquartered in Charleston, S.C., to appoint a leader for its newly aligned Southeast division, Hutchinson was a natural choice for the job and in January was named senior managing director, Southeast, of the company. Thanks to his long tenure in the region, solid business relationships were already in place and he was able right away to set his sights on growing the firm’s portfolio.

“We have high growth expectations in Florida and the Southeast,” says Hutchinson. “And we want to continue to shore up our presence in cities like Charlotte, Raleigh, and Nashville. The goal is to have a big enough presence to have boots on the ground in those markets.”

Greystar’s Southeast portfolio consists of 90 properties with more than 30,000 units. But under Hutchinson’s leadership, the goal is to expand to 60,000 units in the next few years. Of these, 25,000 are planned in Atlanta alone, which has been struggling hard to come out of the housing downturn.

Hutchinson brings a multi-level management perspective to Greystar, as he sat in nearly every seat in the company while working for Colonial and Summit. “The idea is to bring an executive leadership style to a property-management level, working from the bottom up,” he says.

A key factor Hutchinson believes will help foster Greystar’s growth in the Southeast is the ongoing widening of the Panama Canal. He’s optimistic that the effort will reinvigorate growth in coastal port cities and encourage new residents to flock there for employment.

Expanding Greystar’s operational platform is another goal of Hutchinson’s. He says he’ll work closely with his investment peers and development cohorts to grow Greystar’s target regions by deploying the necessary personnel to those areas. “When you have all the legs of a stool in the same place, it’s much easier to grow and make progress,” he says .