TBY talks to Alex S. Demirdjian, CEO of Demco Group, on staying at the top, developing a real estate division, and goals for the future.

Alex S. Demirdjian
After finishing university, Alex S. Demirdjian became a French Formula 3 Championship driver, winning three races and finishing second in the 1995 Championship. He later joined Demco Steel Industries and led the company to its current top ranking with a more than 60% market share in Lebanon. In 2006, he diversified Demco Group into other sectors of the economy, most notably the shipping and real estate industries. Demco Properties has a portfolio that includes five projects valued at more than USD610 million, spanning commercial, residential, and mixed-use developments. Demirdjian serves in several executive leadership positions with numerous investments in Beirut, including RedRock, a next-generation, eco-friendly ski resort in the Faqra mountains.

What strategy does the group follow to maintain its leading position in the market?

The roots of Demco Group have been and continue to be steel. For nearly a century now, Demco Steel has carefully and steadily built a strong reputation that today serves as the foundation for Demco Properties. It is the trust and credibility our name has built that distinguishes us from competitors. Our success can be attributed to the optimism we cultivate for the future of Lebanon. From the beginning, we have continually strived to invest in our homeland and make it a better place. About a year ago, we launched “Lebanon is Calling,” a diaspora-wide campaign that was broadcast internationally and aired on CNN during the American presidential election. This ongoing campaign is a personal initiative to encourage Lebanese expatriates to return to Lebanon and invest in their home country. Together we can see to it that Lebanon reaches its full potential, which can and will be truly impressive.

What has been the evolution of Demco's real estate division been like despite the challenging years for the sector?

The market is definitely challenging. There is always value in crafting something different than what is already available, to attract those in search of new trends in living. By consistently evolving with changes in the market, Demco Properties has succeeded in pushing the envelope and becoming an industry pioneer. All of our flagship projects—Demco Towers, RedRock, and FortyFour—were not only meticulously designed to respond to the demand of the market, but were also built on forward-thinking principles such as clean energy and green tech. Our strategy is to create opportunity in diversity and to challenge the conventional trend of development.

Demco Properties' portfolio today includes five projects valued at USD610 million. What projects are in the pipeline?

We have expanded our activities overseas. Just this year we established Demco Properties USA, and I am personally optimistic about our vision for the Southern Californian market. Our team in Los Angeles is showcasing tremendous effort in bringing our latest concept to life and setting a new standard for development in California. In California, coastal advocates are seeing a serious soil erosion issue at many of the beaches. Our project proposes key partnerships with local environmental experts to implement beach restoration initiatives. These measures not only protect the coastline but also create the proper environment for native species to nest. The development itself will be powered by clean energy and eco-friendly initiatives in line with our forward-thinking philosophy to go green. Another significant development we are working on is in one of the most prominent residential areas in the suburbs of Beirut. With this project, we are creating a new typology of residences that we believe to be the future of urban living in Lebanon. Our goal is to initiate communal living and offer home ownership to a category of people who previously could not afford to own residences. Demco's “Lebanon is Calling” mindset will be put into play by giving the everyday Lebanese citizen the opportunity to effortlessly own property in their home country.

What are your goals and priorities for the year ahead?

At Demco Properties, our priority is to encourage investment in Lebanon while boosting the real estate sector. We are also focused on our efforts in the US. Demco Steel currently holds 60% of the Lebanese market share and our target is to maintain and strengthen this positioning regardless of changing circumstances. At Demco, we believe that in anything we do we have to always put forth our best work, because when we do we can overcome adversity and achieve any goal we set. This business is very similar to racing cars. We have to make careful and calculated decisions quickly and have complete trust in our teammates. There are many parallels between the sport and running the company. I personally view all challenges as opportunities, because there is nothing that drives me more than making a “yes” out of a “no.”