Michael Pate – Harbor Group Management Co. LLC
- Written by: David Harry
- Produced by: Julianna Roche & Andrew Melson
- Estimated reading time: 3 mins
Michael Pate has never strayed far from his Virginia Tidewater roots, not even as he manages the IT infrastructure used in property management across the U.S. by Harbor Group Management.
Harbor Group Management is an affiliate of Harbor Group International LLC, a real estate investment company founded in 1985 and headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia. HGI affiliates own a $13.5 billion portfolio of apartment, commercial and debt assets with more than 48,000 units throughout the U.S.
It’s become the 24th largest owner of multifamily real estate in the U.S. and the 39th largest property management company. In 2020, it acquired a $2 billion multifamily portfolio, consisting of 36 properties and 13,243 units, Pate notes.
While responsible for the network management, strategy, and execution of a portfolio of real estate equity and debt investments, Pate also innovates, he adds.
“My career path at Harbor Group has been enriching as I leverage technology to challenge old ways of thinking, conduct business and improve the lives of our residents,” Pate says.
Growth = opportunities
The acquisitions create opportunity to reconsider how technology supports Harbor Group Management’s operations, Pate says. That’s covers everything from how network infrastructure is designed to how help desk tickets are handled by a managed service provider.
“Harbor Group is transitioning from the cable to the cloud,” which has enabled the company to bring the 56-property portfolio it recently acquired online remotely, Pate says.
Pate’s priority when joining Harbor Group Management was to evaluate and build security infrastructure as well as a turnkey disaster recovery plan. To support it, he’s introduced Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and expanded the company’s mobile presence but says the COVID-19 pandemic is what truly brought the platforms into wider use.
It took one weekend in March 2020 to roll out the protocols and processes, he says. To help prepare staff and residents for closed offices and limited in-person service, he and his staff distributed employee training materials and videos.
“Technology is our most valuable tool that ultimately brings us closer together,” he says. “The happiest I could possibly be from the work we’ve done is from the flip of a switch, there’s zero negative impact on our employees.”
Partners and protection
With the company increasing in size, so have service requests. Pate says Harbor Group Management partners with Virginia Beach-based Eastern Data to manage one of the company’s help desks.
“I have to make sure the partnerships are there and that partners have the experience in the realm of networking, telephony, cybersecurity, and data center to ensure a secure environment without sacrificing convenience,” Pate says.
He also needs to ensure fast internet, particularly with more residents working from home. As he explains, “it’s become almost a basic utility. You expect heat, water and electricity to work and now there’s the expectation that internet will work, too.”
He says future improvements might include adding digital “smart” devices such as door locks and thermostats. Online leasing and virtual housing tours could also “improve the digital experience for customers,” he adds.
By the Bay
Though he’s helping Harbor Group Management grow nationwide, Pate has never strayed too far from his Tidewater and Chesapeake Bay roots.
“I’ve always enjoyed living near the coast, and knew I would find my way back,” he says of growing up in Virginia Beach, which neighbors Norfolk. He attended George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C. There he earned his bachelor’s degree in economics while minoring in information technology in 2013.
After graduation, Pate joined ABS Technology as a project coordinator, and within a year, in February 2014, he became a project manager. Pate oversaw projects including cabling, cloud and data center conversions and building networks for customers in state and local government, health care and small and mid-sized private businesses.
In May 2017, Pate joined Harbor Group Management as its IT infrastructure manager. In February 2019, he became the director of IT infrastructure.
“Change is scary, but without it, growth isn’t possible,” Pate says. “I’ve accomplished much in my career and am excited for what the future holds for me at Harbor Group.”
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