Victor International is a marriage between art and science. At least that is how Chairman David V. Johnson views the construction company he founded more than 30 years ago in Michigan.
“The art is the design phase, the creativity involved in each community, and the science is engineering environmentally sustainable structures,” he explains.
Johnson is part visionary, part entrepreneurial explorer and part world ambassador for the environment. He consistently has been able to find and develop communities in places of unparalleled beauty during the last three decades, always leaving the area better than he found it. “I have the ability to see what can be versus what it is,” he claims.
That vision of possibility is what made him undertake the Bay Harbor development in Northern Michigan in the mid-1990s. When Victor International and CMS Energy looked at the area, there was a cement plant with a pocketed moonscape terrain. Today, the site is a thriving four-season luxury community overlooking Lake Michigan with a marina, equestrian club, hotel and conference center.
In the spirit of conservation and sustainability, Johnson encouraged the use of electric vehicles in the new Northern Michigan development. “In Bay Harbor, we have the largest per capita usage of electric vehicles in the world,” Johnson points out. This effort did not go unnoticed – Johnson received the 2009 GEM Car Visionary Award from Global Electric Motors for his contribution to the application of alternative fuel vehicles in planned communities. During that same year, the community entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest electric vehicle parade.
The use of renewable energy is important to Victor International and the company always respects the surroundings of each development. “My goal is to do one-of-a-kind, generational family communities, in harmony with nature,” Johnson explains.
The search for new development sites, and his love for the area, brought Victor International to the British Virgin Islands (BVI). “I searched for 10 years for a place to build in the Caribbean and fell in love with the BVI,” he explains. The mild weather – never too hot or humid – natural beauty, pristine beaches and world-class sailing, made this the perfect spot for the company’s next enterprises.
In 2006, the company acquired the Biras Creek Resort, located in Virgin Gorda a secluded resort only accessible by boat or helicopter. The luxury destination features 31 suites and is surrounded by three distinct bodies of water – the North Sound, the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The resort won the 2012 Traveler’s Choice Award and Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor. The same year, Biras was rated number one as the Best Hotel Villa in the Caribbean by Qyster.com, as reported by the Huffington Post.
In its next development two years later at Oil Nut Bay, Victor International proved that their commitment to the natural environment runs deep. Although BVI zoning regulations allowed them to build up to 300 units on the 300 acres it owned, Victor International set out to build only 88.
The company also implemented a variety of ecological initiatives, capturing wind and solar power to generate electricity for desalinization plants, air conditioning and refrigeration. Also, Victor International promoted the use of zero-emissions electric cars for transportation.
As part of that development, the company will build a nature center to teach children and adults the importance of sound ecological practices. “We want to build the facilities to train future generations about the land and the sea, to provide them with educational information,” Johnson explains. The nature center construction phase is schedule to be completed in the winter of 2013.
The commitment to the environment touches every one in the company. “Every worker in our company knows that it is very important to have respect for the environment, respect for nature,” he says. “That is why we use electrical vehicles, solar power and new environmentally friendly technologies.”
Investing in the Future
Johnson’s passion for the environment is followed closely by his passion for boating. In 2010, he built a Superyacht Marina in the Virgin Islands and partnered with Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS) to build a new location for its club on the eastern tip of Virgin Gorda, BVI.
The new marina, named Yacht Club Costa Smeralda Virgin Gorda, or YCCS Virgin Gorda, has been called the best in the world, according to Johnson. The marina has floating docks with 38 slips for yachts ranging between 100 to 300 feet in size and drafts of up to 30 feet.
“There is a yacht club, a restaurant and we’re going to have a spa and fitness center,” Johnson explains. “For security and privacy issues, the property is only accessible by boat.”
The limited accessibility of the location meant that every building material, as well as every worker, had to be brought in by boat on a daily basis. But that wasn’t the biggest challenge the company faced.
“That was logistics – it was not a big deal,” Johnson recalls. “The biggest challenge was building during the worst economic climate in the world. The Caribbean was full of failed developments and some people were skeptical.”
“We felt the pressure and the economic uncertainty, but we had the courage to persevere and we created something that was unique and that is now tremendously successful,” he adds. “We utilized our own resources and incurred no debt.”
This development not only benefited the international sailing community, but the BVI economy as well. “Despite the grim economy in the world, we were able to continue to provide jobs in the British Virgin Islands and give people a great outlet,” Johnson explains.
The BVI News reported in January 2012 that, during the grand opening of YCCS, the Premier and Minister for Tourism Dr. Orlando Smith acknowledged the positive impact the development had on the local economy.
“It’s not often that an investor comes to your shores, invests more than $100 million in the most difficult global economic environment, and succeeds in doing so without debt,” Smith said.
The international sailing community at large will definitely benefit from the new facilities. “YCCS has had phenomenal international regattas and transatlantic races,” Johnson says. “The super yachts that come here think it’s a great facility.”
The trade winds, predictable weather patterns and breathtaking landscape and clear waters make BVI one of the finest cruising destinations in the Northern Hemisphere, the company points out.
With so many accomplishments, some might think Johnson has accomplished all he set out to do. However, that couldn’t be further from his mind. “I love what I do,” he says. “I like doing things that have never been done before and doing them better than anybody else.”
Johnson credits the company’s success to its employees’ ongoing efforts and creativity. “The biggest thing that we do, what amazes everybody is that everything that we do is different,” he explains.
“We don’t have a bright box that we do over and over again. We have unlimited creativity to ensure that every place we do is one of a kind and the best.”
There is no magic wand that brings success to the company – it is all about unyielding passion for the work Victor International does. “It is [success] achieved by a tremendous amount of effort and team work,” Johnson says. “We have the best team, from architects to planners and structural engineers, all the way to the person doing the landscape maintenance. They are passionate, I’m passionate.”
Victor International plans to continue on its path of excellence in the future. “We focus on a market that respects quality and we deliver that quality disproportionately,” Johnson says. “We are committed to extreme low density and higher operational excellence. We are going to focus on making what we are doing the best.”