Many think of property managers as the people responsible for the physical upkeep of a property -- keeping areas clean, fixing leaky roofs, changing light bulbs, and filling potholes in the parking lot. While this is certainly part of the job description, it doesn’t begin to describe all of the many services Kimco’s property management team offers.

There’s a headline in Kimco's 2011 Annual Report that neatly sums up our mission: “Beyond Property: Service Counts.” Our goal is to ensure our tenants are operating in best-in-class shopping centers that meet their business needs and provide their customers with an excellent shopping experience.

Here are three ways Kimco’s property management team is reaching this goal, and advancing the art of property management for our tenants.

Property management mastery

As Kimco has evolved, so have we. We see each of our shopping centers as distinct businesses and our property managers as strategic business managers, not just caretakers.

We hire, train, and develop property managers who are well-versed in all key facets of our business. They must have a strong understanding of facilities and construction, of course, but they also must be good business people who know legal issues, financial planning and analysis, purchasing, and project management.

Perhaps most of all, our property managers must have outstanding customer service skills. We are, after all, the face of Kimco to our tenants. Our property managers must be sensitive to the stresses and demands our tenants experience every day, and have a deep understanding of how retail businesses operate and the factors that drive their success.

This is especially true when it comes to small-shop tenants. Our property managers are well aware of the complications small-business owners, especially first-timers, face just getting their doors open. We help them overcome the hurdles of the construction and permitting process, because we see their success as our success.

Maximizing CAM benefits

One of the primary services we provide our tenants is to manage their common area maintenance (CAM) dollars. This industry-standard fee covers the upkeep, maintenance, and overall appearance of the property.

CAM is absolutely critical to each tenant’s success. Studies have shown that attractive, well-maintained and well-lit shopping centers have a positive effect on the foot traffic that drives retail sales.

Beyond basic upkeep, Kimco is working hard to upgrade the overall appearance of its shopping centers. From major renovations, to enhancements in landscaping and signage, we’re investing a lot of time, energy, and money to create high-quality shopping environments that draw consumers.

When it comes to our tenants’ contribution, we take seriously our responsibility to manage their CAM dollars for maximum benefit. It’s our duty to make sure we’re buying services and products from qualified contractors and getting the best value possible.

We take a long-term view, budgeting not only for everyday repairs and maintenance, but for capital projects we anticipate over a five-year period. This strategic planning process helps us prioritize our efforts so we improve our properties while keeping our CAM charges at a level that’s affordable for our tenants.

Sustainability savings

Among the ways we’re saving tenants money is through Kimco’s ever-expanding array of sustainability initiatives. One example is Kimco's waste management program. By contracting with a national service provider, we’re able to offer customized service levels at market competitive rates. And by using one waste hauler, a single truck visit can handle multiple tenants at a particular site, reducing pollution and wear and tear on the property. We save money, too, by not having to deal with multiple vendors.

We’ve also outsourced Kimco’s utility management services to a third party, eliminating the time-consuming and costly task of processing common area utility bills. With this vendor, we’re assured of getting the most cost-effective rate plan for each of our 8,000-plus accounts, we eliminate unnecessary services, and we have the opportunity to buy bulk energy in deregulated markets, saving our tenants and Kimco even more money.

Speaking of energy, Kimco’s solar power program enables us to generate our own electricity at a significant savings -- savings we pass along to our tenants. In addition to the solar power arrays we own and operate at six shopping centers in New Jersey, we’re working on an expanded program that will see us leasing rooftops for solar power development across the country. This will certainly benefit participating tenants by reducing their energy costs, while providing Kimco with an additional source of incremental income.

A similar opportunity for cost-savings exists in the use of building control systems, already in place at 10 of our shopping centers, with 40 more to be set up by the end of the year. Under Kimco’s new Gateway Building Controls program, property managers can monitor and control common area lighting and irrigation in real time using their iPads, reducing costs and enabling them to respond more quickly to power outages and other problems. We’ll be posting more information about our Gateway program soon.

Kimco also is helping control tenant costs by expanding the use of submeters to measure water consumption, and upgrading site lighting for quality and energy efficiency. For instance, we’ve written on our blog about how Kimco completed outdoor lighting retrofit projects at its Oakcreek Village and Chatham Plaza shopping centers.

Good for tenants, Kimco, and the environment

Not only are these initiatives good for our tenants’ and Kimco’s bottom lines, they’re also good for the environment. You can read more about Kimco’s sustainability program on our web site and in the blog posts and tweets of my colleague, Kimco’s Director of Sustainability, Will Teichman.

By treating each shopping center as a business and each tenant as a valued customer, Kimco is advancing the art of property management. And, in doing so, we’re taking our company to a new level, as we work hard to become the landlord and business partner of choice in our industry. I’m proud of our accomplishments thus far, and eager to share with you more news about property management best practices in future blog posts.