On this episode of the Student Housing Matters Podcast Alton Irwin interviews Debra Lockwood to gain some insight into the way she and Provident Resources Group operate. On the way they discuss the history of Provident Resources Group and how Debra became one of the leaders of this influential national non-profit. Currently Debra serves as the President and Chief Financial Officer for Provident Resources Group. She maintains a busy schedule and probably works more hours than she is willing to admit while still finding the joy in meeting new people every day, enjoying hobbies like dancing and facing new operational challenges.
Like most hard-working business professionals Debra worked her way up from the bottom, beginning her career with 20 years of public accounting, audits and later on businesses evaluations. Throughout her early career she loved new challenges and was able to successfully make a lot of connections, including a personal tax client Steve Hicks. When Debra first met Hicks, he was working as a public finance lawyer. Steve Hicks would later on in life be ready for a career change and decide to start the Provident Resources Group, a company that Debra quickly took interest in and even sat on the Board of from the beginning. Debra explained that she soon began to realize that she wanted to move away from selling and dive deeper into the industry of non-profit ownership and operation.
Provident Resources Group is a national non-profit founded in 1999 by Steve Hicks focused on making a positive impact on the country through the development, ownership and operation of facilities including health care, senior living and even student housing which is the industry this interview will focus on. In the case of student housing, which makes up a whopping 74% of Provident’s portfolio the story really begins in 2008. Debra explained that when a lot of businesses seemed to be struggling, Provident Resources Group was just finding their niche. One of the many economic results from the 2008 recession was Universities receiving less state funding but still finding the need for additional student housing. When Universities began to understand the correlation between the quality of student housing and academic success, they realized that a public, private partnership could be extremely beneficial!
When Debra and Provident set out to begin a new project as the non-profit owner of the building they are taking on a lot of responsibilities. First of all, as the primary owner and borrower they are in charge of overseeing of construction, finalizing contracts and most importantly keeping all involved parties properly engaged and involved in decision making. The three pillars of the project operating committee in a student housing project are Provident, the University and the Management Company, in this case we’ll assume it is COCM. Debra was quick to point out how crucial it is to involve a management company like COCM from the beginning of construction because throughout the project the University is relying on Provident and Provident is relying on COCM to ensure students enjoy living in the building. While sometimes not an easy task to accomplish, when all three parties are able to work together it’s a win for both the University and the Students. In the end Debra described how a good project is defined by all three parties being satisfied and happy students succeeding academically!
Just a few minutes into the interview it becomes distinctly clear that the culture at Provident Resources Group is much like COCM, one of collaboration and joyful success. In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic Provident was happy to embrace video conferencing and Debra even pointed out how it has improved their relationships with clients and staff who would normally just be speaking over the phone! Debra and Steve both encourage their staff to collaborate on projects and strive for new challenges each and every day much like the staff at COCM does. Whatever challenge comes next, there is no doubt that Debra and Provident Resources Group will be ready to take it on.