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Conversation with the Council featuring Tom Hoban, Chief Investment Officer and Partner of Kitson & Partners

“Keep charging hard but with a softer touch.” That’s the advice Tom Hoban would give his younger self. “I have a strong work ethic, which led me to Wall Street upon graduation, where I worked for eight years. The Wall Street environment is intense. Working seven days a week for 100-120 hours a week can take its toll on you. The learning curve is tremendous, but it comes with a lot of sacrifices as well. While I would not trade that experience, I would tell my younger self to slow down a bit and enjoy it more.”

Running so hard and fast resulted in Tom sacrificing time with friends in New York as well as family in his hometown of Chatham, New Jersey, about 20 miles west of Manhattan. However, his hometown remains a special place because it’s where Tom, as an elementary school student, met a 10-year-old girl named Christine Dowling. “We were great friends, always there for each other.

We grew up together and went to each other’s proms but never dated. Many years later, in 2001, I got her tickets to see her favorite Broadway show, Les Misérables. It was January, and after the show, over drinks, we talked about why we had never gotten together. Well, that changed quickly. By that August, we were engaged and married the following June”.

You could say it was a 19-year courtship. “Either she was slow on the uptake, or I was desperate.” Tom joked. Twenty-one years later, they have three children, two teenage boys (Dillon and Cian), and an 11-year-old daughter (Quinn). “Most of the family time is spent on soccer fields, as all three children play travel soccer. We teach our kids to have compassion and to be good teammates. Establish a strong work ethic and see everything through. The harder you are willing to work, the better the outcome.”

It’s the same approach Tom took as a high schooler pushing himself to get the grades to attend Notre Dame and make his grandfather happy. “My grandfather was a nononsense, blue-collar hard-charging guy. He told all fifteen of his grandchildren to go to Norte Dame, and seven of us did. He had a big influence on me.” As did Tom’s parents. “I had and have incredibly loving and supporting parents that instilled confidence and compassion. My father’s dad died when he was six, so he had to grow up fast and help support his family. He had three jobs by the time he was eight years old, and he never looked back. Among the many gifts I received from my dad, his grit and his work ethic stand out as character traits that I try to emulate. My mom is one of the kindest and most selfless people on the planet, and she is a woman of deep faith.

Among the many gifts I received from my mom, the emphasis on doing what is right, putting others first, and having a deep faith are some traits I owe to my mom. The combination of these core strengths helped me perform well in school, business, and life in general.”

One vision that has become a reality is Babcock Ranch, a new town that Kitson & Partners is developing in Southwest Florida. It is built on the principle that smart growth and preservation can work together. It’s the brainchild of Tom and his business partner Syd Kitson. “We asked ourselves how do we do something that embraces innovation and sustainability to create a new town we can be proud of?” Over 90% of the original 91,000-acre ranch has been set aside for permanent preservation. All power and fiber are buried underground, and water drains into the natural waterways and wetlands.

The environmentally conscious community was built to withstand our everchanging weather pattern. Homes sit twenty-five feet above sea level to avoid storm surge, and the primary power source is a 150-megawatt FPL solar array, making it the first “solar city”. In 2022, Hurricane Ian, a category four storm, put their design to the test. “Ian sat over the community for several hours. We never lost power or wifi, we didn’t flood, and our water utility remained intact, which allowed our residents to get back to their lives the very next day. Building a new town from the ground up is no small feat. It takes collaboration, creativity, and an intense focus on details.” The local and national media were intrigued, as was 60 Minutes which dedicated a segment to Babcock Ranch, enhancing its lure and making it a desired destination. 

Upon buildout, Babcock Ranch will be home to over 50,000 residents. A self-described servant-leader, as President and Chief Investment Officer at Kitson & Partners Tom says he always puts his people first. “We win and lose as a team. I believe in setting goals, giving teammates responsibility and authority, and then holding them accountable. All along the way, I am here to help in any way that I can. By working together as a team, we can reach new heights that we didn’t think were possible. I believe strongly that a good team can accomplish a lot more than a good individual.”

It’s the team approach that drew his interest in the Economic Council of Palm Beach County. Currently, he serves as Chair of the Policy Committee. “As a resident and worker in Palm Beach County, I have a vested interest in making sure we protect and enhance our area. No organization has more of an influence on that than the Economic Council. It is quite an honor to be part of this special group of people.”

However, he does see challenges on the horizon. “We need to find solutions that ensure that our entire working community, including our teachers, service workers, and first responders, can afford to live in a home in Palm Beach County. The recent passing of the housing bill, which the Economic Council helped lead, is a major step in the right direction. We need to be strategic and think about how people will be living in the next 10 to 20 years. Look how differently we all live, work and recreate today than we did just 5 plus years ago. We need to help the county figure out how all the innovation that is happening around us will impact people and goods movement and then put a long-term transportation plan in place to make sure that Palm Beach County is a convenient and efficient place to get from point A to point B. Finally, we need to work together with the county to make sure there are proper resources in place to train our workforce. There is a huge need for skilled labor and trade labor and that need is not being met.”

However, as a solutions-oriented person, Tom is ready for the challenge. It’s his drive that makes him successful. He puts in the effort while always following the advice of his first boss on Wall Street, Bill Smith. “He ran investment banking at Dean Witter and embodied the traits of both my mom and dad. Bill has been my mentor since 1995, and he has served on my company’s board since 2004. His emphasis on doing what is right, putting others before self, and having a deep faith have helped validate how important these core values are to me, and by embracing these, it has kept me on the right path throughout my career.”

And that path recently led him back to where it all started in South Bend, Indiana. Tom had the opportunity to impact young minds as a guest lecturer at his alma mater. “I told the students to appreciate all the people in their lives that helped them get to this point. Their parents, friends, teammates, teachers and coaches. Continue to surround yourself with high-quality people, keep working hard and good things will happen. It was quite a humbling experience, and I knew my grandfather was looking down with a big smile on his face.”

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