When Jay L. Johnson joined Lamar Advertising Company (Nasdaq: LAMR) as EVP, CFO, and treasurer in the fall of 2019, he brought with him extensive experience from the banking industry in roles at KeyBank Real Estate Capital and Bank of America, as well as from lodging REITs DiamondRock Hospitality Company (NYSE: DRH) and Host Hotels & Resorts, Inc. (Nasdaq: HST).
At Lamar, Johnson leads all financial aspects of the company.
How were you introduced to real estate?
After business school, I covered real estate companies and REITs as a banker. I later had the opportunity to join the finance team at Host Hotels & Resorts, where I ultimately became treasurer responsible for global financing before transitioning to my first CFO role at another lodging REIT. I never envisioned that path or having the opportunity to return home to Louisiana with Lamar, but it has been a wonderful experience.
What lessons has Lamar learned during the pandemic?
We approached our response with all stakeholders in mind—associates, customers, and the communities surrounding us. COVID-19 reinforced the operational flexibility of Lamar, validated our business model versus competitors, and has proven the resilience of out-of-home advertising as a real estate asset class. It also reinforced the role billboards play in delivering important messaging to communities, whether that is providing critical vaccine information or communicating after a natural disaster.
What is Lamar’s approach to environmental issues?
We come from a thesis that supporting the environment is mutually beneficial. Lamar was the first out-of-home advertising company to print on polyethylene billboard materials, which pioneered the use of 100% recyclable material as the standard for high-efficiency billboard printing. Since 2013, we have installed over 90,000 LED lights on billboards, yielding a 72% reduction in energy usage on those structures, and we’re committed to completing the transition to LED lighting across our portfolio by 2026. In addition, we have installed more than 7,000 solar panels on our billboards, with an aggregate installed capacity of 1.7 megawatts. These systems, collectively, return over 2 million kilowatt hours to the grid annually.
What priorities should REITs focus now?
One of the most important priorities facing the real estate industry is diversity, equity, and inclusion. REITs lag broader corporates on this journey, both at the executive and board levels. There has been some progress around gender diversity in recent years, and that certainly is positive. We know diverse teams lead to outperforming organizations, but diversity and inclusion require commitment and support from the highest levels of an enterprise to be successful. I am confident that the leaders in our industry understand the importance of inclusion, and belonging, and are taking the necessary steps to foster an inclusive corporate environment.