When Michael Tompkins, managing partner at Atlanta-based TriBridge Residential LLC, visits a banker to line up funding for a new multifamily project, he's not overwhelmed by anxiety.

“It's pretty easy for us to sit in front of a banker and talk about what we're going to do,” he says. “I think we've established the fact that we can get it built if we say we're going to build it.” Five years ago, the company, earlier known as Julian LeCraw & Co. LLC, and JLC Southeast, had a portfolio of 4,500 units. Today, it has 17,000 units, which are 60% owned, and 40% fee managed.

“We've been able to attract new investors, both national and international. We are, from a funding standpoint, in the strongest position we've been in, in over 20 years,” says Tompkins. His strategy is to increase the portfolio to 25,000 units, growing from seven states and 15 cities in the Southeast and Southwest to 20 cities in 10 states, as the U.S. migration from North to South continues to make Sunbelt sites attractive.

Although TriBridge primarily has units in Florida and Texas, Tennessee and North Carolina also rank high. The firm will develop two projects with a combined 525 units this year, one in Nashville, the other in Jacksonville, Fla.

TriBridge is among the nation's top 20 owner-managers of student housing. But the bulk of its renters belong to the Y-generation, in their mid-20s to mid-30s. Other demographic groups are also renters. “There's going to be an inordinate number of baby boomers that are going to start renting,” says Tompkins.

He joined the firm in 1990, and owns a one-third stake with two other managing partners. Formerly with the Jackie Robinson Foundation in New York City, Tompkins was 2008 chairman of the National Apartment Association.

The firm has rewarded investors with returns of 27% over the last 10 years, he says, although in today's market, delivering 15% to 22% is “doing pretty well.”

Values matter in business, asserts Tompkins. “Trust for me is absolutely paramount. I gotta trust you.” Execution is also critical. “I'd like to think that I've been very successful as a result and people that I've been partnered with and people that are invested in us have prospered as a result.”