Alum of the Month: Dennis Joyce ‘79

After 30 years in banking, he decided it was time for a new challenge. Now Dennis is a top executive at RIDC.

Dennis Joyce ‘79

If you’re feeling a bit stir crazy from enforced isolation and social distancing, spare a thought for Dennis Joyce ‘79. The chief operating officer of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation, or RIDC, tore his quadriceps tendon back in March during a trail hike in South Park, requiring surgery and a 9-day stay in a rehab unit. He was released just in time to shelter in place.

Lucky for Joyce, who has been in a rigid leg brace for eight weeks, most workplaces including his own have had to shift to a telecommuting model. As the third biggest holder of commercial real estate property in western Pennsylvania, the private nonprofit needs some property management personnel to be available on site, he says. But for the most part, the staff is handling work from home. 

“It’s working,” Joyce says. “We have a lunch-and-learn every Friday, where someone on our staff will take a turn to talk about their work, what they have to get through as projects, and issues they have to deal with.”

RIDC’s latest major project is Mill 19, a huge former steel mill in Hazelwood stripped down to its skeleton of girders and refitted with high-tech workshops, offices, and laboratories for robotics and advanced manufacturing. The concept is similar to what RIDC has done with former mill properties throughout the region, including a former Volkswagen and Sony plant in Westmoreland County and the old Westinghouse factory in Turtle Creek.

As opposed to most real estate developers, RIDC can accept a return on investment significantly lower than 20 percent as long as the project advances its mission of helping to strengthen the region’s economy. But there is always a focus on improving revenue streams in order to enable more reinvestment, says Joyce, whose role puts him in charge of finance, asset and property management, and human resources.

“A lot of the work is taking these facilities in negatively impacted communities and turning them around so that we can add employment,” says Joyce. “It’s very satisfying to do that. We provide space for entrepreneurial work, so they can focus on putting the money into the business.”

Joyce grew up in Oakland as the oldest of four children, and was the first in his family to go to college. Working in construction to help pay his way through school forced him to adopt a quirky schedule — taking classes only in the winter semester — that prevented him from staying at Pitt. So he transferred to Robert Morris University and earned his degree in business management. Joyce particularly remembers a night class on inventory management taught by an upper-level manager at Westinghouse.

“I was already in the working world,” he says. “I wasn’t a wide-eyed student without a lot of work experience. So I found it really rewarding that I was taught by people who worked in the industry.”

After graduation, Joyce worked with a property management company for a while, then moved into banking, where he enjoyed a 30-year career, rising to the level of a senior financial manager at BNY Mellon. He started at Mellon Bank in a department that restructured real estate loans, and did that all around the country, including a five-year stint in Florida.  In 2012 he became managing director of real estate credit risk, overseeing $5 billion in commercial real estate loans and also accountable for over $3 billion in community development loans for low income housing. 

Joyce was vice chairman of board of RIDC when he was offered the position of COO. He says he and his wife were considering moving to Florida, but they were glad to stay in Pittsburgh where they can see their sons and their grandchildren. One of whom recently got to spend the weekend, and ran into the room to participate in a recent videoconference.