Troy Downing, CEO, AC Self Storage Solutions, Big Sky, Mont.

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Through humble beginnings, there is a propensity for greatness. That’s the path Troy Downing, CEO of AC Self Storage Solutions, with national locations from California to Louisiana, is following. One of three children raised by a single mother, who worked as a cashier at a grocery store in Indio, Calif., Downing has been using his resilience to reach lofty goals his entire life.

For starters, Downing attended New York University to study computer science. He went on to become a researcher and teacher at the university. Then he co-founded WebCal, one of the first web-based calendar systems. It merged with Yahoo in 1998 and, shortly thereafter, Downing relocated to Montana to enjoy the hunting and fishing.

But the terrorist attacks of 9/11 filled Downing with an overwhelming desire to do something meaningful, citing a duty to give back. Therefore, he left the technology industry to enlist in the U.S. Air Force / Air National Guard. Downing then spent eight years as a member of the 129th Rescue Squadron, including two tours to Afghanistan, where he utilized his previous flight experience to conduct combat search and rescue missions (CSAR) via PaveHawk helicopter.

Called To Serve
Although he remained with the Air National Guard until November 2009, during which time he began investing in self-storage real estate and built his company, Downing feels he has once again been called to serve. This time, however, his aim is to join the legislative branch of the government by becoming a U.S. senator.

Stating that he’s compelled to “be part of the solution,” Downing says that it’s time to “get some sanity” in Washington, D.C., by replacing one of the career politicians: Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, a Democrat who has been in office for nearly 20 years and in the U.S. Senate for the past 11 years. 

While Downing has no previous experience as a politician, he is certain that he has what it takes to garner the support of the people of Montana. Moreover, Downing believes he can best represent them because, as he says, they have “shared interests”. For instance, he loves Montana, pledging to help preserve the state’s unique wilderness and the people’s access to public land. “Right now, it’s not being managed properly for Montanans,” says Downing, adding that he would be a state’s rights advocate.

“I’m tired of the dysfunction and the anger that we’re seeing, and I think I have some interesting perspectives,” he says, adding that he has lived a rich and diverse life.

In addition, Downing feels that his past has given him the ability to resolve issues and relate to “all kinds” of people—something career politicians struggle to do. “We should elect people who know what it’s like to be an average American,” he says. “I’ve been in a lot of different places in my life and I’ve seen a lot of different things. I’ve had a wide variety of experiences and a unique background to solve problems.”

He’s also adamant that Capitol Hill is in desperate need of fresh minds with new ideas in order to bring about positive change, remarking that the term limits for elected officials should be addressed to keep politicians from losing their focus—and effectiveness—due to institutionalization. Downing goes on to say that there are plenty of the politicians who have been living in Washington, D.C., for so long that they lack “modern experience,” which he believes is essential to correct the problems that are impeding our nation. 

“There needs to be a flow of people,” Downing says. However, he doesn’t encourage the “us versus them” mentality. “We need to be working together.” He’d also like to see an end to the polarization that is increasing among people and their representatives.

Clear Objectives
Most of Downing’s goals revolve around helping people thrive. First of all, if elected as senator, he’d attempt to create higher wage earning jobs in Montana by fostering and investing in the state’s technology industry.

He’s also a big advocate of small government and simplification. Therefore, Downing would seek to reduce the number of regulations imposed upon companies by the government as he believes excessive regulations hinder the success of small businesses. Essentially, Downing wants business owners to have more freedom when it comes to how they operate their companies.

“The government is regulating them into oblivion,” says Downing. “It’s un-American. There are too many over-reaching regulations. There needs to be less restrictions for companies.”

Downing has plenty of ideas for the self-storage industry as well. For example, he would like to make funding more accessible to those who wish to invest in self-storage. Downing also feels that there’s room for improvement as far as regulations and legislation go, stating that consistency across the nation could advance the industry as a whole. In particular, he mentions that streamlining operations and selling tenant insurance should be top priorities as they can generate significant revenue.

He would like to tackle the “overbearing and complicated” tax system that is burdensome to small businesses as well. “There’s no homogeneity with the tax code,” he says, noting that a business owner can spend thousands of dollars on tax preparation, but receive varying results depending upon who prepares them. “The costs and penalties need to be addressed,” says Downing.

What’s more, Downing is ready and eager to handle big issues like healthcare reform. “There needs to be communication and discussions to uncover the underlining problems,” he says, adding that there is a question that must be asked: “Why is healthcare so expensive in the United States compared to other countries?”

Where He Stands
On May 8, Downing filed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to run for office in 2018. He has visited the White House to discuss a potential Senate bid and joins state Sen. Al Olszewski as Republican hopefuls for Tester’s seat. However, there are others who may be up for the challenge, including Attorney General Tim Fox and State Auditor Matthew Rosendale.

While Downing recognizes that beating two-term Tester won’t be an easy task, especially when Democrats were quick to point out that he had made a few critical tweets about President Trump during the 2016 presidential election, he’s ready to give it his all. Downing, who admits to making the tweets, says that he has learned to “embrace it,” pointing out that although he’s not always comfortable with the way Trump communicates, he supports Trump’s policies and believes that he will improve the nation.

Nevertheless, with personal ties to Trump’s Interior Secretary and former Montana congressman Ryan Zinke, who has been advising and encouraging him, and a strong will to succeed, Downing has begun raising money from numerous sources for his campaign. He will be self-funding his campaign as well.

Should Downing defeat Tester next year, his business partners would take over the operations of his storage company, AC Self Storage Solutions. “I would step down, but the company would continue,” he says, adding that he plans to win the senate race.

But, regardless of the outcome, Downing is driven to become involved in Montana’s politics. If defeated, he states that he will “try again if the opportunity arises”.

Lend A Hand
Despite being the underdog of this particular Senate race, Downing has the gumption it takes to make it to the end. However, the support of the self-storage industry could lighten the load of his political pursuit. You can lend Downing a hand by sharing his story, which, undoubtedly, is one that resonates with everyday Americans who are hopeful of a better future, and encouraging others to do the same.

“Anything is always possible,” says Downing.

Erica Shatzer is the editor of Mini-Storage Messenger, Self-Storage Now!, and Self-Storage Canada.

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