With Discovery Investment Group, Paul Gifford has combined real-estate development with investing in a way that has filled a neglected niche in Utah's housing market.

As an owner of Sundance Homes, Gifford helped the company to record sales each year from 1998 through 2005, when he and his partners sold the company. The experience at Sundance had helped Gifford form a plan for developing, marketing and selling homes not just to local buyers, but also to investors.

That approach required months of research to find the right places nationwide to recruit potential investors, as well as the property that would meet their investing needs. Discovery has had to balance the interests of its investor clients with the requirements of individual local buyers.

One way the company did this was to eschew the established model of building luxury spec homes, choosing instead to develop entry-level condominiums that offered decent quality at the market's lowest price.

This business model proved timely as Utah's real-estate market slowed and the subprime-mortgage crisis made lending difficult. Discovery's business model insulates the company from local market conditions.

Lehi-based Discovery has attracted more than 6,000 investors and works with more than 110 builders and developers across the country. The company's success also has led to expansion into other segments of the real-estate market, including office space, industrial warehouses and self-storage facilities.