Abbey Gilroy says that real estate development is where she is meant to be, and that’s a good thing. As executive director of the nonprofit Neighborhood Development Corp., she is guiding major projects in long-neglected areas of Des Moines.

Her career path has led directly to the development corporation.

Gilroy was an office manager at a small architectural firm after graduating from Iowa State University in 2002. She saw buildings being created at the drawing board and marveled at the sense of accomplishment those directly involved in the process experienced when a job was completed.

She wanted more involvement in the process, and landed a job as a construction manager for SVPA Architects Inc., where she oversaw the development of the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage campus in West Des Moines.

“I was working with the best in the real estate and construction industry,” she said. “I made sure to listen closely at every meeting to soak in and learn from these knowledgeable people.”

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage recruited her to work as a project manager in its real estate division. The crash of the housing market brought an end to that job. She went to work for Kum & Go LC as its real estate development manager, a job that suited her love of travel. She worked in 11 states during the four years she worked for Kum & Go.

“All of those jobs led to this,” Gilroy said of her current leadership role with the Neighborhood Development Corp.

The organization, which focuses on infill development, has aggressively acquired land that developers in the private sector have found problematic.

“We knew Abbey had the technical skills to lead our organization, but we failed to recognize the passion, drive and professionalism she would bring to her leadership post,” Matt Anderson, assistant city manager for the city of Des Moines, wrote.

Reasons she’s a Forty:

• Former member of the Dallas Center City Council

• Member of the Corporation for Economic Development board

• Her professional zeal has caught the attention of a wide range of community leaders.

• She is devoted to improving blighted neighborhoods and those that are in transition.

• She “pushes me to be more creative,” said Bill Wright, senior vice president at Terrus Real Estate Group LLC, who acts as the Neighborhood Development Corp.’s real estate consultant.