This year I had the pleasure of attending the CoreNet Eastern Regional Symposium (ERS) in Washington, DC on the campus of The George Washington University.
The two days proved to be filled with interesting conversations on the state of real estate in addition to interesting sessions on the geo-political and world economy that provided a macro-view of impacts to keep aware of that will impact our day to day lives and future strategy.
A big thank you to everyone who helped put together all the content, logistics and planning required to make this a great event!
Final Note: If there are inaccuracies from the notes below, this is a fault of no-one but myself and my note taking :)
This year’s theme was Global Interdependency and the sessions proved to be full of interesting insights and information. I was able to attend many sessions and here are my condensed notes on the sessions I was able to attend.
Supply Chain Dependence on Global Relations: How We Can Plan Ahead
- Spencer Levy | CBRE
When the pandemic hit, our supply chains were hit hard. The always-on supply chain faced significant challenges around worker shortages, high freight costs and an increase in e-commerce demand with people in their homes. Travis, Troy, Linda and Spencer discussed the supply chain impact and how real estate considerations have been impacted in the industry.
- Innovation Coming: There is a disruption happening within supply chains for technological innovation that can better route and manage all aspects of the supply chain. These supply chains have gotten overwhelmingly complex and need better ways to be more nimble.
- Diversifying Real Estate: For big supply chain brands, most organizations are realizing the mistake of single source warehousing. Most brands are working on building redundancies both through investment and partnerships with Third Party Logistics (3PL) Providers.
- Warehouse vs. Office Space: We are seeing some interesting changes in the value of real estate as a Warehouse location vs. Office Space in CRE. As office space valuations are decreasing, many warehouses are increasing on a square foot basis.
A New Era of Global Relations
- Katty Kay | Author & Journalist
- Peter Miscovich | JLL
The Monday keynote was a bit of a departure from real estate but a needed conversation on the world political and economic environment with BBC and Morning Brew’s Katty Kay and JLL's Peter Miscovich. From Russia and Ukraine to the competition with China to Hybrid work, Peter and Katty had a terrific session on all the global impacts that will affect our lives in the US.
Russia & Ukraine Resolution: The Russia-Ukraine conflict has created an ever-changing geo-political environment for the U.S. and Europe and as we look at potential resolutions of the conflict, few will satisfy both parties. It's hard to see Russia agree to anything without Crimea and Ukraine has stated it wants all territories pre-conflict. The other most interesting part is if Ukraine is offered and finalizes acceptance to NATO. They have become one of the most militarized and armed countries in the world but would be a big threat to Russia.
European Sentiment: While most of NATO is onboard with Russia sanctions, we are seeing many countries diverge from American stances and still issue trade deals with Russia for oil and other resources. While still a good relationship, Europe is not as aligned with U.S. interests as in year's past.
China as a superpower: China has proven to be a competent match with the U.S. We've seen a number of examples of countries developing trade deals with other countries outside of U.S. influence and they are positioning themselves as a real economic competition with the U.S. There were questions around the impact on the dollar and Kay noted that the U.S. trade dominance isn’t what it used to be while sharing that she was not a dollar expert.
The New Abnormal
- David Meade | Keynote Speaker, Virtual Speaker, Entertainer
The Tuesday morning speaking slot is always a tough one but David brought the heat from the get-go to get the crowd involved and ready for day 2. He got attendees out of their seats and shared interesting statistics and studies about how to best present and get our ideas and proposals to resonate.
- How to Position Options: If you are providing five options for a proposal, which order should you put your favorite proposal? The answer is in the #3 spot. The #1 spot will not be picked because the audience wants to be discerning, #2 because we want more than 2 choices and #4 & #5 the audience has tuned you out. So #3 is the ultimate Goldilocks scenario. Just right!
- When to add in key challenges or downside to presentations: It’s important to do this EARLY! The reasoning is that this will establish you as a trusted source of information for your solution to these challenges. Reminds me of the Challenge Sale and Customer books.
- Should you focus on big (macro) ideas or smaller (micro) ideas in your presentation? Depends on the audience. Typically, executive level conversations will be more accepted if you discuss big macro concepts but team conversations especially for your employees are better with micro or smaller task oriented concepts.
- How to provide bad news? Focus on it not being about the cost lost but the benefits lost.
- Want more productivity? David used the lightbulb factory experiment to share how it’s not about the environment but the interaction within the environment that drives productivity. It’s important to remember this as we build out office space and how we determine and enforce our return to office strategies.
A Fireside Chat with GSA Commissioners: Mapping CRE strategies for the Nation's Largest Tenant
- Darren Blue | CBRE
The General Services Administration focuses on the real estate and facilities strategy for all owned and leased properties for federal government workers across 1500 buildings and 335M square feet of real estate (170M owned). To say that is an audacious challenge is an understatement.
The panel discussion included the current (Nina) and former GSA leaders (Dan and Robert) to discuss the organizational and current environmental challenges that the GSA faces every day.
- Inflation Protection Act: With the recent Inflation Protection Act, the GSA was awarded with $3.4B to build and renovate its real estate portfolio and invest in greener and more energy efficient buildings. It’s a landmark bill and investment in government real estate and a great opportunity for GSA to upgrade and uplift its environments for government workers.
- Budget Process: While the money investment has been pledged, the GSA still has to go through the budget release process like all of us and in their case it is more bureaucratic. Congress needs to approve the use of all funds released by GSA that are earned through leasing and/or through funding programs like the IPA above.
- Own or Lease: Like most businesses right now, there is an important conversation on if the GSA should be in the business of owning or leasing their office space and other real estate. With the significant costs of maintaining and upgrading buildings and the older age of many of their owned properties, we will be seeing way more discretion in how the GSA operations. Buildings like courthouses and historic DC buildings are no-brainers to own but office space could see more leasing in the future. The “Murky Middle” of most of their real estate will be a challenge for Nina and team.
- Return to the Office: Like most businesses, government workers are lobbying hard to keep their newfound work flexibility and the impacts on the GSA have been immense. I wouldn’t be surprised if more mandates are in place to necessitate being in-person for government employees and Nina mentioned that real estate leasing decisions will include the important question of transit and commute times in where they decide to invest in buildings.
Global Economic Trends Impacting Real Estate Markets
- Matthew Feeney | CRESA
Leah, Peter and Josh shared their thoughts on how interest rates and economic trends impacting our commercial and residential real estate and what we will see in the aftermath of the pandemic and current markets.
- Interest Rates Unpredictable: While we all want to predict the interest rates and where they will be, they all mentioned how difficult that is. The key for organizations is managing risk across the portfolio properly as the future rates will be hard to predict.
- Transportation Still Key: While many wonder if urban and city investment is worth it due to hybrid, there were questions around if properties still needed to be near public transit. The consensus was that this is still very important and that cities need to make long-term investments here.
- Single Use Areas Not Sustainable: The pandemic has taught us that having single use Business Districts in cities is not a recipe for success. We are now seeing developers mix residential and commercial real estate in revitalized downtowns. This is better for foot traffic, retail businesses and housing in city areas.
- No One Building CRE: We've seen a halt in building new buildings and developments recently in CRE and many are trying to retrofit existing commercial properties into residential. There are opportunities here but not every commercial building can be converted in a profitable way.
- REITs Giving Back the Keys: With the current commercial loan environment, there is a big concern that banks will be left holding the bag on CRE loans. The expectation is that repricing will occur on many but the current interest rate environment will make this tricky.
Occupiers and Their Impact on Communities: The Amazon Story Continued
- Holly Sullivan | Amazon
- Del Boyette | Boyette Strategic Advisors
Many of the attendees took the opportunity to take the tour of the Amazon’s new HQ2 in Arlington, VA and understand the lessons learned from the process. Holly Sullivan detailed the factors they looked at when shortlisting cities and how they look to impact the communities they serve.
- Talent is critical: Location of HQ2 was determined by real estate factors for every city. But the core question to be answered for Amazon was the commitment of the area to invest in the talent they needed to grow Amazon and the infrastructure to get that talent to HQ2. DC and VA proved to be the best partner here as Amazon has also committed to working with them to invest in technology talent in the metro area.
- Community Spaces: While the campus is for Amazon employees, there was a big focus on HQ2 to serve the wider community in VA and DC. This meant working with community leaders, corporate partners and city officials to coordinate a space that would be valued by employees, community members and residents.
- Runner Up Cities: While they shortlisted many cities, only one could be chosen for HQ2 but that process and the information collected has been used to strategically add real estate and build facilities in the runner up cities. While the headquarters is a huge investment in talent, they have also used their relationships with cities to hire talent across the U.S. with satellite offices and new fulfillment centers.
Great Event and Networking
While the sessions were a great source of insights and information during the two days of the conference, the audience was the best source. With networking opportunities throughout the day and at the evening events, I was able to learn so much about the current real estate environment and what organizations are doing to take advantage of the opportunities that exist.
As always, CoreNet remains a tremendous community that shares insights, collaborates and looks to elevate the real estate industry as a whole.