executive managing director for CBRE in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware region
Q: CBRE has more than 300 offices in 42 countries. In what ways can clients locally be served by having the expansive resources?
A: The simplest answer to that is we're constantly, particularly in Central Pennsylvania through our offices in Harrisburg and Allentown, working with corporate clients from around the globe … who own or lease real estate in the Central Pennsylvania markets or are entering the Central Pennsylvania markets to establish operations or facilities, whether they be industrial properties, office space or similar. The bottom line is as a global real estate services firm and having size and that breadth and depth, it really enables us locally in the Central Pennsylvania region to service those clients because we have boots on the ground and relationships around the world.
How has the commercial real estate market changed in Pennsylvania in the past few years?
As we have come out of the worst recession in memory, the overall economic conditions, business and even employment growth have begun, albeit slowly, to strengthen. Certainly, we're on the upswing based on just three or four years ago. I would say Central Pennsylvania — and this is not necessarily a new concept, because it's probably been every bit (as much for) 10 years — has been a terrific growth market for large industrial distribution facilities. What we've seen coming out of the recession is major investors and development enterprises that have either expanded their existing business operation or, what I think is even more exciting, is any number of investors from across the country have come into the Central Pennsylvania market, acquired land, put a stake in the ground, so to speak, and have begun to develop properties and facilities or corporate accounts for entities already here or entering the market. The news is really quite good, particularly as it relates to the industrial segment.
Tell us about the work of your real estate managers and maintenance personnel.
We manage office, industrial and retail properties. We try to identify folks who are more skilled or focused in one segment of the business, so we have people who are more comfortable or have a broader experience level (in one area). Many of those people are cross-trained, so they have experience in multiple segments of the management business.
We are seeing a lot of trades, and we are seeing a lot of buildings sold. There is a constant churning of properties that are managed. Your managers and maintenance people have to be on their toes because assignments they have one year could change and they move to new assignments and new properties. We're seeing so much capital flowing into the market that a lot of sellers are taking advantage of improved conditions, putting properties on the market for sale, and sometimes new investors self-manage versus using third-party real estate firms. It's a constant change, constant state of flux. Some of that is exciting, and diversity is good.
What have been some of CBRE's major projects in the (midstate) in recent years?
We've worked with pretty much all the major owners and landlords that work in those markets. What's exciting is taking a piece of land that we may have on the market for an owner and identifying a developer or real estate investment trust that has confidence in that project or that brand … (and see it through to) ultimately on behalf of that (new) owner, take it to the market and sell it to the next owner. Oftentimes, it's a two- to three-year cycle. It's not longer for that process to take place.
About Robert Walters
Robert Walters is a Philadelphia-area native who continues to live in the area. He and his wife of 41 years, Joan, have four grown children and five grandchildren, and he says he tries to live with a “family first” attitude.
Walters enjoys spending time at the beach in New Jersey and Florida, golfing and boating.