Georgia’s business reputation stays strong in midst of pandemic

Georgia’s business reputation stays strong in midst of pandemic

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read July 2020 — The Peach State’s methodical investments in economic development, workforce training, support for small businesses, and overall pro-business environment continue to pay dividends for the region, even in the midst of a global pandemic.

 

Georgia was once again celebrated as a leader in economic development in June by Area Development Magazine, which awarded the state its 12th Silver Shovel Award. This distinction, Georgia’s 11th consecutive award, celebrates the region’s excellence in economic activity, job creation and investment attraction. Besides this latest recognition, the region also saw significant technology-based business expansion in June, while its film industry readies to meet pent-up studio demand, which is set to employ some 40,000 people — a significant boon to the local economy afflicted by coronavirus-related challenges. 

“It’s an honor to accept this award on behalf of all of the hardworking Georgians who consistently create opportunities in their communities,” Gov. Brian Kemp said of the 12th Silver Shovel Award, according to a press release. “For 11 years in a row, Georgia has earned this recognition thanks to our pro-business environment, unmatched workforce, world-renowned logistics, and long-standing commitment to attracting jobs to every corner of the state. I want to thank our state’s economic development team and our local partners for their tireless work to promote prosperity throughout the Peach State.”

While compounded economic activity prior to the coronavirus slowdown may have significantly maintained the state’s pro-business reputation, recent June business expansion announcements continue to highlight the strong economic fundamentals found in the Peach State. 

Three technology-based companies announced investments and job creation plans in different Georgia communities. Milletech Systems Inc., SK Innovation, and Perspecta, companies that span the gamut of technology services from software solutions to advanced manufacturing to cybersecurity, are set to bring more than 1,200 jobs to the region while providing millions of dollars in investments. These announcements are testaments to Georgia’s “top-notch college and university system and training programs,” Kemp said. “I am confident that Milletech will be pleased with their decision to expand and invest in Georgia along with the skilled talent we have right here in the Peach State.” Kemp had similar sentiments when speaking of the other recent technology company expansions.

To go along with editorial recognition and recent business expansions, the Peach State’s film sector officially opened for business following months-long coronavirus-related shutdowns. Major motion picture, television, and streaming companies are gearing up to hire approximately 40,000 production workers, the governor’s office announced in June. The announcement follows revised safety protocols provided by the Georgia Film Office, which complements further safety guidelines published by the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force, aimed at ensuring a safe workplace environment and reducing the spread of the virus. 

An expected 75 productions are set to resume filming. They are projected to inject over $2 billion into the Georgia economy during the next 18 months, helping more than 17,000 small businesses in the process. “The entertainment production industry is coming back and ready to jumpstart the Georgia economy by creating jobs and generating greatly needed investment and spending in communities across the Peach State,” said Gov. Kemp, according to a press release.

“Georgia is open for business, and we look forward to an even stronger relationship with the film industry moving forward,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson. In 2019, 391 film and television productions filmed in Georgia, supported by 3,040 motion picture and television industry businesses. “Thanks to the historic best practices guide, Georgia is able to safely send the tens of thousands of film and TV industry employees back to work and restart production. The economic impact of film touches local communities and small businesses across Georgia. We look forward to resuming the hundreds of productions across the state and to keeping Georgia as the nation’s film and TV capital,” Wilson said.

To learn more, visit: https://gov.georgia.gov

 

 

The Post-Pandemic City

The Post-Pandemic City

By: Abby Melone, President & CEO, Capital Analytics

It’s a truism in today’s hyper-connected world that people go where the jobs are, more so now than ever before. But what happens when your job suddenly can be done from anywhere?

 

The 19th century ushered in the first and second Industrial Revolutions that saw more and more people move to urban environments, precisely because that’s where the jobs were. In the United States, the rise of manufacturing opened a new world of employment possibilities, pushing people from the farm to the factory. It’s a push that in one way or another continued into the 20th and 21st centuries. The result is seen today in the population densities that cram big cities from coast to coast, border to border.

According to the United Nations’ World Urbanization Prospects report and the website Our World in Data, the world crossed over in 2007. That’s the fist year the number of people living in urban areas rose above the number living in rural areas (3.35 billion versus 3.33 billion). In the United States, around 82.3% of the population lives in urban areas, according to the World Bank. Growth trajectories project a steady increase in urbanization as far out as 2050. 

Today, the millennial generation is changing the character of urbanization by spearheading the live-work-play ethos. This generation prefers to skirt the traffic jams and live and play near where they work. The goal to have it all close by has given rise to the mixed-use building concept that puts everything – your living options, your entertainment choices and your shopping – all in one convenient location, which preferably, is near your workplace. 

It also means we are all living closer to each other in smaller and smaller spaces. That seemed to suit a lot of people just fine. Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, and all of sudden, none of that seemed fine at all.

The pandemic resulted in shelter-in-place orders that forced people to live 24 hours a day in their homes while also working from their home offices, if they had one, or their kitchen tables if they didn’t. The very idea of needing to go somewhere else to do your job turned out to be not so much of a necessity after all. In just a few months, priorities appear to have shifted. Now, many of us seem to crave space, the great outdoors, and we seem to be split 50-50 on whether we want to continue working from home, wherever we choose that to be, or prefer an official office setting, mostly for the socializing.

There is little doubt that the world has changed as a result of the pandemic. Most experts are puzzling on whether that change will last and just what our cities will look like as a result. The fact is, though, that change was already in play before COVID-19 hit.

My company focuses on nine major U.S. markets like Orlando, Miami, Atlanta and Philadelphia. We talk to industry and political leaders to understand the issues their communities face to gauge the direction in which they are moving. Today, everyone is talking about the pandemic’s impact on the retail sector, for example. Yet, e-commerce was already a thing before COVID-19. In 2019, a record 9,800 stores were shuttered, according to a Bloomberg report, with 25,000 closures expected in 2020 due to the coronavirus impact, the report said, citing Coresight Research. Yes, that’s a devastating impact, but the pandemic really has only accelerated the pace of implementation. It pushed more people online immediately, but those people were likely headed there anyway.

Many of the leaders we have spoken with during the pandemic agree that retail and commercial real estate was already undergoing a slowdown as industrial space to accommodate last-mile delivery for the Amazons of the world was booming. Many expect this trend will continue.

More importantly, what the pandemic has done has caused a rethink of priorities among individuals and it is this impact that will likely shape the post-pandemic city. Living in lockdown awakened people to the “smallness” of their space, forced on them by a combination of convenience and higher and higher housing prices in big cities. The median listing price for a home in Miami-Dade, for example, was $465,050 in May compared to the average U.S. listing price of $329,950, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. Interestingly, population growth in Miami-Dade was already slowing as more people moved out, with escalating living costs among the factors. With the pandemic highlighting the risks of living so close together, will more people decide that farther away is not only cheaper, but safer?

Big city living will change in the post-pandemic world as social distancing forces “people places” like gyms and restaurants to accommodate lingering fears from the virus. Tens of thousands of small businesses have already closed down for good, clearly altering the very unique characteristics of cities that attracted people in the first place.

The biggest impact, however, will be on how – and where – jobs are done. Remote working is hear to stay in some form or another. Like the industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, people will always go where the jobs are. For many, those jobs will now be done from home, which means that home can be virtually anywhere. It creates choice like never before, and this will dramatically alter the character, although not likely the course, of urbanization. That’s an important difference. 

Big cities have seen the ebbs and flows of population growth before and will likely see them again. Through it all, they have more often thrived than not. The post-pandemic city may look and feel a bit different – the way condo units are built, for example, may change to accommodate working from home, while adding elements like air filters to battle any future virus outbreak – and there may even be a greater push to the suburbs in the short term. Overall, however, continued urbanization likely will remain on the cards. If we’re lucky, there may just be a little more distance between all of us.

 

Decatur Driving Global COVID-19 Response

Decatur Driving Global COVID-19 Response

Written by: City of Decatur 

2 min read June 2020 As the world seeks answers to the devastating impact of COVID-19, many of the most critical questions about the virus and how to eradicate it are being routed through Decatur. And while the CDC certainly plays an outsized role in this equation and generates most of the attention, The Task Force for Global Health in Downtown Decatur is quietly using its infrastructure to drive solutions.

 

“When it comes to our work, we take pride in operating mostly behind-the-scenes and shining the light on our partners rather than ourselves,” said Bill Nichols, executive vice president and COO for The Task Force for Global Health.

 

Behind the scenes or not, The Task Force has been a crucial force in the worldwide response to the coronavirus pandemic, including coordinating the distribution of 1.4 million pieces of personal protection equipment to hundreds of hospitals and healthcare facilities around the country, strengthening epidemiological and lab skills through training 14,000 individuals around the world, and hosting monthly teleconferences for health officials worldwide to connect and share best practices and treatments. 

 

Additionally, The Task Force is coordinating critical collaborations between the public and private sectors, aligning the contact tracing efforts of tech giants like Apple and Google with health officials around the world.

 

“This pandemic has clearly changed the way our country thinks about global health, and it’s up to all of us to ensure we don’t lose focus on this critical issue in the future,” said Nichols. “Being properly prepared for a pandemic requires billions of dollars, but it’s an investment worth making as an ‘insurance policy’ to protect against the type of economic fallout we are experiencing.”

 

While the coronavirus pandemic has thrust discussions about vaccines into the mainstream, The Task Force regularly works on coordinating the vaccine safety efforts related to epidemics affecting areas and regions that are often overlooked. Having this infrastructure in place has allowed the organization to continue its lifesaving work in underserved regions around the globe while also addressing COVID-19, including through its Brighton Collaboration, a worldwide network of over 5,000 vaccine researchers that ensures vaccine safety, and the Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction (PIVI), a program that works with low and middle-income countries around the world to develop their influenza vaccine delivery infrastructure, which will better prepare them for when a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

 

“Now more than ever, our location in Decatur serves as a major asset when you consider how closely we are working with the CDC, Emory and other Atlanta-based institutions to address the pandemic,” added Nichols. “It also allows us to give back, as we are sharing our global expertise with the Dekalb County Coronavirus Task Force to guide our own community through a safe reopening in the days, weeks and months ahead.”

 

To learn more about this, visit: https://www.decaturga.com/

 

 

 

Spotlight On: Bob Mathews, CEO, Colliers International Atlanta

Spotlight On: Bob Mathews, CEO, Colliers International Atlanta

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 — Although the COVID-19 pandemic has the curtailed demand for commercial real estate, it has also accelerated the transition from on-site to online shopping, Colliers International Atlanta CEO Bob Mathews told Focus: Atlanta. Though it is hard to predict the lasting impact of the virus on the marketplace, industrial usage will likely fare better because of the general demand from e-commerce, last-mile delivery and everything associated with the change from the on-premise to the online consumer economy, Mathews said. 

 

 

 

What was the start of 2020 like for the Atlanta operations?

We had a strong first quarter, matching our 2019 performance from the same period. At present, it is difficult to gauge the long-term impact of COVID-19. The indications point to a reasonably significant dip in overall transaction activity, which will impact revenues. The answer lies in the time it takes for the U.S. economy, and in particular the corporate sector, to rebound. That will have a direct impact on our deal flow. We have already had a number of deals scrapped or put on hold as a result of the crisis, but the true net impact on our revenues will become clear further down the road. Demand has not completely disappeared, but it has been severely altered. 

 

How are landlords and tenants navigating the challenges brought on by COVID-19?

We have found that landlords in the industrial and office sectors have been willing to help some tenants with their leases and rent payments. If the tenants have a strong payment history, landlords can often defer rent if necessary, particularly in the case of small and medium-sized businesses that are under significant stress in the current environment. Available solutions include deferrals and temporary concessions in exchange for extended rental terms. 

 

Landlords in the retail space have also proven to be willing to negotiate with tenants suffering from this COVID-19 interruption; however, they have to see a long-term business plan and a path back to sustainability. Restaurants have suffered the most of all retail tenants. It will be a long way back to business for many of the smaller, less-capitalized operators. 

 

Which sectors are performing well during the current economic cycle?

It is no secret that Amazon has been profiting from this situation and the company has been considering expanding its operations. So some of the larger corporates are driving demand. We anticipate that most industrial usage will fare better, because of the general demand from e-commerce, last-mile delivery and everything associated with the change from the on-premise to the online consumer economy. This change has been happening for the past 15 years but with COVID-19, it has accelerated as consumers of all ages have become used to online spending. Small and medium-sized businesses will have to adapt and figure out their role in this new marketplace.

 

What is your outlook for the real estate market in the next 12-18 months?

Growth cycles in the real estate sector tend to last for about 10 years. Going into 2020, we have had about 10 years of strong growth, following the 2008 financial crash and its aftermath. So we were expecting a slowdown. COVID-19, however, is a black swan event that has caused a nosedive far sharper than we had foreseen. It’s an extremely deep hole and it will take time to climb our way out. Aviation, tourism and hospitality are all huge contributors to the economy, and until they recover, the economy will continue to suffer. I think it will take a long time. 

 

We have had to reconsider our strategic goals. Instead of our usual three- to four-year plan, we are starting on a short-term one-year plan to take us through to June 2021, because it is so hard to know what is around the corner. Fortunately, the banks have strengthened significantly since 2008, and the government also has capital available to ease the impact of this crisis. For investments, there remains strong sources of U.S. and overseas capital for CRE, so that gives me hope that we may recover faster than expected. Our past shows that the United States always finds opportunity and that will open the door for more innovation. As a firm, we have to ensure that we are well-positioned to grasp those opportunities. 

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://www2.colliers.com/en/experts/bob-mathews

 

 

Technology professionals curious about Gwinnett’s Peachtree Corners

Technology professionals curious about Gwinnett’s Peachtree Corners

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 — Techies, entrepreneurs and business owners throughout the Peach State and beyond are curious to explore the possibilities found in Gwinnett County’s newest and largest city. Officially incorporated in 2012, the city of Peachtree Corners and it’s Curiosity Lab, a publicly funded economic development initiative, is drawing the attention of tech-related professionals looking to test their ideas and projects at the lab’s 1.5 mile autonomous vehicle testing track and 25,000-square-foot innovation center.  

 

 

Peachtree Corners, which boasts a growing population of more than 43,000 residents, is quickly reaping the fruits of its calculated investments in the tech sector, while simultaneously testing and perfecting the future of smart city technologies.

In May, the city announced the launch of a fleet of the world’s first tele-operated e-scooters to operate on public streets. Technology companies Tortoise and Go X came to Curiosity Lab to perfect their vision of offering an e-scooter that could, through the use of Tortoise’s remote tele-operators, respond to a customer’s call to action, or reposition itself to a parking spot. Peachtree Corners has been working with the two tech companies to revolutionize city e-scooter mobility, while solving complications related to finding an e-scooter and their return to home base for appropriate overnight parking and charging. In other words, no more e-scooters left haphazardly in the middle of a sidewalk because they’ll park themselves. 

The e-scooters will operate in the city’s Technology Park Atlanta, a 500-acre technology park with more than 7,000 employees that is also home to Curiosity Lab. The tele-operated e-scooters will be available for use by the general public. The e-scooters’ initial pilot will run for six months and marks the first time that tele-operated e-scooters are deployed on public streets.

“We are excited to showcase this innovative technology,” Mayor Mike Mason said, according to a city press release. “It’s another opportunity for the city to look beyond traditional transportation and seek innovative ways to improve mobility. We invite our citizens and the business community to see and experience this new technology.” 

Tortoise and Go X’s e-scooters are the latest vehicles to roll through Curiosity Lab’s autonomous vehicle testing track. Last fall, Olli, the self-driving shuttle designed and built by Local Motors, began operating along the city’s 1.5-mile testing track, which offers companies a facility to test emerging technologies in a real-world environment. 

“An important goal for us was to ensure that residents can enjoy the convenience of using e-scooters, right here in Peachtree Corners,” said City Manager Brian Johnson, according to a city press release. “As a reflection of our commitment to making cities smarter, we didn’t hesitate to partner with Tortoise to launch the first-ever fleet of self-driving e-scooters for public use. We are extremely pleased to be a partner in this innovative and world-changing technology.” 

In March, Curiosity Lab’s autonomous vehicle testing track and smart city laboratory won the transportation category in the third annual IDC Smart Cities North America Awards (SCNAA) for its connected and autonomous vehicles project. “Curiosity Lab is a unique economic development investment that helps advance new technologies and grow the employment base of the city,” said Curiosity Lab’s Executive Director Betsy Plattenburg, according to a city press release. “We have had interest in testing from both startups and Fortune 500 companies,” she said.

To learn more, visit:

https://www.curiositylabptc.com/

https://www.peachtreecornersga.gov/home/showdocument?id=7916

https://www.peachtreecornersga.gov/home/showdocument?id=8318

 

 

Spotlight On: David Dymecki, Managing Director, Perkins and Will

Spotlight On: David Dymecki, Managing Director, Perkins and Will

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020Architectural design studio Perkins and Will’s Atlanta office is keeping busy with work in the city’s many Opportunity Zones, and sees a growing tendency toward mixed-use facilities combining pre–COVID 19 entertainment and hospitality, retail, commercial and sports and recreation/fitness, Managing Director David Dymecki said in an interview with Focus: Atlanta. 

 

How would you describe your smart development approach to your products?

The way we approach development in the city and the region is through four major focus areas. A focus on the local context in each of our projects. Whether it’s Downtown, Westside or Buckhead, place and context is always at the forefront of our minds. A focus on people and experience: human-centered design with deliberate strategies and solutions focused on program, scale, and materials. A focus on living design: work that is inclusive, sustainable, resilient, regenerative, and addresses the well-being of the community. A focus on partnership: we are first and foremost partners with our clients and the cities in which we work; we are strategic thinkers, designers, and implementers. 

 

Focusing on these four areas has served us well before and during this COVID 19 environment, where our approach as always has been one of renewal and regeneration. This focus has served our clients, our communities, and our cities well. With a simplified language and visual communications tools, our approach makes these complex, interdependent issues easier to understand and implement.

 

Furthermore, our experience on a range of project types and design scales allows us to bring together diverse points of view to bring forth the appropriate big ideas, special details and long-range solutions. Our systems thinking has allowed us to be agile to address the design or the process that needs to change based on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

Our work includes community-enhancing projects of adaptive re-use and mixed use, which incorporate residential, office, retail, hospitality, transportation and even learning, health, sports and recreation. We are still seeing growth in Atlanta in these community-focused projects. 

 

What is the studio’s approach to sports architecture?

We’ve been fortunate to grow a thriving national sports practice. My background has always been in sports architecture, focused primarily on the collegiate marketplace. We started the practice 10 years ago and have grown our sports and recreation practice nationally and internationally. We consistently rank among the Top10 sports/recreation/entertainment firms in the country.

 

Regionally, our Atlanta and Denver studios are working with the city of Savannah to design a new mixed-use entertainment venue. In addition to the arena, we’re working with city leadership to master plan Savannah’s Canal District, an exciting opportunity to re-vitalize an historic part of the city. Closer to Atlanta, we’ve recently completed a new wellness center for Piedmont Healthcare System. 

 

One trend we’re experiencing in the marketplace locally, regionally and nationally is the integration of healthcare, recreation, collegiate and professional sports, and well-being;  partnerships between healthcare, professional sports, colleges and universities, and cities. We see this as a growing market, a trend that will continue in the future.

 

What development advantages come from Opportunity Zones in the area?

 

Established in 2017, Opportunity Zones are a community and economic development tool that aim to drive long-term private investment into underserved communities throughout the country. The program works to encourage developers to invest in local business, real estate and development projects in exchange for a reduction in their tax obligations. Atlanta has more than 25 Opportunity Zones, many of them are in the south and western portions of the city. As strategists and designers, we’re active in a few of the zones across the city, helping our clients realize positive impacts for our local communities and developer clients. We’ve also created partnership opportunities for our university and developer clients to achieve multidimensional impacts that benefit both “town and gown.” These areas of the city are poised for investment, long-term growth, community engagement, and will be catalysts for change.

 

After the COVID-19 crisis is over, do you see changes to the way you do your work in terms of hygiene measures, social distancing and the like?

 

I believe we will learn a lot about flexibility, agility, working from home and work-life balance in the upcoming months. We are going to evaluate the needs related to workspace, learning environments, retail, hospitality, transportation, and public infrastructure and amenities. How people get to and from work, in and out of our urban centers or attend sporting events will change in the short term and long term. I believe we’ll see a renewed entrepreneurial spirit, and new business ventures as a result of social distancing and COVID-19. We’re excited about the future impact design and our profession will have on new ideas and initiatives. 

 

COVID-19 is not the first global pandemic, it’s the just the first of modern society. We’ve packed rapid transformational ideas into the past 10 weeks that in the past has taken 10 years. A few transformations rising are to the top of our business: flexibility and overlay planning. Large sporting venues and events have been addressing flexibility and overlay for years. When you design the overlay, you’re designing the venue for everyday use, but you’re also planning for the two to four weeks of overlay features and program to accommodate the media, a larger influx of fans, expanded retail and hospitality, and back of house service. You’re designing flexibility and agility for everyday, gameday, and special events. I believe we’ll see a similar approach to other buildings, such as learning environments, retail, cultural venues and commercial real estate.

 

I doubt we’ll redesign every building, it’s not feasible or affordable, nor entirely relevant to how people will use and occupy space in the long term. I think we are going to look at the overlay scenario. What we’re hearing from clients in several markets is to not over-correct based on the current health situation.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit: https://perkinswill.com/person/david-dymecki/

 

 

Peach State leaders analyze current market opportunities

Peach State leaders analyze current market opportunities

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020 — Virtually every sector of the economy has been pinched, crushed, or depleted by the initial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Months into the “new normal,” industries and businesses have had to adapt operations to cope with COVID-19-related challenges. While many businesses remain embattled by the current economic cycle, innovation and opportunity are beginning to rise from the initial shocks of the novel coronavirus.

 In the Peach State, a region known for its sound business environment and one of the first states to reopen its economy, leaders across economic sectors in Atlanta are analyzing the opportunities and possible innovations created as a result of the virus outbreak. For the legal industry, an industry already comfortable with remote work prior to COVID-19, technology is at the forefront of the evolution of the sector’s business model and best practices. “I believe that remote depositions, virtual oral arguments, and maybe even some virtual trials are here to stay,” Holland & Knight Immediate Past Executive Partner J. Allen Maines told Focus: Atlanta. “These new technologies are easy to arrange and the cost-benefit analysis is pretty compelling for implementation, although It may still be necessary to have an in-person interview in order to size up the credibility of key witnesses. The virus has forced law firms to accelerate their adoption of technology and training,” he said. As businesses and law firms embrace the benefits of balancing in-person and remote work, it is likely the need for office space will change as well. “Currently, law firms can do everything electronically and remotely. I would expect law firms will not use the amount of office space that was customary in the past,” Maines said.   

The coronavirus landscape may possibly have positive residual effects related to work-life balance for lawyers and the way in which law firms think about pro bono work. “Hopefully, one permanent change will be a focus on the well-being of lawyers, which has been real positive during this time,” Maines said. “Another positive that has emerged has been an even greater pro bono assistance to the underserved and vulnerable communities. A lot of our clients have employees in the gig and hospitality industry and it has been rewarding to help them get through this period.”

Similarly, for Atlanta’s construction sector, some projects were halted as a result of the initial COVID-19-related shocks, while other projects continued a successful trajectory. “The COVID-19 crisis was completely unpredictable, which has caused significant disruption to the economy,” DPR Construction Business Unit Leader Chris Bontrager told Focus: Atlanta. “We have continued to see success in the healthcare sector through March and April but some of the private commercial work has been put on hold. So far, we have weathered the storm very well,” he said. DPR has been running multiple scenarios to account for the current volatile economic cycle. “No one knows the true impact of COVID-19. Relatively speaking, the Southeast is doing well. The market was very strong prior to COVID-19 and our industry was deemed essential from day one in the Georgia market. We have had some projects that we were unable to start but we have not had any ongoing projects that were shut down,” Bontrager said. “It feels like most contractors will maintain a positive year for 2020 due to a strong backlog going into this recession and the construction community won’t truly feel the recession until the first half of 2021. If the project owners move forward with current plans, we will finish the year at or just below our current business goals.”

 

To learn more, visit: https://www.hklaw.com/en/professionals/m/maines-j-allen

https://www.dpr.com/company/leadership/chris-bontrager

 

 

Spotlight On: Tim Perry, Managing Partner, North American Properties

Spotlight On: Tim Perry, Managing Partner, North American Properties

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read June 2020—The new real estate landscape will belong to those companies who find value through innovation, differentiation and that are ready and able to provide safe environments for their guests. Tim Perry, managing partner of North American Properties, provides the details of how the company is tackling development, leading the community out of isolation, and where it sees opportunity for future investment.

 

How is your “Smart Development” concept influencing projects across Atlanta’s real estate landscape?

North American Properties began to retool our approach to property operations during our reprogramming of Atlantic Station, a 138-acre mixed-use development in Atlanta that was once on the “death watch” list of many real estate pros. We deployed a hospitality-focused approach, implemented a strategic remerchandising plan and created a heavily activated environment for guests to enjoy. Through trial and error, we curated a robust and mixed-use experience that resonated with the community and turned around the property. We even trademarked the term ExperienceMaker™ to refer to the concierge and operations team that delivered this intrinsic sense of place and belonging to guests – we became stewards of the community’s asset. We were able to deploy this same formula at Avalon in a nationally recognized way and found that the street level activation was only part of it – the ancillary developments were a large contribution to the overall success of a mixed-use destination. Whether working in an office, living in a residential unit, or staying in the hotel, each component contributed to the greater effect, and rent reflected 40%-plus above market. 

We are now deploying this same concept at Colony Square in Midtown Atlanta, and Newport on the Levee in Newport, Kentucky. Colony Square will feature the first dense infill theater in the market along with a nationally renowned operator launching a Food Hall. In Newport, amid the leasing angst created by COVID-19, we signed eight leases while on quarantine and opened the Bridgeview Box Park, a colorful, open-air box park featuring local restaurants and retailers, on the Ohio River at the beginning of the summer. Elements like these are not just for our guests, but drive the desire to live near and work near the amenity-rich “Smart Development.”

 

How is your company tackling ground-up developments?

Residential fundamentals are strong, both in single family with low rates and with multifamily as the trend continues to slowly move toward rent vs own. We will see how the long-term effects of density affect in-town locations, but we are very optimistic on close suburbs where the cost can be reduced. The COVID-19 effect also has turned some landlords of office/retail properties into land sellers of portions of their site for residential, due to lease encumbrances that are expiring or businesses not opening following the pandemic. Commercially, we are seeking existing assets that are mixed-use, or can be turned into a mixed-use development. For example, a surface-parked suburban office project may present an opportunity to add neighborhood amenity retail, residential, hospitality, and at a lower basis than ground-up development of the entire property. It is the community that has to accept the project, so we are being selective. 

 

What is your assessment of the CARES Act?

Small businesses lead the country out of tough economic times – they are nimble, creative, and entrepreneurial at heart. The initial PPP program was really beneficial to small businesses, and was a very creative way of using businesses to essentially put unemployment checks into people’s hands until the program changed and midsized businesses no longer were able to gain that access and employees found themselves in a long queue for unemployment. Having said that,  the SBA was trying to find a few solutions for millions of business problems and not all fit, so I applaud the states for letting small businesses reopen to find millions of solutions for the millions of problems. Every industry will be impacted with unemployment over 20% but capital injections into small business will lead us out again.  

 

How is your company tackling the COVID-19 outbreak?

Safety is our first concern, and several weeks before any municipal restrictions were announced, we formed a task force called “Better Together” in order to focus on each property, the unique challenges with each, and our own office staff for a safe re-entry into an open economy. While sanitization and masks were the easy conclusions, our team also researched and invested in virus-killing UV lights, security enforcement of social distancing, forced flow for pedestrian traffic, and an enhanced code of conduct such that every guest feels welcome.   

 

What are North American Properties’ expectations in Atlanta toward 2021?

Innovate and differentiate. There are great assets with unrealized potential that may or may not trade at a discount the market wants but have ample return to invest at values that are still accretive to opportunistic investors. The capital stockpile in the market will be rewarded by smart buys sooner rather than cheap buys later.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:https://www.naproperties.com/leaders/tim-perry/

 

 

Spotlight On: Randy Hall, President & CEO, Batson-Cook Construction

Spotlight On: Randy Hall, President & CEO, Batson-Cook Construction

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read May 2020 — Despite the prevalent challenges of construction costs and a depleted talent pool, Atlanta continues to showcase growth and a business-friendly environment for construction players. In an interview with Invest:Atlanta, Randy Hall, President and CEO of Batson-Cook Construction, talks about how his company is thriving in the market and tackling the issues the sector faces.

 

 

How did Batson-Cook’s perform in 2019?

We have been in the Atlanta area for six decades. 2019 was a good year for Batson-Cook.    We are approaching $700 million in revenues as a company and exceeded our business expectations in 2019. We launched several construction projects across the Southeast in 2019 and some new ones in 2020. The most prominent to break ground is Emory University’s Winship at Midtown cancer facility. We work for all the healthcare systems around town, from Northside Emory, Piedmont, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, to name a few. Historically, half of our business is in healthcare, the other half is in commercial construction. We are primarily a Southeastern-based contracting firm; however, in 2019 we opened an office in Dallas and we are growing our presence there. Even through the pandemic, new work continues to be widespread. We have received several new project awards through the second quarter of 2020.

 

How are construction companies tapping into the demographic and economic synergies of the Southeast region?

We follow the demographics in the areas where our offices are located. Each city has its own personality and needs. Batson-Cook does its best to be flexible and agile to serve those needs by offering a diverse suite of services and expertise across the Southeast. The Southeast still enjoys constant migration flows from inhabitants in the Northeast and the West Coast. Of our seven offices, Atlanta is by far the largest in terms of revenue. Atlanta’s airport and its pro-business environment are major catalysts for continued growth in Atlanta.

 

How are construction companies and academic institutions collaborating to cater to talent needs?

Our recruiting team dedicates a significant amount of time to interactions with 10 different academic institutions. We intensely promote internships at different levels in collaboration with college institutions that have construction programs. We employ between 40 and 50 interns each summer and 30-40 year round. We are delighted with our relationship with higher education institutions across the state of Georgia. Kennesaw State, Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern are the best recruiting grounds for talented young people who share our core corporate values. Historically, more than 90 percent of our interns accept our job offers at the end of their internship.

 

How are you navigating the prevalent challenges the construction industry faces?

Most of the work that Batson-Cook does involves a significant portion of pre-construction. We understand how to manage the construction process and by getting involved early in the design phase, we can maximize the opportunity to complete a project as economically for our clients as possible. An uptick in construction costs impacts the entire value chain. We are constantly looking for better ways to build so owners can achieve what they are looking for at the lowest cost possible. 

 

We are proud to work in an industry that is considered essential in the United States. All our projects have continued to work successfully during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because our industry continues to suffer from a shortage of qualified labor, we are hopeful that unemployed workers will find the construction industry to be a viable alternative to their previous place of work.

 

What is your outlook toward 2021?

Even though the hospitality market has been dramatically impacted by COVID-19, more so than the other spaces that we work in, we still see opportunities for hospitality. Healthcare systems continue to expand and grow; however, funds are being shifted from capital expenditure budgets to operations. We are optimistic that impacts to the healthcare industry due to the pandemic will not dramatically impact future construction work. 

 

To learn more, visit: http://www.batson-cook.com/