Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read September 2021 — In an interview with Invest: William Hanson, SIOR, president of NAI James E. Hanson, the largest New Jersey-based full-service independent commercial real estate firm, talked about current trends he is seeing in a growing post-pandemic economy and how the workplace is changing. He also talked about trends in regard to sustainability and his priorities for the future of the company.
In what ways was your firm able to grow despite the pandemic?
After being shut down for about six weeks, it has been remarkable the amount of business we have been able to do. Trends that were already underway got accelerated and New Jersey was a big beneficiary of that. Our region’s high population density has meant that e-commerce and the ability to quickly get products to consumers have a large role here. In what was already a well-established industrial sector, we have seen a significant uptick in development activity and deal volume as a result of the growth of online delivery stemming from the pandemic. Retail has been hurt but it also accelerated adaptations that were already in the works to improve the customer experience. Both single-family and multifamily residential in our communities have been impacted positively with people leaving cities. The future of what office space looks like is still to be determined, however, it seems increasingly clear that a hybrid model is definitely the most likely outcome as a result of the pandemic.
How is the infrastructure bill going to affect your company and North Jersey in general?
It is very important for New Jersey that the infrastructure bill happens. As a distribution hub for the Northeast, we are more and more reliant on our aging and often underinvested transportation infrastructure. The most critical project is the Gateway Tunnel, which is a planned rail tunnel connecting New Jersey and New York City to be built under the Hudson River to augment the existing 100-plus year-old tunnel currently in place. This project is a vital linkage in our regional infrastructure as it will ensure capacity for the thousands of people who commute to New York City from New Jersey each day as well as the regional rail networks that utilize the Northeast Corridor train lines.
How is your company adapting to technology and what permanent trends are emerging?
We were pretty well positioned initially to deal with remote work. We had to do some upscaling, but we had good groundwork in place. I definitely see technology becoming a permanent part of how brokerages do business. Technology now allows us to show properties virtually or more easily interact with some of our national and international clients. In what is increasingly becoming a global business, technology will have a place. However, remote work cannot replace the power of face-to-face interaction in our industry, so finding the right balance of the two will be critical.
What trends are you seeing in regard to sustainability?
Developers and landlords are increasingly aware of making buildings efficient and reducing energy costs both as a means to contribute to environmental health but also as a means to find enhanced profitability from their assets. New Jersey has some of the better programs in the country to encourage solar panels usage and we are seeing more properties incorporate them into their designs.
How are you handling the labor shortage?
We have run into it a bit but not terribly. We take great pride in providing the necessary framework for people to have long careers with our firm. That reputation is well-known in the industry and greatly helps with recruitment.
What are your priorities for the near term?
The northern New Jersey real estate market is among the nation’s most competitive, and we are confident that our local market knowledge and ability to deliver data-driven insights provide real value in helping our clients navigate the market. My mission for the company is to continue to grow and get younger. Our ability to compete is based on having young, dynamic and innovative people, combined with experienced professionals. Paired with that, we are also increasingly embracing an advisory role in our day-to-day work with clients where we serve as trusted advisers rather than solely transaction managers. That will only become more important to our business in the months to come.
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