Despite Economy, Leasing Continues Apace at AllianceTexas

With Texas’ business climate not quite as dire as in other parts of the country, Fort Worth’s AllianceTexas development hit almost record levels of leasing in the first three months of 2009 with more than 1.2 million square feet. About 600 new jobs were created at AllianceTexas in the first quarter, too. Last year, Dallas-based Hillwood leased 710,000 square feet in the first quarter at the 17,000-acre development. “Being in Texas is a huge advantage, in good or bad times, because companies are looking to be more strategic and efficient and Texas enables a lot of that,” Bill Burton, senior vice president of AllianceTexas developer Hillwood Properties, told CPN. “The key thing we’re trying to do is create a nice environment with quality buildings,” he said. “We spend a lot of our time on things that are not real estate related, but that will have an impact on the bottom line of efficiency and operations for a company here.” Among the largest leases in the beginning of the year at AllianceTexas were Q-Edge, which leased 365,400 square feet for its new computer assembly plant, and Alliance Brokers, which leased 292,500 square feet for its new heavy-load container facility.“For Q-Edge, it was the right piece of real estate and the right time,” Burton said. “Alliance Brokers is different. In addition to the labor and training programs we have in place to make this a good quality place to work, our newest feature, we were able to provide some road privatization.” Working with Burlington Northern Santa Fe and the city of Fort Worth, Hillwood was able to get some of its roads privatized. That allows companies to ship heavy weight containers on these street portions, Burton said. Companies can now fill their containers instead of just sending them partially full. “They can increase the product and fill it full, which increased their efficiency significantly,” Burton said. “Now, they can bring those heavyweight containers in without getting on public streets. They don’t have those issues to deal with and those are simple bottom line savings. Instead of shipping three containers, they ship one. That is a huge advantage.” Another plus for AllianceTexas, Burton said, is the development’s ability to meet the changing needs of tenants. “We know business needs are not static. Sometimes they grow or contract and we’ve worked with many companies as their needs change. We’re able to accommodate them in the same park with the same labor force,” Burton said, adding that the DFW Metroplex is seeing less demand for space overall. “There was 16 million square feet under construction in 2008. There is 6 million square feet today,” Burton said. “The availability in options are out there in every class and size of building, we’re just not seeing the real raw demand. It is a challenge for companies to make long-term decisions at this time, too. DFW is a huge economy and leases are still being done and buildings being built, but at a much slower pace.” The first quarter of 2009 was the first time since the second quarter of 2003 that the Dallas-Fort Worth local industrial leasing market dipped into the red, according to a first quarter Grubb & Ellis Co. report.