Expansion Team: Mark Doran on Transwestern’s Growth Strategy

Insights from COO Mark Doran on the strategy behind Transwestern's recent acquisitions the Boston and Chicago markets.

Transwestern’s bold drive to expand at home and abroad is one of the big stories among diversified commercial real estate firms today. An alliance with BNP Paribas Real Estate gives the Houston-based company a new global profile. Major acquisitions in the United States include Richards Barry Joyce & Partners, a diversified services firm that gives Transwestern a presence in Boston for the first time, and Epic Realty Partners, a leading metropolitan Chicago industrial specialist. Mark Doran, the company’s COO, recently discussed the strategy behind Transwestern’s current expansion drive with CPE Senior Editor Paul Rosta.

Transwestern COO Mark Doran

Transwestern COO Mark Doran

In acquiring Epic Realty, Transwestern gained 20 professionals in a crucial industrial market, Doran explained. “It was a natural extension of what we were looking to do—have a presence in a major industrial market,” he said. In a stroke, Transwestern also joined the upper ranks of the region’s industrial services market.

In addition, the acquisition broadened Transwestern’s Chicago team overall; it had been weighted toward the office sector. The group that came over from Epic Realty expands Transwestern’s capacity to serve institutional clients investing in both sectors in Chicago, he noted.

Rapid change makes this a vital time for growing Transwestern’s  industrial development business, as e-commerce and other trends drive a demand for sophisticated, finely calibrated industrial facilities. “It’s an opportune time for us to be building,” Doran said, pointing out that Transwestern has been building industrial properties since its founding in the late 1970s. To help meet today’s demand, in March Transwestern teamed up with Ridge Property Trust, a private REIT formed by Ridge Investors L.L.C. and Prudential Real Estate Investors. As previously reported by CPE, the joint venture’s wide-ranging mandate encompasses development of warehouse, distribution and manufacturing facilities; acquisition and redevelopment of greenfield properties; and the redevelopment of existing buildings and brownfield sites.

Though Transwestern is pursuing organic growth, Doran says the company finds significant value in bringing an existing company on board. “One advantage of an existing company,” he noted, is the ability for it to “hit the ground running.” Moreover, the professionals of a veteran firm bring ready-made chemistry. Though Epic and RBJ alumni represent different markets and professional specialties, determining whether the firms were a possible fit for Transwestern involved similar principles. As Doran sums it up, each firm offered collegial, collaborative, team-oriented cultures as well as strong leadership.

Regarding possible future expansion, Doran commented, “We’re largely where we feel like we should be,” although he acknowledged that Transwestern is open to expanding into new markets as opportunities arise.  Meanwhile, he explained, “part of the strategy is to become even deeper and more capable in the markets we’re in. … We have, on occasion, gone to new markets to follow clients. That’s the nice thing about being a private company—not being wedded to something you’ve told a group of investors is your strategy.”

This interview accompanies “New Horizons,” the profile of Transwestern president & CEO Larry Heard that appeared in the March 2014 issue of Commercial Property Executive.