What’s Driving South Florida’s Industrial Boom?

Steve Wasserman of Colliers International spoke to CPE about the trends that influenced the local market in 2017 and discusses what’s in store for the area in 2018.

Steven Wasserman, Executive Vice President  at Colliers
Steven Wasserman, Executive Vice President, Colliers International

South Florida’s industrial market has experienced a booming 2017, with occupancy levels and rental prices returning to pre-recession rates as warehouse and distribution space is in high demand. With an influx of capital from pension funds, speculative industrial development is on the rise in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Colliers Executive Vice President Steve Wasserman, one of the leaders of the South Florida Industrial Services team, talked to Commercial Property Executive about the trends that shaped the industrial real estate market in 2017, as well as about what to expect going forward.

South Florida’s industrial market had a booming 2017. Do you expect this trend to continue in 2018?

Wasserman: South Florida’s industrial market continues to strengthen across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, and vacancy rates continue to plummet hovering around 3 to 4 percent in each of the three counties. I expect this trend to continue into 2018. International trade from South and Latin America continues to grow and to become more sophisticated. We are also seeing consolidation in the industry with brick-and-mortar companies buying online retailers such as PetSmart buying Chewy.com. Those acquisitions will create more demand for distribution space in 2018 and beyond.

What are the reasons behind the fact that speculative industrial development has outpaced built-to-suit construction?

Wasserman: Industrial markets throughout Florida are experiencing a return to pre-recession occupancy levels and rental rates, with almost 3 million square feet under construction in Miami-Dade County. Speculative industrial development is on the rise in South Florida, in part because there is an influx of capital funding these projects. Following the recession, construction loans were mostly available for built-to-suit developments. But that is no longer the case.

Interview quote CPE Steven Wasserman 02

The unlimited supply of capital from pension funds and private equity to buy large parcels of industrial land is adding a new generation of industrial space that meets today’s market needs. At the same time, we are seeing smaller companies, such as local produce companies, adapting older buildings to suit their needs.

Nearly 2 million square feet of industrial product is currently under construction across Miami-Dade County. How does this impact the county’s industrial market?

Wasserman: As long as there is positive absorption in the industrial market, we will not see the market become overbuilt. If the demand for products in Latin America continues at its current rate, we will be at equilibrium once the new supply is delivered.

What are landlords of older-generation industrial product doing to stay competitive?

Wasserman: We are seeing landlords renovating their industrial properties by re-roofing, redoing their parking lots, painting buildings and discounting rents.

How are the so-called “port wars” along the eastern seaboard affecting the South Florida industrial market?

Wasserman: Since PortMiami completed its expansion and dredging project, it now has the capacity to accommodate Super-Post-Panamax ships and some of the largest cargo ships traveling from the East. The Maersk Shanghai is the largest container ship to dock at a Florida Port and marked a milestone for PortMiami.

Interview quote CPE Steven Wasserman

Investments are underway at other ports to compete for the big ships, including Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. The increased flow of goods through post-Panamax ships will help drive demand for additional industrial real estate. For example, Miami’s geographical proximity to Latin America will fuel increased demand for industrial space. However, the bigger players will most likely look at Charleston and Savannah ports because they offer development land at lower prices and are geographically positioned closer to the Northeast and Midwest.

How has demand diversified over the years—with pharmaceutical, aerospace, retail, manufacturing distributors taking over?

Wasserman: We are seeing an increase in pharma and aerospace firms, which need to be close to high-end skilled labor. The same holds true for retail manufacturing. However, there’s been an increase in third-party logistics companies that offer distribution and fulfillment services to retailers such as Williams Sonoma, Dillard’s and TJ Maxx. They are all using these types of companies to deliver their products.

How is e-commerce impacting the supply and demand dynamics?

Wasserman: We are only in the first or second inning, so it’s too early to tell. However, I expect e-commerce will keep demand going strong heading into 2018 as companies are strategically reconstructing their supply chains to accommodate consumer demands for faster delivery. These shifts in consumer purchasing behavior and the rise of e-commerce have strengthened the industrial markets across the nation as proximity becomes a priority for businesses. Industrial rates continue to climb as online retailers seek out warehouse space to meet increasing demands for faster delivery.

Image courtesy of Colliers International