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Hot Spot: Bethesda

As Montgomery County moves forward with new development projects, 2016-2017 is on record as seeing prodigious expansion for Bethesda with major projects that will unfold over the next two decades. The Bethesda Master Plan was approved by County Council and made headlines with announcements such as the Marriott moving their headquarters to 7750 Wisconsin Avenue, and the Downtown Plan, approved by the Montgomery Planning Board, with a central focus on social, economic, and environmental stability.

Several buildings in the area have been acquired for expansion or redevelopment with new deals being inked at these locales: The Landlow Building on 7910 Woodmont Avenue, 7700 and 7979 on Old Georgetown Road. Developers like Donohoe Companies and Brookfield Properties are making their mark in the area with several property deals. Revitalization is the buzz word as Bethesda will continue to see growth with renovations at Crescent Gateway on 6931 Arlington Road with plans to redesign the building both inside and out. Landlords are looking at new opportunities as they consider how upgraded rentals will attract new residents to desired locales.

Read our Bethesda Market Report here.

If it is good enough for GSK….

Last week, GSK announced a $139 million investment to expand its Rockville manufacturing site to meet anticipated demand for its lupus drug. The expansion would allow the company to boost bulk production of a substance used in several of its drugs, including Benlysta, by about 50 percent.

The 420,000-square-foot campus and manufacturing site, 9911 Belward Campus Drive, has more than 400 employees. GSK’s investment will go toward retrofitting an existing facility at the Rockville manufacturing site, which GSK inherited when it purchased Human Genome Sciences Inc. in 2012. It will also cover demolition of existing suites, engineering, installation and validation of equipment.

This is exciting news.  GSK, like many other industry leaders, has recognized what Montgomery County can offer an organization for growth opportunities.

We need to continue the momentum and continue creating a county which is business friendly and open for business.

Good News for the Region…For Now

The National Institutes of Health will get a $2 billion funding boost over the next five months, under a bipartisan spending deal reached late Sunday night in Congress. The agreement marks a sharp rejection of President Trump’s proposal to cut $1.2 billion from the medical research agency in the current fiscal year.

The deal does not address funding for 2018, when Trump has called for a slashing the NIH’s budget by about a fifth, or $5.8 billion.

But it sends a clear signal that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle prioritize funding for medical research and intend to honor the agreements laid out in the 21st Century Cures Act, a bipartisan bill that called for raising NIH funding and speeding approvals of new drugs and medical devices. This will be the second year running that Congress gives a $2 billion funding bump to the agency, which funds medical research across the country.

And what does this mean for the region? Innovation needs to win. Our region needs to ensure that we create a winning environment for emerging companies who collaborate with NIH and other research institutions–quickly.   We need to seize every opportunity to introduce new treatments and medical drugs to improve lives, create opportunities for businesses to prosper in the region, and most of all, create a region with appeal to those companies who want to be innovative, forward-thinking and be the possible cure-finders.

Trends and You

In this bright future you can’t forget your past.     

Bob Marley

 

Trends: Reflecting on the Past

As much as we focus on the day-to-day political and economic crises, we need to remember that it is trends that dictate how business operates and reacts. Trends are a way to remember the past and gauge what the future could hold.  And when we closely examine Montgomery County, we are reminded that our county is a snapshot of global trends and global opportunities.

Let’s take a look at a few societal trends and an interesting development trend which could lead to very exciting opportunities for the right tenants and landlords in the region.

 

Societal Trends Impacting Commercial Real Estate

Lately, I have been reflecting on what is next in terms of the next big real estate trend—what is going to impact how businesses plan for their spaces and create performance driven environments.  So let’s take a look at a couple of trends which impacted the commercial real estate industry.

ADA

January, 2009, ADA amendments and requirements took effect impacting the commercial real estate market.  Owners and developers focused their attention to developing an inclusive office environment for all employees and create spaces where all would be welcome.  Design and construction turned changes in elevation, curb ramps, elevators and restrooms.  This changed the industry and had a lasting impact on how we design and plan for inclusiveness.

Recognizing and planning for those with disabilities changed how office leases were done, what amenities were important and all to create an inclusive environment and advance business.

Fast forward to another subset market trend—the green, energy-efficient building.

Green

Commercial building owners and managers will invest an estimated $960 billion globally between now and 2023 on greening their existing built infrastructure. WOW….and to think the green building trend started in the late 90s.

Industry pioneer organizations like USGBC created industry standards to help guide building owners in creating efficient and healthier spaces.  And the trend took off like wildfire across the region—from tinted glass windows, to low consuming water systems, to energy efficient HVAC systems—owners constructed building improvements and tenants expected green buildings.

Millennials

“Millennials” may rank as one of the most-used words in the English language in recent months, but it’s for good reason. This generation, born roughly between 1980 and 2000, make up more than one-third of the U.S. population, making them easily the country’s largest demographic.

The millennial generation’s experience has been unique, thanks to the fact that it was the first to have lifelong access to the Internet. This fact, along with all of the connectivity that it implies, has profoundly affected the cohort’s attitudes and behaviors, and this, in turn has impacted our society to a tremendous extent.

Today’s workplace, with its rooftop terraces, gourmet coffee, comfortable lounges, bike racks, and meditation rooms can all be attributed to the millennial active needs and wants. It’s one of the many ways that this generation is impacting commercial real estate.   Look at the recent transactions in the market—Marriott’s move to attract the millennial workforce—changes going on in the Bethesda market to cater to the millennials needs of creating a live, work, dine city.

So,  what do these three trends tell us…focusing on one market subset catapults the industry.  With ADA, we had an opportunity to revitalize buildings and accommodate; with the Green trend, we made our work spaces healthier, and millennials challenged how we design workplaces and the communities which surround those workplaces.  I say that our past trends, and how they have been embraced, have only furthered the industry and created economic opportunities for all.

 

Neighborhood Trends: Developing the Hidden Gem

In our county, there are not too many neighborhoods left for development and growth opportunities. But there is one pioneer, Stephany Yu, who is leading the charge with redeveloping the Parklawn Drive corridor with state of the art facilities and buildings to house growing, forward-thinking organizations.

She and her company have done it before and I have faith that she is going to do it again.  Past trends in the county, like the revitalization of Silver Spring, and the exciting activity surrounding Pike & Rose show that taking perceived under-used neighborhoods, and investing in those neighborhoods can lead to developing thriving economic centers.  The Parklawn corridor could be the next development trend in the county.

Stephany is the founder and chairman of Greencourt Group, a real estate investment and development company that has developed over 30 million square feet of residential, commercial and retail properties.  Greencourt currently owns and operates more than 1 million square feet of commercial property in Shanghai, and holds more than 20 million square feet of land reserve in China.

Recently, Greencourt expanded to Washington D.C. metro area with their first project on Parklawn Drive.  The Greencourt Innovation Center capitalizes on the trend of creating environments where collaboration and the entrepreneurial spirit grow.

 

But what is interesting is what Stephany has planned for the Parklawn Corridor to transform that corridor into a thriving district where arts, business and living come together—creating excitement, new business opportunities and growth potential for the county.

 

If you are curious about this project, reach out to me and come tour the next up and coming neighborhood in Montgomery County.

 

 

I Did Not Vote for Trump, But……

As the White House slowly settles down, and with the recent release of President Trump’s budget blueprint, we are beginning to see a possible direction the new administration may be taking.  Key word being possible.

But what about commercial real estate-what could be next?  Here are a couple of things to consider:

Lower Taxes, Less Regulation, More Lending

From the beginning of his campaign, President Trump has been a supporter of lower corporate taxes, deregulating the government, and economic prosperity.  We know that rapid economic growth means that the Federal Reserve will step in to temper the growth by raising interest rates.  Raising interest rates in turn will put pressure on commercial real estate yield spreads, but could also encourage more bank lending.

Could higher interest rates and a healthier economy mean more lending by banks? The Trump administration’s executive order aimed at scaling back the Dodd-Frank Act, as well as his freeze on new or pending regulations means banks should be able to do business without worrying about new restrictions or penalties for the first time since the financial crisis. Higher interest rates should also make banks more willing to lend because loan spreads will be more attractive.

As the Economy Goes, So Goes Commercial Real Estate

Typically, that which is good for the economy is good for commercial real estate. The administration’s support for lower taxes and increased infrastructure spending should spur economic growth.  Dubbed by some as the ‘Trump bump’, his policies are expected to encourage more bank lending and greater activity in the capital markets.

With the ‘Trump bump’ comes  very irrational and combative dialogue from the White House. The American people have not seen such an outspoken and rash White House like we have seen since January.  And that makes investors nervous.  The protectionist stance the Trump Administration is taking on trade and immigration is raising investor’s concern about global economic growth. And when there is concern, it leads to “pause” of investor activity.   With regards to commercial real estate, the heated debate around illegal immigration, as well as the high percentage of illegal immigrants in the construction industry, might exacerbate existing construction labor shortages.  If the economy grows, demand for office buildings increase, will we be able to meet the need?

What Does the Future Hold?

I have hopes that commercial real estate will continue to maintain satisfactory growth in 2017.  Our industry has been driven by solid fundamentals, historically low interest rates, good value and strong total returns. The real estate market has performed well without overheating. Prices are back to pre-crisis levels for most major property types but the pace of gains has eased as investors and developers have demonstrated more discipline. These factors have helped create a stable foundation for the market and point convincingly to continued sustainable growth.

Longer term, however, most investors are focused on whether the market is getting closer to the end of its current cycle and whether it is reaching a peak. With a very outspoken, and at time irrational President and the market’s solid foundation, we expect the near-term market to be strong but beyond that caution should be exercised based on historical economic and market cycles and if interest rates are significantly raised.

Finding the Value in the Market

Value can and will be able to be found in the commercial real estate market.  We have been exploring alternative property types in Montgomery County.  Assets that need repositioning is a perfect target for many current investment strategies.  For example, vacant office parks that are converting to laboratory space could offer investors enticingly higher returns.  Every investor wants to have the ability to select an investment that is tailored to their specific needs, requirements and control. We know of those options in the market. Contact us to hear more.

I believe the future could be bright for the commercial real estate industry—but we need to be informed, cautious and prepared.

And if you are thinking about getting into the market or have concerns about your current properties, give me a call. I would be happy to share what I know, and where the market could go.

Solving the Transportation Equation

The open houses for the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) have begun in Montgomery County last week.  Which means that slowly but surely BRT will be coming to our county—and it could not come faster in my opinion.  BRT will help connect businesses, provide transportation options, and expand where organizations can recruit to further their growth.

How does Montgomery County remain competitive with markets like Boston? Sure, we are able to compete when it comes to an educated workforce, access to universities and colleges, and actual space for businesses to operate. We have the distinct advantage of direct access to the federal government and agencies.  If you line up the pros and cons of both markets—the winning piece would be who can solve the transportation equation the smartest and the fastest.

In the recent weeks, the mayor of Boston released his transportation plan titled Go Boston 2030 which is intended to improve transportation within the city and address a multitude of existing transportation challenges.  Read the article here.

So here is the deal—it is time Montgomery County moves quickly and efficiently in solving our transportation challenges.   Ease of navigating the county roads, the ability for employees to access their workplace economically and efficiently is one of the biggest recruiting challenges for major corporations.  If we do not begin to move forward with the BRT and other transportation options, we will continue to lose out to other major markets—especially frustrating to me and many others because this region is ripe for explosive growth.

Rewarding your team and cultivating excellence

Compensation is important for employees, but after an initial hire the source of motivation tends to shift. While financially rewarding high-performing employees is important, there are other ways to retain your best team members. Your company’s culture is critically important. As a leader, it’s up to you to how you define it. Here at Scheer Partners, we cultivate an enthusiastic, can-do attitude and believe anything is possible.

 

After 25 years in business, and having attracted and retained some amazing, top-level talent, we’re offering our top five ways to cultivate a ‘performance culture’:

 

Customized Rewards

Sure, you can offer ancillary benefits like extra life insurance, additional health benefits like vision or dental, or even gym memberships. Or, you could go the extra mile and tailor incentives for each employee. For example, did someone recently get married? An extra week vacation could provide the time needed for a honeymoon.

 

Upward Mobility

No one likes to feel stuck. Research shows that employees who don’t feel like your company offers attractive career opportunities tend to leave. Make sure you have regular career planning discussions, then ensure your employees know about opportunities within your company.

 

Recognition

There’s an old saying that someone who feels appreciated will always do more than expected. Achievement and recognition are high motivators, so take the time to publicly recognize and reward employees. Simple things like a prime parking space, a new title or even an extra day off can go a long way.

 

Positivity

Set a good example for your team – and, set the tone. Never underestimate the power of walking into the office with a smile, and remembering to say ‘thank you.’ Employees rarely leave solely over money – often, it’s because they don’t like their boss. Having a positive work culture helps a lot, and encourages teamwork and communication.

 

Communication

Benefits like clear and frequent communication with your team make all the difference in employee happiness. Keep your team informed on company happenings and big-picture direction. And don’t forget two-way communication – offer opportunities for feedback, idea sharing and collaborative conversation.

 

At Scheer Partners, it’s important for us to create an environment that cultivates performance among our team and we try to incorporate all these ideas into our culture. That philosophy guided our recent office move which incorporated many features to improve the work environment for our team. If you’re looking for new space, please contact us.

Mastering the how and when of taking the bully pulpit

I did not vote for Donald Trump.” – My Nov. 9 blog post

 

After writing a brief post on our presidential election, I had several people ask why I took a public stance on a controversial issue. Historically, CEOs don’t often weigh in on national issues, but that has changed.

 

Recently, CEOs have publicly engaged in social activism and are taking positions to a greater extent than ever before. Yes, taking a stance poses risks, but it also offers advantages. Speaking to the values of the company you lead – authentically, relevantly and thoughtfully, can actually reinforce brand loyalty, particularly among millennials.

 

Today’s CEO has expanded from the guardian of a business, to someone who defines a brand, culture and values. And while you should carefully consider climbing the bully pulpit, the desire to speak your conscience is appropriate. In fact, many of today’s consumers expect CEOs to engage in thought leadership.

 

Quite often, when CEOs take a public stance on issues that align with a company’s values, brand loyalty is strengthened. Take Apple and Tim Cook, for example. While speaking out against Indiana’s Religious Freedom Act last year cost the company a $40 million project, a recent Harvard Business Review study showed “higher intent to purchase Apple products among respondents who were exposed to Cook’s CEO activism than among those who were not.”

 

Still, there are some important considerations prior to engaging in social activism.

 

First, make sure you’re truly passionate about the position and that it makes sense within the context of your business. Also ensure you’re OK with having that position in the long-term.

 

Second, be authentic. A public stance should truly reflect your values. If there’s a whiff of self-service, self-promotion or inauthenticity, it could hurt your company. Remember last year’s Race Together Starbucks cup fiasco? The public pegged the move as promotional – maybe even a little exploitive – and the company soon ended the program.

 

Third, pick and choose wisely. Consider if taking a position truly makes a difference, and then take a careful, measured and selective approach.

 

Fourth and final, don’t surprise your stakeholders. Try to get them behind you, which isn’t always easy. Try and connect your position to an organizational benefit, and prove that a public position provides the company greater operating leverage. Even if you cannot get your key leaders to support your position, and take it anyway, don’t let your statement take them by surprise.

 

As for my election post – while I publicly expressed my position, I parlayed it into enthusiasm for possibilities. It was genuine, heartfelt and tied into the values of Scheer Partners – anything is possible and an unwavering ‘can do’ attitude.

 

How’s That View?

“It’s lonely at the top, but the view’s not bad.”

Often dismissed and rarely discussed, many CEOs are plagued with feelings of isolation. In fact, a survey from Harvard Business Review found that half of CEOs report feeling lonely. And while lavish salaries and corporate CEO behavior don’t often instill empathy, any leader’s isolation negatively affects decision-making, culture and performance.

Remember Enron? After bankrupting the company and resigning, CEO Jeffrey Skilling claimed ignorance when testifying before Congress. Many Americans wondered how the man at the top could know nothing of what happened beneath him

Many CEOs are ensconced in a tight-knit bubble, surrounded by sycophants and gatekeepers. Often, this entourage shields a leader from organizational problems, and offers limited and filtered information on operations, customers and employees.

Granted, time constraints necessitate a bit of gate-keeping and a good bit of delegation. But having a stable of handlers deciding what a leader knows exacerbates isolation. And usually these yes-sayers don’t push back on bad decisions.

This isolation and narrow field of vision can compromise decision-making, render leadership less effective and in short, hurt business. While an inevitable part of the job, whether it compromises your abilities is up to you.

So, what can you do to reduce executive isolation? First, you must recognize it. In the flurry of activity that accompanies the role at the top, isolation is easy to ignore. Take a minute and ask yourself if you’re feeling disconnected, if your subordinates whole-heartedly agree with you, and if you’re getting first-hand data on your organization.

Second, get out of your literal bubble. Escape the board rooms, the formal décor, the handlers. Interact with your customers, talk with lower-level teams (without their bosses present), seek anonymous feedback.

Tell your senior team to challenge you – then really listen. Encourage a culture of candor and cultivate the strength of ego to handle criticism. It’s not always easy, but it is well worth it. The best leaders have confidants who shoot straight, and keep the boss in the know.

I am always available to share how we achieve results here at Scheer Partners. I am just an email away at rscheer@scheerpartners.com.