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April 21, 2016

NAIOP's forecasters see more sunny days

  • Industrial broker Wilma Warshak says unlike a lot of growth areas, this region has ‘a lot of pillars that are holding us up.'
    Journal Staff Reporter

    Seattle has long been a boom-and-bust town — who can forget the “Will the last person leaving Seattle turn out the lights” billboard?

    But a variety of companies and industries are thriving here today and that should minimize the damage during the next economic downturn.

    A panel of brokers at a NAIOP forecast event Wednesday said Seattle has evolved from an industrial hub to an economic powerhouse, with a mix of homegrown firms and offices for some of the world's biggest companies.

    “Unlike a lot of growth areas, we have a lot of pillars that are holding us up,” said Wilma Warshak, founder and managing partner of Washington Real Estate Advisors.

    Scotta Ashcraft of CBRE said this good run could last another year or possibly two in Seattle. Earlier this year as the stock market struggled, it felt like momentum was flagging, but Ashcraft said everything is back on track now.

    Technology is the hot industry now, but Craig Kinzer of Kinzer Partners said really every company today is a tech company to some degree. Starbucks and Boeing compete with Amazon and Microsoft for top employees.

    That competition for talent has empowered workers and changed workplaces. Kinzer said the office hierarchy used to value middle managers and above, but now employees at all levels are key to a company's success.

    “With this flat organization you have a much greater demand for these knowledge workers,” Kinzer said. “If you don't have that, you are going to have a hard time competing.”

    This shift is apparent in the design of new office space. Today, employees can work from anywhere, Ashcraft said, so it's important for the office to provide something unique. Employees also expect amenities in their buildings, specifically bike storage and showers.

    “Landlords need to create places instead of spaces,” Ashcraft said.

    Though the region's economy is rolling, the traffic is stuck. This impacts all types of real estate, especially industrial.

    Warshak said distribution centers are set up to get things in and out quickly, but traffic on the roads can make it impossible. Warshak said she expects location to play a big role in future industrial projects as demand grows for quick deliveries. That is going to get a lot of people looking at Georgetown, Sodo and other neighborhoods close to Seattle, she said.

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