We Need Jobs, But Also Skilled Workers

computer_handsThe Boston Globe recently reported that “the state’s tech sector is growing fast, but a shortage of qualified workers is preventing Massachusetts from becoming the capital of the nation’s innovation economy”, according to the 2014 State of Technology Report released by the Mass Technology Leadership Council. “Creating the jobs isn’t the hard part – filling them is the hard part,” said Tom Hopcroft, chief executive of MassTLC. “We can’t find enough people with the skills to fill all of these tech jobs.”

These are not the only types of jobs that remain open according to this Boston Globe graphic, which shows that it is not just the high end tech jobs that are having trouble finding workers.

So, what is worse – not having the jobs, or not being able to provide the workers for those companies that are expanding? It should be the former.  Trying to create new jobs is not only difficult, but there is actually no proven way to do it.  If what we have is a gap in training, or the proper transportation to access trained workers, we should be able to remedy that.

Local and state government should be partnering with local community colleges, vocational schools, and universities to work directly with those businesses that are fortunate enough to be growing and hiring.  If we don’t fix this imbalance expeditiously, we may have bigger problems.  Companies will begin expanding elsewhere and, then not having any local jobs to fill would be a lot worse.

Highlights of NAIOP’s You Can’t Get There from Here

Elisif_20140207_3248This post was submitted by Allyson Quinby, Account Supervisor at Solomon McCown.

View event photos  |  Read Curbed article  |  Watch event video

Real estate professionals gathered at NAIOP’s “You Can’t Get There from Here” event to discuss one of the top priorities in Boston right now: improving transportation. It was exciting to hear about all the projects that are in the works, upgrades to the system already underway, and new technology that will allow commuters to get from point A to point B more efficiently.

The audience was fortunate enough to hear from Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey, who served as the keynote speaker, followed by a panel of experts including Michael Cantalupa of Boston Properties, Donald Cooke of VHB, Marilyn Swartz-Lloyd of MASCO and Yanni Tsipis of Colliers International.

Secretary Davey explained how MassDOT will make numerous improvements to the city’s existing infrastructure with a $12.4 billion Capital Investment Plan that aims to make the lives of commuters easier and spur economic development. The much-needed green line extension to Somerville and Medford as well as the South Coast Rail extension to Fall River and New Bedford will make a huge difference for those who live outside Boston. These new public transit lines will deliver an option that’s much less expensive than driving, which means fewer cars on the road and a significant reduction in traffic congestion and of greenhouse gases (something the Secretary said was a major initiative for MassDOT).

Additionally, a Silver Line Gateway will provide a new route from Logan International Airport to Chelsea to service one of the greatest transit-dependent populations in Greater Boston. Secretary Davey called it a “game changer.” As panelist Michael Cantalupa further noted, transportation plays a vital role in any city’s development. As Boston continues to boom with new office buildings and other high-rise projects, it’s critical these new developments remain accessible through increased transportation options.

Secretary Davey assured the audience that money is being invested in the system’s aging infrastructure, which means the need for new transit cars will finally be addressed. In fact, the state will purchase new Red/Orange Line cars and make upgrades to signal systems in an effort to eliminate the on-going problem of constant breakdowns. Millions will also be poured into the state’s highway system. For example, the alignment of the I-90 Turnpike Allston Interchange will reconfigure ramps and straighten the highway to simplify the roadway, as well as allow more room for development.

Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) Service is another initiative MassDOT will be implementing. The service will allow more affordable cars to utilize our existing commuter rail line that runs from the South Bay Rail Yard to the South Boston Waterfront. This will open up whole new possibilities for those looking to travel from the Seaport District to Back Bay, a route for which there is currently no efficient method of transportation.

It’s no secret here in Eastern Massachusetts that traffic has a paralyzing effect on local transportation on a daily basis. So it was welcome news to hear that MassDOT is collecting and analyzing years of data to deliver real-time traffic technology. This will not only inform commuters where traffic is, but how bad it will be at what time and why. Secretary Davey announced that by the end of 2014, the real-time traffic message signs that have appeared on major highways will be instituted across the Commonwealth; making Massachusetts the first state in the country to do so.

While the planned investments are exciting, a proposed ballot question could prevent many of these important projects from moving forward. Under the landmark transportation legislation passed last year, the gas tax will be indexed to inflation in the coming years. This will be only a penny or two per gallon at most, but will provide the funding needed to ensure these projects are a reality. The proposed ballot question would repeal the gas tax indexing and would eliminate this crucial source of funding. NAIOP and other business groups are strongly opposed to the ballot question and will be working to fight this initiative in the coming months.

Transportation impacts all of us, and it was fascinating to hear Secretary Davey and the featured panelists give us a sneak peak of what’s in store for the city of Boston and throughout Massachusetts.

Dueling Visions for Boston’s Future – Mayoral Candidates Q&A

The Boston Mayoral election upon us.  No matter who wins the race, either City Councilor John Connolly or State Representative Marty Walsh, we are all in for a dramatic change after the 20 year term of Tom Menino.

With the city experiencing one of its greatest growth spurts, businesses will want to know what this choice will mean for them starting January 1st.

I sat down with George Donnelly and Jon Chesto, Boston Business Journal’s editors,and Sam Tyler President of the  Boston Municipal Research Bureau‘s Sam Tyler, to interview these two candidates separately, questioning them on their competing visions of what’s best for business, economic growth and Boston’s future.

Q&A with John Connolly

Q&A with Martin Walsh

Don’t forget to vote next Tuesday, November 5th!

The Changing Face of Downtown Boston

The following blog post was submitted by Ally Quinby, Account Executive at Solomon McCown.

Real estate professionals gathered last week to discuss the significant transformation happening in our city’s core. The office, retail and residential sectors are all growing and working together to create a true 24/7, live, work, play environment in downtown Boston.

Even with the boom in the Seaport, Downtown is seeing an influx of new office tenants who want to be in the heart of the city. David Greaney of Synergy Investments told us that of the 70 leases his firm has completed this year, 59 of them were located downtown. And these tenants are looking at more than just the office space. Mark Smith said that Equity includes the amenities of the surrounding area on tours with potential tenants. He also told the room that tenants want comfortable, communicative environments.

All these companies have employees who want to be within walking distance of work. Despite the thousands of apartment units that are planned and currently being constructed, Bill McLaughlin of AvalonBay Communities said that the demand is there because young people aspire to live in the city; we are well-positioned to absorb the deliveries we will see in the next five to six years.

Retail is growing too. Andrea Matteson of CBRE/Grossman Retail Advisors highlighted Walgreens, Equinox, Scholars and the coming Legal Seafoods as game changers who have helped Downtown Crossing look better than ever. She said that first floor tenants are key in providing character for downtown buildings.

Foreign investment and continued development make Boston one of the U.S.’s most dynamic cities, and our panelists agreed that downtown is going to be an integral part of Boston’s growth in the coming years.

Coffee with Colleagues at Synergy Investments

The following blog post was submitted by David Fleming, Principal at PACE Communications Group, a marketing and PR firm that specializes in commercial real estate and retail.

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“Wherever [coffee] is grown, sold, brewed, and consumed, there will be lively controversy, strong opinions, and good conversation.”
Mark Pendergrast, Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World

More than 100 people gathered on May 14th in Boston at Synergy Investments for NAIOP’s Coffee with Colleagues, a networking breakfast event. The sold out gathering was held at Synergy’s new corporate headquarters inside the 100 Franklin Street building, which Synergy owns. In addition to 100 Franklin, Synergy’s commercial real estate portfolio contains some of downtown Boston’s landmark buildings including 250 and 253 Summer Street, 211 Congress Street, and 185 Dartmouth Street, among others.

David Greaney, Synergy’s founder and president, kicked off the event with opening remarks touching on Boston’s favorable real estate market. After, the gathering of commercial real estate industry professionals enjoyed refreshments and engaged in lively conversation.

Steve Brodsky, Synergy’s Chief Operating Officer, stated that the event went well. “We were pleased to see the strong turnout, and it was a great networking event,” said Brodsky. “It was a terrific way to celebrate our one-year anniversary in our new space here at 100 Franklin Street, while working with NAIOP in support of the industry.”

Others commented positively about Coffee with Colleagues:

Dorrian Cohen Fragola, VP Marketing and Business Development, Janitronics: “This morning’s event was a wonderful opportunity to network, reconnect, and meet new people. Synergy has been so active in Boston recently. It was good to hear more about its plans and meet some of its people,” said Cohen Fragola. “Thanks to Synergy for hosting and to NAIOP for another successful event.”

Joel Loitherstein, P.E; Associate, Tata & Howard: “Coffee with Colleagues was well worth the trip into Boston. These events are a great way to meet new people and reestablish connections with past clients and colleagues. The atmosphere is very comfortable and you get a chance to meet senior level people at major development, legal, and consulting firms in the Boston area.”

Coming Up: Boston’s Other Waterfront

On May 22, don’t miss another exciting NAIOP event: Boston’s Other Waterfront featuring Joseph Shea, Kairos Shen, and Peter Spellios. Beyond the Seaport District, the panel will discuss the future of Boston’s waterfront from Lovejoy Wharf to East Boston, and beyond. It’s sure to be a good one!

To see other events NAIOP has in store, visit the Upcoming Events page. See you at the next great NAIOP event!

2013 Bus Tour Recap: The Suburban Transformation

The following blog post was submitted by David Fleming, Principal at PACE Communications Group, a marketing and PR firm that specializes in commercial real estate and retail.Elisif_20130501_0150

Three signs that spring has finally arrived in Boston: 1) green grass on the Esplanade, 2) the Red Sox back at Fenway Park, and 3) NAIOP MA’s Annual Bus Tour. The 11th edition of the tour took place on Wednesday as more than 250 people aboard five buses toured properties along what is suddenly one of the hottest stretches in commercial real estate in the region: the Route 128 Corridor from Needham to Lynnfield. Here’s a summary:

Elisif_20130501_0115Kickoff at Needham Crossing

  • Needham’s Economic Development Director Devra Bailin, discussed efforts to rebrand the former New England Business Center as Needham Crossing
  • Justin Krebs and Mark Roopenian described two of Normandy Real Estate Partners’ projects along the route:
    • Center 128, which will redevelop Needham’s former New England Business Center into an 825,000-square-foot “super-park,” including a Marriott Residence Inn Hotel
    • Station at Riverside, which will transform MBTA’s Riverside Station into a mixed-use development featuring 295 apartments, a 10-story 225,000 square foot office building, and a 20,000 square foot retail village
    • Mike Wilcox of The Bulfinch Companies discussed development at Needham Crossing and the branding and leasing efforts at Atrium Center. Wilcox concluded with an exciting Atrium Center video that you can see here.
    • In his market overview, Jeremy Grossman of CBRE/Grossman Retail Advisors noted the “flight to quality” among retailers, New Urbanism, the continued expansion of restaurants, the intensifying battle among grocers, and the strengthening of regional markets such as Chestnut Hill, Lynnfield, and Northborough as key trends

Elisif_20130501_0215Bus Tour Highlights

Six tour buses, escorted by members of the MA State Police, traveled along Route 128 beginning in the Needham/Newton area and ending in Lynnfield. Here are a few highlights:

 

Elisif_20130501_0268Lunch and Learn at MarketStreet Lynnfield

The tour stopped in Lynnfield for lunch at MarketStreet Lynnfield, a 680,000 square foot mixed-use development currently under construction. Inside a space that will become a Shoe Market store, WS Development’s Tom DeSimone and National Development’s Ted Tye shared details of the joint venture scheduled to open in August 2013.

When complete, MarketStreet Lynnfield will include 395,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, 80,000 square feet of office space, 180 residential apartments known as Arborpoint at MarketStreet, and the 9-hole King Rail Reserve golf course.

Elisif_20130501_0282Voices on Tour

I caught up with a few people on tour. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Tom DeSimone, partner, WS Development: “There’s no better way to understand real estate than to actually be there. The NAIOP Bus Tour gets you closer to the real estate by providing an introduction. Then you can go back and look at whatever may have peaked your interest.”
  • Ted Tye, managing partner, National Development: “It’s great to people out here having a nice day, getting out from behind their desks, and seeing some projects that are being built. And, it’s incredible that in 2013 that we actually have things being built.”
  • David Chilinski, co-founder and president, PCA: “The best part of the NAIOP Bus Tour is that you really get a sense of what’s happening and, importantly, what’s new in the marketplace.  We all know the tried and true properties, but the tour lets you see new projects as well as cases where people are reinventing or adding to projects. That’s the importance of this tour.”
  • Sarah Walker Weatherbee, managing director, Keller Augusta: “You get a sense of history as well as what the future holds for the Boston-area markets like the ones we saw today. And, the networking that the Bus Tour enables is unique to NAIOP—that really makes the day exceptional.”


While here, please read David’s important post below about National Development’s Roseann Sdoia, who was seriously injured in the Boston Marathon bombings. David includes a link to
Roseann’s Recovery Fund for those who wish to donate toward expenses for Roseann’s treatment and recovery.

Support One Fund, Support Boston

OneFund
All of us at NAIOP Massachusetts are saddened by the tragic events that occurred at the Boston Marathon on April 15. Times like these make us realize that Boston is basically a small town – it seems like we are all either connected directly, or by one degree of separation, from someone hurt in Monday’s explosions.

Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino announced the creation of One Fund Boston, which was established to provide assistance to those who were directly impacted by the tragedy. The local business community, including several NAIOP members, immediately stepped up to support the fund. We encourage the commercial real estate industry to show its support. To learn more, or to make a contribution, visit http://onefundboston.org.

In addition, we’ve learned that Roseann Sdoia of National Development, a NAIOP Gavel Firm, was severely injured in the explosions. Her friend set up Roseann’s Recovery Fund, where you can donate towards her treatment and recovery expenses. Our thoughts are with Roseann and the many other victims hurt by this tragedy.

Optimism: the way to start your day

This post was written by Kimberly Sherman, and originally appeared on the Nickerson PR blog, CheersLive!

On Thursday November 29, 2012, over 400 attendees gathered at the Seaport Hotel Boston for the NAIOP/SIOR Annual Market Forecast, one of the industry’s leading market forecasts. Nickerson PR was the sponsor of the much-anticipated event. “Being knowledgeable as a peer in the field, helps Nickerson PR to provide a better service to our clients – we want to be a knowledgeable business partner to every client – not just a vendor. It was very important to sponsor such an event,” said Lisa Nickerson, Principal of Nickerson PR and Board Member SIOR New England.

Barry Bluestone NAIOP.jpgBarry Bluestone, Dean, School of Public Policy &
Urban Affairs at Northeastern University

David Begelfer, CEO for NAIOP Massachusetts moderated the program. The Keynote speaker, Barry Bluestone, Dean, School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs at Northeastern University, offered an optimistic and timely economic snapshot of our local real estate market. Bluestone’s economic overview mostly centered on why we will return to a 0.2% growth rate. He outlined six things we haven’t paid enough attention to.

1. The demographic boon is over
2. The plateau in educational attainment
3. Increase in inequality
4. Globalization and outsourcing
5. Energy and environment
6. Twin deficits

In closing, Bluestone firmly stated that to avoid this path, we would need major innovation and investment for large-scale ideas. He reminded us that the good thing is the US has accomplished this before, so we should have the confidence that we can do it again.

NAIOP Panel.jpg

Some of Greater Boston’s most active real estate professionals presented an analysis of the Massachusetts commercial markets, with a special look at the office, industrial and capital markets. Panelists discussed the drivers and fundamentals behind 2012 statistics, including emerging trends in specific markets, new growth areas and a general outlook for the future. Among these market experts were:

The majority of attendees I spoke to were pleased to leave the event with a feeling of optimism. In the words of market expert panelist Petz, “Boston is hot, we are lucky to both live and work here.”

Some take-aways from NAIOP Forecast attendees:

“It’s always great to hear lots of optimism about the direction of the commercial real estate markets for 2013 and beyond. Absorption rates are increasing significantly throughout the region which bodes well for the CRE market for years to come.” Bud LaRosa, Chief Business Performance Officer, Tocci Building Companies

“It was refreshing to hear Barry Bluestone speak to overcoming the fiscal cliff and offer insight as to why there is plenty of good news ahead for the real estate market.” Merrill H. Diamond, Founding Partner of DIAMOND SINACORI, LLC and IGNITION Residential, LLC

“With 7,500 new multi-family units planned and Boston supporting the effort, it’s nice to be assured that Boston real estate is hot right now.” Markell Blount, Partner, Sparta Consulting Inc.

“I am happily surprised by the level of optimism expressed today. The last few events have been more doom and gloom, so I’ll take this news any day.” Mark Glasser, Principal, Packard Design

Strategies for Today and Predictions for Tomorrow

The following blog post was submitted by Ally Quinby, Account Executive at Solomon McCown.

NAIOP Massachusetts’ Smart Money in Real Estate event, on September 19, gathered together a distinguished panel of Boston’s real estate professionals to discuss the state of today’s market, as well as their predictions for the future.

To set the table for the event, NAIOP MA disseminated a poll to members regarding their current perceptions and future predictions. Doug Poutasse, Executive Vice President, Head of Strategy and Research at Bentall Kennedy, and moderator of the panel, leveraged the results from the poll during the discussion.

In regards to real estate investment, Jeff Furber, CEO of AEW Capital Management, listed the four qualities investors are seeking currently: Safety, Income, Control and Liquidity. Tier 1 core costal markets like Boston have been a major beneficiary of this fact due to the lack of risk associated with investing in stable regions.

Similarly, Jon Davis, CEO of The Davis Companies, believes there are many value-add opportunities in healthier cities, “Here in Boston, we are transforming neighborhoods. Take Kendall Square and the Fort Point Channel; there is so much vibrancy in these areas.”

According to one panelist, what the Boston area is lacking is supply of retail space. Despite the recent buzz around grocery-anchored retail centers, Tom DeSimone, Executive Vice President of WS Development, believes centers like this are “overplayed” and the increase in food sold outside grocery stores across the country, in retail shops like Wal-Mart, will be a problem in the future. In agreement, Mark Weld, Managing Director of Clarion Partners, said, “Distressed debt is aggregating in grocery-anchored retail centers across the country that people thought were on the path to growth.”

Looking forward, all the panelists agreed the looming effects of sequestration raise many questions for real estate professionals across the country. Despite the increased activity seen in markets like Boston, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., uncertainty of this type has its effects. According to Jon Davis, “cleaning up from sequestration is the single biggest risk” we are facing today. There is no indication of whether or not Congress is going to be able to come together.

General sentiment among the panelists regarding the economic future was mild, noting there will not likely be significant improvement or dramatic decline in the state of the market.  Instead, all panelists agreed success today—and in the future—will rely heavily on partnering with the right people for leverage. Especially in times like these, what matters is one’s character and ability to execute.

Governor Patrick signs Jobs Bill into law

The “Jobs Bill” – An Act Relative to Infrastructure Investment, Enhanced Competitiveness & Economic Growth in the Commonwealth – was signed into law August 7, 2012 by Governor Patrick.

As I was quoted in the Governor’s press release: “This bill is the result of a close collaborative effort by the House, Senate, Governor’s economic team, and the business community. Although the Commonwealth has fared better than most of the country, this wide-ranging bill creates a welcoming environment for innovation and growth. Combined with the ongoing, system-wide regulatory review process, Massachusetts continues to be attractive for business expansion.”

A summary of the various sections of the bill is available for review.  NAIOP is most pleased with the extension of the Permit Extension Act (Section 173 of Chapter 240 of the Acts of 2010).  Permits in effect or existence at any time between August 15, 2008  and August 15, 2012 will be extended by a total of 4 years (an addition of two years to the previous extension and four years for permits issued during the past two years). The extension will preserve state and local permitting decisions, allowing permitted projects to move forward without costly and time consuming delays to reissue permits. This impacts  all properties: commercial, housing, business expansions, universities, hospitals, and infrastructure projects.

In addition, the bill creates a new Local Infrastructure Development Program (Chapter 23L) that gives municipalities another tool for leveraging private funding to finance infrastructure improvements that are needed to support economic growth. It would fund infrastructure for homeowners and commercial projects without using local or state funds.  This is strictly a local municipal option to assist property owners who desire to finance infrastructure (e.g. roads, water, sewer, alternative energy, etc.)  The MassDevelopment-issued bonds would be secured and paid back by betterment liens on the benefited real estate.

Another win is the expansion of the successful I-cubed (Infrastructure Investment Incentive) program, which increases the number of projects per community from two to three. It also increases the available funding for the program from $250 million to $325 million.  It will add parking garages to the definition of public infrastructure improvements, and will include the taxes generated from construction jobs and purchases as part of the calculation for new state tax revenues.  I-cubed, which originally passed in 2006, was designed to finance significant new public infrastructure improvements necessary to support major new private development.

The Act will also streamline the current District Improvement Financing (DIF) program, by eliminating the required EACC review of DIF districts and development plans, which will make the program more accessible to cities and towns.

Although the Governor did veto the Brownfields tax credit extension, we are confident that the internal review of this program will result in its extension prior to its expiration a year from now.

This fall, NAIOP will be presenting a special Governmental Affairs educational seminar on this important economic development bill, as well as an update on the many regulatory changes occurring throughout the Administration’s various Departments. Keep an eye out for details!