Asian real estate forecast

Dr. Jane Murray, head of research for the Asia Pacific region for Jones Lang LaSalle, made a dandy presentation on Nov. 19, 2013, at Institutional Real Estate, Inc.’s fourth annual VIP – Asia Investor Roundtable conference in Hong Kong. The following are some highlights from that presentation.

The office sector:

  • China and India will account for two-thirds of the new supply coming to market during the next several years.
  • Expect more subdued office leasing activity to push regional vacancy rates up a bit in the months to come.
  • Capital value growth throughout the Asia Pacific region has been outpacing rental growth — and the spread between the two appears has been widening over the past several years.
  • Rental rates throughout the region have been on the mend, but they still have not returned to peak from trough levels.
  • Asia Pacific capital values in some regions, however, have risen above prior peak levels already.

The investment markets:

  • Global direct real estate investment volume continues to strengthen, in Asia as well as in the Americas and throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
  • Asia Pacific regional transaction volume has been up 33 percent on a year-over-year basis and is up 25 percent from 2012 levels so far year-to-date in 2013. In Japan, which leads the pack, transaction volume is up nearly 70 percent year-to-date.
  • Office (49 percent) along with retail (14 percent) and industrial (14 percent) account for the vast majority — 87 percent — of total regional transaction volume
  • Cap rates in the region range from lows near 3 percent (in Hong Kong) and highs near 8 percent (in Jakarta). The overall trend in cap rate momentum has been gradual and decidedly down, except for Tokyo, Shanghai and Sydney, where cap rate movement has begun to flatten out recently.
  • Meanwhile, the spreads between the prime (10-year Treasury) yield and office cap rates have begun to tighten a bit, except in Singapore and Tokyo, where they recently have begun to widen again.

Asia Pacific real estate outlook:

  • Regional economic growth will strengthen even further.
  • There should be a moderate pick-up in office leasing demand.
  • Expect to see single-digit rental growth across most markets and sectors, as well.
  • Overall, 2014 should be another strong year for investment activity.
  • The downside: downward pressure on residential prices in some markets.

For more information, contact Jane Murray.

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GeoffFinalv5forwebGeoffrey Dohrmann is president and CEO of Institutional Real Estate, Inc.

Let the good times roll

The Pension Real Estate Association held its fall family reunion last month in Chicago, and nearly 1,000 members of the family decided to attend. The atmosphere was upbeat, and everyone seemed to be having a good time. The conference room was always filled, but there was also a continuous buzz of voices coming from outside the conference room as delegates ran into colleagues they hadn’t seen in a while. Stories were exchanged, gossip passed around, and good-natured teasing seemed to be the rule of the day. One of the panelists stated, “The vast majority of the people in the industry are in great shape.” Judging from the interactions at the receptions, at meals and during breaks, I’d wager that he was right.

PREAThe event was hosted by three LPs: Amy Diamond of Northwestern University, Michele Everard of the University of Michigan, and Verna Kuo of the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation. When Micolyn Magee, PREA chairman and Townsend principal, presented the PREA scholarship winners, there were four women presiding over the stage. When has that ever happened at an institutional real estate conference before?

PREA is noted for having topical dinner and keynote speakers. I don’t think anyone can top Michael Milken and Bill Clinton, who spoke at the 2012 fall conference, but former Treasury secretary Tim Geithner (who was interviewed by Martin Wolf of the Financial Times) and former presidential senior adviser David Axelrod certainly held their own.  Whether you agree with them politically or not, the behind-the-scenes looks they presented were funny, disquieting, insightful, banal and fascinating all at the same time (and, unfortunately, not to be quoted at the request of PREA).

PREA conferences are also notable for the opposing views they put on panels — and the willingness of panelists to disagree. The first panel of economists was no exception. Adam Posen, president of The Peterson Institute for International Economics, and David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff, found little to agree on when discussing economic stimulus and whether the government’s intervention has been beneficial. Suffice to say Posen is a fan, Rosenberg not so much.

The CIO panel featured Andrew Ward from The Boeing Co., the third largest corporate pension fund in the United States, and Erik Lundberg from the University of Michigan. Both groups are huge investors, but the pressures are different. As Ward stated, “Being high on a list of endowments is a good thing because it means you have lots of capital. Being at the top of a list of pension funds is a liability most corporate execs would rather not have.”

Because of the recession, Boeing went from being 124 percent funded to 85 percent funded within just two years. Ward noted that the current pension fund structure in the United States is unsustainable: “We need to change how we manage these plans. You simply can’t increase assets enough to cover the liabilities.”

The panel on investing in Europe was composed of a group of opportunity players, and they are very happy with the opportunity they are finding across the pond. The panel — Ken Caplan, senior managing director and head of real estate Europe at The Blackstone Group; Jeffrey Dishner, senior managing director, acquisitions at Starwood Capital Group Global; Ron Kravit, senior managing director at Cerberus Capital Management; and Aref Lahham, managing director and founding partner at Orion Capital Managers — all agreed that Europe is the place to be. “2012 was our best year ever,” said Caplan. “2013 will be even better.”

Panelists like the prospects for northern Italy and some of the other distressed areas such as Lisbon. Interest in Spain is almost mainstream, but Russia is still pretty much a no-go zone. “Life is just too short,” explained Lahham.

Heard from the stage and in the hallways:

  • “It used to be that the economy drove the markets; now the markets drive the economy.”
  • “Only 61 percent of prime age workers are in the workforce. Something has gone very wrong with the U.S. workforce.”
  • “The Fed wants some inflation, but it’s wishful thinking to think they can control it once it gets going.”
  • “If you are thinking of financing, I wouldn’t wait until 2016.”
  • “Should we be buying class A office buildings in Europe — or tear gas masks?”
  • “I’m not worried about social unrest in Europe. The real problem is taxation. Tax treaties are changed all the time. This impacts returns in a meaningful manner.”
  • “Emerging markets — watch out for private-sector debt ratios.”
  • “Government dysfunction is very hard to model from an investment perspective.”
  • “When it comes to Europe, invest in beer-drinking countries and avoid wine-drinking countries.”
  • “In the U.S., you can turn up with the biggest check and you win. The biggest check doesn’t always win in Europe. Trust and long-term relationships are much more important.”

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Sheilaflippedfinalv3stSheila Hopkins is managing director – Europe and infrastructure with Institutional Real Estate, Inc.

Tracking fund data

Some highlights from a recent search and analysis of our FundTracker database, the data from which was recently presented to an audience of 150 institutional investors, consultants and investment managers at our VIP – Asia Investor Roundtable conference in Hong Kong:

  • The 858 funds around the globe that are currently on the market and actively seeking to raise capital collectively are seeking to raise an aggregate total of $402.06 billion. Asian funds are seeking to raise $41.03 billion.
  • Some 350 of those 858 funds are focused on U.S. markets; 78 are focused on Asian markets.
  • 34 percent of the funds currently on the market offer core/core-plus types of investment strategies.
  • 56 percent of all the funds currently on the market around the globe are offering property type and geographically diversified strategies.
  • Funds offering property-related debt strategies are the second-largest group of funds, representing 11 percent of all the funds currently on the market.
  • The average size of the funds currently on the market is $700 million.
  • 70 percent of the funds currently in the market were launched after Jan. 1., 2010. Of these, 25 percent are open-end funds; 35 percent of the closed-end funds currently on the market have been in fundraising mode for at least two years or longer.
  • 106 funds held a final closing in 2012 versus 222 funds in 2008. (With FundTracker data, when we cite “closings,” we’re only talking about funds that have staged a final closing. Interim closings are not included in these numbers to avoid double counting.)
  • $63.45 billion was raised by funds that closed in 2012 versus $155.28 billion in 2008 (to ensure consistency, all capital raised by the funds we’re tracking here have been stated in dollar-denominated numbers). In other words, funds closing in 2012 raised roughly half the amount raised by the funds that held a final closing in 2008.
  • Reflecting today’s much more challenging fundraising environment, at least 17 funds extended their closing dates in 2012.
  • The average length of time required from launch to close for all funds that actually held a final closing in 2012 was 18 months.
  • 26 percent of the funds that closed in 2012 raised more than they targeted; many more — 45 percent — raised less than targeted.
  • According to projections based on our annual investor survey conducted each year jointly with Kingsley & Associates, there currently is roughly $4 of offerings in the market for every $1 of investor appetite, or roughly four times of investment offering supply being offered than the amount that is actually needed to satisfy current investor demand.
  • Those funds that were able to close in 2012 can be characterized, among other factors, by a significant number of investors from prior funds who “re-upped.” So second-, third- and more-time fund managers seem to have a significant advantage over first-time fund managers when it comes to fundraising success. The “haves” also can be distinguished from the “have-nots” in this fundraising environment by more clearly defined strategies, lack of terminally poor performance, and experience in communicating candidly and nondefensively with investors. Those who’ve had the most difficulty either have performed so poorly that investors simply can’t rationalize a decision to invest more capital with them and/or have mishandled their communications and therefore alienated their investor and consultant constituencies.
  • The percentage of opportunistic funds that closed in 2012 was far lower in 2012 (29 percent) than closed in 2008 (37 percent), reflecting investor preferences for less risky investment strategies in today’s still fear-driven post–global financial crisis climate.
  • The number of blended strategy funds (funds that offered various combinations of core, core-plus, value-added and/or opportunistic strategies) that closed in 2012 was 26 percent of all offerings that closed in 2012, up from 20 percent in 2008.
  • The number of funds targeting Asian markets that closed actually decreased from 14 percent in 2008 to 9 percent in 2012. But there has been a gradual increase in the number of Asia-focused offerings in recent years, and more investors around the globe now seem to be targeting Asian markets these days, so we expect the number of offerings closed as well as the aggregate amount raised by these types of offerings will only be increasing as the next few years unfold.

FundTracker is a proprietary database developed and maintained by Institutional Real Estate, Inc. To learn more about the FundTracker database, click here.

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GeoffFinalv5forwebGeoffrey Dohrmann is president and CEO of Institutional Real Estate, Inc.

It’s all in the numbers

“If the Dow rises or falls, that’s just telling you how American public companies are doing. A movement in the 10-year note, on the other hand, gives us insight into how every American is doing. And that’s the real economy, right there.”
— Paddy Hirsch, senior producer, Marketplace

On Nov. 18, the Dow Jones Industrial Average made history by toping 16,000 for the first time, although it closed the day below that number. It only took 136 trading days for the DJIA to achieve its sixth-fastest 1,000-point gain to reach the 16,000 milestone, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A historical chart of the DJIA shows closing prices for the Dow from 1900 to the current month. It’s quite a sight to behold because of the perspective it offers; the global financial crisis barely appears to make a dent in the DJIA’s upward trajectory spanning more than 100 years, and other cycles of stock market tumbles and resurgences are quite evident during this past century.

But while the 16,000 figure is impressive, especially in light of losses the stock market saw during the global financial crisis, it’s only indicative of how public companies and their shareholders are doing in corporate America and not the most important figure to watch in helping gauge the overall health of the U.S. economy, notes Paddy Hirsh in his Marketplace article, “Forget Dow 16,000. Here’s the number you should care about”.

Hirsh argues that we should instead be paying attention to the yield on the 10-year Treasury bond — which reached an eight-week high of 2.80 percent on Nov. 12 — because it gets at the heart of how most Americans are doing financially. As the 10-year T-note changes, most other economic numbers adjust, such as mortgage lending rates, credit card loans and corporate interest rates. And as the economy improves, so too does speculation that the Federal Reserve will begin tapering its quantitative easing bond repurchasing program.

But Janet Yellen, on track to succeed Ben Bernanke as Fed chair, said at her confirmation hearing testimony on Nov. 14 that it’s “important not to remove support, especially when the recovery is fragile.” Although progress is being made in such areas as the labor market, the Fed wishes to see more sustained growth and recovery before tapering begins, and still expects to maintain a “highly accommodative monetary policy for some time to come thereafter,” she stated. Such sentiment helped bring 10-year Treasury bond yields down to 2.69 percent on the day of Yellen’s testimony.

With Fed stimulus likely to continue for some time, 10-year Treasury note yields should continue to stay low (note that the long-term average 10-year Treasury yield is 6.57 percent, much higher than its current level).

But as the economy improves, interest rates will rise, which will greatly affect the CMBS market, notes Bill Small, a columnist with the Aspen Daily News, in his article, “What do rising interest rates mean to investors?”

Small says a large volume of CMBS will be maturing in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and it could be hard for investors to refinance their loans at higher interest rate levels, potentially resulting in lower property values in the commercial real estate market for the next two to four years.

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Jennifer-Molloy91x119Jennifer Molloy is editor of The Institutional Real Estate Letter – Asia Pacific.

Lights, camera, action

Something everyone should want to see more of at infrastructure conferences are short films about projects and assets — if for nothing else, to break up some of the PowerPoint monotony. However, these films can be much more than a means to change the pace of an event. I saw a few of these at the CG-LA North American Infrastructure Leadership Forum in Denver last year, and at the time there was discussion about the value the medium can lend to communicating a project.

CG-LA Infrastructure has built on this idea of film and infrastructure. At its fifth annual North American Infrastructure Leadership Forum, held in Washington D.C., Oct 28-31, CG-LA Infrastructure introduced a full-fledged film festival: CG-LA’s inaugural Infrastructure Short Film Expo, which is supported by Johns Hopkins University, the American Council on Renewable Energy and the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Infrastructure projects and assets are particularly well-suited for film because they typically cover a large swatch of geography — explaining the who, what, where, why and when can be made easier by incorporating visuals. Consider rail and canal systems, or transmission lines and pipelines that span hundreds and thousands of miles. Even the “smaller” assets are quite substantial, such as ports, airports and bridges as well as complex multi-modal projects with rail, road, port and airport. Infrastructure projects also involve an array of public and private interests that film can quickly show simply by panning across the landscape the piece of infrastructure will inhabit.

In other words, film can quickly communicate the scale of a project, its use and impact on a community or region as well as its history and future.

“If Daniel Hudson Burnham, the great architect/planner and urban visionary, were alive today, he would use short videos like these to present his big plans,” says professor Michael Anikeeff, chair of the Real Estate Program and chair of the Edward St. John Real Estate Department, Carey Business School, Johns Hopkins University.

At the CG-LA forum, attendees could view 65 short films that were first previewed at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. The finalist films for the three categories — Strategic Projects, Cities/Olympics, Leadership — are available at the CG-LA Infrastructure website.

The finalist’s sessions were held at the U.S. Senate Visitors Center, and the winners were picked by a panel comprising Steven Johnson from AECOM, David Schultz from DART, Michael Pompay from MMFX Technologies Co. and Brian Pallasch from ASCE.

“The debate was energetic and combative, focusing on our lost tradition of building iconic infrastructure — ‘infrastructure that means something, and that says something,’” CG-LA notes.

A few of my favorite films were Learning from Blackpool — a film about a beachfront town in England that remade its waterfront to stop rising tides from washing away the community’s draw as a destination — and Elders: Crenshaw/LAX Community Film Series — a short story about the return of the street car to Los Angeles. And the sheer engineering scale of the Panama Canal expansion project on display in Panama Canal Expansion Program Update — August 2013, was awe-inspiring.

CG-LA will host a second Infrastructure Short Film Expo in New York City in February. Anyone who would like to submit a film can do so by sending to CG-LA using to

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DrewWebsiteDrew Campbell is senior editor of Institutional Investing in Infrastructure.

If you build it

When it comes to shopping center development in Europe, the hottest markets are the emerging ones. Russia has the largest pipeline of retail space scheduled for delivery in next 18 months, followed by Turkey and Ukraine, according to Cushman & Wakefield’s European Shopping Center Development Report.

Russia has 3.2 million square meters of retail space under construction — enough to propel the country (currently at 16.0 million square meters) from the third-largest retail market in Europe to the second-largest market, overtaking the United Kingdom (currently 16.8 million square meters). France continues to have the most shopping center floorspace, at 17.0 million square meters, with an additional 800,000 square meters in the pipeline.

Europe’s emerging markets are significantly under-retailed compared with established markets in Western Europe, so developers and investors are currently playing catch-up. For example, Russia and Turkey have about 100 square meters of shopping center gross leasable area per 1,000 population, while France and the United Kingdom are around the EU average of nearly 300 square meters per 1,000 population.

That means there’s plenty of scope to build new shopping space.

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LorettawebfinalLoretta Clodfelter is a contributor to Institutional Real Estate, Inc.

Excuse me, how much?!

Last month I wrote a short article on the government shutdown and how it may affect the U.S. economy and real estate, and linked it to an interesting article written by Brian Summerfield for the National Association of Realtors titled “Would a Gov’t Shutdown Affect Foreign Investors’ View of U.S. Real Estate?

This time around, I thought I’d reveal how much the government shutdown actually affected the U.S. economy.

In a new report released from the White House, “Impacts and Costs of the October 2013 Federal Government Shutdown,” independent forecasters estimate that the shutdown will lower fourth quarter real GDP growth by 0.2 percentage points to 0.6 percentage points — or $2 billion to $6 billion in lost output.

That loss was due to some items such as halted permitting and environmental and other reviews delaying job-creating transportation and energy projects, hindering trade by putting import and export licenses and applications on hold, disrupting private-sector lending to individuals and small businesses, and halting federal loans to small businesses, homeowners, and housing and healthcare facility developers, to name a few.

In a recent article, “Government shutdown: Killer bees win, beer exporters lose,” Olivier Knox reports a few of the lesser but also important impacts of the shutdown:

  • About 200 permits to drill on federal lands languished unapproved.
  • The Treasury Department couldn’t issue export certificates for beer, wine and liquor, so 2 million liters due for export were stranded at ports.
  • The shutdown delayed the start of the Alaska crabbing season three to four days at a cost to fisherman of thousands of dollars of lost revenue per day.
  • National parks were closed, resulting in the loss of about $500 million in lost visitor spending nationwide (affecting not just parks, but the communities near them that depend on tourism revenue).
  • Federal employees were furloughed for a combined 6.6 million days. Not to worry: They received back pay for days they didn’t work, to the tune of about $2 billion.
  • The shutdown delayed about $4 billion in tax refunds, and prevented hundreds of patients from taking part in clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health — frequently the last shot chronically or even terminally ill Americans have at treatment.
  • Four out of the five Nobel Prize–winning researchers currently working for the federal government? Furloughed.
  • Government scientists will have to push back by six months the testing of a new approach for curbing the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes.

On a more positive note, The New York Times, in an article titled “Markets Higher After Strong Jobs Report,” reported that economists had forecast that employers added 122,000 jobs in October, but that the 204,000 jobs added in the month was sharply higher than the 163,000 jobs added in September. The average job gain in the first nine months of this year was about 180,000. Also the unemployment rate rose to 7.3 percent from 7.2 percent, the first rise since May.

The article does note that many analysts doubt the accuracy of the first round October employment figures because of the shutdown during much of that month.

Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG, stated in the article that given the impact of the shutdown, we have to wait until November’s report to get a fuller picture of what’s happening this fall.

We may not know yet how the shutdown affected us, but soon enough we’ll see the consequences/benefits of what has already been decided.

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DenisefinalwebDenise DeChaine is special projects editor at Institutional Real Estate, Inc.

A right royal telling off

Prince Charles — the United Kingdom’s long-time and nominally apolitical King-in-waiting — had a go, in a video address to the recent annual conference of the National Association of Pension Funds, held in Manchester on Oct. 16–18, at the adverse impact of supposed institutional investor short-termism and high annual management charges on long-term pension fund investment returns and individual retirement income outcomes.

Real estate professionals have become used to Prince Charles’s sometimes incisive but always controversial interventions on building design and the built environment. In 1984, he famously referred to a proposed extension to the National Gallery in London as “a monstrous carbuncle” and followed that in 2008 with a “pockmarked skyline” warning that proposed office tower developments in London that largely are now being built would produce “not just one carbuncle … on the face of a much-loved old friend, but a positive rash of them that will disfigure precious views and disinherit future generations of Londoners.”

But this is the first time that he has been moved to comment on institutional investment and the aging population. It’s another reminder of who all this money that institutional investors and their investment managers look after, across all asset classes, actually belongs to. And in an era of defined contribution pensions this business of high fund management charges and the consequent impact on eventual individual member retirement incomes matters. According to official figures, a 1.5 percent annual management charge over a lifetime of contributions reduces the available-for-annuity-conversion pension pot by 34 percent; a lower charge of 0.5 percent per year by “only” 13 percent. In money terms, that can make a big difference.

“Surely the current focus on quarterly capitalism is becoming increasingly unfit for purpose?” Prince Charles asked the assembled delegates. “It falls to you,” he told them, “to help shape a system designed for the 21st Century and not the 19th. Make that innovative and imaginary leap that the world so badly needs, otherwise your grandchildren, and mine for that matter, will be consigned to an exceptionally miserable future.” The industry has been put on notice.

Better longevity is something that we all have to deal with — I think we’ll manage, despite all the doomsayers saying that all we’re doing is giving ourselves a life that is longer but with much of the longer part dogged by expensive and life-sapping ill-health — but people also have to recognize that they now need to save more for their longer retirement. Despite what many Europeans think, the state won’t do it for you. We know that one result of the global financial crisis is greater transparency — better information and better communication — between investors, managers and beneficiaries on financial performance, but it is ironic that this often involves the very emphasis on quarterly reporting that Prince Charles bemoans.

Postscript: On Oct. 30, the U.K. government announced proposals to introduce a cap on the annual management charge for defined contribution pension funds. Coincidence or what? Two weeks since Prince Charles raised the issue, that’s quick work. Did someone say “constitutional monarchy”?

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RichardFlemingRichard Fleming is editor of The Institutional Real Estate Letter – Europe.

Nerd power

It’s no secret that the high-tech sector has led the U.S. job recovery and has been the igniter of the ongoing economic recovery. U.S. high-tech services job growth has outperformed total nonfarm employment growth by an average of four to one since January 2010. Innovation hubs such as San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and Austin are boasting healthy unemployment rates, recording higher office property occupancies and rents, and seeing a spate of new construction to meet growing tenant demand. In addition, emerging high-tech markets such as Atlanta, Baltimore and Minneapolis are also benefiting from the high-tech boom.

Several recently published research reports have focused on the positive economic effects of high-tech growth.

A study conducted jointly by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute and Engine Advocacy and titled Technology Works: High-Tech Employment and Wages in the United States determined that for every job created in the high-tech sector, approximately 4.3 jobs are created — via the multiplier effect — in other local goods and services sectors. The report also notes that while California continues to dominate in high-tech jobs, other regions across the nation are benefiting from the high-tech boom, including metros in the Rust Belt and South, which historically have not been associated with high-tech.

And the good news is that this expansion is expected to continue in the coming years as high-tech giants expand their operations and venture capitalist continue to fuel start-up companies. Commercial real estate owners and investors in core high-tech markets and emerging high-tech markets will benefit from this economic stimulus.

In another report, Jones Lang LaSalle’s High Technology Office Outlook states:

“The high-technology manufacturing and services sectors are important drivers of economic growth, especially as the industry produces a strong multiplier effect on the entire economy. Existing high-tech clusters and the emergence of new clusters will drive continued economic growth while also reshaping the commercial office landscape.”

The report notes that office properties in core high-tech markets across the country have outperformed the national averages, recording a 14.2 percent vacancy rate and an average rental rate of $32.69 per square foot at midyear 2013, compared with the averages of 16.9 percent and $29.29 per square foot, respectively.

In addition, the high-tech expansion has stimulated a wave of new office development. JLL notes that the 12 core high-tech markets tracked in its report account for nearly 50 percent of the total U.S. office construction at more than 23 million square feet. Today’s expanding high-tech firms are seeking creative space that utilizes a more efficient and open office plan.

Although the high-tech sector comprises only 3.3 percent of the absolute number of U.S. private jobs, its economic clout is much greater. A fact that likely won’t be lost on property investors or local politicians.

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LarryFinalwebv2Larry Gray is editorial director of Institutional Real Estate, Inc.