Commercial Real Estate

CRE Opinion: Playing the Second Half of this Cycle Like the Super Bowl

What we can learn from Super Bowl LII can help us understand how to move forward in North Texas real estate.

Super Bowl LII is done, the Eagles are the champs (ugh), and football is over until next season. I also won my very first fantasy league this year, which was great camaraderie among friends and colleagues! As I look back on the season, what did I learn?

Well, the season had its ups and downs—as always.  Most of us in North Texas would have preferred seeing our beloved Cowboys in the big game, but while that didn’t happen, it was a well fought game, nonetheless.  What I found amazing was how quickly the game turned.  Both teams had strong offenses, and no errors. Then, a hand went out, there’s a fumble, the Eagles gain possession, they launch a field goal, and the game is suddenly unwinnable by New England. How quickly it can all change!

Commercial real estate has a similar rhythm. We’ve had a good run in the game so far. In fact, our job gains of 100,000 a year continue to march us down the field and put us in scoring position. Our first half was strong–in the last few years, we kicked-off major build-to-suits for the likes of Toyota, JPMorgan Chase, and Liberty Mutual. And, let’s not forget our big scoring drives in the first quarter with State Farm and Capital One. These projects are history as we enter the second half.

What we can learn from Super Bowl LII is that these teams never hit pause–not in this championship game. They drove every play and kept their eyes on the ball. What’s exciting about battles like this, is that victory is never assured; something can always happen to change the course of the game (as it did in those last two-and-a-half minutes).

For us here in DFW, we have enjoyed a long run at a good economy. That has created an unprecedented commercial real estate market. You have to go back to the late 1990s tech boom to see anything like this. For office, industrial, and housing, vacancy remains near all-time lows and rents and pricing continue to increase at well above historic levels.

As we enter the second half, we cannot rest because we have had some big scores and are in the lead. Now is when we must keep our eyes on the ball and continue to execute.

For commercial real estate, that means continuing to recruit companies to North Texas–and retain the ones we have. Our special teams (the Dallas Regional Chamber, the Governor’s office, and local economic development) can be trusted to execute when they are on the field.  We also must find ways of increasing our talent pool. While many move to DFW for the job opportunities, we can’t fool ourselves–at 3.2 percent unemployment, labor across all sectors is in short supply. So, we need to push there to publicize DFW’s story of opportunity and work long-term to create programs to grow our skilled labor pool across all industries.

In addition, to come out on top, we have to surmount challenges ahead–and these are big ones that can change the outcome of the game. We need to recognize that our community’s scale and maturity now dictate that mass transit options and fuller adoption must be addressed.  Likewise, the urban and suburban planning models that have worked for years are now changing for us. We are quickly approaching the point where we need to anticipate denser styles of development in key locations to accommodate the growth that is inevitable. If we do not execute on these things, the game may change for us.

Here’s to a good, although challenging, second half!

Walter Bialas is vice president and director of research at JLL’s Dallas office, and a lifelong Steelers fan.