I started my career in the midst of a “Black Swan” event. A generation ago, Dallas was in the throes of a mess, particularly from a commercial real estate standpoint.
In the early ’80s, following the deregulation of the Savings and Loans, a tsunami of development ensued—some good, some not, and way too much of both. The S&Ls crashed, and if that wasn’t rough enough, Reagan enacted the Tax reform act of 1986. The music suddenly stopped, and the problem was there weren’t any chairs. Enter the Resolution Trust Corp. … and yours truly.
My timing was abysmal, as the Dallas office market was broken. Had I known how long it would take to recover, I would have stayed in school and earned three PhDs.
Fast forward to today, another Black Swan is upon us. And despite searching for wisdom from politicians, physicians, and various media types, it is abundantly clear that no one really knows what will come next. But those who have rodeo-ed a time or two, do know this: it will pass.
A key distinguishing factor of this ugly “swan” is that Dallas isn’t broken this time, and that is for fundamental reasons beyond simple demand and supply. The same things that have driven the incredible run we’ve enjoyed since the Great Recession make Dallas poised to be among the first out of this crises-induced freeze.
Those of us in the business can rattle off the merits of being a right to work state or not having a state income tax. We can talk about the affordability of labor and housing. We can discuss that we are a nexus of transportation and distribution. We can tell you all about our great airports and that you can get anywhere, quickly. We can extoll the virtue of a state that welcomes and appreciates business. And of course, inform you that our central time zone and moderate weather (unless you park outside in August) are always a plus.
But there is a new attribute that wasn’t always seen as such. And that is, that our 7.8 million DFW denizens are spread out, and they like their cars. In a post-contagion conscious world, that is going to register with some occupiers coming from markets that rely heavily on public transportation, which are often challenged in terms of social distance.
We have all learned that we can work from home effectively.
And most of us have also learned that we don’t want to. But, we have crammed a decade of WFH experience into the last couple of months, and that will, to varying degrees, change work habits and workplaces going forward.
But on the flip side, office densities have likely seen their apex. So, the demand for office space in less dense configurations once the engines fire up is likely to counterbalance the loss of the functions that may continue to work remotely.
Through this experience, most of us have realized a thing or two.
For a lot of us, there is a greater awareness of the need and value of direct human interaction. And those of us who had the foresight, we have discovered that our investments in cloud resources and remote working technologies were both sage and essential.
At this point, a lot of folks are focusing on getting back to work and how that looks. We are in rapid evolution, and things will certainly change. Now is a time for thought leadership and action.
The good old days are gone; there is only tomorrow. And that tomorrow is bright for Dallas. We will innovate, evolve, and grow. It is what we do.
This is the town that gave the world the ATM, the integrated circuit, and frozen margaritas. We will figure this out.