CARW members weigh in

Most commercial real estate brokers in southeastern Wisconsin are optimistic that the local market will improve next year.

In a recent survey of members of the Commercial Association of Realtors Wisconsin (CARW) conducted by BizTimes Milwaukee, nearly two-thirds (65.5 percent) predicted that the southeastern Wisconsin commercial real estate market will improve in 2012.

However, 36.4 percent of CARW members describe the current state of the commercial real estate market as “weak,” while 34.5 percent said the market is “improving” and 29.1 percent said the market is “flat.”

Capital markets for commercial real estate remain tight with little sign of significant improvement, CARW members say. According to the survey, 67.3 percent said the capital markets for commercial real estate are “flat,” only 18.2 percent said the capital markets are “improving” and 14.5 percent said the capital markets are “declining.”

CARW members were also asked to rank which commercial real estate development projects in southeastern Wisconsin should be the top priority for public and private investment (see accompanying list).

In the survey, CARW members also were asked, “What should be the region’s priorities for economic recovery in 2012?” Here are some of their responses:

“Full attention should be given to seeing through tangible projects that support high wage, value add jobs within the market,” said Jeff Hoffman of Judson & Associates. “Some of these projects are within reach, but need to be nudged across the finish line. Kohl’s corporate, NML, UWM Engineering and Fresh Water sites are all projects that can be drivers of the local economy. If projects such as these are executed properly, they have the ability to create a multiplier within the region and lead to the demand of more hotels, casinos, arenas, etc.”

“Jobs, jobs, jobs…high-paying jobs,” said Curt Smith of CB Richard Ellis. “As a region we need to take advantage of our proximity to Chicago and Madison and work with those companies that want the amenities of Chicago and Madison but also want a better quality of life and a skilled labor force. Also, as a region we need to work very diligently to improve our education system for both professional careers and alternative careers (manufacturing, trades, etc…). By improving the ways we educate our community we can spur economic growth by providing the most skilled labor force in the country and the world. I think this improvement in education needs to start with MPS (Milwaukee Public Schools) and grow from there.”

“Continuation of active engagement of foreign (outside of Wisconsin) companies, to bring jobs and capital to the region,” said Adam Matson of NAI MLG Commercial. “Even more important is to retain our existing companies, through constant communication and benefits similar to our offerings to external companies.”

“1. Initiatives that will stimulate business to start and grow in the region. 2. Initiatives to foster world class education and research in the region,” said Patrick Gallagher of Siegel-Gallagher.

“Regional mass transportation infrastructure development is a pivotal aspect to new job creation, brain trust retention, and overall economic growth,” said Marianne Burish of Siegel-Gallagher. “The world competes nationally and regionally – not locally, and we are laggards. Regrettably, we have politicized this issue vs. having viewed it as a vital economic development tool. We need to reprioritize light rail connecting Milwaukee to Madison and Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Chicago. In an environment where jobs and lives are mobile and fluid, we have remained static and uninspired in our thinking in regard to broad-based economic connectivity. We are part of an identified economic super region but continue to isolate ourselves and this has, and will continue to mean, economic starvation, pitifully, by choice. Profoundly unfortunate.”

“Wisconsin must become a Right to Work state if they want to capitalize on one of our most valuable assets: our skilled manufacturing workforce,” said Neal Driscoll of Liberty Property Trust. “Of the top five questions corporate America asks when considering which states to move to or grown in is whether or not they are a Right to Work state. If the answer is no, they move on.”

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