Eye of opportunity

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm

Milwaukee-based Bentley World-Packaging Ltd. and Bentley Management Group Corp. have experienced record growth in the last year by taking advantage of undiscovered commercial real estate opportunities and a small boom in Wisconsin manufacturing, said Thomas H. Bentley III, the owner of the companies.
Bentley also owns The Bentley Co., a Milwaukee-based construction firm specializing in building religious properties.
He has grown his Bentley World-Packaging and BMG companies simultaneously in the last 12 months by implementing additional services for growing customers of Bentley World-Packaging and opening additional locations of World-Packaging both in and out of Wisconsin through BMG real estate purchases.
Bentley World-Packaging has increased its number of employees by 40 percent in the last year and increased its number of locations to six in the state and two out of state. The company, which specializes in specialty and approved packaging, distribution and logistics services for manufacturers, expects to surpass the $20 million mark in sales for 2005, Bentley said. He declined to disclose the company’s annual revenues.
BMG is a real estate holding company that purchases residential, industrial and agricultural properties for possible development, leasing, sale or investment opportunities. The company recently purchased: a 40,000-square-foot industrial facility in Georgia; a 36,000-square-foot packaging, warehouse and logistics facility in Pennsylvania; a 65,000-square-foot building near General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee; and two adjacent 42,000- and 48,000-square-foot facilities on Interstate 94 north of Racine. BMG leases the facilities to Bentley World-Packaging.
When an industrial property is available for purchase by BMG, the company looks to the manufacturing market in the area to see if a property could be a fit for Bentley World-Packaging.
"We think real estate is great. So instead, we are looking for niches. We are trying to find parts of the country or types of properties that are under-valued or that are rapidly appreciating," Bentley said.
Bentley said his real estate investment plan is simple: only purchase properties when they are below market price, eliminate sub-standard properties that are already owned by BMG, diversify geographically and invest in maintenance and upgrades to current properties.
Bentley and his team always have their eyes on the market for under-priced properties, no matter the location.
"We are hunters, and (we) were wild turkey and deer hunting in Iowa when we found some southern Iowa properties that were amazingly under-priced," Bentley said. "It was a great bargain, and we saw income there, so we started to look for more. We bought 13 or 14 farms in the last three years, and most have already doubled in price."
The Iowa farms that BMG has purchased range from 200 to 700 acres and are mostly still used by farmers who lease the land, Bentley said.
If a property is industrial, BMG looks to the possible needs of an additional location for The Bentley Co. or for Bentley World-Packaging, which was the case of the Pennsylvania building that will house a new location for World-Packaging.
If the land is for residential use, the management group considers it for either an investment or possible condominiums and other developments. When the land is agricultural, the group tends to hold the property as it appreciates, Bentley said.
BMG recently purchased a 75-acre industrial park in Florida where the owner had run out of funding and needed to sell the property. The initial plan of the investment was to sell the property in sections by building or to construct more buildings on open land within the park to lease to local companies, Bentley said.
Manufacturing is making a comeback in Wisconsin, which was the key to the growth of Bentley World-Packaging, Bentley said. As manufacturing companies bounced back and increased production and sales, companies like Bentley World-Packaging prospered with them.
"Two years ago, a lot of our customers were losing business to China and Mexico, but hundreds (of our customers) now can barely produce orders in enough time, and there are shortages of copper and steel," Bentley said. "A lot of Wisconsin manufacturing companies have turned very strong from being very weak and we are growing with our customers. It is one of the most dramatic changes I have seen."
When business was not so prosperous for manufacturing companies, Bentley said many of his customers postponed purchases. A pent-up demand combined with a strong world economy has strengthened the Wisconsin economy and allowed Wisconsin manufacturers to be more competitive, he said.
"(World-Packaging) is going to continue to add services and service locations and then benefit from this mini boom," Bentley said. "It should be good for two or three years because these things don’t end over night."
In addition to working with hazardous goods, government packaging and meeting worldwide standards for lumber and packaging materials for local manufacturers, Bentley World-Packaging recently added a van delivery service and an in-house warehouse and distribution service where manufacturers can store parts to be packaged and delivered upon the event of an order, Bentley said.
Two sectors of manufacturing that are especially benefiting from the boom are exports and vendor suppliers, Bentley said.
"We have 300 customers, so benefiting from 200 (that are growing) is very good business," Bentley said. "We are also adding additional services as well as going to other states."
The real estate purchase by BMG in Pennsylvania was a real estate investment but also a smart move for the packaging company that it is now poised to service the Harley-Davidson Inc. assembly plant in Yorktown and other manufacturers that are based in the area, Bentley said.
"(The boom is) creating jobs and there are space needs for a lot of us that serve manufacturers," Bentley said. "It makes business good for all of us."

June 10, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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