There is no shortage of sour economic news in the media these days, globally or nationally. But in our region, and in Howard County specifically, we’ve got a lot of things pulling us in the right direction that will stabilize our area more so than our regional peers.
The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is here — so embrace it. As the BRAC engine begins to spool up at Fort Meade and beyond, our market will welcome more office workers and more consumers, but also more traffic and students.
The immediate effect will be visible off base, as defense-related companies occupy traditional office space. But also look for developers to repurpose well-located, older industrial properties for use by other firms desiring Corridor locations at a lower cost of occupancy. There is tangible growth in office space users in and around Fort Meade which, despite what goes on with Washington, D.C.’s handling of its balance sheet, is not expected to slow meaningfully.
Our labor pool is smart. Educated scientists, engineers and programmers with earning power now live in a part of the country that is seething with technology, some dark and secret, some fun and clever, but all growing. There is no substitute for intellectual infrastructure, and companies in our market know this.
More workers mean more for everyone. Labor pool growth has implications for dentists, auto repair shops, dry cleaners and myriad other day-to-day retailers that people need in their lives. This, of course, creates more traffic (and new traffic patterns) which also has implications for retailers, from first-time entrepreneurs or established second-location operators.
Now that the slots issue has been settled, Arundel Mills will begin to augment its currently powerful gravitational force with casino and restaurant plans. While the traffic and revenue side will not be felt until late 2012, professional service providers (architects, mechanical and civil engineers, legal, etc.) will be billing for services in 2011. As the Inter-County Connector draws closer to full operation, with segments stretching from I-370 in Montgomery County through to Route 1, various parts have opened around Route 29 at various times in 2011. Much like Route 100, the true effect of the road will not be felt immediately, but will evolve — as will our overall real estate recovery.
The government is the county is stable and forward thinking. It jealousy guards the resources and its first-class school system, which makes it possible to attract the talent mentioned above. The private sector understands that there are other jurisdictions that are harder to work with than Howard County and that a bit more time needs to elapse as certain submarkets return to equilibrium.
The investors are here. By the end of 2011, there will be a new crop of owners installed after they complete their purchases of the commercial real estate they closed on in the third and fourth quarters of this year. The sale prices that will be reported will provide pricing guidance to other owners and result in new opportunities being created in the market. Prices may be up or prices may be down, but the market is trading again — which is sure sign we’re on the road to recovery.
These are dynamics worth remembering as you read about other cities in the country that are wrestling with their own economic issues or even other counties having discussions about filing for bankruptcy.
We’re rowing in the same direction in our market, and we’re on the right track to “bring it all back home.”
Owen Rouse is senior vice president, director, capital markets, with Manekin LLC in Columbia. He can be contacted at 410-290-1400 and firstname.lastname@example.org.