The Greater Lehigh Valley continues to prosper with new developments in residential and commercial buildings through the region. At the forefront of those projects are developers, engineers, contractors and more, all working together to foster economic growth on a local level.One company that’s been making a footprint in the region is Woodmont Industrial Partners, based in Fairfield, N.J., with several properties in the Greater Lehigh Valley.
Here to answer this week’s “Behind the List” questions is Matthew Crocker, regional asset manager at Woodmont Industrial Partners.
Lehigh Valley Business: How long has Woodmont Industrial Partners been operating in the region and what are its primary services?
Matthew Crocker: Woodmont Industrial Partners began its operation in 2012 through a partnership forged between Woodmont Properties and Romark Logistics. Woodmont Industrial Partners leverages the real estate development expertise of Woodmont Properties and logistics and transportation expertise of Romark Logistics.
Within the first five years of WIP’s operation and within our first fund, we acquired over 3 million square feet of industrial warehouse space. WIP is adept in acquiring new product and land opportunities, entitlement and land development, renovation and marketing of industrial space.
WIP primarily seeks existing warehouse for repositioning in the market and raw land for the ground-up development of warehouse projects.
WIP performs all aspects of due diligence, raising equity and either developing new projects or completing capital improvements to existing assets. WIP’s asset management team performs all capital improvement and construction projects, in addition to daily management activities.
LVB: What have been some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that Woodmont Industrial Partners has encountered throughout its years in business?
Crocker: There are several challenges apparent. For example, the market for industrial product is very active, limiting supply of existing buildings available for sale. Further, the land development process is protracted due to the many agencies involved in the approval process.
Finally, available land zoned for industrial use is very limited, and pursuing zoning changes can be a challenging process.
These challenges lead to opportunities for both developers and municipalities. The progression westward on Interstate 78 has yielded several land development opportunities that would not have been feasible several years ago.
The continued demand for industrial space has brought many more municipalities into the fold looking to increase revenue to make infrastructure improvements such as sewer system installations and road improvements. Industrial buildings add significant revenue to school districts with limited impact to the student body, thus increasing the number of dollars that can be spent on a per-pupil basis.
LVB: Resident and commercial properties are being built all throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley. What are some of Woodmont Industrial Partners’ most notable projects in the region? What projects does it have underway or in the pipeline?
Crocker: WIP acquired 9747 Commerce Circle in Weisenberg Township, Lehigh County, in 2013 for which it obtained land development approval for a neighboring lot for the construction of additional trailer parking. In 2016, WIP sold the building to IPT [Industrial Property Trust], who is currently completing the trailer expansion project.
WIP is pursuing several land development acquisitions in the Lehigh Valley, central Pennsylvania, northeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey markets ranging from 200,000 square feet up to 1 million square feet.
While you see a lot of construction occurring in these markets, demand continues to outpace supply. WIP continues to leverage its successful performance and brokerage relationship to find new opportunities.
LVB: How does Woodmont Industrial Partners directly stimulate the local economy? How does it get directly involved with the local communities it serves?
Crocker: WIP creates value where little existed previous to our involvement. Acquiring land and taking it through the approval process is very time-consuming and expensive, but the value that is created can be substantial.
The e/m-commerce model [e-commerce (electronic – referring to consumers using computers to shop online) and m-commerce (mobile – referring to consumers using mobile devices to shop online)] brings well-established companies to the region, providing the opportunity for quality jobs where limited opportunity may exist.
Finally, the increased tax revenue to the municipalities and school districts provides for reinvestment into the community.
WIP takes a keen interest in the communities in which it develops. We take the initiative to forge relationships with municipal officials to ensure we are accomplishing a development plan that benefits the community. Further, WIP is interested in the entire picture of the municipality and how it can become a valuable part of the community.
WIP works very hard to ensure its core values of good judgment, ownership, tenacity and team play are maintained throughout every project it engages.
LVB: What does the future look like for Woodmont Industrial Partners? Does it have plans for growth?
Crocker: WIP is pursuing opportunities in acquiring existing industrial buildings and land development projects. We are very encouraged by the performance of our first fund acquiring 3.3 million square feet, developing new buildings, repositioning existing assets and achieving a value of $180 million.
We will reinvest this capital into the markets where we have been successful, especially the Leigh Valley.
WIP maintains a presence in northern New Jersey and central Pennsylvania and plans to grow these offices to best serve the markets of New Jersey, central Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.