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Ohio developer breaks ground on 1.5M square feet across Upstate

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This story first appeared in the April 18 print edition of GSA Business Report.

Speculative industrial development across the Upstate has been more than worth the risk for Ohio-based VanTrust Real Estate.

“The leasing activity from corporate America looking to lease new Class A distribution centers is at an all-time high, and the vacancy rate is at all an all-time low,” said Andy Weeks, vice president of the development firm’s Columbus, Ohio office.

“So when you have those kind of supply-and-demand factors, it really drives developers to want to develop more products to meet that demand.”  VanTrust says it often “dips its toe” into a market to test the waters before jumping into the deep end. Now with at least five Upstate industrial properties under its belt, the Ohio developer is considering office, multifamily and mixed-use investments in the Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson metro area.  As a Furman University grad and dad, Weeks was impressed with the growth he saw across the Upstate market each time he traveled back to his alma mater— in particular what he calls “thoughtful” development such as public-private partnerships in downtown Greenville.

He considers the demand in Anderson and Spartanburg counties a parat of the entire Upstate market’s success, so under his direction, VanTrust launched a pilot run with the Exchange I-85 logistics park in Piedmont.

In 2020, McMillan Pazdan Smith, Seamon Whiteside and Harper Contractors finished the first 289,000-square-foot industrial property at the Anderson property.

Van Trust has since leased the property out to Bosch and CHEP USA, according to Weeks, and most recently sold the property to an undisclosed buyer with assistance from Givens Stewart with Wilson Kibbler. Adjacent 150,000-square-foot and 350,000-square-foot speculative buildings are now in the works on 47 acres.

“Upon hearing this wonderful news about VanTrust’s latest expansion, I was reminded of the tremendous faith the company showed in our community when they first arrived and invested in their first building,” Anderson County Councilman Jimmy Davis said in a statement. “Now, as we work together as a county and a nation to move forward in the aftermath of the pandemic, I am gratified that VanTrust continues to have faith in Anderson County and that they believe their investment here is well placed.”

VanTrust and Vannoy Construction planned to market a 618,000-square-foot building at 6670 Highway 221 in Roebuck earlier this year as a speculative property — the Ohio developer’s first project in Spartanburg County. But just as the team broke ground, supply chain service provider Ingram Micro announced plans to invest $37 million into the property to transform it into the company’s new regional fulfillment center. Trey Pennington of CBRE represented Van Trust in the lease, which will enable Ingram Micro to ship around 2 million packages each year with the addition of 203 jobs in the area.

A 227,000-square-foot speculative property next door brings VanTrust’s under construction portfolio to about 1.5 million square feet in the Upstate, according to Weeks.

“Ingram Micro is pleased to continue to invest in the state of South Carolina with a new advanced fulfillment center to further serve our customers in the region and play an important role in helping keep the global supply chain moving,” Marianne Zeller, executive director of Global Real Estate for the logistics company, said in a news release.  South Carolina is known for providing access to a dedicated workforce and we are excited to grow our presence here in the state.”

The Coordinating Council for Economic Development approved a $300,0000 SetAside grant to Spartanburg County to assist with the cost of building improvements.

“The companies that we’re talking to, to lease our buildings, they’re in a hurry to get in these buildings,” Weeks said. “So that’s a challenge for them; it’s a challenge for us to try to get these buildings built as quickly as we can in the current environment so that these tenants can occupy as quickly as they want to,” he said.

To speed up that process, VanTrust’s team tries to release orders for materials as fast as possible and hires general contractors that have a good hand on the pulse the market and are able to leverage their buying power to get materials.

“Now what we’re doing a lot of times is releasing the contract or ordering some of those long lead-time items before we have everything else figured out, because we just want to make sure we’re in the queue to get those materials when we need them,” he said.

Reach Molly Hulsey at 864-720-1223.

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