Justin interviews Ben Gordon, founder of Cambridge Capital, Jay Tanjuan of Scannell Properties and Larry Genet of CBRE. They discuss for the demand of industrial real estate and increasing lease rates. Ben Gordon discusses the growth of logistic tech companies in the supply chain and merger & acquisition strategies.
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- Introduction to Ben, Jay and Larry- 1:00
- Ben Gordon: Ukraine Logistics Coalition – 3:50
- Supply chain in the Ukraine Logistics Coalition – 6:20
- Larry Genet: Supply chain in his space – 9:45
- Demand for space – 10:10
- Leasing in the pre-development phase – 10:40
- Jay Tanjuan: 0.3% vacancy and increasing lease rates in the I.E. – 11:30
- High lease rate throughout all Southern California – 13:00
- How does tech effect the supply chain? – 14:45
- Ben Gordon: How e-commerce growth is creating downstream logistics opportunities – 16:10
- Growth of logistic tech companies – 17:00
- Merger & acquisition activity – 18:10
- Acquisitions to expand a company’s market share – 19:00
- The impact China has on our supply chain – 23:00
- Manufacturing shifting to North America – 24:00
- BGSA Conference – 26:00
Connect with Ben Gordon
Connect with Jay Tanjuan
Connect with Larry Genet
Connect with Justin Smith
Justin Smith: I think best would just be a brief introduction, the firms and some of your role.
Ben Gordon: Sure. So I’m Ben Gordon, founder of Cambridge Capital. We invest in companies in the logistics and supply chain world. I’ve spent my career in this space. I’ve built five companies in the logistics and supply chain world, starting with 3PLex, which was a SaaS transportation management systems company, which sold and is now part of IBM. I built an investment bank, BG Strategic Advisors, which is still active. It’s done over 50 deals in the transportation world. And at Cambridge Capital, we’re an original investor in XPO, now a $20 billion company; Bringg a billion dollar SaaS last mile logistics company; ReverseLogix; Parcel Perform; and a host of others.
In addition to that, I founded the Ukraine Logistics Coalition, which is a nonprofit in the supply chain world to help get more vital supplies on the ground to partners, NGO government and others in Ukraine. We’re working with about a dozen CEOs and leaders of major transportation logistics companies, as well as suppliers of food, medicine, and medical supplies and NGOs like JDC and the Red Cross to help get vital supplies in to help people and save more lives.
Justin Smith: That’s awesome. There’s a lot to unpack there, but I’m excited to learn more about that. I think everybody is. Jay, I know you well, maybe it can help everybody else learn a little bit more about you.
Jay Tanjuan: I’m Jay Tanjuan. I’m a director of development for Scannell Properties, which is based in Indianapolis and has offices all over the US and Europe. So I just joined Scannell as a director of development for Southern California this past January. Before that I was at Panattoni Development for almost 11 years. And then I was also in the Navy as a supply officer, which is in logistics and supply chain management. So I have a unique background, I think in terms of getting into industrial real estate development.
Justin Smith: Military and logistics, there’s real logistics there. And Larry, you’re our industry celebrity. We appreciate you taking time for us today. Tell us about yourself.
Larry Genet: Absolutely, thank you. My name is Larry Genet. I worked for CBRE as an Executive Vice President over there. I co-lead a team of 10 people where we focused on the sale and leasing of industrial property throughout south Florida.
Justin Smith: I love it. Thank you for joining us. And all of our worlds are all intersected and overlap. I love having a variety of input and it was something that Larry posted that put Benjamin on my radar and then excited to learn more. For an industrial broker I’ve been invested in industrial property. And part of what I’ve seen is a lot of successful brokers then start investing in businesses that are in their industry. So you’ll see that with the office brokers on the odd occasion. And so for an industrial broker, thinking about making investments in the supply chain, that was another thing that had piqued my interest. So I thought it’d be fantastic exploring that further, knowing that Benjamin that’s his jam, that’s where he spends his time and that’s where his expertise is. I’m not sure he’s going to gain three new investors from this call with our two nickels we have to rub together, but we appreciate you taking the time.
I think you’re a passion project or something that’s maybe of a very high importance. Maybe you could start with this Ukraine Logistics Coalition that you’re a part of Benjamin? Could you help unpack that a little bit for us? I had looked at the website that’s, logistics coalition.org, and that was a great intro for how you’re participating and helping out.
Ben Gordon: Justin, thank you. My exposure to Ukraine began last year because we bought a logistics company called Everest, in partnership with management and the majority of their people were in Ukraine. So I went there. I went to Kiev to spend time there last September. Fantastic people, amazing country and it was energizing. It was like being in any other great European city except better because of the level of enthusiasm, the entrepreneurial drive, and the energy. The desire to move away from the Russian oppression towards freedom, human rights, and democracy. It was inspiring and exciting to be a part of it. As horrifying as it’s been to watch this Russian military invasion, this attack on their innocent neighbors in Ukraine, one thing that stood out for me was as a guy who knows something about Ukraine and something about logistics, I thought, what could I do to help? And the answer was well, number one, help the people at Everest and we evacuated everybody that we could at least out of Kiev to the west. Women and children that wanted to be able to leave. We were able to get them out to Romania, Hungary, Poland, et cetera. But then the second question was okay, now what? I noticed that while there was a huge need for food, medicine and medical supplies, there was no good supply chain process for getting the supplies in. And their organizations that wanted help and needed help, they weren’t getting what they needed from transportation companies and suppliers. And so we thought, we could complain about it, or we could just decide to do something about it. So I got together with a few other people that are in the supply chain world and we started the Ukraine Logistics Coalition. The idea was really simple, which was to let the people on the ground tell us what they care about the most, the NGOs, Ukrainian government entities and others. Let that be like a reverse auction where they highlight the food, medicine, and medical supplies they need. Suppliers could react and say, I could give you that I could find that and then transportation companies could help get the goods from origin to destination. The most important part of this has been the supply chain side, which it’s clear what the needs are. I had a great discussion with leadership with the Red Cross last week and they said, here’s the list of all the medical supplies that we need. Think of anything that you would put in an emergency room or we’re in a field hospital, and it’s there first aid kits, needles, syringes, tourniquets, et cetera. How do we get it? And so part of that is getting companies in the medical world to donate supplies.
For transportation we’ve had several terrific organizations step up like SEKO Global Logistics, which has been willing to donate their freight forwarding capabilities and work with airlines. Groups like Project Cure to donate free airlift in order to get goods there. Plenty of companies will do first mile, which is the trucking to go from a manufacturing or warehouse site to the airport. The middle mile is the air. And then the last mile comes after the plane gets to Warsaw and the trucks go from Warsaw, either into Ukraine or to the border for handoff.
So it’s really about (1) getting partners in each of those areas who are willing to help; (2) coordinating supply chains, and (3) automating the process so that it’s not just me or other individuals being amateur freight forwarders, and trying to match all of this up, but rather getting it into a system so that it can all run at scale, 10X the volume of what a couple of individuals could do. And that’s what we’re doing.
We’ve been able to raise $2 million in cash, $22 million in medical supplies donated, and more coming. I’m really grateful for the great work of terrific partners and very eager to bring in more partners that can help either by donating supplies or by donating transportation.
Justin Smith: It’s hard enough here when we all know who the players are, and we all know what we’re trying to do, and we all have all these legal contracts. So I could only imagine out there where there’s so many disparate needs and so many just disparate people trying to help and trying to figure out a way of how you can play a role in that. I think everybody’s very grateful for your participation and that’s something that I would ask people to explore further and I’m sure they can reach out to you if there’s any way that they can help play a role in that.
Ben Gordon: Absolutely. We need all the help we can get. Most importantly, the people in Ukraine need all the help they can get. Everything counts, this is lifesaving work. I can’t stress enough that this is one of those moments that I think we’ll all look back on and say, what did we do? Did we do everything we could to help in a moment when people’s lives are at risk? And here we are, for those who celebrate Passover, tonight is the first Seder and think about going from slavery to freedom. And this is all about helping people remain free in Ukraine. And of course, good Friday and Easter, and think about sacrifice and think about the sacrifices these Ukrainian people are making and it’s up to us to do more.
Justin Smith: Yeah, the timing of the messages couldn’t be more relevant. Perhaps we can lighten the mood a little bit and what you do on the daily where some of your skill set has come from is in the supply chain industry, maybe Larry and then Jay can give us just a quick update of what they’re seeing in their marketplaces for where they participate in it. And that can give us some context for Ben going into where the digital world overlaps into that. So Larry, give us a state of the union for what you’re seeing out there.
Larry Genet: The market is absolutely ripping. There’s just an absolute wall of capital that is descending on industrial real estate. It’s a highly coveted asset. Every fund, every individual buyer, every publicly traded firm is either increasing allocations or trying to figure out a way to get into the space. So the amount of capital dramatically exceeds the amount of opportunities, which is pushing up pricing pretty significantly. But the big story is not the demand for industrial real estate investing. It’s the demand for space by the tenant. The amount of organic demand for space that we’re seeing is unprecedented. There are literally not enough buildings for the amount of tenants in the market. So if you were to go look for 50,000, 60,000 or 100,000 square. Feet of space in Doral or Fort Lauderdale, for instance, our two main hubs for industrial space in south Florida, there’s effectively no space. Anything that’s got walls going up and is being dried in is pre-leased or majority pre-leased. So tenants are having to actually speak to developers and brokers and find buildings that aren’t even listed yet that are in the pre-development phase getting investment committee approval, for instance. We are looking well before the pad is even formed. That’s what we’re having to do to find space right now. And as a result of that, the smart landlord brokers are pushing rates incredibly hard even though there’s no real support for these types of rents that we are targeting right now. It’s been a really big squeeze on users.
Justin Smith: Yeah, unprecedented. It’s so interesting to think of how you have to evolve as a broker and how clients have to evolve as tenants and landlords. Jay is part of that wave of capital. How do you ride the wave, Jay?
Jay Tanjuan: Yeah, it’s definitely been a challenge. Our market is very similar to what’s happening in Larry’s market and really all over the country, but I would say probably even to a higher degree. I just saw a CBRE report earlier this week that said the Inland Empire vacancy went down from 0.5% to 0.3%. I think if you really dig into the 0.3 all those are spoken for or there’s a story behind all of them on that 0.3 that’s out there. So it is extremely tight right now and you’re starting to see lease rates really take off and with that, the land pricing has also really taken off as well.
The Inland Empire is an almost 600 million square feet market. So it’s a pretty sizable market. And I think what’s really been more pronounced this go round is that before, I think in Southern California, there’s brokers specializing in just one little submarket, maybe in the south bay in Los Angeles, which is a port adjacent, but they didn’t really look anywhere else. Now I think our market is really just operating almost as just one big fluid market in Southern California, because you have to pay attention. If you’re an LA broker, you have to pay attention to what’s happening in the IE. You have to pay attention to what’s happening in Orange County and it all kind of just works together.
The Inland Empire has a lot newer buildings, generally speaking then LA and Orange County, which is more infill. So I think earlier on, right after the pandemic started to hit and the markets really started to take off, you started to see lease rates really climb in the IE, but I think it was more just a function of they had the newer product. There’s more deal velocity. You know, 20 million square feet of construction that’s happening every year. Whereas in LA it’s more kind of five, six, and Orange County is even less than that. The IE was delivering so much new product, so you can almost mark to market. Each deal kept going higher and whereas the other markets were catching up. But I think now you’re going to start seeing some really high lease rates that are going to be coming out of all of Southern California. I just heard, there’s a lease renewal for a 130,000 square foot building in Ontario that was $2.05 a foot triple net. In Larry’s world, that’s $24.60 a foot, which is a lot. And then that’s the Inland Empire so what does that mean for LA and Orange County, which are more infill markets? So then you would think those rates should be even higher. Or who knows where it ends up. Right now, I’m hearing stuff out there, like $2.15 a foot, $2.20 a foot and even higher than that in some cases but those aren’t done deals yet, but it’s coming. The demand is still there. Consumers want to buy stuff and all that stuff’s coming in from Asia through the ports and it has to get stored somewhere and there’s no space to store it. There’s really just a big push on demand for industrial space right now in our markets.
Justin Smith: Well said, and yeah, new, higher pricing everywhere. And this is like beyond the imagination, even beyond there. So if you take what Larry and Jay are seeing and you overlay tech into it. And then I have to imagine capital is flowing into investments that Benjamin is seeing, like we are seeing probably even more. So, if we think of what that means, Benjamin, maybe you can help us understand. We’ve got a shock. We’ve got all this growth in the demand and all the users and on the trucking companies and all on the tech scene. What’s the state of the union?
Well, look, I think there are several things happening in the supply chain world right now. The state of the union, I think number one, Larry and Jay are far better equipped than I had talked about the demand in the industrial real estate side and industrial logistics. But let me comment on a couple of the underlying themes and where that shows up elsewhere in the supply chain. One is the core growth in e-commerce so much has been made of the fact that the first quarter of COVID was basically compressed a decade of forecasted e-commerce growth into three months. And that meant a massive acceleration of e-commerce growth. And that created all kinds of downstream logistics opportunities. One was e-commerce fulfillment, which shows up in the examples that Larry and Jay have been talking about with you. Two, shows up in things like growth and last mile, and companies like Bring, has beneficiaries of that reverse logistics because 30% of what gets bottled land gets returned. Companies like ReverseLogix, providing software for returns is examples of that. Third, e-commerce fulfillment software, we’re actually about to close on a $40 million investment in Europe in that arena. Which will probably be announced in another week or so, it focuses on that. All of these are examples of how e-commerce growth is creating downstream logistics opportunity. So I think we’re going to see more of that.
The year over year comps is going to change. The truth is that there was so much pent up growth that really was unleashed in the first year of COVID. The year-over-year comps right now are pretty tough. So you might see year over year growth, flat, or even decline, in terms of e-commerce but the supply chain services continue to be a huge area of opportunity. That in turn means there’s a deal opportunity whether it’s for investors. Like we at Cambridge Capital invested in a host of companies. I mentioned some of them parcel performance tracking and visibility is another green screen and AI for truck brokerage and predictive pricing would be another lifted, a tech enabled logistics. So a host of areas of investment. By the way, last year, the number of unicorns in logistics doubled from 25 to 51.
So growth for logistics tech companies has been tremendous, but then there’s also been tremendous activity on the M&A side, and we see that in lots of forms. Certainly warehousing, again relevant to what you’ve just been discussing, global freight forwarding, the sale BDP to the Singapore post authority, convergence of e-commerce and supply chain like Uber acquiring Transplace. I think while that pace of activity, maybe last year’s all-time high will remain at its peak. There’s still lots of continued demand and activity underway. So I think continued growth in e-commerce logistics implications for tech enabled supply chain and M&A are all areas of continued growth and activity that we see.
Justin Smith: I would open it up if Jay and Larry got questions chime in, or if there’s anything that’s interesting or exciting, or that you want to open up with Benjamin? Like by all means I probably have about 25 different ones. So, if you guys have any top of mind.
Larry Genet: Yeah, Ben, thanks so much. My question was related to the M&A activity. It seems like it really heated up last year. There’s been a lot of strategic acquisitions. Was there an underlying theme, or is it just people filling gaps in their own models? Were there some trends happening that pushed all those acquisitions forward or where they’re all done for different?
Ben Gordon: Yeah, great question. What explains all the M&A activity and are there some core themes that sit underneath it? Yes, I think there are. So Larry, my perspective is number one, there was a lot of M&A activity, simply fueled by the desire for growth and there’s no question that’s the case. Public companies, they’re paid to deliver growth and therefore, in a world where money is so cheap, deploying more of it and interest rates are going up now, but still on a long-term basis, super cheap like low 10% in recorded history. So low cost of capital, public companies with pressure to deploy and private equity firms who were paid to write checks and not sit on money for all those reasons deal activity in aggregate went up.
But within that, where there’s some themes? Yes, one theme I would say is consolidation. So that’s a company that’s in one area, buying a head to head competitor to expand the relative market share. An example would be in next day delivery, you got UPS and FedEx, but then underneath that the second tier of companies, not as big as a hundred billion dollar giant, but aspiring to get there. LaserShip bought OnTrac, to build a dense original network for the next day. A second theme would be e-commerce moving into logistics. I mentioned the Uber Transplace acquisition. Uber freight, of course, tech enabled truck broker and Transplace, a domestic but with global aspirations, transportation management company, a multi-billion dollar business, I think you’ll see more of that. Third would be going the other way. Logistics companies moving into e-commerce. So Maersk, the steamship giant Maersk made $17 billion last year, which was an all-time profit record, and they use some of that to go by e-commerce logistics company called Visible SCM. A fourth, would be infrastructure giants that are moving into services. So I mentioned the Port of Singapore Authority buying BDP. Port of Singapore Authority, as the name suggests, ports and infrastructure. BDP, Philadelphia based global freight forwarder, that reflects this desire to combine capabilities. And then lastly, in a bit of a curve ball retailers deciding to take control of their own supply chain. So American Eagle Outfitters, but Quiet Logistics and Air Tara giving them robotics and last mile network.
Why did they do that? One reason was because retailers like American Eagle are saying, “Hey, if I can’t count on other transportation companies, cause there’s a capacity shortage.” UPS and FedEx are passing through 6% general rate increases, more waves of those GRIs coming down the pike and also simply not serving some customers that don’t fit within their parameters. And then similarly, you look at the delays on the shipping side and a hundred plus ships off the port of LA Long Beach. A lot of retailers are saying, hey, I don’t want to be a risk that I can’t meet customer demand and so they’re taking that into their own hands and going to buy a logistics company. So I think those five themes are all real drivers of last year that we’ll continue to matter this year.
Justin Smith: What a dynamic market, when you think of how we can barely handle tenants and landlords, you add tech in there, and then you add all the different adjustments. Because of just the natural evolution and the chaotic environment. I can only imagine how you stay up to date on all of that. We’re just tracking like a small geographic area.
Larry Genet: LinkedIn. It’s all on LinkedIn.
Ben Gordon: I don’t know, maybe I should follow Larry’s advice and focus on real estate too.
Justin Smith: There’s something for everybody. How about in China? That seemed like that was something that’s a big player in our space and you put something out there about lockdowns. And I think for us, we usually are thinking of like movement of goods coming out of manufacturers, distribution? Does that overlap into your world?
Ben Gordon: Yes. So a couple of things, first of all, so much of our supply chain. If you think about it, 40 years ago, the supply chain is a percent of GDP in the US was 20%. Now it’s less than 10%. Why is that? It’s because our supply chains got cheaper, leaner, and more efficient. Why? A big part of that was China. A big part of that was finding low cost manufacturing in China and then low cost shipping, air, and ocean back from China to the US. An advantage of that was we all saved money, right? So the shirt that you’re wearing would have cost 10% more if we were still at 20% of GDP and not 10. Your chair, this computer, everything is cheaper now because of that. You could call that the China supply chain dividend, but the flip side is, we’re also exposed and we’re dependent. When something goes wrong like the semiconductor chip shortage, it can hold up the entire rest of the economy. So China matters for multiple reasons.
What’s happening right now in the last month. China, which has had this COVID zero policy had a breakout of COVID, they are shutting down the entire metropolis and they’re shutting down Shanghai. That’s a big deal. That basically means that, first of all, none of us obviously lives there, but people that live there depending on what category you’re in, you either may not be leaving your home, or you might only be in a narrow geographic radius. You are not going to the factory and manufacturing at the same volume that you were manufacturing prior to a month ago. And so that’s a massive reduction in manufacturing capacity in a world where we’re already dealing with shortages and we’re already looking at inflation seven, eight percent inflation in large part because of those shortages. It’s going to get worse. We’re going to have more shortages. We’re going to have more inflation. And so this Shanghai, COVID zero policy, is something that I think we used to be people said, “when America sneezes, the world catches a cold.” You could say that now is true of China and we’re about to experience that.
Now the good news is there’s an opportunity. Those of us in the supply chain know these supply chains are fungible. So manufacturing, you can’t just do this overnight, but manufacturing should start shifting from China to North America. I think Mexico will be a big winner. You’re going to see a lot more Mexico manufacturing and you’re going to see more logistics connecting those North American manufacturing facilities with supply chain networks, and ultimately get to the end user. So probably good news for warehousing and Mexico and cross border US Mexico on either side. It’s probably good news for the transportation networks that run along those lanes as well. Again, that’s not going to happen overnight, but you do see it with semiconductor manufacturing, like Taiwan semiconductor is now setting up fabs and starting to do manufacturing in North America. I think that will mean things will be a little more expensive, but they will be a lot more reliable because we won’t have this supply chain disruption risk that I think we’re so exposed to right now.
Justin Smith: I think we’d all be happy with that trade-off. It’s for the better. I’m sensitive to your time Benjamin. We had 30 minutes for you, and I know you’re busy. For people who enjoy this, and this is like a where they’re interested in. I think you have a conference to plug if I’m not mistaken, maybe not here now, but on the annual can you tell us all about.
Ben Gordon: Sure. Larry knows, here in Palm Beach, we have an annual conference at the Breakers. We host over 300 top CEOs and leaders in the supply chain world. That includes CEOs of major companies like XPO, CH Robinson, UPS, and plenty of others. And then also lots of great, small high growth venture backed companies as well. It’s really a great place to get a pulse as to what’s happening in the industry. The event is by invitation only, but I’m certainly happy to share invitations with people that would like to be a part. Just reach out and ask me for more on the conference. You can go to bgsaconference.com to reach me, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or follow me on LinkedIn. I’m happy to be responsive and certainly happy to include more great people to be a part of the event. And of course, if those of you listening are interested in talking about deal ideas, or great companies in the supply chain arena, terrific. And of course, if you want to help with Ukraine in the Ukraine Logistics Coalition, certainly would welcome it.
Justin Smith: Benjamin Gordon, thank you for spending time with us. Jay and Larry, thank you guys. I appreciate you.
Ben Gordon: Justin. Larry, Jay, thank you. Great to be here.
Jay Tanjuan: Thank you very much. Learned a lot. Thank you, Ben. Thank you, Larry.
Justin Smith: Bye-bye.