Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/12/2020 (225 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It’s a tough time to make any predictions about the future, but Paul Jhand and Sam Sidhu of local firm Whiteland Developers are pretty confident in one prognostication: Manitoba’s industrial real estate sector will perform well in 2021, just as it has throughout the pandemic-riddled 2020.
"The demand we’ve seen this year will continue into next year and beyond," said Jhand, the company’s CEO.
With that confidence, Whiteland is investing $65 million into the development of InksPort, a new 68-acre business park at CentrePort in the RM of Rosser that will have at least 375,000-square-feet of industrial space available by the third quarter of next year.
In a pandemic, one year ahead could look dramatically different, but Jhand says the company’s experience marketing and leasing its industrial properties during the pandemic made clear that there will be more than enough demand to make the new business park a hot commodity.
Over the past two years, Whiteland has had great success in the inland port’s BrookPort park, developing and selling 160 acres of fully serviced industrial land. In 2018’s first phase of that park, Whiteland sold out 26 lots in under a year. After bringing 36 lots to market this June, every one was sold out in under six months, despite the pandemic.
The InksPort announcement is not the first major development to get the green light at CentrePort this year: 12 new companies have set up shop in the Brookside Industrial Park, with more likely looking to start soon. MMI Asset Management broke ground on the 17-acre Steele Business Park in October, immediately north of InksPort. In all, more than $100 million of development has happened at the complex this year.
CentrePort president and CEO Diane Gray says the quick sale of available properties shows that the industrial side will have no shortage of interest in the near future.
"Some parts of the industrial marketspace have been hit hard with COVID, while others have really accelerated," she said.
A major contributing factor to that is the push firms are under to boost regional distribution during the pandemic, driven in large part by changing consumer habits (adoption of e-commerce, changing expectations) and disruption to traditional supply chains, like those that run through Europe or Asia.
Winnipeg, it seems, is a key target for national and international companies looking to improve distribution, says Jhand.
Nationally, the industrial sector, specifically warehouses and distribution centres have somewhat outperformed expectations during the pandemic, according to the 2021 national outlook report by Avison Young.
"Already benefiting from strong fundamentals in major urban regions across the country pre-pandemic, (Canada’s industrial market) proved extraordinarily resilient in 2020 with COVID-19 control measures highlighting the industrial market’s continuing supply-demand imbalance," the report says.
Avison Young shares Sidhu and Jhand’s rosy outlook for 2021, stating that "Canada’s industrial vacancy (rate) is anticipated to remain virtually unchanged in 2021 (2.4 per cent) even as substantial amounts of new supply are delivered countrywide by the end of 2020."
In other words, as Jhand said, the demand will carry over, with high-quality industrial product coming and going quickly.
Though CentrePort has experienced growth this year, Gray said there have been elements that have progressed slower than anticipated: the long-planned rail park development at the site is about a year behind schedule, for example, due in part to delays in working with out-of-province firms that were unable to be on-site as frequently.
But overall, the news out of CentrePort has been more positive than expected when the pandemic started. Jhand said the affordability factor in Manitoba, along with its distribution channels, is what’s drawing interest from across the country and continent to projects like InksPort, which he anticipates will have a relatively quick pick-up.
"East to west, we’re in the middle, and that’s a good place to be," he said.
Of the 68 acres, 375,000 square feet are expected to be developed into industrial buildings and available by next fall, with the remainder becoming available by 2022.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.