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Selling industrial: firm taps specialized niché market

When Trammell Crow, a national commercial real estate powerhouse, exited the Jackson market in 1992, Phillip Carpenter seized the opportunity to take over leasing and management duties of its two business parks by opening a commercial brokerage and property management company to serve metro Jackson and Mississippi.

Since then, Carpenter has added a dozen properties to the portfolio that began with Interchange Business Park, a light industrial park located on U.S. 49 in Richland, and Woodland’s Office Park, a 22-acre office park located on County Line Road, and has recently picked up clients such as EDS, Nationwide Graphics and Minntech Corporation. He has also worked with Dupont, International Paper, Mississippi Baptist Health Systems, State Farm Insurance Company and Union Planters Bank.

“Commercial real estate news that people typically hear about concerns either property in downtown Jackson or retail developments on high-traffic corridors,” said Carpenter, SIOR, CCIM, president of the firm. “A majority of what we manage is industrial, which is a specialized niche market that most commercial Realtors don’t tend to follow. Our growth has been somewhat quiet over the years.”

Carpenter Properties has reported consistent sales growth in its 12-year history despite the last three years of relatively flat growth in office and industrial sectors in the metro area.

“The only sector of the commercial market that is doing well right now is retail,” said Carpenter, a charter member of the Mississippi Association of Commercial Realtors. “The motto for the last couple of years has been ‘stay alive until 2005’ because 9/11 put the country flat on its rear end, and the country has been struggling to recapture momentum. We’ve definitely been in a downward spiral since then.”

Even though industrial development may be flat — and low-key — it is the linchpin to economic development. When Frito-Lay closed its 16-acre, 225,000-square-foot facility located at 1325 Boling Street in Jackson, it left a dark and empty gap in the Hawkins Field Industrial Park. In December 2002, Hawkins Number One, LLC, purchased the property and contracted with Carpenter Properties as its managing and leasing agent. Since then, about half the space in the three buildings has been leased to a Nissan logistics supplier, a freight company and a waste removal company. Last year, developers invested “several hundred thousand dollars,” Carpenter said, renovating the front portion of a building for the Nissan supplier.

“Today, we have about 123,000 square feet available,” said Carpenter. “The only part of the space that has not been renovated is 70,000 square feet that Frito-Lay used for food processing. It’s where they baked the potato chips. That property has many special features, including storage silos, rail and its own water well that can pump 750 gallons per minute. That portion of the building has a special acid and heat-resistant floor tile, floor drains, and is air-conditioned. Because we’re hoping to find a food-processing user for that space, we have left it untouched.”

Carpenter is also focusing on leasing the remaining 16,000 square feet of available flex space in a commercial building located at 950 West County Line Road and fronting Interstate 220. Ferguson Enterprises, the world’s largest supplier of plumbing supplies, which has a distribution hub in Richland, leased 10,000 square feet to house a showroom, will-call area and small storage center. Central Lighting, a third-generation business based in Jackson, leased 6,000 square feet.

“Both companies relocated their showrooms to North Jackson, where they view their target market,” said Carpenter. “It is a more visible and accessible location, especially for future growth.”

Carpenter, who earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of the South in 1978 and an MBA from Tulane University in 1984, recently awarded two $1,000 real estate scholarships to Jay Germany and Priscilla Grantham for the fall semester at the University of Mississippi on behalf of SIOR (Society of Industrial and Office Realtors).

“Real estate is the foundation of business, and I’d like to see even more young people pursue a career in this rewarding profession,” he said. “There’s plenty of work to go around.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com.


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