Commercial Magazine

Commercial Spotlight: Texas

Will the Lone Star State avoid a major downturn?

By Neil Pierson

Everything, they say, is bigger in Texas. The price tags for some of the professional sports stadiums recently built in the Lone Star State are evidence to support this claim.

Texas has two stadiums on the top 10 list of the most expensive sporting venues ever built in the U.S. AT&T Stadium (home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys) clocks in at No. 6, having cost $1.5 billion when it opened in 2009. Nearby, 2-year-old Globe Life Field (home of the Texas Rangers baseball team) is No. 9 on the list at a cost of $1.1 billion. And Austin is home to the $260 million Q2 Stadium, which opened last year as one of the priciest soccer-specific stadiums in the country.
Whether publicly or privately funded, these facilities often serve as magnets for other commercial real estate projects. Take, for example, the Rangers’ former ballpark. Now known as Choctaw Stadium, it is part of a larger $1 billion development in the city of Arlington. This past June, work began to convert a portion of the stadium into 30,000 square feet of coworking space.
A similar vision is coming to life in Houston, where Minute Maid Park is at the center of a planned downtown entertainment district. Three years ago, the Houston Astros purchased land next to the stadium with the intention to build a mixed-use project. The area has been spruced up in the past decade by a $370 million Marriott hotel with 1,000 rooms and a 10-story office building next to the city’s convention center.
Like the rest of the nation, the Lone Star State is confronting recessionary fears. Texas A&M University economists noted that statewide home sales in June 2022 were 9.4% below year-ago levels. Inflation contributed to a 4.2% decline in real hourly earnings for Texas workers during the same period. Construction companies cut 3,000 jobs in June and the aggregate value of single-family housing starts was shrinking, although apartments starts were growing in value.
The state’s gross domestic product (GDP) decreased at an annualized rate of 2.3% in first-quarter 2022, a sharper decline than the nation as a whole. The manufacturing sector appears to be at the forefront of the downturn. A report this past August from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas showed that new orders from Texas manufacturers declined for a third straight month, suggesting decreased demand. These companies account for roughly 7% of the state’s jobs and 13% of its GDP.
The much-publicized growth of the state’s technology sector has yet to change course. In the first half of 2022, tech career platform Dice found that new job postings by tech firms in Texas jumped by 73% year over year. Texas trails only California in the number of tech job listings. Dice also reported that Austin, Dallas and Houston are among the top 10 U.S. cities for tech job posts, with Houston’s 83% annualized growth in new listings good for No. 5 among all tech hubs at the midpoint of this year.
Texas lost a bid to host Micron Technology’s newest semiconductor factory. In October, Micron chose a site near Syracuse, New York, for the plant, spurning the Austin suburb of Lockhart in the process. The company will reportedly invest $100 billion in the facility over the next 20 years and directly employ 9,000 people. ●
Houston’s industrial real estate vacancy rate peaked at 10.2% in fourth-quarter 2020 before falling to 6.3% in Q2 2022, Cushman & Wakefield reported. Rent growth was relatively muted, however, growing by 10.8% during this time to reach $6.98 per square foot. National rent growth during these six quarters approached 24%, the company noted.
Cushman & Wakefield also reported that Houston gained 7.5 million square feet of new industrial space in the first half of this year. Completions are projected to remain well above their long-term average through 2024 as retailers and wholesalers look to combat supply chain issues by developing more space.
Key leases signed from April through June of this year included 1.2 million square feet by home goods supplier Wayfair and 295,000 square feet by Frederick Trucking. There also were some significant assets sold during this period. A South Korean investor, Mirae Asset Global Investments, nabbed a 93-acre campus in the suburb of Katy for $190 million. And Cohen Asset Management purchased a 534,000-square-foot distribution facility for an undisclosed price. The property is located near Interstate 45 and is fully leased by FedEx.

Focus: Energy production

The Lone Star State’s energy sector is the nation’s largest with a value of $172 billion. Among the 50-plus Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state are oil and natural gas behemoths ExxonMobil, Phillips 66, Valero Energy and Energy Transfer LP.
Texas leads the U.S. in crude oil production and refining. The nation’s largest refinery, with a daily processing capacity of 626,000 barrels, is located 90 miles east of Houston in Port Arthur. Renewable energy also has a sizable presence as Texas ranks No. 1 among all states for wind power production and No. 2 for solar power production.
The state also leads the nation in energy consumption and there are ongoing concerns about the sustainability of its power grid. This past summer, officials were asking residents to conserve electricity during heat waves. Winter storms in 2021 caused blackouts and up to $300 billion in economic damage, more than the costs of hurricanes Harvey or Katrina.

What the locals say

“[Apartment] sales volume has really decreased over the past four to six months. It was really hot at the beginning of the year and then it just slowed down to a screeching halt. And now it’s kind of coming back in waves at the new pricing, but I think there’s still a lot of exploration going on in the market as far as what sellers’ expectations are and what the market is willing to purchase these deals at. … We do 10 to 20 deals a year, and so we are happy to sit tight until the opportunities kind of come to the surface, and then we can hop on them from there.”
J.C. Clemens
Chief production officer
Flagship Capital Partners

3 Cities to Watch

This city of 200,000 people is the largest on the Texas Panhandle. Amarillo was given its name, the Spanish word for yellow, due to the color of the local soil and yucca blossoms. Its economy centers on agriculture, health care, oil and natural gas. Amarillo is set to grow its tax base via two recently approved projects: a $1.5 billion refinery for rare earth minerals that will create 1,000 jobs and a $670 million beef processing plant with 1,600 jobs.
College Station
College Station (population 120,000) sits squarely in the Texas Triangle with proximity to Austin, Houston and San Antonio. Texas A&M University is the area’s largest employer, but College Station and neighboring Bryan also have many jobs tied to software developer Reynolds and Reynolds, poultry processor Sanderson Farms and CHI St. Joseph Health. Three years ago, College Station ranked No. 2 on a Forbes analysis of 203 small U.S. cities for business and career opportunities.
The Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) metroplex added more than 97,000 residents from July 2020 to July 2021, tops among all U.S. metro areas. Virtually all types of commercial real estate are flourishing locally. Leasing activity for data centers reached an all-time quarterly high at the end of 2021, CBRE reported. And the much-maligned retail sector is thriving in DFW as the 93.5% occupancy rate to close last year was the third-highest mark since 1990, according to retail brokerage Weitzman.
Sources: Amarillo Convention and Visitors Bureau, Amarillo Globe-News, American Clean Power, American Society of Civil Engineers, Avenida Houston, Axios, Commercial Property Executive, Cushman & Wakefield, Dallas Innovates, Dice, Environmental Defense Fund, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Forbes, Houston Chronicle, Houston Public Media,, Major League Soccer, National Association of Manufacturers, SGB Media, Texas Economic Development Corp., Texas Real Estate Research Center, Texas Real Estate Source, The Texas Tribune, U.S. Energy Information Administration, WFAA-TV


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