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Brazil’s economic challenges are again Lula’s to tackle – this time around they’re more daunting

He faces strong headwinds at home and abroad as his third term as president gets underway.

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Bolstering Brazil's economy will be hard if there's a global recession. Mauro Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Even when they’re in trouble, Brazilians rarely lose their sense of humor. But in recent years, their joviality has often given way to political division everywhere from social media to the dinner table.

One familiar quip – that Brazil is the country of the future and always will be – has lost its levity as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva begins his third presidential term. Lula previously led his country from 2003 to 2010. The president, who was sworn in again on Jan. 1, 2023, promised on the campaign trail that Brazil’s future can be like its past again: more prosperous and less polarized.

Having studied Brazil in our economic research, and having lived in the country for several years by birth or by choice, we argue that it will not be easy for Lula to fulfill his economic promises.

Unlike in his first two terms, when domestic and foreign markets helped the economy along, Lula now faces strong headwinds at home and abroad – and that means sound policies are even more important this time around.

Good times, bad times and economic choices

Brazil shot up from the world’s 14th-largest economy in 2003 to the seventh-biggest in 2010, during a boom that largely coincided with Lula’s prior presidency. At the same time, the country’s poverty rate, which the World Bank today pegs at the share of the population living on less than US$3.65 a day, fell sharply, from 26% to 12%.

Brazil exports so many gallons of orange juice, bags of coffee, bushels of wheat and other commodities that it’s serving up the world’s breakfast. Global growth during those years boosted the demand for these commodities as well as for Brazil’s processed goods. Manufacturing exports fueled Brazil’s growth in the decade following the year 2000 for the first time, led by sales of products like steel, car parts and cars, and aircraft made by Embraer.

During these boom years, Lula ran a balanced government budget, held inflation low and kept the Brazilian real’s exchange rate with other currencies under control – macroeconomic policies that he maintained from his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Lula also bundled Cardoso’s popular anti-poverty programs into Bolsa Família, a successful conditional cash transfer program. To remain enrolled and receive the monetary benefits, low-income families had to get their children vaccinated against diseases, keep them in school and meet other requirements.

Cynthia Benedetto, Embraer’s chief financial officer, observed in 2011: “Since my childhood I heard that Brazil is the country of the future,” and then warned, “Now the future has arrived, and I start to fear that it is short.”

She was right. The good times didn’t last.

During the second decade of this century, the prices of many of the commodities that Brazil exports fell or even plummeted. The country experienced two of the worst recessions in its history. In the downturn that lasted from late 2014 to mid-2016, nearly 5 million Brazilians lost their jobs. After a sluggish recovery, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and 10 million Brazilians became jobless in another big downturn.

Political upheaval

Bad choices made tough and unlucky times worse.

A combination of economic mismanagement, widespread corruption, political turmoil and a global pandemic all contributed to 10 years of backward sliding after a decade of progress.

Lula’s allies, including some in his inner circle, were found to be part of one corruption scheme after another. Lula himself ended up in prison for corruption until Brazil’s Supreme Court declared the case a mistrial because the presiding judge was determined to have been biased.

Brazilians elected Lula’s hand-picked successor, Dilma Rousseff, in the 2010 and 2014 presidential races. She cast aside some of her predecessors’ policies that had buttressed economic stability.

Rousseff ended the central bank’s de facto independence and lowered interest rates in an abrupt turnaround that sparked inflation. She gave up on balancing the budget.

Once corruption was exposed in state-owned oil company Petrobras, the construction industry and at Brazil’s massive state-run development bank, economic activity slowed across the board. Rousseff oversaw one of Brazil’s most severe economic contractions in memory: GDP shrank by 7% and public debt increased 20 percentage points as a share of GDP from 2014 to 2016.

Brazil’s Congress impeached and convicted Rousseff in 2016 for fiscal improprieties. Her vice president, Michel Temer, served out the rest of her term and appointed Lula’s central bank chair, Henrique Meirelles, as minister of finance to help rein in public debt.

Jair Bolsonaro, a vocal admirer of Brazil’s 20th-century military dictatorship, became president in 2019 by riding the wave of widespread sentiment against Lula’s and Rousseff’s Workers’ Party. Bolsonaro prioritized short-term political gain over long-term adjustment, often clashing with his own economic aides and dodging rules meant to curb government spending.

By 2020, Brazil’s economy ranked No. 12 in the world in terms of GDP, and living conditions deteriorated. In 2021, the poverty rate likely hit the highest level in a decade, according to estimates by researchers at IPEA, a government think tank, as well as IBGE, Brazil’s statistics agency.

The pandemic and the social spending fluctuations it brought about have made it hard to accurately track economic trends in recent years. But the numbers suggest that Brazil is close again to where it started the 21st century.

Back to the future

Lula’s economic challenges are daunting, over and above the political crisis after the riots by opposition supporters in Brasília.

First, the economic outlook is gloomy. Inflation has led central banks worldwide to increase interest rates, and the International Monetary Fund forecasts a global slowdown in 2023.

Even if the world still wants Brazil’s coffee, orange juice and cereal from wheat or corn for breakfast, we doubt that foreign demand for Brazil’s exports will bounce back to the levels seen in past boom years.

Global prices for many of the commodities Brazil exports have been sliding downward for the past 15 years. They briefly reached their 2008 peak level again in mid-2022, partly driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing global turmoil that drove food prices up.

But the prices of commodities that are particularly important to Brazil, such as soybeans, corn and coffee, are all down significantly from their recent peaks.

During his 2022 campaign, Lula promised to slash taxes on the upper-middle class and increase benefits for the poor while keeping government finances under control.

This arithmetic is feasible in an era of rapid growth, when newly generated wealth can finance public transfers. At times of slow or no growth, like today, it becomes much harder to pull off.

Second, unlike when Lula first took office following a period of fiscal stability, this time he must credibly rebuild much of the fiscal framework.

After boosts to benefits, tax cuts and some unfunded pension commitments to retirees, it’s become hard to balance Brazil’s budget. In response to the crisis in the mid-2010s, Brazil’s Congress passed a spending cap that gradually rises so as to foster slow fiscal adjustment while avoiding harsh austerity. But Bolsonaro essentially got rid of the cap by circumventing it.

One example is the federal government’s obligation to cover court-mandated payments: Bolsonaro delayed the disbursement of 110 billion reais ($21.6 billion), equal to more than 1% of Brazil’s GDP, in 2022. That means the new government has to pay this year’s and some of last year’s bills at the same time.

While Bolsonaro dismissed the severity of COVID-19 when it was spreading uncontrolled through his country, his government did help people cope with its economic fallout by allowing emergency spending that breached Brazil’s spending cap. However, his administration maneuvered to perpetuate the state of emergency and kept spending levels higher than the cap would allow long after Brazilians stopped staying at home for public health reasons.

Third, we expect political divisions, including some within Lula’s administration, to be another obstacle. Different factions on his economic team are likely to be at loggerheads for the foreseeable future because they prefer starkly different policies.

Simone Tebet, the new economic planning minister who is in charge of coordinating spending, has several fiscal conservatives on her team.

Finance Minister Fernando Haddad, in contrast, has appointed undersecretaries known to invariably advocate for more spending. Plans for taxes and spending released to date set a budget surplus of 0.5% of GDP as the new government’s target, primarily financed with more tax collection.

Using budget projections by the International Monetary Fund, we consider those revenue projections overly optimistic.

To be sure, any new government deserves time to prove itself, especially under tough circumstances. But patience is rarer in Brazil than humor – and always has been.

Marc-Andreas Muendler received funding from the National Science Foundation for research using Brazilian data. Marc-Andreas Muendler worked as a consulting researcher for the Brazilian labor ministry and the Brazilian census bureau, and currently works closely with the research department of Brazil's central bank in Sao Paulo on research into firm dynamics.

Carlos Góes was a senior economic adviser at the Executive Office of the President of Brazil (2017-18). He is currently an economics columnist for O Globo, a Brazilian newspaper. He is the founder of Instituto Mercado Popular, a nonpartisan São Paulo-based think tank.

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The SNF Institute for Global Infectious Disease Research announces new advisory board

From identifying the influenza virus that caused the pandemic of 1918 to developing vaccines against pneumococcal pneumonia and bacterial meningitis in…

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From identifying the influenza virus that caused the pandemic of 1918 to developing vaccines against pneumococcal pneumonia and bacterial meningitis in the 1970s, combating infectious disease has a rich history at Rockefeller. That tradition continues as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Institute for Global Infectious Disease Research at Rockefeller University (SNFiRU) caps a successful first year with the establishment of a new advisory board.

Credit: Lori Chertoff/The Rockefeller University

From identifying the influenza virus that caused the pandemic of 1918 to developing vaccines against pneumococcal pneumonia and bacterial meningitis in the 1970s, combating infectious disease has a rich history at Rockefeller. That tradition continues as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Institute for Global Infectious Disease Research at Rockefeller University (SNFiRU) caps a successful first year with the establishment of a new advisory board.

This international advisory board was created in part to give guidance on how to best use SNFiRU’s resources, as well as bring forward innovative ideas concerning new avenues of research, public education, community engagement, and partnership projects.

SNFiRU was established to strengthen readiness for and response to future health crises, building on the scientific advances and international collaborations forged in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Launched with a $75 million grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) as part of its Global Health Initiative (GHI), the institute provides a framework for international scientific collaboration to foster research innovations and turn them into practical health benefits.

SNFiRU’s mission is to better understand the agents that cause infectious disease and to lower barriers to treatment and prevention globally. To speed this work, the institute launched numerous initiatives in its inaugural year. For instance, SNFiRU awarded 31 research projects in 29 different Rockefeller laboratories for over $5 million to help get collaborative new research efforts off the ground. SNFiRU also supports the Rockefeller University Hospital, where clinical studies are conducted, and brought on board its first physician-scientist through Rockefeller’s Clinical Scholars program. “One of the surprises was the scope of interest from Rockefeller scientists in using their talents to tackle important infectious disease problems,” says Charles M. Rice, Maurice R. and Corinne P. Greenberg Professor in Virology at Rockefeller and director of SNFiRU. “The research topics range from the biology of infectious agents to the dynamics of the immune response to pathogens, and also include a number of infectious disease-adjacent studies.”

In the past 12 months, SNFiRU often brought together scientists studying different aspects of infectious disease as a way to spur new collaborations. In addition to hosting its first annual day-long symposium, SNFiRU initiated a Young Scientist Forum for students and post-doctoral fellows to meet regularly, facilitating cross-laboratory thinking. A bimonthly seminar series has also been established on campus.

Another aim of SNFiRU is to develop relationships with community-based organizations, as well as design and participate in community-engaged research, with a focus on low-income and minority communities. To that end, SNFiRU is helping develop a research project on Chagas disease, a tropical parasitic infection prevalent in Latin America that can cause congestive heart failure and gastrointestinal complications if left untreated. The project will bring together clinicians practicing at health centers in New York, Florida, Texas, and California and basic scientists from multiple institutions to help the communities that are most impacted.

“The SNFiRU international advisory board convenes globally recognized leaders with distinguished biomedical expertise, unrivalled experience in pandemic preparedness and response, and a shared commitment to translating scientific advancements into equitably distributed benefits in real-world settings,” says SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos. “The advisory board will advance the institute’s indispensable mission, which SNF is proud to support as a key part of our Global Health Initiative, and we look forward to seeing breakthroughs in the lab drive better outcomes in lives around the globe.”

The new advisory board will hold its first meeting on April 11th, 2024, following the second annual SNF Institute for Global Infectious Disease Research Symposium at Rockefeller.

Its members are: Rafi Ahmed of Emory University School of Medicine, Cori Bargmann of The Rockefeller University, Yasmin Belkaid of the Pasteur Institute, Anthony S. Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, Esper Kallas of of the Butantan Institute, Sharon Lewin of the University of Melbourne Doherty Institue, Carl Nathan of Weill Cornell Medicine, Rino Rappuoli of Fondazione Biotecnopolo di Siena and University of Siena, and Herbert “Skip” Virgin of Washington University School of Medicine and UT Southwestern Medical Center.


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Congress’ failure so far to deliver on promise of tens of billions in new research spending threatens America’s long-term economic competitiveness

A deal that avoided a shutdown also slashed spending for the National Science Foundation, putting it billions below a congressional target intended to…

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Science is again on the chopping block on Capitol Hill. AP Photo/Sait Serkan Gurbuz

Federal spending on fundamental scientific research is pivotal to America’s long-term economic competitiveness and growth. But less than two years after agreeing the U.S. needed to invest tens of billions of dollars more in basic research than it had been, Congress is already seriously scaling back its plans.

A package of funding bills recently passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden on March 9, 2024, cuts the current fiscal year budget for the National Science Foundation, America’s premier basic science research agency, by over 8% relative to last year. That puts the NSF’s current allocation US$6.6 billion below targets Congress set in 2022.

And the president’s budget blueprint for the next fiscal year, released on March 11, doesn’t look much better. Even assuming his request for the NSF is fully funded, it would still, based on my calculations, leave the agency a total of $15 billion behind the plan Congress laid out to help the U.S. keep up with countries such as China that are rapidly increasing their science budgets.

I am a sociologist who studies how research universities contribute to the public good. I’m also the executive director of the Institute for Research on Innovation and Science, a national university consortium whose members share data that helps us understand, explain and work to amplify those benefits.

Our data shows how underfunding basic research, especially in high-priority areas, poses a real threat to the United States’ role as a leader in critical technology areas, forestalls innovation and makes it harder to recruit the skilled workers that high-tech companies need to succeed.

A promised investment

Less than two years ago, in August 2022, university researchers like me had reason to celebrate.

Congress had just passed the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act. The science part of the law promised one of the biggest federal investments in the National Science Foundation in its 74-year history.

The CHIPS act authorized US$81 billion for the agency, promised to double its budget by 2027 and directed it to “address societal, national, and geostrategic challenges for the benefit of all Americans” by investing in research.

But there was one very big snag. The money still has to be appropriated by Congress every year. Lawmakers haven’t been good at doing that recently. As lawmakers struggle to keep the lights on, fundamental research is quickly becoming a casualty of political dysfunction.

Research’s critical impact

That’s bad because fundamental research matters in more ways than you might expect.

For instance, the basic discoveries that made the COVID-19 vaccine possible stretch back to the early 1960s. Such research investments contribute to the health, wealth and well-being of society, support jobs and regional economies and are vital to the U.S. economy and national security.

Lagging research investment will hurt U.S. leadership in critical technologies such as artificial intelligence, advanced communications, clean energy and biotechnology. Less support means less new research work gets done, fewer new researchers are trained and important new discoveries are made elsewhere.

But disrupting federal research funding also directly affects people’s jobs, lives and the economy.

Businesses nationwide thrive by selling the goods and services – everything from pipettes and biological specimens to notebooks and plane tickets – that are necessary for research. Those vendors include high-tech startups, manufacturers, contractors and even Main Street businesses like your local hardware store. They employ your neighbors and friends and contribute to the economic health of your hometown and the nation.

Nearly a third of the $10 billion in federal research funds that 26 of the universities in our consortium used in 2022 directly supported U.S. employers, including:

  • A Detroit welding shop that sells gases many labs use in experiments funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense and Department of Energy.

  • A Dallas-based construction company that is building an advanced vaccine and drug development facility paid for by the Department of Health and Human Services.

  • More than a dozen Utah businesses, including surveyors, engineers and construction and trucking companies, working on a Department of Energy project to develop breakthroughs in geothermal energy.

When Congress shortchanges basic research, it also damages businesses like these and people you might not usually associate with academic science and engineering. Construction and manufacturing companies earn more than $2 billion each year from federally funded research done by our consortium’s members.

A lag or cut in federal research funding would harm U.S. competitiveness in critical advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics. Hispanolistic/E+ via Getty Images

Jobs and innovation

Disrupting or decreasing research funding also slows the flow of STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – talent from universities to American businesses. Highly trained people are essential to corporate innovation and to U.S. leadership in key fields, such as AI, where companies depend on hiring to secure research expertise.

In 2022, federal research grants paid wages for about 122,500 people at universities that shared data with my institute. More than half of them were students or trainees. Our data shows that they go on to many types of jobs but are particularly important for leading tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Intel.

That same data lets me estimate that over 300,000 people who worked at U.S. universities in 2022 were paid by federal research funds. Threats to federal research investments put academic jobs at risk. They also hurt private sector innovation because even the most successful companies need to hire people with expert research skills. Most people learn those skills by working on university research projects, and most of those projects are federally funded.

High stakes

If Congress doesn’t move to fund fundamental science research to meet CHIPS and Science Act targets – and make up for the $11.6 billion it’s already behind schedule – the long-term consequences for American competitiveness could be serious.

Over time, companies would see fewer skilled job candidates, and academic and corporate researchers would produce fewer discoveries. Fewer high-tech startups would mean slower economic growth. America would become less competitive in the age of AI. This would turn one of the fears that led lawmakers to pass the CHIPS and Science Act into a reality.

Ultimately, it’s up to lawmakers to decide whether to fulfill their promise to invest more in the research that supports jobs across the economy and in American innovation, competitiveness and economic growth. So far, that promise is looking pretty fragile.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on Jan. 16, 2024.

Jason Owen-Smith receives research support from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Wellcome Leap.

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What’s Driving Industrial Development in the Southwest U.S.

The post-COVID-19 pandemic pipeline, supply imbalances, investment and construction challenges: these are just a few of the topics address by a powerhouse…

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The post-COVID-19 pandemic pipeline, supply imbalances, investment and construction challenges: these are just a few of the topics address by a powerhouse panel of executives in industrial real estate this week at NAIOP’s I.CON West in Long Beach, California. Led by Dawn McCombs, principal and Denver lead industrial specialist for Avison Young, the panel tackled some of the biggest issues facing the sector in the Western U.S. 

Starting with the pandemic in 2020 and continuing through 2022, McCombs said, the industrial sector experienced a huge surge in demand, resulting in historic vacancies, rent growth and record deliveries. Operating fundamentals began to normalize in 2023 and construction starts declined, certainly impacting vacancy and absorption moving forward.  

“Development starts dropped by 65% year-over-year across the U.S. last year. In Q4, we were down 25% from pre-COVID norms,” began Megan Creecy-Herman, president, U.S. West Region, Prologis, noting that all of that is setting us up to see an improvement of fundamentals in the market. “U.S. vacancy ended 2023 at about 5%, which is very healthy.” 

Vacancies are expected to grow in Q1 and Q2, peaking mid-year at around 7%. Creecy-Herman expects to see an increase in absorption as customers begin to have confidence in the economy, and everyone gets some certainty on what the Fed does with interest rates. 

“It’s an interesting dynamic to see such a great increase in rents, which have almost doubled in some markets,” said Reon Roski, CEO, Majestic Realty Co. “It’s healthy to see a slowing down… before [rents] go back up.” 

Pre-pandemic, a lot of markets were used to 4-5% vacancy, said Brooke Birtcher Gustafson, fifth-generation president of Birtcher Development. “Everyone was a little tepid about where things are headed with a mediocre outlook for 2024, but much of this is normalizing in the Southwest markets.”  

McCombs asked the panel where their companies found themselves in the construction pipeline when the Fed raised rates in 2022.   

In Salt Lake City, said Angela Eldredge, chief operations officer at Price Real Estate, there is a typical 12-18-month lead time on construction materials. “As rates started to rise in 2022, lots of permits had already been pulled and construction starts were beginning, so those project deliveries were in fall 2023. [The slowdown] was good for our market because it kept rates high, vacancies lower and helped normalize the market to a healthy pace.” 

A supply imbalance can stress any market, and Gustafson joked that the current imbalance reminded her of a favorite quote from the movie Super Troopers: “Desperation is a stinky cologne.” “We’re all still a little crazed where this imbalance has put us, but for the patient investor and owner, there will be a rebalancing and opportunity for the good quality real estate to pass the sniff test,” she said.  

At Bircher, Gustafson said that mid-pandemic, there were predictions that one billion square feet of new product would be required to meet tenant demand, e-commerce growth and safety stock. That transition opened a great opportunity for investors to run at the goal. “In California, the entitlement process is lengthy, around 24-36 months to get from the start of an acquisition to the completion of a building,” she said. Fast forward to 2023-2024, a lot of what is being delivered in 2024 is the result of that chase.  

“Being an optimistic developer, there is good news. The supply imbalance helped normalize what was an unsustainable surge in rents and land values,” she said. “It allowed corporate heads of real estate to proactively evaluate growth opportunities, opened the door for contrarian investors to land bank as values drop, and provided tenants with options as there is more product. Investment goals and strategies have shifted, and that’s created opportunity for buyers.” 

“Developers only know how to run and develop as much as we can,” said Roski. “There are certain times in cycles that we are forced to slow down, which is a good thing. In the last few years, Majestic has delivered 12-14 million square feet, and this year we are developing 6-8 million square feet. It’s all part of the cycle.”  

Creecy-Herman noted that compared to the other asset classes and opportunities out there, including office and multifamily, industrial remains much more attractive for investment. “That was absolutely one of the things that underpinned the amount of investment we saw in a relatively short time period,” she said.  

Market rent growth across Los Angeles, Inland Empire and Orange County moved up more than 100% in a 24-month period. That created opportunities for landlords to flexible as they’re filling up their buildings. “Normalizing can be uncomfortable especially after that kind of historic high, but at the same time it’s setting us up for strong years ahead,” she said. 

Issues that owners and landlords are facing with not as much movement in the market is driving a change in strategy, noted Gustafson. “Comps are all over the place,” she said. “You have to dive deep into every single deal that is done to understand it and how investment strategies are changing.” 

Tenants experienced a variety of challenges in the pandemic years, from supply chain to labor shortages on the negative side, to increased demand for products on the positive, McCombs noted.  

“Prologis has about 6,700 customers around the world, from small to large, and the universal lesson [from the pandemic] is taking a more conservative posture on inventories,” Creecy-Herman said. “Customers are beefing up inventories, and that conservatism in the supply chain is a lesson learned that’s going to stick with us for a long time.” She noted that the company has plenty of clients who want to take more space but are waiting on more certainty from the broader economy.  

“E-commerce grew by 8% last year, and we think that’s going to accelerate to 10% this year. This is still less than 25% of all retail sales, so the acceleration we’re going to see in e-commerce… is going to drive the business forward for a long time,” she said. 

Roski noted that customers continually re-evaluate their warehouse locations, expanding during the pandemic and now consolidating but staying within one delivery day of vast consumer bases.  

“This is a generational change,” said Creecy-Herman. “Millions of young consumers have one-day delivery as a baseline for their shopping experience. Think of what this means for our business long term to help our customers meet these expectations.” 

McCombs asked the panelists what kind of leasing activity they are experiencing as a return to normalcy is expected in 2024. 

“During the pandemic, shifts in the ports and supply chain created a build up along the Mexican border,” said Roski, noting border towns’ importance to increased manufacturing in Mexico. A shift of populations out of California and into Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Florida have resulted in an expansion of warehouses in those markets. 

Eldridge said that Salt Lake City’s “sweet spot” is 100-200 million square feet, noting that the market is best described as a mid-box distribution hub that is close to California and Midwest markets. “Our location opens up the entire U.S. to our market, and it’s continuing to grow,” she said.   

The recent supply chain and West Coast port clogs prompted significant investment in nearshoring and port improvements. “Ports are always changing,” said Roski, listing a looming strike at East Coast ports, challenges with pirates in the Suez Canal, and water issues in the Panama Canal. “Companies used to fix on one port and that’s where they’d bring in their imports, but now see they need to be [bring product] in a couple of places.” 

“Laredo, [Texas,] is one of the largest ports in the U.S., and there’s no water. It’s trucks coming across the border. Companies have learned to be nimble and not focused on one area,” she said. 

“All of the markets in the southwest are becoming more interconnected and interdependent than they were previously,” Creecy-Herman said. “In Southern California, there are 10 markets within 500 miles with over 25 million consumers who spend, on average, 10% more than typical U.S. consumers.” Combined with the port complex, those fundamentals aren’t changing. Creecy-Herman noted that it’s less of a California exodus than it is a complementary strategy where customers are taking space in other markets as they grow. In the last 10 years, she noted there has been significant maturation of markets such as Las Vegas and Phoenix. As they’ve become more diversified, customers want to have a presence there. 

In the last decade, Gustafson said, the consumer base has shifted. Tenants continue to change strategies to adapt, such as hub-and-spoke approaches.  From an investment perspective, she said that strategies change weekly in response to market dynamics that are unprecedented.  

McCombs said that construction challenges and utility constraints have been compounded by increased demand for water and power. 

“Those are big issues from the beginning when we’re deciding on whether to buy the dirt, and another decision during construction,” Roski said. “In some markets, we order transformers more than a year before they are needed. Otherwise, the time comes [to use them] and we can’t get them. It’s a new dynamic of how leases are structured because it’s something that’s out of our control.” She noted that it’s becoming a bigger issue with electrification of cars, trucks and real estate, and the U.S. power grid is not prepared to handle it.  

Salt Lake City’s land constraints play a role in site selection, said Eldridge. “Land values of areas near water are skyrocketing.” 

The panelists agreed that a favorable outlook is ahead for 2024, and today’s rebalancing will drive a healthy industry in the future as demand and rates return to normalized levels, creating opportunities for investors, developers and tenants.  


This post is brought to you by JLL, the social media and conference blog sponsor of NAIOP’s I.CON West 2024. Learn more about JLL at www.us.jll.com or www.jll.ca.

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