Brent Wilson is a brokerage services specialist at Thornton Oliver Keller in Idaho Falls.
Thornton Oliver Keller is a Boise-based commercial real estate firm that provides brokerage and property management services and conducts market research of Idaho real estate.
Wilson joined Thornton Oliver Keller in 2016. Before working in commercial real estate, he was a land planner and entitlements coordinator with a national development consulting firm.
As a broker, Wilson has represented such tenants as Costco Wholesale, Walmart and Wells Fargo, among others.
He recently spoke with the East Idaho Business Journal about the status of Eastern Idaho’s real estate market and what’s in store for the future.
East Idaho Business Journal: What is your role at Thornton Oliver Keller?
Brent Wilson: I am the brokerage services manager for our Idaho Falls office. With 74 agents/employees, TOK is the largest commercial real estate firm in Idaho. Most of our employees live and work in Boise, but we also have a nice little office here in Idaho Falls at Snake River Landing.
EIBJ: How does the commercial real estate market in 2018 compare to 2017? What are the projections for 2019?
BW: Despite increasing interest rates, the market remains very strong. There is still a lot of demand for income-producing investment property and we are seeing a lot of out-of-state investors invest in Idaho. Retail has obviously been hit very hard, but we are seeing some creative “adaptive re-use” strategies on some of the older big box stores.
The uptick in activity we experienced in Quarter 1 2017 has remained fairly steady. I expect our economy will improve even more as some of the larger projects at the INL come online — especially NuScale’s Small Modular Reactor program.
EIBJ: Industrial space is in demand at the moment (just a 2.9 percent vacancy rate). Why is that? And what can be done to alleviate that demand?
BW: The second-generation inventory that remains on the market today is functionally obsolete — so we will see construction of multiple new concrete high-bay industrial buildings, especially along the I-15 corridor. Industrial rents are high enough now that companies are willing to consider “new construction” rates.
EIBJ: What advantage(s) does Idaho Falls have in commercial real estate compared with other cities in the state? Other cities in the region? Are there any disadvantages?
BW: Advantages: We have excellent transportation infrastructure, low taxes and utility costs and a business-friendly political climate.
Disadvantages: Our labor market is extremely tight and we need more skilled local employees for our tech jobs.
EIBJ: What are some current/future projects that you’re excited about?
BW: I am very excited to see the Northgate project in Chubbuck get moving. Locally, Jackson Hole Junction and The Broadway are exciting to see come together. I really enjoy having our office at Snake River Landing and I think the coming phases will create a nice critical mass there.
EIBJ: What types of projects would you like to see in Idaho Falls in the coming years? A water park, maybe?
BW: More than anything, I am excited about local investment in education — especially the College of Eastern Idaho. I would like to see more cool, innovative tech companies (like Advanced Ceramic Fibers) emerge locally — so an educated workforce is a critical component.
In my mind, a “Great Wolf Lodge”-styled lodging/water park facility is a “no-brainer” for families on their way to Yellowstone. I also think we need more entertainment options here. Our market is too small for Dave & Buster’s, but a Big Al’s or a Lucky Strike would do great here.
EIBJ: Why is Thornton Oliver Keller so successful? What do you do differently?
BW: We work very hard and we spend a great deal of money on research. We have a full-time research team that tracks every square foot of commercial real estate in our markets. This data is critical if you are an investor or a lender. How do you underwrite deals without understanding vacancy rates and absorption?
EIBJ: Will Idaho Falls ever get a Costco? Why not? How do big corporations like that view Idaho Falls as a potential market?
BW: I believe so, but it’s a matter of priorities. If it’s going to cost roughly $25 million for Costco to build a store anywhere in the U.S., they’ll want to prioritize the markets with the highest sales projections and return on investment. To be blunt, we are a spreadsheet within a stack of spreadsheets … just waiting our turn. That’s all I can say on this topic.