This year has been one of change and transformation, from the challenges we face to the inventive solutions we create in their wake. For One North Wacker customer First Industrial Realty Trust, the pandemic has brought with it a significant industry boom and an opportunity to evolve company culture to the next level. We spoke with Art Harmon, Vice President of Investor Relations and Marketing, and Yvette Olive, Senior Operations Manager, to unpack their experience.
The Future of Industrial Real Estate
“March was a shock to all of us, to the world,” begins Harmon. “Life and commerce hit a pause momentarily as we all tried to figure out what was coming next. As the world regained its footing, we saw that, in our industry, the adoption of e-commerce was significantly accelerating.” Warehouses were in even higher demand as e-commerce providers and other distributors increasingly employed a direct-to-consumer model.
“The challenge for us, then, as providers of industrial real estate,” reflects Harmon, “was that we’ve been highly occupied, anywhere from 96-98%, and actually needed to invest in more space to meet the boom in demand. Overall, our tenant base has performed exceptionally and we’ve been able to collect 99% of rent during these times. It makes us confident and excited for the future. Looking ahead, we’re eagerly anticipating plans for expansion in markets like South Florida where we just launched two new projects.”
Adapting to the New Normal
One North Wacker is the national corporate headquarters for First Industrial Realty Trust. At the onset of the pandemic in March, First Industrial Realty Trust pivoted quickly to migrate all operations remotely. “It was a swift turnaround because our IT team was focused,” explains Olive. “They updated our soft token program to enable easy and safe access to our server from anywhere and ensured each team member had the necessary Zoom licensing. We also invested in remote hardware solutions for those who needed it and invested in additional server space for increased bandwidth.”
When shelter-in-place restrictions were eased, First Industrial Realty Trust created a rotating schedule that encouraged a safe and staggered return to the workplace for employees that wanted to do so. “The rotating schedule was created by a small committee,” says Olive. “Each committee member holds different responsibilities within the organization, so we put our heads together to identify who needs to come in for critical functions at key points in our quarterly calendar. Culturally, this cross-fertilization has helped us to further evolve as a company: it’s reinforced our commitment to one another, allowing us to communicate through challenges, to collectively embrace our goals and figure things out together. While we were apart, we just got closer and better.”
“And from a building standpoint, the property management team, security and cleaning crew at One North Wacker have all been fantastic,” adds Olive. “We’ve felt supported and informed all along the way with their proactive communication and swift response times. Not only have they been diligent in their duties, but the human interactions we have with the security team each morning, when being greeted by faces that are happy to see us and tell us to have a great day — it creates that added layer of connection and has given me a great appreciation for the quality of people working here,” says Olive. “The virtual events have helped keep us engaged too… and have even sparked ideas for our own internal programming.”
While 2020 has been a year of challenges, it is the way we respond to those challenges that defines us. Irvine Company is proud to have First Industrial Realty Trust as a customer at One North Wacker and to work alongside such innovative minds to find solutions for success.