A publication of Site Selection
JANUARY 18, 2010
Vol. 1, Issue 9

 

Lending a Hand To
Clean Energy Site Selection

Grubb & Ellis launches new practice focused on the
needs of alternative power companies.

by RON STARNER
ron.starner bounce@conway.com
Tracey Hyatt Bosman
Tracey Hyatt Bosman, director of the Strategic Consulting Group,
Grubb & Ellis
O
pportunities for growth in the new era of clean energy are not limited just to those companies manufacturing alternative power. They are expanding to a variety of firms that provide needed services to the energy producers.
       In the case of Grubb & Ellis, the green movement has opened up a whole new area of site selection consulting.
       Recently, the commercial real estate services giant headquartered in Santa Ana, Calif., launched a Clean Energy Practice Group, led by veteran site selection consultant Tracey Hyatt Bosman in Chicago and Bob Dean, executive vice president and managing director for the Pacific Northwest in Sacramento.
       As director of the Strategic Consulting Group for one of North America’s largest commercial real estate companies, Bosman shares with Dean the responsibility for leading the new initiative designed to assist renewable energy firms in their search for optimal business locations.
      Bosman, who represents a company of 6,000 professionals in more than 130 offices, recently discussed the newly formed Clean Energy Practice Group of G&E in an exclusive interview with Site Selection magazine.

      SITE SELECTION: How did the Clean Energy Practice Group of Grubb & Ellis get its start?
      BOSMAN: It grew out of our consulting practice. Bob Dean, our regional director in the Sacramento office, originated the idea. We were interested in a particular alternative energy project, and we were asked to document our work in the field of solar energy. We learned that a number of our professionals had been working in this industry for five to 10 years and had done a number of creative things. We are bringing together, from a variety of disciplines, people who do land for siting wind farms, set up unique leasing agreements, do land for solar farms, work with solar manufacturers, etc. We have people doing office deals for headquarters for some of these companies. It cuts across many of our service lines. There is a lot of energy around the topic.

      SS: What do your clients in the alternative energy field typically look for when conducting a search for a new facility location?
      BOSMAN: They want to know who is offering incentive packages. They want to know where the R&D talent is located. And they watch each other closely. They know who is opening where. They want to know, “What did that company get?” They have a tendency to follow each other. As a result, we see concentrations of solar companies in the West and of wind companies in the Midwest. At the same time, we are seeing companies looking outside the box and diversifying their labor force. We are seeing more traffic into Oklahoma, for example. But first and foremost, this is a fast-changing industry and it is still relatively small.

      SS: How are incentives shaping the industry?
      BOSMAN: Subsidies for the industry are coming primarily from the federal level and are not location driven. The alternative energy companies are really watching their bottom line. They need to be factoring in their labor costs and labor availability. The incentives, because they hit so heavily in the first few years, are similar to what’s happening in the biotech industry in a lot of ways. But the renewable energy manufacturers first must get over the hump of how to make money.

      SS: Are you seeing evidence of clustering?
      BOSMAN: Yes. So much of it has a foundation in the R&D effort. Success is going to be built from there. A clean energy company executive will ask, “Am I going to be willing to risk going to a location that is unproven in its supply of scientific talent and its ability to attract scientific talent?” I do believe that there is an uphill battle for those areas of the country that do not have the R&D element.

      SS: What are some locations that have had success in this area?
      BOSMAN: Oregon has gone after this sector very hard with incentives, even though it has not been their history to offer a lot of incentives to companies. Our office there has worked with a number of projects. Albuquerque is another area that has had success in attracting alternative energy companies. In the area of wind energy, Oklahoma, Texas and Illinois are all good examples of successful locations. California is a hotbed for new technologies emerging in various clean energy fields, while Louisiana and Mississippi are good locations for bio-fuels projects now. We are also seeing progress in Arizona, Colorado and South Carolina.

      SS: What are your goals for the Clean Energy Practice Group?
      BOSMAN: We would like to be the preferred provider for real estate and consulting services for these companies. We have a vision. We really want to be a part of the clean energy industry. We have another practice that is closely related — our Sustainability Practice. There is a great synergy between these two groups.

      SS: Are you concerned that there may be too many locations chasing these projects?
      BOSMAN: There is the perception that everybody is jumping on the bandwagon. Everybody is trying to get in on the act. There are certainly some growing pains ahead, but at the same time, if there is going to be a fad — what a great fad! We will make some tremendous growth in environmental protection and energy independence. But yes, we still need to keep a healthy sense of realism.


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