CRE Midwest

CenterPoint's Jim Clewlow

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Jim Clewlow, and the staff of CenterPoint Properties.

There are lots of exciting logistic and e-commerce trends occurring in the industrial sector which are creating tremendous opportunity. But clearly, low energy costs, low interest rates and a pro-business national political climate are combining to produce what looks to be a good run for all of us in the industrial real estate business for many years to come, according to Jim Clewlow, chief investment officer at CenterPoint.

There are lots of exciting logistic and e-commerce trends occurring in the industrial sector which are creating tremendous opportunity. But clearly, low energy costs, low interest rates and a pro-business national political climate are combining to produce what looks to be a good run for all of us in the industrial real estate business for many years to come, according to Jim Clewlow, chief investment officer at CenterPoint. Find out what other insights Clewlow has to share about the market at Chicago Industrial Properties 12th Annual CIP Industrial Summit next week, April 7th. Before our Summit, here are a few things you may not have known about him:

What does being CIO of CenterPoint mean? I oversee acquisitions and dispositions for CenterPoint. On average, we buy and sell about $500M-$750M, nationally, making us one of the most active industrial investors in the U.S. Since being appointed CIO in '05, we have bought and sold about $8B. Everything we do, we do as a team. No one person being more important than the rest. My role on the team is to help set strategy and help source and negotiate deals. It's fun, because I get to work with tremendous people like Jim Linn, Jed Degnan, Chris Tecu, Laura Petrucci, Scott Benedetto, Susan Costello and Sam Uribe. They're probably the most dedicated and determined team I've ever had the opportunity to work with and it's really very humbling.

What sets CenterPoint apart from the rest? We're unique, because of the combination of our people, liquidity and logistics-focused discipline. Our people are the most distinguishing factor, because without them our customers would never keep coming back. Our hope is to provide an experience to our tenants and brokers which is second to none. We always want our first deal with our customers to be the first of many. Capital and strategies are replaceable, people are not.

Working on anything exciting? Expanding our national platform into port and intermodal markets like LA, NJ, Oakland, Houston, Seattle, Charleston, Savannah, Miami and New Orleans. We were a Chicago-centric Investor for twenty years and to nationalize our business like we've been doing is fun and challenging. We have made such tremendous progress; we now hold 50% of our assets outside of Chicago, down from 90% in 2010. And this expansion has all been done organically - not through just aggregating assets through acquiring platforms. The result: the portfolio is composed of assets that have been handpicked to meet our long-term strategy.

Most memorable project/deal? From the early days, when we were recycling out of properties, after holding them for months - to the CalPERS JV, which bought the Company for $3.4B - to the Mirvac relationship, when we sold an $800M portfolio in 2007. It’s been a great journey and I am privileged to have been and be part of a great team for all of these years.

First CRE job? I began my career in industrial real estate alongside Jeff Liljeberg, one of the top office brokers at JLL, and Cal Wessman, one of the top office brokers at CBRE. We were fraternity brothers from the University of Illinois, and all joined CBRE out of school together in 1985. Shortly after our start in real estate Liljeberg and Wessman went to work in Chicago’s downtown office sector, and I took an industrial position in CBRE’s Schaumburg office working the O’Hare industrial market. We were all fortunate to have entered the business at a time when strong macroeconomic winds were at our back. Today, we’re still incredibly close and talk all of the time.

Greatest advice ever received? The best advice has come from many mentors I have had the privilege to work with throughout my 30 years in the business. Most of it had to do with creating our own luck by working hard, creating a team bound with strong values and focusing on the needs of the customer. Many try to complicate the business and, in my mind, it's pretty simple. If you're disciplined about the fundamentals and have good character and integrity, success happens!

Daily habit? I am a voracious reader of periodicals and usually read four to five a day, before work. I am a naturally curious sort, with a quirky bend towards asking a million questions. It drives people around me nuts, but when they start to realize it's my curiosity that drives me, they put-up with it. I am lucky, I have always had a great team around me whom I could always trust to do the right thing and follow my lead on being curious.

Family facts? When I’m not working, I’m at home enjoying time with my family. My son, Tony, and daughter, Caylie, are at the University of Michigan and my youngest, Michael, is off to Indiana University. I love my kids and am extremely proud of all of their accomplishments! My wife, Jean, and I have been happily married for 22 years. Jean is a saint!

Interesting fact about yourself? I have always been the underdog and people have usually underestimated me and my drive. It used to bother me, but it's interesting how we begin to embrace our strengths and weaknesses, over time. I am 52 now and know it's only natural for people for want me to prove my value every day. So what I always tell everyone around me is, if I am not valuable to you and the team, please tell me. I don't ever want to be the guy who overstays his welcome and just won't leave!