Elliott: u201cClients want candidates with experience in a geographic area with a specific product type.u201d

NEWPORT BEACH, CA-A sharp rise in executive search assignments for development professionals this year is a trend expected to increase in 2013. According to RETS Associates, a commercial real estate recruitment and staffing firm in the western US, improving market fundamentals in primary markets throughout the western states are the driving force behind employment demand in the development sector, and the challenge now is finding qualified development professionals to fill very specific jobs.

“Whenever a client comes to us, they describe the dream, the perfect person for the role,” Kent Elliott, a principal with RETS, tells GlobeSt.com. “Clients want candidates with experience in that geographic area with that specific product type. For example, in a search for a San Francisco-based development firm, they’ll say they’re looking for an accountant who has done development accounting for a vertical office building in San Francisco. They’ll get very narrowly focused. The problem is there haven’t been that many buildings developed like that in that market in the last ten years, so it’s hard to find candidates that fit their qualifications.”

When clients have difficulty finding the right match for the job, what do they do? “Over time, they loosen up,” says Elliott. “If they’re asking for something that’s just not there, then it’s not a good use of our time. They need to relax the standards or ‘must-haves,’ either with regard to compensation or the specific qualifications. Sometimes it’s going back to relax the standards. If the client is very rigid on what they want, it makes our job more difficult—particularly if it’s a needle in a haystack search.”

According to RETS, the increase in development employment is tied to strengthening regional markets where inventories of commercial space are on the decline. The firm sees the most activity for development jobs in markets such as San Francisco, the Inland Empire and Portland, OR.

“Our clients have initiated more than 15 separate executive searches in development in just the last six months, and we expect this activity to more than double in 2013,” says Elliott. “The demand for acquisitions professionals is now being matched by the need for experienced development talent. The hiring pattern and movement from acquisition to development executive positions reflects recovery in select commercial property markets and signals economic improvement.”

As GlobeSt.com reported earlier this week, the Inland Empire is one western submarket where development activity is expected to increase. Craig Meyer, international director and head of logistics and industrial services group at Jones Lang LaSalle, told GlobeSt.com, “The Inland Empire is an exceptionally strong market with a lot of potential development activity. We expect the Inland Empire to have roughly 3% growth in rental rates over the next year. This market has over 15 projects under construction—it’s back to the days before the recession there.”