CHICAGO—The number one issue affecting commercial real estate inthe near and long term? America's growing energy independence, saysthe Chicago-based Counselors of Real Estate, whichput it at the top of its annual Top Ten Issues Affecting RealEstate list, released Wednesday.

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Other issues in the association's top 10 list this year: jobs,millennials, healthcare, globalization, water supply, the capitalmarkets, housing, manufacturing and agriculture. “The list reflectsgrowing economic and political turmoil, changing demographics andthe lifestyle choices of an emerging generation, rising energyindependence in the United States and a strengthening job marketfueled in part by massive changes in the delivery of healthcare,”Hugh F. Kelly, clinical professor of real estateat New York University's Schack Institute and 2014chair of the CRE, said during the opening address at the NationalAssociation of Real Estate Editors' annual conference inHouston.

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Energy's implications for commercial real estate are twofold,according to the CRE. On the one hand, there's the boom inemployment in many markets, ranging from Houston to the Bakken oilfields in North Dakota, which can lead to a ripple effect inhousing and services.

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On the other hand, says the CRE, “Uncertainty in theenergy sector created by dueling reports from environmentalists andthe oil and chemical companies provide investors withopportunities. The potential for relatively low natural gas prices(now one-fifth the cost of Europe and Asia) in combination withother factors has improved the outlook for manufacturing and couldsignificantly advance the expansion of rail, shipbuilding andrelated industries should gas exports increase.”

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The jobs picture is even more varied in its effects. Althoughstrong job numbers per se could have a positive effect onresidential and multifamily, conversely office could suffer even ashiring and the quality of jobs increase, due to employers'emphasis on scaling back their per-employee space requirements.

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Further, according to the CRE, job reductions in retail andbranch banking, due mainly to changes in consumer behavior andonline technology, “will take a toll on housing, may benefit theapartment sector and could negatively impact commercial realestate. Service sector jobs may absorb some of those displaced.Communities and neighborhoods that once valued big-box stores maybe well served by courting schools, physical therapy services andeven independent and assisted living facilities for senior citizensdrawn to a retail/lifestyle/entertainment environment.”

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Paul Bubny

Paul Bubny is managing editor of Real Estate Forum and GlobeSt.com. He has been reporting on business since 1988 and on commercial real estate since 2007. He is based at ALM Real Estate Media Group's offices in New York City.