MIAMI—Hartz Mountain Industries is betting bigon Atlanta. The firm just snapped up a 2.5-million-square-footportfolio of 35 buildings in North Atlanta.

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This isn't Hartz's first big move into the Southeast region. Thefirm recently acquired a 575,718-square-foot class A warehouseHanes Brand occupies in Kings Mountain, NC, just west of Charlotte.Hartz also acquired a 278,586-square-foot, class Aindustrial property in the Baltimore-WashingtonCorridor at 7448 Candlewood Road in Hanover, MD.

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What's driving the company to make such strong investments? ThePanamex expansion.

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“The Panamex expansion of the Panama Canalcreated additional transportation options to and from the Orientand the West Coast, making East Coast locations in large andgrowing areas more relevant,” says Emanuel Stern,COO and president at Hartz. “Population growth in cities likeCharlotte and Atlanta make Baltimore and other markets in theSoutheast more appealing for us and other companies to expand theirbusinesses into as well.”

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The North Atlanta portfolio includes three developments:Peachtree Corners I on Jimmy Carter Boulevard; Adriatic Court onAtlantic Boulevard in Norcross, GA; Peachtree Corners II onKingston Court; and Kennestone Corners on Kennestone Circle. Theportfolio is over 93% occupied.

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219 Commerce Boulevard in Charlotte is within a one day's driveof 60% of the country because of its location near Interstate85—which is widely considered the industrialbackbone of the Southeast—Interstate 77, and Interstate 40, one ofthe nation's largest interstates that runs from North Carolina toCalifornia. Hanes recently inked a long-term lease and completed asecond expansion of 100,000 square feet.

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Hartz liked these industrial properties becausethey are close to major interstates, the airport, and two railroadsystems. What's more, the portfolio's location within a market withlimited room for additional development serves as a barrier toentry for competitors.

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These deals mark Hartz' first transactions in Atlanta andCharlotte and the third in the Baltimore port market. The firm'snationwide portfolio includes over 35 million square feet ofwarehouse/industrial, datacenter,office, retail, and hospitalityassets.

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Dwight Hotchkiss, national director ofIndustrial for Colliers, tells GlobeSt.com, he'sbeen watching the debate over the impact of the PanamaCanal on east and west coast ports. He's keeping tabs onhow ports up and down the east coast have been dredging andupgrading to accommodate container traffic in anticipation of theexpansion, which is now projected to be in early to mid-2016.

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“Richmond, Jacksonville, and Charleston are anticipated to see astrong growth in the mid-Atlantic region while Houston and Mobilewill in the Gulf region,” Hotchkiss says. “The Ports of Los Angelesand Long Beach have been spending billions in upgrades to maintaintheir dominant position in cargo trade.”

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