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ORLANDO-Warehouses and distribution centers, especially targeted for small users, are what many developers will be building in 2002 in a shrinking construction environment, predicts George D. Livingston, founder/chairman of Maitland, FL-based Realvest Partners Inc. and president-elect of NAIOP’s Central Florida chapter.

“Smaller tenants who need 5,000 sf to 50,000 sf are the most active” prospects, Livingston tells GlobeSt.com. He is so convinced of this market niche that he has formed Small Bay Partners LLC to develop small-bay warehouse properties in metro Orlando.

Despite the struggling national economy, the developer sees “many bright spots in the industry, most of them on the local level.”

He says disparities between local economies and the United States as a whole probably result from the way real estate executives collect information for analysis.

“Much of the national data that’s available is secondary and pessimistic, and that’s reflected in the tone of business reports by national news media outlets,” Livingston tells GlobeSt.com. Conversely, “most local market data is collected and analyzed by company research experts who know the market and better understand its nuances.”

He cites the recent findings announced by the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties at its annual conference in Chicago.

Trade group members felt the American economy is in a recession but local economies are faring better, says Livingston, a former Defense Dept. analyst.

“Before Sept. 11, about 40% of survey respondents believed the national economy is contracting,” the developer says. “Today, 85% are saying national recession.” In a similar survey six months ago, less than a third of respondents saw a national recession on the horizon.

“Only 43% (of respondents0 say their local economies are in a recession now,” Livingston says, “but that figure is more than double the early-September total.”

The gloomiest responses came from the western states. “In the Mountain and Pacific/California regions, nearly every respondent thinks the national economy is in a recession,” the broker/developer says, “but only half think their local economies are in a recession as well.”

In other regions, local economies won a better score. For example, in the South Central-Texas area that includes Louisiana and Oklahoma, only 30% of survey respondents feel their local economies are contracting, while every respondent in the region said the U.S. economy is in a recession.

Livingston is a fourth-generation member of his land-holding family and a former executive committee member of the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI), based in Paris.

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