(Read more on the industrial market.)

CHICAGO-First Industrial Realty Trust, based here, is expanding its operations from the US and Canada to Belgium and the Netherlands. The company will focus on industrial developments, redevelopments and acquisitions in Rotterdam, Antwerp, Brussels and Amsterdam, says company president and chief operating officer Mike Brennan.

First Industrial decided to expand for several reasons, with one of them being that a “significant number” of their customers operate in the countries. “Specifically, with the high volumes of containerized freight, we intend to do a lot of development for those customers,” Brennan says. The company also is expanding because of increased needs for development due to “supply chain reconfiguration” and “a very high level of corporately owned facilities that we would intend to buy and redevelop,” he says.

Jan Scheers has been hired as managing director to lead the expansion. He will be based in Brussels, Belgium. Scheers comes from Macquarie Goodman, formerly Eurinpro, where he was managing director and was previously their chief operating officer for development in Northern Europe and country manager for Belgium and Germany. Scheers had also worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, Brennan says. “He is a seasoned professional and a market expert,” Brennan says.

First Industrial owns and manages more than 100 million sf of industrial space in more than 30 markets. The company also expanded this quarter into Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto in Canada, expanded into Seattle one quarter ago and a year before that expanded into Miami, San Francisco and the Inland Empire region of California, Brennan says. “The expansion of our platform has been significant,” he says. First Industrial has also had “significant” increases to the amount of capital procured. “Three years ago, we had very little joint venture capital to joint venture capital close to $5 billion,” he says. One of the recent joint ventures is a $505-million venture with UBS that will focus on “high institutional quality buildings and locations throughout the United States” focusing on high growth markets such as southern California and Florida and strong markets such as New Jersey, Chicago and Dallas, he says.

There are four reasons why First Industrial has had such significant growth in the past couple of years, Brennan says. The reasons include the growth of containerized international freight, supply chain reconfiguration and changing demographics in the US. “Last but most importantly, we have the platform and capital resources to really penetrate the largest sector of the business and that is corporate America,” he says. “With our platform [and] with the capital, that has given us growth opportunities to serve the customer that has made it worthwhile and meaningful to go to these different areas.”

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