(Read more on the industrial market.)

DALLAS-Using consumer markets worldwide as steppingstones to economic dominance, China’s reinvestment of its gain isn’t going unnoticed by experts in the logistics industry and commercial real estate. The government presently is deploying $80 billion into road and bridges, another $8 billion into port development and another $8 billion into rail lines.

China isn’t alone in its need for infrastructure build-up, but it has taken the lead over other developed nations. “The good news is it’s happening. Someone’s doing it. The bad news is it’s not happening here,” says Dr. Ted Farris of the University of North Texas’ department of marketing and logistics. “I’m amazed at how fast the Chinese government is making this happen.”

Farris and colleague, Dr. Terrance L. Pohlen, a retired US Air Force lieutenant colonel, have collaborated with Grubb & Ellis Co. to create its first in-house certification program for global logistics–and possibly a first for the industry. The Northbrook, IL-based company’s first graduate class is being paced through two days of certification training at the Embassy Suites in Grapevine. San Diego-based Allen Group and Liberty Property Trust of Malvern, PA co-sponsored the conference.

Tim Feemster, senior vice president and director of Grubb & Ellis’ global logistics team, came on board in January to launch the specialty group. He’s not a broker by trade, but he is a 35-year logistics veteran who is teaching the language of his industry to 65 Grubb & Ellis brokers who came in from Shanghai, the Canadian province of Alberta, Mexico’s state of Monterrey and US offices from coast to coast and border to border. Feemster is introducing the brokers to a world beyond real estate, including familiarity with buzz words like landbridging, drop shipping and transloading and their impact on the industrial sector, more specifically supply chain management.

“It’s a cohesive group of educated industrial brokers who will work together as a team. They will become the subject matter experts in their markets,” Feemster tells GlobeSt.com about his goal for the specialty force, which is based in Dallas. The platform consists of strategic consulting, project management, logistics consulting and transaction services. The end goal is to provide as much information as possible, including distribution network analysis, “so the client can make the right decision. We can’t make the decision for the client and we shouldn’t,” says Feemster, who is requiring certification for all team members.

“Grubb & Ellis has determined this is going to be a rapidly expanding part of the real estate properties group throughout the US,” says David Richards, senior vice president and managing director of the Dallas/Fort Worth office. “One of the reasons they selected Dallas for this meeting is Dallas is slated to be one of the major Grubb markets for this product.”

It’s not enough to understand the bricks and mortar. Brokers are becoming familiar with critical-mission issues like the length of time it takes for a client’s product to reach the market and inventory turn-over rates while developing customized real estate solutions to fit the strategy and business needs.

In China, there are square watermelons so they fit more easily into smaller refrigerators. In the US, Nike Inc. has adopted a European practice of shipping deflated athletic balls instead of inflated ones to pack more inventory into containers. Greyhound Lines Inc. is picking up extra revenue from its often-empty cargo areas by transporting packages for distributors. And, the Internet has spawned more direct shipping from warehouses to consumers.

“There is no one size fits all strategy to supply chain management,” Pohlen stresses. “Behind all facility location models, there are some significant problems. All are driven by transportation costs.”

As China builds up logistics might, the experts agree that the US and the rest of North America are at risk. There is no US intermodal transportation policy–a problem that Pohlen says “is going to haunt us well into the future.”

The Los Angeles/Long Beach port remains a daily logjam with yet another longshoremen’s union contract coming up for renewal in the spring. In 2002, the union strike lasted 10 days, but the recovery from the shutdown took as much as six months in parts of the US. The Canada, Mexico and the US are working on port expansions, yet none will catapult their shipping capitals into the Top Four positions, all firmly held by ports in China.

Among the facts to digest is it takes 66 miles of tractor-trailers to unload one ship at a port. There are 16,000 rigs picking up daily in Los Angeles/Long Beach, with daily emissions at the port equal to the entire city of L.A. It takes three customs agents about 14 hours to inspect one container. The US’ long-haul carriers have a shortage of 20,000 drivers and it will be 100,000 short by 2015. “There’s a perfect storm brewing in the transportation industry,” Pohlen says.

As Farris is quick to point out: “It’s one thing to get it to a port. It’s another thing to get it inland.”

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