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CINCINNATI-Locally-based transport provider FirstGroup America, a subsidiary of London-based FirstGroup PLC, one of the largest school bus transportation firms in the world and the parent of Greyhound, has hired CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. to help sort out about 2,000 properties. The sites are mostly industrial in nature but also including call centers and regional offices. The company has owned many of the properties for a while, but also took over a lot more through acquisitions, such as the purchase of Laidlaw last year.

Ed Schreyer, SVP of global corporate services for CBRE, tells GlobeSt.com that his firm has been tasked with transaction management and portfolio evaluation for all the properties for efficiency, possible sales or even expansion. “We’re going to see if we can find superior sites for properties that they have now, sublease or sell duplicate sites and, based on the company’s growing nature, expand some properties to handle more buses,” Schreyer says.

Many of the properties are in industrial-type settings, he says. “Think of all the yellow school buses in a community, and you have these 3- or 4-acre sites where the bus drivers show up and pick them up. Then you have maintenance facilities, refurbishment areas, and then you even have all the Greyhound terminals in every town,” Schreyer says. The company also runs many of the airport shuttle bus systems, such as in Miami and Baltimore, and is one of the largest vehicle maintenance companies, with clients such as the federal government and the US Navy.

The company has undertaken a massive study to see how the properties, scattered everywhere in the US and Canada, could be better used. “It’s going to take six months just to evaluate each property, with the major strategy going to be cost-savings,” Schreyer says. “For example, you may have an old Greyhound bus station that’s in the path of progress, or in a redevelopment area, where the property would be worth more to sell as a site for a high-rise office or condo tower. There may be numerous bus stations now owned by the company that service the same area, or the population has shifted to another area. If there are two properties near each other, one recently acquired, it makes sense to expand one and close another.” He says the firm doesn’t have a good figure on sf or acreage owned yet.

He says the economy will factor into the evaluations, but it’s hard to tell how, though it’s clear the price of gas will be a factor. “One could argue that as gas prices go up, buses are going to be in higher demand, people are more apt to take public transportation. However, by the same token, buses have to eat the cost of the gas prices,” Schreyer says.

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