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ATLANTA-Layoffs are rampant and property values are down – way down. However forward-looking companies are eyeing their internal real estate portfolios not so much as albatrosses but rather as a stepping stone to reaching larger corporate goals. So says CoreNet Global’s annual State of the Industry report.

The report is based on a survey conducted in the second half of 2008 – hardly a happy period in the industry, noted Richard Kadzis, director of special projects at CoreNet Global, in a conference call when the report was released Monday. Still, though, he said, respondents’ feedback conveyed that corporate real estate is viewed as an opportunity for now and especially a few years out, when some of the alternative work trends now just emerging begin to take hold.

Corporate real estate has traditionally “demonstrated the ability to add value in corporate downturns as real estate is the only function that reaches across the entire enterprise,” Kadzis said. This downturn – although in many ways more severe – is proving to be no different.

For instance, some companies are positioning their real estate holdings to serve as a profit center in a larger outsourcing model, Rob Osgood, principal with Flad Architects, explained on the call. Osgood provided research to the report and also participated in the conference call. “Companies are asking themselves how and what quality of space they will occupy around the world. We see a big trend not only towards alternative and virtual officing but also towards” leveraging IT investments and real estate assets to deliver the same efficiencies to other companies, he said.

This forward-looking view is based on trends and metrics painfully familiar to the CRE community right now: that is, plummeting valuations and dropping rental rates. Corporate real estate executives are taking advantage of these trends in the near term, certainly, as they renegotiate leases. A shift towards virtual officing will be a longer-term ramification.

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