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LITTLE FALLS, NJ-After a two-year absence, West Coast-based Lee & Associates has opened an outpost here. Former Grubb & Ellis executive vice president and managing director Rick Marchisio will head up the Garden State branch as co-founder, president and principal.

In 2005, Lee & Associates teamed up with local real estate veteran Charles Klatskin to form Lee & Klatskin Associates. Two years later, Klatskin merged his firm with Jones Lang LaSalle.

Edward Indvik, managing director and chairman of Lee Advisory Board, tells GlobeSt.com that Lee & Associates began discussions with Marchisio and Brian Lynch, the other managing principal of the firm, about opening a Garden State branch in December. Lynch is the former president and founder of Commercial Realty Associates, which has been folded into Lee & Associates. The office officially opened on March 1.

Lee & Associates is structured as a group of independently owned and operated firms, managed by presidents/managing partners in each office. It currently has 39 offices in California, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada and New Jersey.

Indvik says that there are several commonalities between California and New Jersey, chief among the ports each state harbors. “The Long Beach/Los Angeles Port is the largest in US, and New Jersey is second,” he says. “There is a lot of cross-fertilization between clients, both as it relates to industrial but also on the retail side.”

Marchisio tells GlobeSt.com that the industrial sector is the state’s most active market today. “In past 60 to 90 days, we’ve seen a tremendous uptick in activity,” he says. “We hope it translates to deals and dollars.”

The retail and office sectors, meanwhile, continue to struggle, Marchisio maintains. He points out that the state’s office market has been at an 18% to 20% availability level for “a long time.” However, that is not all due to the slumping economy and lack of job growth. The fact that companies require less space is also a factor, Marchisio states. “The office market is struggling, but I don’t see it getting any worse. I don’t see vacancy rates changing too much.”

The local Lee & Associates office is presently staffed by 15, half of whom are brokers. Marchisio has plans to open a Central New Jersey branch in the Middlesex County area in the next 12 months, as well as an office in the Philadelphia area.

Marchisio contends now is the good time to expand operations, despite the gloomy economy. “Most companies expand in up cycle, but it takes time to do this,” he says. “By the time we turn the corner, we are going to be there fully engaged and ready to go.”

At the present time, the firm is “doing more than traditional brokerage,” Marchisio says. Instead, his staff is focusing on advising companies on how to cut expenses and deal with the current downturn. “The transaction work will come from that,” he says.

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