SAN ANTONIO—Doug Swanson knows Texas. For eight years, he was a commercial practitioner, based in San Antonio. And since 2009, he’s served as director of client services in the Central Texas markets for GlobeSt.com Thought Leader Xceligent.
That time span is important because it provides a unique perspective not only on the growth of the company but also on the changes that have taken place in the local market. To date, Swanson reports, the firm has planted flags in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio, with Corpus Christi coming online in September and Houston in early 2015. All but Dallas and Houston are within Swanson’s direct oversight.
“Austin was one of the first markets Xceligent ever opened,” he tells GlobeSt.com. The company at the time was offering a commercial information exchange, where Xceligent built the property universe and maintained the non-member listings, but the brokers themselves were responsible for entering and maintaining the member listings. Founder and CEO Doug Curry was “asked by local commercial brokers to partner with them to build the portal,” Swanson states. It was through a series of geographic hookups and word of mouth testimonials that the firm spread circuitously into Texas, starting from its home base in Independence, MO and spreading into San Diego and then Austin and Dallas.
Swanson explains that the broker-loaded model deteriorated over time, because while the non-member information Xceligent was maintaining was good, the member listings the brokers maintained was often inaccurate and outdated. So, Xceligent switched to a more “full and proactive research model,” where a growing team of dedicated Xceligent staffers maintained all of the data (including listings, tenants, transactions and comparables) with the leasing transactions verified by the top brokers in the local markets through Xceligent Advisory Boards on a quarterly basis.
That of course meant there was a new story to tell about Xceligent’s capabilities, Swanson says, and the team mounted what he calls an “education tour” to dispel any misconceptions that they were still a listing exchange but to educate the market on Xceligent’s full and proactive research processes, along the way signing people to the new full research service.
Probably the biggest contribution to the Texas market that Xceligent offered was consistency and completeness of data, says Swanson: “Developers would come into Austin and have to weed through all the different numbers provided by independent brokers. It created frustration and frankly made them look to outsiders like they didn’t know what they were talking about. Now they all have the same verified data to work with, which has been independently certified by Xceligent’s Advisory Board members.”
It’s a good thing, considering, as Swanson reports, that “there’s a ton of development going on in Austin.” In fact, there’s something on the order of 1.25 million feet of new construction on deck through the end of this year and twice that for 2015.
In San Antonio, a much more conservative market, there’s been good growth, however there’s more in industrial than office, which is still struggling. Industrial vacancies are around 6.7% and while office is nearly triple that at around 17%, “We’re backfilling vacated space and the numbers are coming down.” The director believes that “We’re going to get to the point where people will take the chance and start building spec.”
The push into Corpus Christi is a bit of an anomaly for the company, currently focused on more major markets for its national roll out, but again, it was the result of following the demand. “Corpus Christi came out of our previously forged partnership with the South Texas Commercial Association of Realtors,” Swanson reports. Another relatively stable and conservative community, Corpus Christi is very measured in its approach to new construction, despite good vacancy numbers.
Swanson’s coverage area embraces a mix of mindsets as far as the expansion of the CRE market is concerned, ranging as it does from aggressive (Austin) to ultra conservative (Corpus Christi). Those approaches work for the local markets, but no matter the market stance, in all, Swanson sees a growing appetite for data.
“The more it becomes available,” he says, “the more they seem to want. We can offer this or that gee-whiz tool and they’ll say ‘Great, but can it do this?’ This is major progression from the days before the recession, and underscores the growing sophistication of all Texas markets.”