BLUE SPRINGS, MO—A rational approach to growth. That’s how Kimberly Begley, Xceligent‘s regional director of analytics, describes the current Ohio industrial gains. This is especially true of Cincinnati and Columbus, sister cities in many ways and worthy of a side-by-side comparison.

“We’re seeing measured decision-making in terms of both investing and construction,” she says. “Improving vacancy rates have been reported in both markets, with Cincinnati’s vacancy rate decreasing to 5.6% in the third quarter of 2015, down from the 9.3% reported at the end of 2010, while Columbus’ vacancy rate decreased to 6.3% from the 11.6% reported at the end of 2010. Demand, as measured by net absorption, has outpaced new supply since 2010 as rapid growth has been tempered, allowing for both markets to weather national economic issues.”

The two markets are indeed fairly similar. Xceligent statistical track set has 2,652 buildings with a little more than 240 million square feet in Columbus and just 3,657 buildings just north of 255 million in Cincinnati. 

But when we compare stats such as absorption, the two markets begin to differ. While Cincinnati posted a positive net absorption of 940,000 feet in Q3 for the fifth consecutive quarter, Columbus took a hit of 469,000 after having four consecutive quarters of positive net absorption. But this is due less to market conditions and even less to the nature of post-recessionary catch-up ball as much as it is to the changing nature of retail.


“A major component driving the negative absorption in Columbus is Sears downsizing,” says Begley, who reports the troubled retailer has over the past few months released a number of spaces, including the most recent, 358,760 square feet at 5765 Green Pointe Dr during the third quarter as well as Sears vacating 761,000 sf at 4000 Lockbourne, 398,000sf at 4150 Lockbourn and almost 199,000 sf at the Columbus Business park during the second quarter of 2015. In addition Kmart vacated over 569,000sf at 4400 S. Hamilton Rd during the third quarter adding to the negative net absorption for the Columbus industrial market.

As a result, while the Cincinnati vacancy rate remained stagnant quarter-over-quarter at 5%, it fared better than its sister city, which sustained a slight increase in the vacancy-rate from 6.28% to 7.02%. Rents remained steady there at just north of $3 triple net, really not much different than Cincinnati’s $3.68.

Despite the negative absorption for the quarter that Columbus took at the hands of Sears and Kmart, demand proves Begley’s theory of smart growth, and here the two markets start falling once again into alignment. According to Xceligent’s Q3 Market Trends reports, more than 1.4 million feet of new construction has delivered so far this year in Cincinnati; in Columbus, it tops 2 million.

And here is where the smart growth Begley refers to comes in. Very little of it is spec. “It’s a very controlled environment,” she says, and while there’s more spec warehouse is coming online, “it’s really just now starting to come back.”

In sales, product is moving. According to the reports, the three top Columbus sales in Q3 were: A truck terminal in the Madison submarket that went for $28 million and two Southeast submarket sales for bulk warehouses, one that went for $18.6 million and another that fetched $16.7 million.

In Cincinnati, the top three were: a manufacturing facility in the Florence/Richwood submarket that moved for $7 million; a light industrial plant in Tri-County that took in $2.8 million; and another manufacturing facility, this one in Woodlawn/Evendale, that sold for nearly $2 million.


The caution that the markets are showing leaves Begley cautious as well. Optimistic, but cautious. “A lot more companies want to expand,” she says, “they’re feeling comfortable enough to reinvest in space and grow. That’s been missing in the past couple of years.” And as she indicated previously, slow and steady wins the race.