In search of a modern industrial building, the Canadian-based packaging company Cascades Inc., knew who to call after its Queens, New York, facility had become antiquated.
Fifty miles to the west, in Piscataway, New Jersey, ever-visionary Greek Development had built on spec a sprawling facility where a former chemical plant had stood. The new digs could be fine-tuned to the needs of a tenant, which—after some initial reluctance—became Cascades Inc.
Branded the Turner Place Logistics Center, the building offered over 450,000 square feet for a wide range of industrial uses, as well as access to commercial rail, the New Jersey Turnpike and the Port of Newark. There even was a tax incentive that Greek Development had negotiated through New Jersey’s PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) program prior to breaking ground.
A lease was signed in May 2017, and early this year Greek Development and Cascades were building out the facility with offices, equipment and specialty items, in anticipation of being fully operational by summer.
“Their requirements are complicated, as they needed a specific shape and size with ample power capacity, the customization of manufacturing space, trenches in the floor and so on,” explains David Greek, the friendly 27-year-old vice president and grandson of Frank Sr., who founded Greek Development in 1934. “But this is what we’ve always been capable of doing for over 80 years: building and outfitting a facility for the unique needs of any tenant.”
Ahead of the curve
New Jersey is experiencing a resurgence of its industrial past, and that’s meant a lot of new construction for Greek Development, whose operations extend into eastern Pennsylvania. While manufacturing continues to evolve and the world of distribution and logistics adapts to the new realities of e-commerce, Greek Development takes pride in staying ahead of the trends.
The Eastern Seaboard’s modern industrial needs include facilities for pharmaceutical research and development as well as large-scale distribution by online merchants. Greek Development is immersed in these strategic areas, while still handling more traditional projects.
A few years ago, when Illinois-based PharMEDium needed a New Jersey plant for its assembly and distribution of compounded sterile preparations, it sought out Greek Development, which acquired a South Brunswick site and designed a 65,000-square-foot facility that includes offices, labs, production facilities and a warehouse. Soon after taking occupancy in the late summer of 2015, PharMEDium was acquired by AmerisourceBergen for $2.6 billion—the value enhanced by the sparkling Class A facility that enables greater efficiency, safety and expansion capabilities.
“The ability to build these state-of-the-art facilities sets us apart,” says Greek. “It’s a different type of labor that you’re accommodating than what you stereotypically expect; these are highly educated engineers and scientists in labs, not blue-collar people assembling products. We’ve seen the labor market in industrial areas explode during the last few years.”
The same holds true for the e-commerce logistics operators who require large spaces such as the four buildings Greek Development constructed for Clarion Partners in the Burlington Industrial Park at the apex of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania turnpikes. There’s nearly 1.6 million square feet there being put to good use by tenants such as American Hotel Register Co., which manufactures and supplies hospitality products and services, and HD Supply, one of North America’s largest industrial supply distributors.
Not too far away at another Greek Development facility in Woodbridge, climate control is a necessity for Preferred Freezer Services, whose structure also benefited from PILOT, having been redeveloped on underutilized and environmentally contaminated land. All such structures contribute to economic game-changing, Greek says.
“Before the internet, a company could load a big palette on a truck bound for the mall and it would be unpacked there,” he explains. “Now, all that sorting happens at the warehouse, and it’s changing the way we design. There’s more parking for employees and tractor-trailers. Industrial no longer means vast spaces for dead storage—you need space for humans to break down and re-assemble what will be shipped.”
He adds that when a major distributor like Amazon arrives with its generous compensation and benefits, other companies might actually contemplate a move since the cost of labor rises. In recent years, Amazon’s New Jersey plans have been calling for another 2 million to 3 million square feet of warehouse annually, with Greek Development helping to provide for its needs.
“The problem here isn’t unemployment,” says Greek. “We actually need more labor for these jobs.”
So, with the mid-Atlantic economy humming, it’s growth mode for Greek Development. Listening to its young vice president describe the not-so-distant past, one gets the impression the company is reaping what it sowed during the downturn of a decade ago.
“Few tenants were taking the risk of expanding during the Great Recession,” he recalls. “Much of that time we spent focusing on our tenant base and renegotiating leases they couldn’t afford. It was important to us to keep our portfolio at a healthy occupancy level, and that meant being creative, cutting rates and paying for improvements we weren’t obligated to pay for. We took a hit, but the rebound has more than paid us back for our patience.”
It’s particularly satisfying, he says, to see the company’s tenants expand. Many started out small but, boosted by state-of-the-art facilities and thriving business models, have grown into major employers. When Raritan Pharmaceuticals approached Greek Development for space, a 21,000-square-foot space sufficed. Just a few years later, Raritan’s total leased facilities—also provided by Greek Development—are nearly 18 times that size.
Greek Development doesn’t do it all alone. Its sister company, Parsicon Builders Inc., is a worthy subcontractor, streamlining the production of much of the 17 million—and increasing—square feet of industrial space that Greek Development has contributed to New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Most prized among Greek Development’s assets may be the brain trust itself. While David Greek’s parents, Frank Jr. and Cathy, serve as CEO and executive vice president respectively, much of the team includes young people well-versed in today’s economy. It’s a vital demographic that’s nurtured in-house.
“We’re all committed to growing the business, and we all have a lot of gas left in the tank,” says David Greek. “The younger perspective certainly helps in identifying new trends in the marketplace, as well as providing energy and enthusiasm.
“On the other side of the coin, my father says experience has taught him that every eight or 10 years, the industry goes through a fundamental transformation. That’s what’s happened with e-commerce and Big Pharma. There’ll always be change, but the reason we’ve stayed in business for so long is because we are ready and willing to adapt to it.”
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