John Boyd, The Boyd Co., Princeton, New Jersey
John Boyd is principal of The Boyd Co., a site selection consultancy that works with major corporate clients, which Boyd says has been very active in Nashville for five decades.
His take: "This isn't any kind of death knell for Nashville. But it is another arrow in the quiver for the economic development community to point to the unique vulnerabilities of being in big cities."
Also in that quiver are concerns about social unrest, pandemics now and in the future, and the cost of doing business in cities in general. Boyd says a 34% property tax increase just passed this year by Davidson County, which includes Nashville, is a prime example.
Boyd says his company just helped a prominent maker of personal protective equipment (PPE) relocate to Nashville, a move facilitated by relatively low property and labor costs. And it's not just happening in big cities. Boyd adds, "We're seeing clients circle back to us to look at places like Topeka, Kansas, and Columbia, Missouri."
But it's not because of concern about crazed, random bombers. Boyd explains, "The cost of living and doing business in center cities is prompting a massive transfer of wealth and population to the suburbs and well beyond that, especially now that so many people can and do work from home."
Alan Rosca, Goldman Scarlato & Penny, Beachwood, Ohio
Alan Rosca is an attorney in the suburban Cleveland office of Goldman, Scarlato & Penny who works with CRE investors across the country. He says his practice focuses on traded and non-traded real estate investments, primarily real estate investment trusts (REITs).
Rosca says the possibility that the Nashville bomber might have been targeting 5G networks points makes it hard to argue "that this bombing is indicative of increased risks for downtown commercial properties."
He also points to how rare such incidents are and that suburban CRE could be considered at even higher risk because it's more difficult to patrol as frequently as densely packed downtown areas.
But Rosca adds: "There might be an increased risk for downtown properties, compared to suburban ones, in view of certain features accompanying such properties, such as increased foot traffic on sidewalks, higher density of adjacent buildings, retail properties at street level, and typically closer proximity to the street. All these factors could create additional targets for someone intent on inflicting disruption, terror, or worse."
Meanwhile, the disruption to communications points to another tough nut to crack for property owners and managers, especially since their tenants typically get those services directly from providers, rather than through their landlords.
Rosca says: "For tenants such as office businesses and retailers, a fairly quick and easy fix would be having a backup internet service that could be instantly activated if the main provider goes down. On the other hand, when it comes to power or water outages, these are certainly utilities that are typically the landlord's responsibility, and landlords ought to have backups in place, particularly when it comes to power generators."
The Millionacres bottom line
As Rosca points out, viewed as a test of our communal communications systems: "This was a test that was certainly failed. Hopefully, this will be used as a teaching moment to prepare for more serious events that could cause far more extensive and long-term disruption."
Those events could be anything from terrorist attacks with clearly stated motives to earthquakes and hurricanes. And there will be more. Cost-cutting that leaves us vulnerable to the next "big one" and the "big one" after that is a poor investment in the long run.
"At a broader level, recent events ranging from this bombing to the reported hacking of every other major government and corporate entity demonstrate that our country needs to have a serious -- and not politicized -- discussion about the need to seriously harden our online and offline vital infrastructure," Rosca says.
I agree. After all, it's coming out now that the police were, indeed, informed in 2019 about Warner's bomb-making proclivities. They couldn't do much about it at the time. Investing in preparedness and hardening goes much further.