Chicago‑When EKCO Group Inc.'s housewares manufacturing business wanted to consolidate operations from five different facilities into one location last year, the Chicago office of real estate services firm Alliance Commercial Real Estate Group, Inc. came up with a solution that seemed too good to be true. In fact, one EKCO board member simply refused to believe the deal was for real, according to Ed Hayes, who at the time was senior vice president of operations for EKCO.
It was. The only firm to make the effort to complete an extensive survey of possible sites that represented a true array of choices, markets and properties for the client‑to‑be, Alliance Commercial found a good site that was not even on the market. It also oversaw the project bidding process, worked with the municipality of Monee, Ill., to secure a tax increment financing district in addition to an $18 million incentives package, and found an ultimate buyer for the sale‑leaseback property.
To boot, Alliance clobbered the $3.69 per‑square‑foot net rent benchmark EKCO gave it, driving its cost down to $2.28 a foot, beating the market by about 40 percent and saving the client some $1.8 million a year, according to Alliance senior managing director of the Midwest region Bret Broaddus.
It ended up being Illinois' largest build-to-suit transaction for 1999 at more than 700,000 square feet and was worth paying to retain Alliance Commercial and agreeing to an exclusive contract in exchange for the focused dedication Alliance Commercial gave to the project, Hayes concluded.
"I really felt from the get‑go that they were going to join us at the hip, they were going to steer us at what we wanted ... what was going to be good for EKCO housewares," recalled Hayes, now the COO at Gund Inc. "It was almost as if they were EKCO employees. That was the sense I got; that was the comfort level I had."
The EKCO deal illustrates many of the traits that comprise the hallmark of Alliance mavericks Broaddus and Alan Shaw, director of corporate services. In exchange for requiring retainers and exclusivity on its assignments, the company limits the number of projects it takes on at any one time so it can devote more attention to them; uses a team approach that focuses a range of talents onto the specific needs of a client; finds out-of-the-box solutions; and targets large industrial and office deals of a complex nature, typically for the corporate end-user.
It operates out of five offices dispersed nationally - the result of folding in four other companies, whose owners became partners-and works with companies nationwide to expand its ability to serve clients wherever their needs may be. Through those means, it has attracted a goodly amout of business: The company declined to divulge how many employees it has or its annual revenues, but Shaw did say the company handled $2.1 billion worth of transactions in 1999. Alliance Commerical expects that number to increase by 15 to 20 percent for 2000.