Is the new University of Miami Life Science and Technology Park the key component to the emergence of the life sciences/biotech sector in Miami? According to Jones Lang LaSalle’s Rich Schuchts, this project is a “game changer” for the regional economy, and that real estate brokers can be tapping into a “pot of gold.” In today’s GlobeSt.com, Jennifer Claire reports.
A Chat with Richard Schuchts
by Jennifer LeClaire
MIAMI-When Jones Lang LaSalle was named exclusive leasing agent for the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park in August, Richard Schuchts, a senior vice president in the firm’s Miami office, set his mind to educate a market on the growing opportunity. Although Miami is home to more than 1,700 life sciences companies, including industry leaders like Boston Scientific, Cordis, and Schering-Plough Stiefel Laboratories, the UM Life Science & Technology center will christen Miami as a bona fide cluster when the first 252,000-square-foot phase one building is completed in mid-2011. GlobeSt.com caught up with Schuchts to talk about the challenges of introducing a new sector into a market, how the project has stretched him as a broker, how other brokers can get involved in the life sciences niche, and more.
LeClaire: What’s the challenge of introducing a new sector into a market?
Schuchts: It’s funny. In another situation in another time when the rest of the real estate market is flying high, introducing a new product type, a new market, a new sector is a daunting task. However, in this market having a typical office building may be a bigger challenge. There are already biotech companies in Miami. With a life sciences park at UM, there is tremendous untapped potential for collaboration. So what would normally be a challenge is an opportunity because we have a game-changing situation.
LeClaire: How has the UM Life Sciences park stretched you as a broker?
Schuchts: It has expanded my knowledge base. There is a lot to understand about the construction infrastructure. Thankfully, with my background at Codina Group, I do understand the development side of the business and how that relates and interrelates with the brokerage side. Still, you’re talking about a whole different set of life sciences-focused technology built into a development. You’re talking about an entirely new vocabulary and a whole group landlords and tenants we would not normally represent. We deal with the law firms. We deal with the accounting firms. This is different. We have to invest ourselves to understand the nuances of our clients, prospects, and science.
LeClaire: What kind of impact do you expect this emerging cluster to have on the economy?
Schuchts: We’re just really scratching the surface. I think the park will have a profound impact both nationally and locally. Locally, it may even have more importance in that we don’t have a lot of Fortune 500 companies based here in South Florida. We don’t have a wide variety of industry. We do our tourism. We do legal. We do real estate. There are a few that we can look at and say, “That’s going to be a growth driver.” Life sciences clearly is a growth driver. This is a situation where the tide will rise because you have new users coming into the market. That’s something Miami has always been challenged by. But Miami is central to the U.S., Latin America and Europe and it’s a great place for operations.
LeClaire: With the opportunity you describe, should brokers be considering carving out a niche in life sciences? And if so, how do they get involved?
Schuchts: They should. Other brokers don’t necessarily have to understand the science to do a deal. That’s going to fall on our team at Jones Lang LaSalle and Wexford and UM to provide the knowledge base to the brokers. We will educate brokers by helping them understand the questions to ask prospects. There are a lot of opportunities for brokers to make a lot of money in life sciences. These are not short-term deals. These are not inexpensive construction projects. There’s a whole pot of gold here and brokers could be taking coins out of this pot that they didn’t even know existed before. It’s all around us here.