1. What makes the West Midlands real estate market unique?
The West Midlands is a dynamic real estate market. It is rich with unique opportunities for us as investors in the logistics industry. The fact that we, as a Canadian firm, can invest in the infrastructure of one of our closest partner nations is a testament to our incredible relationship and the modern global economic arena.
The West Midlands Interchange (WMI) project is set to modernize the logistics retail space by decarbonising and electrifying the UK logistics industry in the long term. It will bring c. 743,224m2 (8M sq ft) of commercial logistics space to the area, as well as offer c. €1.2b (£1b) investment and employment supporting the economic growth of West Midlands region.
2. What have you learned through your experience in the industry?
There are three pillars: innovation, ambition, and people, that are key to what we do in the real estate industry. Regardless of anything else, if you are not willing to and capable of pushing boundaries and doing things that haven’t been done before, you will struggle to leave a long-term impact. People are the other, equally important dimension, as we leave a legacy for those the site will serve.
With WMI for example, our ambition is to be a leader in sustainable construction and operation is unmatched, as we aspire for BREEAM Excellent energy ratings across the site, PV panel potential across 607,028m2 (150 acres) of roof space as well as 440,000 litres worth of rainwater harvesting potential and green walls on our buildings. We are also planning a 40% increase in hedgerows around the site.
3. What do you prioritise when approaching a potential investment opportunity?
There are several things I look at when considering a potential investment opportunity, however, ensuring a positive legacy for the company is always a top priority for me, whether it's due to the size of an investment, the potential public good of a project to the local area, or the opportunity to fundamentally change the dynamics of an industry, which we believe the WMI project will achieve.
As evidenced by our plan to create 8,500 new jobs in the West Midlands and contribute to 17% of Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s new jobs target, we place significant importance on investing in the communities we operate in.
We have invested c. €2m (£1.7m) in a WMI Employment Fund to upskill and employ local workers, as well as create 441,107m2 (109 acres) of community parks while delivering on our pension promise to our stakeholders.
4. What would you consider a successful investment in today’s economic climate?
Creating a sustainable project is our ultimate goal. In order to achieve success, we must ensure that the project provides value to the wider economy, meets net-zero targets, benefits the local population, and satisfies our shareholders. These are the primary metrics that we must focus on in order to accomplish our mission. Across sectors and around the world, Oxford Properties has a track record of delivering industry-leading risk-adjusted returns with positive ESG outcomes, which is at the heart of what we consider success.