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214 Carson Co. builds Ontario industrial development niche

Kris Carson’s entrepreneurialism has served him well over the years and he’s found another succes...

IMAGE: This property in the 403 Business Park in Brant County is part of the 214 Carson Co. portfolio of mainly light industrial properties across SW Ontario. (Courtesy 214 Carson)

This property in the Brant 403 Business Park in Brant County is part of the 214 Carson Co. portfolio of mainly light industrial properties across SW Ontario. (Courtesy 214 Carson)

Kris Carson’s entrepreneurialism has served him well over the years and he’s found another successful business with 214 Carson Co., which focuses on mid-sized industrial developments in Southwestern Ontario.

Carson has bought and sold a variety of businesses, and he made a handsome profit from buying BGI Retail in 2008 and selling it last year, after impressive growth, to TC Transcontinental.

His first building was constructed in 2013, when he started acquiring land, and a more focused effort on the 214 Carson enterprise began four years ago.

The company is involved with land acquisition, development, construction, site service work, facility maintenance, hardscaping, financing, mergers and acquisitions.

“We buy strategic and pad-ready land and typically build industrial class-A buildings ranging from 50,000 to 250,000 square feet,” Carson told RENX. “We don’t compete with the big guys that are doing 500,000 or more.

“We try to find them in three tiers of locations. Our tier-one locations are along the Highway 403 and 401 corridors. Our tier-two locations are along Queen’s highways, like Highway 24. Tier-three properties are in prestigious business parks that aren’t necessarily exposed to a secondary or major highway.

“We typically build and sell tier-three properties. We have a goal to get to two million square feet of rentable industrial assets. Once we get to that point, we’ll start to filter through and unload our tier-two stuff and replace it with more tier-one stuff.”

While the deal won’t close until October, 214 Carson has conditionally sold its first property: a 51,000-square-foot building in Brant County. A 120,000-square-foot facility built in Brant County in 2016 is going up for sale.

214 Carson’s portfolio

The Paris, Ont.-headquartered company’s properties are typically within a 45-minute driving radius of Brant County. Much of the land 214 Carson has acquired is from local municipalities and has ranged in size from four to 143 acres.

The company’s industrial land portfolio is comprised of 161 acres in Ingersoll, 26 acres in Brant County and 23 acres in Woodstock. It also owns 116 acres of residential land in Norfolk County.

The company has a strong relationship with CBRE senior vice-president and managing director Ted Overbaugh and his team members, whom 214 Carson relies on to source land and tenants for the facilities it builds.

Carson said the majority of its tenants are publicly traded Fortune 500 companies.

The company has several industrial developments under construction, including:

• adding 50,000 square feet to a two-year-old building in Brant County;
• a 51,000-square-foot building in Brant County;
• a 125,000-square-foot building in Brant County;
• demolishing a property on a three-acre parcel of land in Cainsville that’s being repurposed;
• a 151,000-square-foot speculative building in Woodstock;
• a 31,000-square-foot spec building in Woodstock;
• a 135,000-square-foot spec building in Woodstock;
• and a 120,000-square-foot spec building in Ingersoll.

Site plan approvals are also being sought for a 240,000-square-foot facility in Ingersoll and a 107,000-square-foot building in Woodstock.

Projects scheduled into 2029

The company has a development schedule, with land that’s already been secured, that goes into 2029. Since it works with many of the same tradespeople for its projects, that schedule is shared with them so they know what’s coming.

“Our goal is to maintain control of our business by being both the owner and landlord,” said Carson. “What makes us different from the next guy is that we control all of these things. We’re not chasing opportunities for projects.”

While 214 Carson does some residential development, its founder and president doesn’t consider the company to be a homebuilder. It’s a fast-growing operation, however, as its number of employees has risen from six last year to 31 now.

Carson said he doesn’t come from a privileged background, saying he was a sign installer as a teenager who made himself into an entrepreneur. He said he’s benefited from making good and timely business and investment decisions.

Land purchased at advantageous time

“We invested in land early so I wasn’t paying $1 million an acre, which is what we’ve got to pay today,” Carson said. “I was sometimes paying $25,000 an acre for 403-facing product.

“I’m looking at a parcel out my office window right now where I paid $125,000 an acre four years ago and could sell it for $1.2 million an acre right now.”

The industrial market remains strong and there’s plenty of activity in 214 Carson’s area of focus.

Carson said it took him more than a year to lease his first spec building in 2016, and now he’s getting six to 10 leasing inquiries within the first 30 days of a development getting underway.

With high land and construction costs, it’s more difficult for users to buy their own facilities. That opens up opportunities for 214 Carson, which constructs all of its buildings so they can be occupied by a single tenant or multiple tenants.

“We’ve created a breeding ground of facilities where we can put somebody in a 30,000-square-foot building and work with that tenant and grow them into a 60,000- or 90,000-square-foot building over windows of time,” said Carson.

Carson is an avid boater and fisherman who spends much of his summer leisure time at Turkey Point on Lake Erie, where he also owns vacation rental properties.

Carson 214 also owns a recently renovated luxury vacation property that can be rented in Great Exuma, Bahamas.

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