The Self Storage Economic Summit kicked off on Tuesday, September 3rd, with a keynote from Dr. Arthur Laffer, a recent recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom Award. Laffer shared his experiences in campaigns and administrations of Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and California Gov. Jerry Brown’s unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination.
Laffer is the author of Trumponomics and shared where he agreed and disagreed with the president, specifically disagreeing with President Trump’s approach to protectionist trade practices. He said the trade war with China has the potential to have an exponentially harmful impact on the economy.
Industry Leaders Session
Patrick Reilly of Urban Self Storage moderated a panel of industry leaders that included Dave Benson, CEO of Morningstar Properties, Ken Nitzberg, chairman and CEO of Devon Self Storage, Brian Cohen, president of Andover Properties, and Stephen Clark, Principal with Clark Investment Group.
Panelists discussed the trend of consolidation among self storage vendors. Boston private equity firm Cove Hill Partners has merged SpareFoot, Sitelink, storEDGE, Bader Co. and Storsmart Insurance under the Storable banner.
“This may mark the beginning of a tech disruptor for the self storage industry just as many other industries have experienced. I would urge all self storage operators to carefully watch the progress of such consolidators to make sure each operator can continue to control their own tenant relationships without interruption.” – Ken Nitzberg, said after the session.
Capital Markets Session
Eric Snyder, principal of Talonvest Capital, moderated a panel that included Keith Williams of Wells Fargo, Mike Mele of Cushman & Wakefield, Jason Haby of Crow Holdings Capital, and Rob Consalvo of Store Space Self Storage, on equity trends.
“It’s harder to find properties with much upside in them,” Mele said. “There are few distressed opportunities and properties never sell below construction costs.”
Raising Capital for Your Next Project
Ryan Gibson of Spartan Investment Group in Colorado gave sponsors advice on cultivating and acquiring investors for their next self storage project. That includes monthly updates, drone videos and ongoing communication about the status of development and operations.
Gibson explained the difference between 506(b) and 506(c) investment offerings and the rules developers need to be aware of to operate within SEC guidelines.
“Give investors a great experience,” Gibson said. “Part of marketing investors is retaining them.”
Opening Panel Session: Storage in Europe
John McGlynn, Scottish Capital Partners Ltd., Cris Burnam, TKG StorageMart and Peter Frayser, Janus International Group, shared their experiences in European markets and discussed when the opportunity is worth the risk.
Burnam discussed employment models and real estate taxes in the US versus Europe and Canada, where there are pros and cons to each model.
Burnam said the biggest takeaway from StorageMart’s 3-year tenure in the UK is that customers there still need education on the value of storage.
“In the UK we put prices online and quickly shaved our occupancy,” he said. “We realized people wanted to be contacted. We needed to help them understand it and cheer it on. We had lost patience for doing that, and we got it wrong.”
Germany seems to be the next potential powerhouse, but there’s very little Google search growth among the population for storage. Scandinavia has accepted the concept of storage, and there’s an upper middle class with income to pay for storage. France is among the faster growing markets for storage. Poland is finally coming online for storage. England is the biggest and strongest market, but even there, more rural areas are very soft for storage demand.
Barry Hoeven Award
Extra Space founder Spencer F. Kirk was honored for the work of his non-profit organization, Kirk Humanitarian. In 2018, Kirk Humanitarian reached 3 million women, providing multiple micronutrient supplements to help them deliver health babies. The organization’s investments help ensure women around the world will have access to such prenatal vitamins for decades to come.
The Barry Hoeven Memorial Award was established to honor the late Barry Hoeven and to recognize individuals in the self storage industry who perform heroic acts on behalf of others.
Foundation Forum Speaker: Step Up, Stand Out & Succeed
Sarah Robb O’Hagan, a dynamic entrepreneur and motivational business speaker, shared her successes and failures in a career that spans Virgin Atlantic to Gatorade to Flywheel Sports. O’Hagan led the transformation of Gatorade from a sports drink to an athletic performance brand and the ups and downs of that turnaround.
O’Hagan encouraged attendees to figure out who their customers are, what they do best for their customers, and how they can become more important in those customers’ lives.
Lien Sales: Lonnie Bickford of Storage Auctions guided operators on best practices for conducting lien sales, including scheduling an auction each month, and months in advance.
“Your manager can tell a delinquent tenant that we have an auction on the 23rd and right now you are in it. It’s better than saying we have an auction ‘coming up,” he said.
Financing Your Project: Neal Gussis and Steve Libert with CCM Commercial Mortgage discussed the many lending options available to owners.
“Long-term rates are down dramatically in the last seven months,” said Gussis.
New Supply: Chris Nebenzahl, manager of institutional research at Yardi Matrix, shared new supply trends at markets across the country.
Markets such as Denver have cut their development pipeline in half, perhaps due to more data available about potential developments.
Markets still facing a tough slog include Nashville, Portland, Seattle, and Orlando as they work to get back to street rate increases.
“We still see Q3 of 2018 at the peak of new supply deliveries but elevated supply will be the case for the next four years,” Nebenzahl said.
Concurrent Education Sessions: Opportunity Zones and Self Storage
Attorney Todd Richardson with Omaha-based Husch Blackwell, LP, discussed the Opportunity Zone legislation that came from the 2017 tax law as well as updates in April on regulations. Opportunity Zones allow investors to defer capital gains by investing in designated opportunity zone funds.
Concurrent Education Session: Blockchain to Raise Equity and Debt
John Manes of Pinnacle Storage Properties and Aaron Lohmann, founder of Earn.re, discussed how blockchain can be used as a way to raise debt and equity for self storage projects. The blockchain market can be used to increase the liquidity of commercial investments.
Manes and Lohmann also said the technology increases the transparency of the project for investors, who are able to see how the investment is performing. Returns on their investment are automatically deposited to their digital currency account each month. And a secondary market for their digital token creates liquidity for investors.
Self Storage Hall of Fame Inductions
Public Storage CEO Joe Russell inducted his predecessor, Ron Havner, into the Hall of Fame, noting how Havner pushed for quality facilities, led the industry in growth with acquisitions, took Shurgard Self-Storage Europe public and for his financial discipline along the way.
“Self storage wasn’t an institutional asset back then and now it’s the opposite,” Russell said. “We are now the gold standard for public and private investors.”
Patrick Reilly, CEO of Urban Self Storage, inducted Dave Rogers of Life Storage into the Hall. He praised Rogers for helping defragment the association and for his talent-building consensus.
Rogers credited others, including Dean Jernigan and the Burnam family for showing how to take self storage public successfully.
“And I would point to my three co-founders who have remained my friends over these 35 years,” said Rogers.
Mike Burnam, CEO of StorageMart, delivered the keynote address, saying he’d sold out his self storage holdings four times but always came back because he never found anything he liked better.
Burnam said he views the third-party management trend as the primary driver of the growth of supply in the market as such professional management created an assurance for banks lending on new projects.
“They’ve created a monster,” he said.