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Emphasizing Industrial Business a Turning Point for Liberty, CEO Says

07/03/2014 | By Allen Kenney

Bill Hankowsky, chairman, president and CEO of Liberty Property Trust (NYSE: LPT), joined REIT.com for a CEO Spotlight video interview during REITWeek 2014: NAREIT’s Investor Forum, held in New York.

Liberty Property Trust is celebrating its 20th year trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Hankowsky called the anniversary a “significant milestone” for the company. He cited the discipline instilled upon the company by the public market as a key benefit of being publicly traded. He also noted that the transparency of the REIT approach to real estate investment is consistent with Liberty’s culture.

“And, to be quite candid, the access to capital has been extraordinary,” he said. “It has helped us grow our company over the years.”

Looking back on Liberty’s time as a public company, Hankowsky singled out a decision made in the last five years to increase its presence in the industrial sector as a transformative move. Liberty, which owns both industrial and office properties, has expanded in that period from 14 industrial markets to 24, including eight of the top 10 in the United States.

Conversely, the firm opted to limit its exposure in the office sector. Liberty shrank its portfolio, cutting back from 16 markets to eight.

“What we want to do now is be a much more active utilizer of our skills—development and property management—in a creative way,” Hankowsky said.

Turning to Liberty’s sustainability program, Hankowsky discussed the importance of being green to the firm’s identity.

“We really think about this as high-performance buildings for our customers and for us,” he said.

Hankowsky said office tenants’ employees show a preference for green buildings. Meanwhile, industrial companies see benefits by becoming more efficient. Lastly, Liberty enjoys the cost savings of running the properties using fewer resources, according to Hankowsky.

“We are, and will continue to try to be, an industry leader,” he said.