Merger of RKS Realty & MacKenzie Commercial Combines Retail, Office and Industrial Efforts
In early May, local commercial real estate firm RKS Realty announced that it had merged with friendly competitor MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services, LLC, making waves throughout the Harford and Cecil counties business communities. Well-known RKS agents Donnell “Beetle” Smith, Jr., Thomas C. Mottley and Frederick Kern joined the fold of the larger regional firm, surprising many within the area and bringing speculation of overall economic health of the area.
“We haven’t gone anywhere,” says Smith. “MacKenzie has the tools our clients need in order to grow their businesses in this new economy, so we took them up on their offer. Our companies have a similar philosophy that you put the client first, do what’s right for them first, and that’s what we did.”
Founded in 1988, RKS has served the Harford County and Wilmington, Del., markets by providing a nimble and proactive base from which clients execute creative strategies for projects big and small. Similarly, MacKenzie has spent the last 15 years quietly growing its presence within the market to service clients as they expanded away from Baltimore County. Until recently, MacKenzie’s presence has been predominately focused on the retail market; the addition of the RKS team has strengthened the firm’s positioning in the office and industrial markets to elevate the firm’s position as the most active brokerage in the market. Beetle, along with Mottley, and MacKenzie’s Thomas L. Fidler, Jr. and Laura J. Williams, will look to increase the firm’s visibility in the region and provide access to MacKenzie’s full-service platform of services, ranging from property management, general contracting, and capital services, in addition to emerging GIS technology and insight provided by Datastory.
“People move their businesses to our community for the quality of life,” says Smith. “We have a great deal to offer – from good schools to a supportive community to many recreation choices, all with easy access to the I-95 Corridor.”
A veteran of the commercial real estate industry, Smith is a second-generation agent and began his career more than 30 years ago. Specializing in office, retail and industrial product, Smith has built his reputation as the area’s straight-shooter by building relationships with the area’s local business owners. Citing the age-old philosophy that people work harder for people they know, Smith’s dedication to the community is evidenced through his client roster and volunteer work. Among the groups he provides advisory are some of the area’s most respected names including: Aberdeen Proving Ground Army Alliance, Clark Turner Company, Harford County Executive Business Indicators Roundtable, L3 Communications, Route 40 Business Association, and Ward Properties. Having watched the area’s business community over the last three decades, Smith notes positive changes from distribution based to a more inclusive climate that blends both blue and white collar based trades.
Growth along the I-95 Corridor has been driven, until recently, by the distribution industry. Easy access to major ports and urban mega-cities located along the Interstate has made the area highly suitable for consumer product hubs and logistic intensive companies. The area boasts a vacancy rate of approximately 3 percent, a rate that has been below the 10 percent mark that industry experts qualify as “healthy” since 2012. Recently, retail has become a driver in commercial real estate activity as witnessed by the successful Boulevard at Box Hill project entering the market to support residential communities such as Bulle Rock and Beech Creek that have delivered to meet the demand of the growing population. Though the office market continues to experience one of the highest vacancy rates in the Baltimore Metro area, businesses are choosing to relocate to take advantage of these market conditions. Thanks in part to the moves related to the BRAC consolidations, the area has seen an increase in defense related technology firms and contractors, as well as financial institutions that are looking to provide their employees a work-life balance afforded by the area.
“Like every industry, commercial real estate is seeing growth in some areas and stagnation in others. With the cuts in the defense budget, our activity has shifted away from government contractors and is more focused on the smaller, entrepreneurial businesses,” says Smith. “These are the businesses that grow communities.” I95