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INDUSTRIAL BROKER OF THE YEAR 2022: BEN SYKES

Updated: May 6


In today's highly competitive industrial real estate market, success requires a unique combination of expertise, experience, and an unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional value to clients. Ben Sykes, SIOR Canada Central Chapter Industrial Broker of the Year 2022, possesses all of these qualities and more. In this interview, Ben discusses his strategies for securing the largest valued industrial land sale in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) of all-time, how he identifies and targets potential clients, and how he stays on top of advancements and changes in technology, logistics, and e-commerce.


Can you talk about a particularly large or complex industrial transaction you worked on this year and the strategies you used to secure the deal?

The $210,000,000 sale of 3 Manchester Court, at the time of sale, was the largest valued industrial land sale in the GTA of all-time. This was an extremely complex transaction: The site involved an operating business of a large and publicly traded client who wanted to capitalize on the skyrocketing appreciation of industrial land in the GTA, but they needed to source a larger suitable relocation site prior to the sale of their current site and ensure business continuity.

The mandate was extremely tough: approximately 100 acres, zoned industrial with full outside storage, in close proximity to 3 Manchester and at a price that would allow the Vendor to exit at a maximum price and enter at a significant savings. Me and my team liaised with both planning staff of the short-listed 21 municipalities that RB and Avison Young identified following a thorough customer and employee relocation impact study.


Concurrently, my team and I readied 3 Manchester for sale. Once a relocation site was secured, 3 Manchester was brought to market which generated a frenzy of interest from the top private and institutional buyers.


The effort and time that we spent upfront culminated in something that rarely happens on a deal of this magnitude, with Oxford Properties submitting an unconditional firm offer on the first round above guidance and agreed to provide a Vendor a condition on the rezoning of the relocation site. In March 2022, the Vendor waived the relocation condition and the transaction closed at record pricing.


I believe the top brokers really not only understand the transactional side of the brokerage business, but they also truly understand the business drivers, changes and challenges their clients face on a daily basis.

How do you approach identifying and targeting potential clients in the industrial sector?


I am not a high volume or “one size fits all” broker. I target specific business and industries in growth mode and leverage my 18 years of experience which demonstrate that I can deliver value to their business, along with a real understanding of their business and how real estate fits within it. I also target businesses in a familiar vertical as I believe I can truly deliver a unique service to them given my understanding of their sector and unique operations.

How do you stay on top of advancements and changes in technology, logistics and e-commerce that are impacting the industrial market


I believe the top brokers really not only understand the transactional side of the brokerage business, but they also truly understand the business drivers, changes and challenges their clients face on a daily basis. Change is constant, specifically in the logistics and e-commerce space. Just talk to any supply chain professional about the past 36 months and their experience through COVID!!



As service providers, we need to be able to “speak their language” when it comes to the challenges facing their business and what keep them up at night. To solve for this, I believe in the power of analysis and data and that detailed analysis and preparation will lead to a great business decision, regardless of the change going on as that will be factored in along the way. To do this, you must realize you don’t have all of the answers and be a sponge. Ask questions. Listen. Although it was hard at first to admit I didn’t know it all, I have learned more from my clients over the years and can honestly say there isn’t a day in the business where I don’t learn something new.

The majority of industrial developers in Canada are still building new spec buildings with limited ESG or material sustainability consideration. In 10-20 years, this group will kick themselves for not jumping on the bandwagon faster.

What are some of the most common misconceptions that you come across when working with clients in the industrial sector?


I think a general misconception is that commercial real estate brokers are transactionally focused and that is where our role start and stops. This is the old school way of serving clients, and brokers who approach the business this way are limiting their impact and ability to grow.


I really see this almost the other way. We are highly skilled consultants that are better off being engaged from the outset. By asking the right questions we can help a client truly understand their needs and business drivers and create a business plan to support the execution of a good real estate decision, after taking all qualitative and quantitative decisions into consideration.


The outcome of that decision is the transaction; however, most of our work is done upfront and ensures clients are making an “eyes wide open” with complete confidence and clarity.


How do you help your clients to be aware of, and incorporate, sustainability and social responsibility in their real estate projects?


ESG is on the radar of both user and developer client however candidly, North America is years behind what is happening in Europe in the industrial sector. That said, it is the way of the future and my team and I are spending a lot of time with our European colleagues to develop thought leadership for Canada in the space to assist both our user and developer clients understand the space. Two interesting comments on this point. The first, is that although it is incorporated into most larger users request for proposals, ESG and sustainability are not driving decisions. I think this will change in the future.


My second comment is regarding the fact that the majority of industrial developers in Canada are still building new spec buildings (with and 50-60 year investment horizon) with limited ESG or material sustainability consideration. My guess is that in 10-20 years, this group will kick themselves for not jumping on the bandwagon faster as it will only be a matter Canada and the US introduce similar carbon taxes as what is happening today in Europe.


We hope you've enjoyed our interview with Ben Sykes and that this post has provided some valuable insights into the Industrial Real Estate market and the role of industrial brokers. Whether you are an investor looking for new opportunities in the industrial sector, a tenant seeking the right space for your business, or a broker looking to enhance your knowledge and skills, the industrial real estate market offers vast opportunities.


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