With the main office in Irvine in California, Panattoni – an international developer of commercial properties – intends to “ follow” their customers’ expectations, Robert Dobrzycki, who heads its European arm, tells WBJ.
WBJ: Panattoni has been present in Poland since 2005. Major achievements and failures?
Robert Dobrzycki: We have had several achievements. First of all, from the very beginning, we have broken records when it comes to space lease transactions. In the first year, it was 52,000 sq m for H&M in Poznań [western Poland]. In 2008, we signed a lease agreement for the construction of 56,000 sq m for Leroy Merlin in Stryków [central Poland] and two years later we informed the industry about the construction of 57,000 sq m for Tesco. Finally, in 2014, we signed a giant lease agreement for the construction of 246,000 sq m for Amazon near Poznań and Wrocław [south-west Poland], carrying out construction in record time.
To date, we have completed as many as eight buildings for Amazon, including the latest – a record-breaking facility in terms of size and functionality – in Gliwice [southern Poland]. This investment with an area of over 210,000 sq m and four floors is the largest warehouse building in the country and has been equipped with an innovative Amazon Robotics technology. As many as 3,900 transport robots help to store products on shelves there and complete orders.
I am also particularly proud that Panattoni has started new market trends. We were the first one to implement production facilities outside our warehouse spaces in SEZs. We also initiated investments in new emerging markets. When most developers focused on the most mature warehouse markets, our eyes turned to pioneering locations all across Poland such as Lublin, Szczecin, Bydgoszcz, Zielona Góra, Białystok or Kielce. And it was an excellent decision, as was the implementation of the concept of City Logistics Parks dedicated to urban logistics and growing e-commerce demand. Such parks were created in Warsaw, Katowice, Wrocław, Łódź, and also in [the German capital] Berlin.
And outside of Poland?
Our international presence is another milestone for the company. In 2014, I was appointed as Panattoni Managing Partner for Europe. After investing in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, we began a great adventure with Western Europe – first Germany, where we became the most active developer and then the UK, since September 2017, where we are currently the largest speculative developer. We have just announced the opening of our offices in the Netherlands and Spain.
This wouldn’t have happened if not for the lesson we learned from the crisis at the end of the first decade of this century. The crisis not only verified the market but also allowed us to spread our wings. It has enabled us to actively manage the situation and taught us how to adapt to new conditions. When our competitors were changing the strategy by narrowing the way of acting and reducing the scale of operations, we maintained activity at a high level and even built a new structure within the group dedicated to tailor-made investments (buildto- suit or BTS). This allowed us to come to the fore after the crisis and become a market leader in terms of the number of delivered and under management space.
What are some of the notable contributions (not strictly monetary) Panattoni has made to Poland?
Thanks to the development of the industrial facilities industry, we have helped create thousands of jobs, not only in major markets but also in the cities where the unemployment rate was very high. Moreover, the investments carried out by Panattoni, especially for global companies, have an impact on the image of Poland on an international level.
How environmentally friendly is Panattoni in Poland?
Panattoni’s logistics complexes have been subject to rigorous BREEAM [sustainability assessment] certification at the “Good” level for several years, and “Very Good” since 2020. Equipping objects with LED lighting became a standard for us a long time ago, as well as increased insulation of walls and roofs or the tightness of buildings, thanks to which we reduce emissions of exhaust gases and carbon dioxide. We also more often equip our facilities with an intelligent building management system (BMS) that integrates all installations in buildings.
It should also be added that the shortening of access roads and the waiting time of trucks by appropriate organization and optimization of their traffic is also ecological as it leads to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. That is why all the main facilities implemented by us as part of the “City Logistics Parks” concept are consistent with the assumptions of green logistics by reducing the effect of transport on the environment.
In addition, we not only support our clients with the implementation of ecological solutions but we also implement a green policy internally. We segregate garbage obligatorily, our employees use special cups instead of disposables ones. Recently, we have also introduced elements of zerowaste and upcycling policy by sewing bags for employees and sachets from our used banners.
What are the main upcoming projects in Poland?
We will continue to follow our customers’ expectations and further focus on developing our own locations on core and emerging markets, including our own city logistics parks concept and buildto- suit [BTS] investments.
What are some of the biggest challenges faced by the company?
Despite the fact that crisis is often referred to, I don’t see any special challenges. Firstly, the market foundations are stable, and secondly, a well-functioning enterprise is prepared for changes, mentally, financially and structurally. However, the challenge for Panattoni, as a really big player, will be keeping the company away from corporate structures in order to maintain our entrepreneurial spirit.
How is Panattoni better than its competitors? Where does the room for improvement lie?
It results from the local-ownership structure of our company, thanks to which we are close to the market and business. And thus, we are flexible and make decisions quickly. In addition, we offer international cooperation and our customers benefit from the scale of our activity and a brand which is recognized as a good one among subcontractors. If I were to indicate something for improvement, maybe it would be the intensification of activities to do even more by taking advantage of a favorable market. The California-headquartered international real estate developer is present in some European and North American markets.
Any plans for the other continents?
Certainly other continents are tempting, but for now, there is a lot to do in Europe. We do not want to stop at building only a few projects on one market. We look at Europe more widely and our goal is to be in the top three developers on the continent.
How did Brexit impact Panattoni Europe?
So far it has not. And no matter what happens, we’re ready for Brexit. Currently, Panattoni is the UK’s largest speculative developer and at the same time, we entered the Netherlands, supporting all the undecided as to where locate their business.
Polish politics has witnessed a slew of changes since 2005. How do government policies affect Panattoni in Poland?
Politics has not directly influenced our activities so far. Economic factors are decisive.