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Port Of Houston's Record Import Leap Helping Texas Industrial

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The Port of Houston is booming, and it is benefiting Texas at large.

Houston Ship Channel
Houston Ship Channel

The port increased inbound containers by 21.6% last year, the largest leap in the country, Colliers reports in its 2018 Industrial Seaport Outlook. Houston has been an export powerhouse, and 2017 was the first time in more than a decade that imports exceeded exports. The shift is coming at a good time — Colliers principal Gary Mabray said potential tariffs on outbound petrochemical products could cause billions of dollars of impact, whereas tariffs on inbound steel products likely will only have a minimal impact on volume.

“Import volumes are growing at the Port of Houston because of the port's excellent logistics capabilities, as well as the need for retailers to keep higher inventories in warehouses to service Texas and the rest of the southern U.S. growing population,” Colliers National Director of Industrial Research James Breeze said. 

The Port of Houston’s activity is driving industrial demand in Houston, particularly in the far east submarket, but also in Dallas-Fort Worth, where many of the imports are funneled via truck or rail. (For example, Randalls relocated its distribution footprint from Houston to Dallas.) Dallas led the U.S. in 2017 for net absorption, with Colliers recording 23.3M SF leased up and 27.6M SF delivered. The Metroplex is on a high of 30 straight quarters of positive net absorption.

Houston was seventh in the nation for deliveries last year, with 8.5M SF completed, according to Colliers. Activity is accelerating in the east submarket, nearest the port, Mabray said. Pontikes is building 3M SF near the Ship Channel. Avera Cos. is building 1.2M SF in Baytown and Pasadena. Liberty Property Trust is underway on 700K SF at Port Crossing Commerce Center. Much of the activity is targeting distribution, as Houston’s e-commerce logistics market is starting to pick up steam. Amazon, UPS, Best Buy and FedEx set up regional distribution hubs tied to online sales recently, and IKEA just purchased 160 acres in Generation Park to build at least 1.2M SF of distribution space.

Booming demand in both Texas markets likely won't slow any time soon.

“We expect this growth to continue as the population continues to grow and economic fundamentals continue to improve,” Breeze said.