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EXCLUSIVE: There's A New CEO At Robinson Weeks Properties

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One of Atlanta's most prolific industrial developers is shuffling its top brass.

David Welch Ray Weeks Forrest Robinson
Robinson Weeks CEO David Welch and co-chairmen Ray Weeks and Forrest Robinson

Robinson Weeks has named industry veteran David Welch as its new CEO as its two founders, Ray Weeks and Forrest Robinson, step back from day-to-day operations. The firm has also tapped former Rockefeller Group Associate Director Tyler Jones as the company's new senior vice president of acquisitions and development.

Welch has been with Robinson Weeks for the past five years, helping the firm deploy more than $200M of its second investment fund, which is halfway through its life cycle. Welch also helped lead the transformation of Fort Gillem, a shuttered U.S. Army base in Forest Park just outside Atlanta, into what will become a more-than-1,100-acre industrial park called Gillem Logistics Center.

But neither Weeks nor Robinson are riding off into retirement's sunset.

“Our names are still on the door, and we're here, part of the team,” Robinson said. “Ray is more engaged today than he has been in the past several years. [And] I'm in the office three or four or five days a week.”

The duo founded the company in 2008 after more than 30 years in the industrial industry. Since then, the company has developed or purchased more than $4B in industrial real estate. Robinson Weeks already has developed more than 2M SF of warehouses at Gillem, landing such companies as HD Supply, Kuehne + Nagel, and Kroger as major tenants. The firm is underway with 1.4M SF more distribution space there.

Even with the recent slowdown in industrial absorption for the first half of 2019, Welch said the evolution of consumer habits to online shopping will continue to fuel demand for warehouse space in Atlanta. While there was 5.3M SF of positive absorption in Metro Atlanta, developers unleashed twice that much space amount in new warehouses.

“We see a fundamental reworking of the U.S logistics industry as consumer spending habits evolve with growing online sales,” Welch said. “It certainly feels like there should be a slowdown in the next couple of years at some point. But the fundamentals of the real estate sector are good, and supply and demand are pretty much in equilibrium.”

The firm will not be taking any radical new directions under Welch's leadership, he said. It does plan to eventually raise a third industrial fund, and it is looking to re-enter the industrial markets in Orlando and South Florida, Robinson said. While signs point to a recession, Robinson said demand remains robust for new development.

“But when there is a slowdown, there could be a buying opportunity,” he said.