By Brian Sherman
Mike White is an expert in the field of supply chain recruitment. The company he founded in 2009 has built a national reputation based on its experience and expertise in analyzing, dissecting, and disseminating information about industrial real estate in the tri-county area. From its headquarters on Daniel Island, Charleston Industrial has matched companies with the space they need to succeed, including a wide range of suppliers that serve manufacturing giants Boeing and Mercedes-Benz.
But White, broker-in-charge at Charleston Industrial, also has a heart for his adopted home in the Lowcountry. With no industrial space on Daniel Island, which is within the Charleston city limits, he has moved in a different direction, investing in three office buildings and opening Bin 526, a super-sized Starbucks under the same roof as a bodega that dwarfs the standard definition of a wine bar. The 10,000-square-foot building, located on Fairchild Street, was completed in December 2017.
“I wanted this to be a gathering place, a gift to the community,” said White, a West Point graduate and Army veteran.
Living in El Paso, Texas following his military career, White turned his attention to industrial real estate, which was booming after Canada, the United States, and Mexico signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. In 2007, he, his wife, and his three daughters left the Lone Star State and landed along the Carolina coast.
Not long after, White launched Charleston Industrial. Representing landlords who own space that’s zoned industrial, he finds tenants to fill that space. White said companies such as Boeing and Mercedes-Benz appreciate the fact that homes, apartments, and office buildings are not part of Charleston Industrial’s resume.
“They want a specialist, not a generalist,” White explained. “We spend a lot of money and time on market intelligence, translating data into value for our clients. Our job is to embrace the technology and to collate and distill the information.”
White said Charleston Industrial has averaged around $100 million a year in real estate transactions for nearly a decade. He pointed out that he arrived in the Charleston area “with a lot of relationships – and I hit the market at a very good time.”
Part of what White does for many of his clients, including Boeing and Mercedes-Benz, is recruiting suppliers to the Lowcountry, finding them space and assisting with incentives provided by state and county governments. He pointed out that last year, he also helped two large California-based companies find warehouse space on the East Coast, which he said “is a big, growing part of our business.”
Despite the technology that is available today, personal relationships are among the most important aspects of the success of Charleston Industrial.
“We like to develop relationships that will last. We like to get on a plane and see a client on their turf,” he said. “Face-to-face is the best way to do business. Clients still use me after 10 years because of personal relationships.”
White doesn’t invest personally in industrial real estate, but he has built an impressive portfolio in other areas, all on Daniel Island. He originally bought the fourth floor of 225 Seven Farms Drive – Charleston Industrial’s headquarters – and later, he purchased the entire building. His next project was 259 Seven Farms Drive. There was retail on the first floor, but the second and third floors were vacant, so he renovated the building and successfully attracted tenants who previously were located on the Charleston peninsula.
“They wanted to leave the congestion of downtown and still have a Charleston address,” he explained.
In 2017, White bought Suite 100 in the building at 245 Seven Farms Drive. Formerly a juice bar, he is in the process of converting it to around 1,600 square feet of Class A office space.
And then there’s Bin 526, a shrine to coffee and wine visible from Interstate 526 and just across the street from Central Island Square, a mixed-use development with more than 300 apartment units. Bin 526 includes a 3,000-square-foot Starbucks with a drive-thru window and a wine bar “where you can sample 48 wines without having to buy a full bottle,” according to White. There also is a tasting room where classes and other events can be held, a prep kitchen, a warehouse that can store 8,000 bottles, and a store where patrons can purchase spirits other than wine and beer.
Bin 526 features a 3,000-square-foot partially covered patio, paved with coquina shells and raised four feet above the adjoining sidewalk.
“Bin 526 will become a real focal point on the island,” White commented, adding that he expects Daniel Island’s population to grow dramatically in the next five or six years, from 12,000 to 16,000 or 17,000.
“Daniel Island has hit its stride, and the best is still ahead,” he said. “It’s a very special place.”
Charleston Industrial has done business with an impressive array of clients, from Boeing and Mercedes-Benz to Johnson & Johnson and General Motors. Mike White, the company’s broker-in-charge, has compiled quite an impressive resume himself.
A 1983 graduate the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, White earned a bachelor’s in Engineering, served in military intelligence for a decade and earned the Meritorious Service Medal for his efforts during Operation Desert Storm. He went on to work as an advanced design analytical engineer for the Sikorsky Aircraft Company and later was appointed by Texas Gov. George Bush to chair the Texas Military Facilities Commission. In the world of industrial real estate, he has earned the prestigious SIOR and CCIM designations, along with several honors and awards.
How did White’s time at West Point and in the Army help him in his career in industrial real estate?
“Time management was the most important skill I learned. I learned to prioritize and to maintain high standards in every aspect of my life – to choose the harder right over the easier wrong.”
White, his wife, Alice, and their three daughters moved to Daniel Island in 2007 from El Paso, Texas. Their oldest and youngest daughters, Michaela and Maya, are midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, while their middle daughter, Madeline, is a student at Clemson University.
“Overachievers all of them – like their mom,” White remarked.