CAPRE Exclusive: CBRE’s Ben Rojahn Says 100 People Moving to Charlotte Daily, and Discusses Play of NC-VA Data Center & Cloud Infrastructure Markets

CHARLOTTE, NC – Ben Rojahn leads the Advisory & Transaction Service Group of CBRE’s Charlotte office.  As a member of CBRE’s Data Center Solutions, Ben collaborates with a global network of CBRE teammates who continually refine their business strategies and processes to better serve owners and users of data centers, colocation facilities, and other communications infrastructure. Ben has established himself as the leading data center brokerage professional in the Carolinas. Since 2010, Ben has held a 70% market share of all brokered data center transactions in North Carolina. Below we highlight some of Ben’s observations from the field that we gleaned from a brief conversation over the phone in anticipation of CAPRE’s Carolinas Data Center Summit, where Rojahn will provide a keynote presentation.

CAPRE: Thanks for chatting with us today, Ben. Please share with our readers a bit about what the kind of deals you’ve been working on lately.

Rojahn: I’ve been marketing a carrier hotel at 701 E Trade Street in Charlotte for lease. I found some success with a new customer there. And I’ve been pursing more sale leaseback opportunities for end-user clients, and investment sale opportunities, as well as hybrid compute clients.

CAPRE: So what makes a client pick up their phone to call you?

Rojahn: The market has changed thanks to cloud computing. The kind of deals we used to see, we’re not seeing anymore. There’s a lot of gravity pulling toward Northern Virginia and the eco-systems there. We’re still seeing activity from organizations headquartered here, with the retiring of old data centers and putting new strategies in places.

CAPRE: So are the Carolinas competing with Northern Virginia, or are there two totally different games?

Rojahn: I’d like to think we’re competing with Northern Virginia, but I don’t know that we are a lot of the time. We have a latency challenge that we have to overcome with every deal, getting to and from Northern Virginia. Times are minimal – 3 to 5 milliseconds, often, but people still want to be next to their Cloud computing partners and their eco-system partners.

That said, there’s still folks that have primary enterprise data centers and they’re looking to locate them in low cost markets like the Carolinas. So there’s still some business out there for us and edge computing will continue to push demand our way. Eventually latency issues will be overcome and we’ll continue to grow our business here like we have in the past.

Ascent's Aaron Reuther, Anexio's Tony Pompliano and CBRE's Ben Rojahn participated in CAPRE's Southeast Data Center Summit: Spring Update on March 28, 2018.
Ascent’s Aaron Reuther, Anexio’s Tony Pompliano and CBRE’s Ben Rojahn participated in CAPRE’s Southeast Data Center Summit: Spring Update on March 28, 2018.

CAPRE: What kinds of organizations or platforms will survive in 5 years and what kind will thrive?

Rojahn: I wouldn’t be surprised to see continued industry consolidation. While we have some incumbent service providers in the market today, their business models will probably evolve and/or be acquired. And they could become more Edge-compute focused, for a larger company.

CAPRE: You keep mentioning the Edge. How is the Edge driving activity in the Carolinas?

Rojahn: I’m hearing about it from customers, I’m reading about it. It’s something that I feel the need to be prepared for, as it evolves.

CAPRE: What are some of the biggest strengths of the Carolinas, in terms of attracting data centers?

Rojahn: The low cost of business. We’ve got a lot of people moving to the Carolinas. And a lot of businesses are moving to the Carolinas. Over 100 people per day are moving to Charlotte specifically. The Raleigh triangle market is similar to that. and I think that can only lead to the growth of all other kinds of businesses. Data centers will benefit from that.

CAPRE: On the flip side of that, are there any red flags or storm clouds on the horizon that could impede all this momentum?

Rojahn: Nothing is at top of mind. The only thing I could think of would be if there’s a downturn for demand in northern Virginia from end users that would create more inventory in that market, which could continue the limited inbound business that we’re seeing from larger enterprise business at the moment. That could happen with all of the construction going on. If there’s ever a downturn there, that creates an opportunity for others.

CAPRE: So what is the most important driver of data center activity in the Carolinas?

Rojahn: Businesses moving their headquarters here and low operating costs. We’ve had a few Fortune 500 companies recently relocate their headquarters here and that will continue to help grow the economy as a whole. That will filter down through the data center business. I just think that the overall economic climate in the Carolinas is a good thing to be a part of.

CAPRE: Finally, what are you looking forward to about CAPRE’s upcoming Carolinas Data Center Summit?

Ben Rojahn, Vice President, CBRE

Rojahn: Everything. The new venue, the new market and city where you’re holding the event are exciting. And I’m looking forward to hearing the evolving content. There is always change in this industry and I can’t wait to get everyone’s perspective on it.

CAPRE: Indeed. Thanks Ben. We’ll see you in Charlotte!

Hear more from Rojahn at CAPRE’s Second Annual Carolinas Data Center Summit, May 14, 2019. He will present “State of the Data Center Industry in North Carolina, South Carolina and Emerging Southeast Markets” from 8:50 am to 9:20 am.