WBJ: Lab Space Broker Scheer Reaches into Health Care

WBJ: Lab Space Broker Scheer Reaches into Health Care

The Washington Business Journal published a lengthly feature on Scheer Partners significantly expanding its services within the health-care field. An excerpt of the story is below.

Scheer Partners Inc., a top broker of lab and office space for Interstate 270 biotech companies, is expanding its services into the broader health care field, pushing into a market that is bigger and less volatile than life sciences.

The Rockville-based real estate company has ridden the exaggerated highs and lows of the suburban Washington and Baltimore biotech market for two decades. Scheer’s name is rarely absent from headquarters expansions, relocations and construction projects involving local bio companies, meaning its own health is closely tied to the strength of the Maryland life sciences industry.

Over the past year, Scheer has quietly ramped up its role in brokering medical centers, physician practices and other health care real estate. Last month, it signed deals with the Bethesda-based Neurology Center, CBH Health LLC and two physician offices.

The biotech world is a small one, especially when held against the vast health care industry that represents a rich vein of potential new clients for Scheer. And the similarity in the real estate needs of the life sciences and medical communities makes the expansion an easier one.

Health care is “much bigger, much deeper, and it’s also generally in the markets that we’ve got a penetration in already,” said Scheer founder and President Robert Scheer.

Both industries, he said, have requirements for air quality, power redundancy, cleanliness and biohazard storage and containment that fall within Scheer Partners’ experience. Both types of facilities are more expensive and complicated to outfit than other commercial real estate is.

Scheer Partners won’t be letting go of its existing focus on biotech, but the continuing economic struggles of local life sciences companies clearly factored into the decision to diversify its client base. Scheer declined to discuss the company’s revenue.

The cluster of companies that dot Interstate 270 in Montgomery County – largely early-stage startups with several major players like Human Genome Sciences Inc., Emergent BioSolutions Inc., Novavax Inc. and MedImmune – are still muddling through the post-recession period.

While lab space vacancies are shrinking and rental rates are rising, many of those businesses are still struggling to raise capital to expand operations.

“It’s not a robust kind of environment,” Scheer said. “There is just generally less velocity in this sector than there was five years ago. There are fewer companies moving, fewer companies expanding, fewer companies doing new construction projects, all the kinds of service that we provide there doesn’t seem to be as much velocity as there was a few years ago.”

Scheer expects to hire someone to oversee new construction management activities as well as an additional business development broker focused exclusively on medical and clinical clients.

The company’s services span brokerage transactions, construction and facilities management, and investment and development consulting.

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