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Bakken Construction News: ERES Hits the Ground Running in the Bakken

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ERES Established to Serve Shale Operating Areas

New Real Estate Firm with Extensive History in Shale Markets Hits the Ground Running

By Chris Morgan

November 19, 2014

In April of 2014, it was announced that a new company was being founded. Energy Real Estate Solutions, LLC would exist to serve the ever-increasing property and development needs of the energy industry throughout the Midwest, but especially in the “key shale plays”. While the firm may be new, the leadership team brings an extensive history of serving the Bakken region.

With just half a year into its establishment, Energy Real Estate Solutions (ERES) has worked with a variety of clients to sell or lease over 20 properties in or around the Williston area, including warehouses, land, and other industrial and commercial facilities. It helps, of course, that ERES’s small team comes with a combined experience of several decades, with a strong concentration in the Bakken over the last five years.

In 2009, Mike Elliott was a successful real estate broker based in Bozeman, MT where he owned and operated several offices in the upper Midwest and Rockies region for an international commercial real estate firm. By then he had amassed over 16 years of experience in real estate and was serving as an adjunct business professor on the subject. At that point, he had completed over $5 billion in diversified national and international real estate transactions over the course of his career. Yet by that time the real estate market was suffering the pangs of the recession. “So many major real estate markets were heavily impacted by the recession and many in the industry were questioning their next steps,” said Elliott. “Interestingly, the tertiary markets with strong ties to the energy sector continued to see growth during this time.

Around the same time, his attention was turned to the Bakken region by a developer who had been working there. Almost immediately he was immersed in the swell of activity underway in the region, assisting with the development of residential and industrial properties. On his first project, a mobile home park, the high demand in the region became clear. While staying in a hotel in Williston during this project, Elliott tried to make reservations for a future trip to the area. “I was surprised when the front desk clerk informed me that the next opening at that hotel would be in six months,” said Elliott.

As more out-of-state developers and energy companies had come to the region hailing predominantly from metropolitan markets like Houston, Denver, and Minneapolis, rural development was a new endeavor for them. Elliott’s experience in the rural markets proved to be an asset in acclimating these companies to the Bakken.

It wasn’t long before he started inquiring further into the industrial market, researching and building relationships with operating and service companies. Energy companies in particular were desperate for developers and real estate service providers who could perform in the challenging operating areas that faced a lack of infrastructure, labor, and construction companies.

As the market has matured, institutional investors have entered the market and are assembling $100 million portfolios in hotels, multi-family and industrial properties. Companies that had had to build their own projects early on due to the lack of real estate service providers were able to do sale and lease-backs as well.

Elliott continued to find solid footing in the Bakken region. He decided to sell his existing commercial brokerage offices as the international company he was affiliated with struggled to survive the economic downturn. And in April of 2013, Elliott joined CBRE where he created and ran the Energy Facilities Group.

Elliott grew the Energy Facilities Group to over 20 people with a focus on key shale plays and expanded the group’s portfolio of services to include facility management, project management, property management and brokerage.

While the practice was thriving, Mike longed for the flexibility he had grown accustomed to while operating his affiliated brokerage in the past and recognized an opportunity to offer customers a more comprehensive suite of real estate services. It was out of this desire that ERES was established. In their statement announcing the launch of the company, Elliott said that the mission of ERES was to provide “development, investment, joint venture and other real estate advisory services to organizations seeking specialized, knowledgeable support in and around the world’s most active energy sites.”

From his office in Denver, Elliott runs the company as Managing Principal with branch offices in Bozeman, MT and Williston, ND. The main staff totals to nine people rounded out by Executive Vice President, Tom Bradley, their Director of Marketing, Liz Bradley, as well as heads of project management, property management and real estate brokerage.

In addition, project management and development work offers an additional value that many larger firms don’t provide to clients. Elliott’s background in development work provides an advantage to project owners and investors by helping them execute in a unique and challenging market.

Future projects are gearing up as 2014 comes to a close. ERES recently broke ground for a Supervalu store in New Town with plans to build another Supervalu in Belfield, ND just recently announced. Current work on two warehouse projects is underway for the Elk Ridge subdivision in McKenzie County and an office-building project in cooperation with a local developer.

Given how much has happened in six months it seems daunting, but people are taking notice. In October it was announced that Elliott would be included in the fourth installment of the Denver Business Journal’s Who’s Who in Energy list. Yet in spite of the increasing workload, the business of ERES is fun above all else for Elliott. “People in the oil and gas industry are great folks to work with. In these shale plays, people don’t sleep because there is so much work to be done and so much positive momentum. Whatever you can dream up, you can accomplish.”