WHEN DOROTHY GALE RUNS AWAY FROM HOME IN THE OPENING SCENE OF THE WIZARD OF OZ, SHE ENCOUNTERS PROFESSOR MARVEL, a benevolent charlatan who professes to see all in the gaze of his crystal ball. He foretells an illness befalling the famed Auntie Em, which prompts Dorothy to return to the security of farm life. Though the character was an adaptation to L. Frank Baum's original novel, his role is pivotal, adding depth to the Kansas sequence and foreshadowing his later role as the menacing Wizard who, supposedly, has all the answers.
This month, we asked some of the biggest names in self-storage to report on the state of the industry and make predictions for the upcoming year. Will their forecasts have an impact on the actions of established developers? Will newcomers be discouraged by tales of overbuilding and competition? Do the gurus have all the answers, or are they making their best guesses from behind a curtain of doubt? Well, that remains to be seen.
In keeping with the Oz theme, I recently picked up a novel by Gregory Maguire titled Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. It's the Oz story told from the perspective of the villain. As one would expect, it paints her as a sympathetic character with dimension, motivation and even feelings. It lends new meaning to the fairy tale as we know it--a very interesting read. The reason I bring it up is it demonstrates how a story changes depending on the teller's perspective. So if you read something in these pages you find questionable or even disturbing, remember it's only one possible outcome, based on the perception of a few.
I've been visiting an online self-storage discussion forum at selfstorageguide.com, hosted by e-commerce Holdings LLC. Reading through comments posted by owners, operators and managers all over the country, it's clear the story on overbuilding--and the subsequent future of the industry--is not as plain as some might think. One operator in Louisiana claims his markets are getting quite saturated, that the "bloom is off the rose." Another insists it all depends on your specific location.
The bottom line is, look at your source. And remember predictions only come to fruition when no endeavor is made to change a present course of action. You'll read a lot in this issue about rental rates, and the importance of maintaining a sound pricing structure--even in the face of competition. This month's writers also emphasize the value of research and investigation prior to building. All these efforts combined can do much to change the landscape of the self-storage future. Overbuilding does not have to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Teri L. Lanza