German High Tech Firm Picks City

June 5, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — A German company that developed the world’s smallest air quality sensors is hoping to build state-of-the-art electronic circuit boards on the northeast side of Grand Rapids.

Paragon AG, based in Delbrück, Germany, wants to reuse a 20,000-square-foot building at the northeast corner of Michigan Street and Ball Avenue for a production facility. But to do that, the company needs a zoning change from the city’s Planning Commission.

The building offers paragon AG 17,500 square feet of industrial space and another 2,500 square feet for office use at 1655 Michigan NE. The site was previously occupied by the Printing Arts Co., a local firm that moved to Walker.

“It’s a vacant, Class A industrial building. It’s in good shape, but the property is vacant,” said Rick Chapla of The Right Place Program, which is representing paragon AG locally. “There are no changes proposed to the building or the parking lot.”

Commissioners set a public hearing for May 10 to review the company’s application for a planned unit development, or PUD, at the site.

Initially, paragon AG applied for a change to an I-1 zone, an adjacent industrial district, but commissioners steered the firm to the PUD because the building is in a residential zone. Board members were concerned that if they granted the I-1 and paragon AG left the site, new owners could raze the building and do pretty much what they wanted to the property. In contrast, a PUD prevents that from happening without commission approval.

“It’s a great application on that stretch of Michigan,” said Commissioner John Stivers about the firm’s plan for the site.

Paragon AG will design, develop and produce circuit boards for the auto companies. Some, however, will also be made for the medical- and information-technology industries.

In March, paragon AG announced that it would acquire 51 percent of the Miquest Corp., a local electronics components manufacturer that had sales of $5.3 million and employed 40 on the city’s northwest side. Paragon AG also revealed then that it would move to a larger location by early summer and accelerate its presence in the North American market.

“From the outset, our expansion in the USA has been based on a strategy of establishing a bridgehead for our sensor products through the acquisition of an electronics manufacturer,” said Klaus Dieter Frers, paragon AG CEO in a release.

“This will enable us to continue our sales activities as planned,” added Frers.

Paragon AG plans to purchase the remaining Miquest shares over the next three years. Miquest will become a subsidiary of paragon of North America Corp., which is wholly owned by paragon AG.

“Miquest is also the ideal partner from this point of view. We have an outstanding base here in Grand Rapids from which to supply the large North American automotive manufacturers,” said Frers, who added that he expects the firm to grow by 38 percent over the next few years.

Paragon AG began producing electronic components in 1988 and developing sensors in 1993. The company started producing the world’s smallest air quality sensors in 1999 and became the world leader in supplying those sensors to the auto industry a year later.

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