Geerlings Changes With Times

June 20, 2002
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ZEELAND — The original idea was to fill the acreage with industries, professional offices and retail stores.

But when city leaders in Holland decided they’d prefer to see the land recently annexed on the southeast side of town developed for needed residential uses, Scott Geerlings and his partners took a second look at their plan and shifted gears.

“All of a sudden, (residential) kind of sparked with us, too,” said Geerlings, owner of Geerlings Development Co. and a partner in what’s known as the South Holland Community development.

Being flexible and adapting to the needs of the market is one of the fundamental rules for the development company Geerlings founded a year ago.

The result in this case is one of the more ambitious developments in the area in some time: A mixture of townhomes, apartments, single-family homes and senior citizen housing, as well as several retail outlets such as a grocery store or pharmacy, and sites around the perimeter of the 123 acres for light industrial uses.

The project represents a branching out for the company, Geerlings said.

“What we want to do is be a company that reacts to need. We’re going to go where our customers want us to go,” Geerlings said. “We don’t have a set plan that says we’re only going to do this type of development. We’re going to be flexible.”

Geerlings founded the Geerlings Development Co. in October 2000 after leaving Lamar Construction Co., where he worked for four years, the last year and a half as its president. Geerlings started with Lamar doing sales and was promoted to president with the understanding that he would continue to work on development projects on the side, as he had done for some time.

When the development business started taking off, taking too much time away from his family and other responsibilities, he left Lamar to form Geerlings Development. He’s also partner in a property management firm, J.G. Management Co., run by his wife, Jaclyn.

“Looking back, it’s been a great move. It was the right thing to do,” Geerlings said of the move to start his own company, housed in a two-story office building that he developed across Chicago Drive from where he grew up in Zeeland.

Running his own business was perhaps something he was meant to do, Geerlings said. He recalls how he “always had something on my own” growing up, whether it was a paper route or mowing lawns in the mobile home park where his grandmother lived.

“I’m a salesman by nature. Putting deals together, making things happen and working with people, that’s always been my forte,” he said.

That forte began following Geerlings’ 1983 graduation from Hope College with a business degree. He went to work doing sales for the Major Brands Oil Co., a position that often had him on the road.

Wary of the heavy travel — as much as 50,000 miles a year — he left the position in 1992 for an opportunity to join Bouwens Construction Inc., a Holland construction company, as a salesman. The job marked his transition into commercial real estate and development. Geerlings had held an interest in the real estate field ever since taking real estate courses at Hope College.

“It all evolved to where it is today,” he said.

Geerlings eventually began taking on development projects under partnerships he had formed with other investors. Among the projects in which he’s been involved are the Lakeshore Medical Campus and The Edge Ice Arena, both developed in the late 1990s in Holland Township.

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