Gable Steps Into Commercial Market

November 7, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Neatly tucked away in a North Monroe suite, Gable Ventures LLC is just a few months away from reaching its first anniversary in a tough and taxing industry.

And the small commercial real estate firm is getting ready to celebrate because its first year in business has exceeded all expectations.

"I think Gable has evolved faster than I hoped it would evolve. I couldn't be more pleased," said Ned Quinn, founder and owner of Gable Ventures.

When Gable opened its doors in Monroe Terrace last winter, the rotten economy hadn't shown any signs of picking up after it produced layoffs and closings that saturated the market with vacant space, empty buildings and fewer commission checks.

Yet, Quinn still went ahead with his business plan.

"I think if you do things for the right reasons, good business reasons, then it's not a bad decision," said Quinn. "It's not just about the economy. I think you have to look at every deal to see if it's the right deal for today."

Quinn feels that real estate investments need to be based on the investment itself more than economic conditions, whether those are good, bad, or indifferent. He said business is always right if good business decisions are always made. And good decisions get made when investors are certain of what it is they are looking for.

That has been his outlook on commercial real estate all along, he said, and not a point of view that he recently picked up as owner of the company. He felt being a broker working for someone else wasn't much different from being an owner with someone else working for him, as both positions rely on commissions for survival.

"Because I own the company, it hasn't changed the way I do business," he said.

As for current market conditions, Quinn said the industrial side was getting better.

"Right now, we're seeing a huge upturn in industrial leasing. We've seen some supplies diminish on properties for sale. So we've seen some of the market turn around," he said.

"I think that from the standpoint of what has happened in the last couple of years and how stagnant the market has been, we're starting to see it coming out of that."

Quinn started Gable Ventures because his desire to own a firm was like blood flowing through his veins. His diverse background, which gave him the experience he needed to do just that, was another reason.

"I think that part of my evolution has always been to own my own company, and I've been building from a manufacturing, management, sales and development tool kit that I can take with me. I felt like I got to the point where I had built that tool kit and it was the right time."

Quinn spent a decade in manufacturing before going into residential real estate in 1996. Two years later, he moved into the commercial side by joining Grubb & Ellis/Paramount. He left Paramount in 2000 to join Jack Buchanan at Blue Bridge Ventures LLC, another commercial firm but one also involved with developing properties.

One of those projects they developed together, the Walker Ridge Industrial Park, played a key role in Quinn's decision to start Gable Ventures despite a bad economy. Some wondered if Buchanan and Quinn were wacky when they said they were going to develop 107,000 acres of raw land in Walker for manufacturers while factory jobs were starting to be sent overseas.

"People were saying, 'Why are you building an industrial park at this time?' They look back now and say, 'Gosh, we thought you were crazy,'" said Quinn. "Right place, right time, a little bit lucky? Sure."

Gutsy, clued-in and creative should also be tossed into the mix. They've sold 103,000 of those 107,000 acres that straddle I-96 to three buyers who are putting up big buildings. Just a single lot, roughly 4,000 acres, remains to be sold.

"Ned is, by far, one of the most creative thinkers and problem solvers that I have ever met," said Ron Miller, founder and managing director of the private investment banking firm BlueWater Partners.

Kelly Wolthuis, Chad Bush and Quinn make up Gable Ventures, and the three form a closely knit trio

"On my business card, it's not president or owner. We're all in this together," said Quinn.

"It's about everybody's success."

Gable Ventures could very well be the smallest commercial firm in the region, but its services likely aren't. The company brokers, leases, sells, develops projects, and manages properties that it has an interest in. And with a good first year coming to a close soon, Quinn is expecting more of the same, and maybe a bit more, for year two.

"We're not putting a blanket out there to say that we're going to evolve into 'x' number of brokers. It's more about being selective, about what projects we work on and who we work with. It's really about the quality of the company and the people who work behind it. That's all we are," he said.

"So therefore we believe that quality breeds service and meets customer needs. We're not just going to balloon and expand. We're going to take growth as it comes and focus on some primary things that we feel that we're good at, and provide services to the client."    

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