Rockford In Health Care Development

October 18, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS— A $20 million medical office park proposed in Norton Shores represents Rockford Development Group's latest push into health care, one of the faster-growing sectors in the U.S construction industry.

Seeing an increasing demand for new medical facilities, Rockford Development has been making a major push in recent years into the health-care sector to grow the business, President Mike Maier said. Health care is a stable and growing part of the overall economy and offers plenty of opportunity in the development of medical office buildings, clinics and hospital facilities, Maier said.

"We like medical and we feel we're good at it and we want to broaden our horizon, so we're looking at all sorts of opportunities for medical," Maier said.

Rockford Companies, the parent company of Rockford Development and sister firm Rockford Construction, ultimately wants 25 percent of its business to come from health care, either through the development of facilities that it owns and manages for clients or through client-owned facilities, Chief Operating Officer Kurt Hassberger said. The sector now represents about 10 percent of the company's business, Hassberger said.

Growing the health-care portfolio also diversifies Rockford Companies' business in developing commercial, retail and industrial facilities.

"We're trying to keep ourselves diverse so we don't have all our eggs in one basket," Hassberger said. "It's an expanding sector of our economy that's clearly not going away. There's going to be a need for health care no matter what happens."

Among Rockford Development's local projects are St. Mary Health Care's Wege Center and Professional Office Building and the Rivertown Health Center on 44th Street, an Advantage Health office at Knapp Street and East Beltline Avenue, a facility for Michigan Medical PC, and the Park East Professional Office Building on Lake Drive.

In Norton Shores, Rockford Development has options on up to 30 vacant acres located to the east of U.S. 31 and west of Harvey Street, just south of a rapidly evolving retail, commercial and residential corridor that's anchored by the Lakes Mall.

Under a lease agreement, Hackley Health would use about one-third to one-half of the acreage for a new $8 million ambulatory care center that Rockford Development will develop, own and manage. Rockford Development is looking for complementary medical uses for the remaining acreage.

Driving the need for new medical facilities is an aging population that's pushing demand for medical services higher, as well as the existence of aging and outdated existing facilities that are no longer conducive to today's evolving medical techniques and technologies.

"There are a lot of old ways that are being redone," Maier said.

Health care in recent years has grown faster than most other segments of the construction industry in the United States. Through August, health-care construction in the United States was up a seasonally adjusted 9.7 percent from 2003, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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