Group Touts Metro Benefits

August 15, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Five local businesses have pooled their resources and talents to form a new real estate and development advocacy group.

The mission of Land West, as the group is called, is to interest regional and national companies and developers in taking a long, hard look at doing business in the metro area.

“National retailers and national investors, especially those in Detroit and Chicago, are going to be filtering into the Grand Rapids market on a larger scale than what most real estate folks in Grand Rapids realize,” said Tony Woodall, director of corporate marketing for Atwell Hicks Inc.

“We see the market dynamics of Grand Rapids changing a little bit to where you’re going to see more investment coming in from outside the market,” added Woodall, who came up with the concept for Land West.

Atwell Hicks, primarily a southeast Michigan development consultant, moved into its Grand Rapids Township office in January of last year to round out its presence in the state. Over much of the past year, the consultant has worked to put Land West together and has been able to draw some key local players into the fold.

The Rhoades McKee law firm, Grubb & Ellis/Paramount, the Rockford Development Group and Mercantile Bank joined Atwell Hicks in Land West to give the group an expertise in every area and a knowledge of the market that it can share with outsiders.

“All these folks share the vision of what we see West Michigan doing in the future,” said Woodall, who added that membership in Land West is still open.

“We will encourage our competitors to join, as long as they contribute. They have to be pro-development and in the land-development community in some capacity. And they have to be on board with the vision for West Michigan; they have to be pro-growth.”

The advisory group staunchly believes the numbers that define the metro area hold a lot of appeal for retailers and builders not currently invested in the market.

“All the demographics are there. You have a great quality of life; a family-oriented work force that is up and coming and has disposable income. The cost of living is low. You have a lot of things that will drive real big decisions nationally. Plus, you have the fact that the market hit 1 million MSA,” said Woodall.

The immediate goals for Land West are to raise the awareness of the group locally and put together a document that convinces outsiders that Grand Rapids is a good place to do business. The group has targeted commercial businesses, including retailers and developers, and residential builders both near and far to receive its message.

“The main thing we want to say is that we’re not classifying ourselves as the glory elite,” said Michael DeVries, Land West team leader and contact person for those interested in joining the advocacy group.

“We’re just a group of companies that are working together to try to enhance West Michigan by bringing in development opportunities and assisting people that are coming into the area to help make the process even better and to spread the word.”    

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