Taking Care Of Business

September 9, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The new business center at the city’s convention center will open for business in the coming weeks and provide association members, exhibitors and delegates an opportunity to conduct daily operations even though they may be hundreds of miles away from their office.

The spacious center is located on the west side of DeVos Place, past the Grand Gallery and just off the Secchia Lobby on the second level.

“As someone is looking at the ballroom on the Secchia Lobby, directly to the left is the center,” said SMG General Manager Rich MacKeigan. “The reason we have the center is to service our clients, so the hours will be event dependent.”

That means the business center could be open in the middle of the night, a time when many exhibits are being loaded into or unloaded from the building. It also means that the center could be closed at 10 a.m. on a weekday if the building isn’t hosting an event.

SMG expects more than 670,000 people will visit DeVos Place and DeVos Performance Hall during the current fiscal year. Not everyone, of course, will want to use the business center. But it will be available for anyone who needs it.

“Although it would be open to the general public, that is not the clientele we’re trying to service. We’re trying to service the events that we have at the venue,” said MacKeigan.

The center will be equipped with computers and faxes so e-mail and messages can be sent and received. Copiers and printers will reproduce any materials that a convention, trade show or touring company may need.

In fact, MacKeigan felt that many customers will prefer to print show brochures and other items in the business center instead of having them shipped to DeVos Place. Mistakes can be corrected on the spot before a piece is printed, and any concern about whether materials will arrive on time would be alleviated.

The center will also have TVs tuned to cable news and business channels, and will be equipped with the latest furniture made by Steelcase Inc.

Steelcase has donated more than $1 million worth of chairs and desks to DeVos Place.

“It will really be a good office environment. Anything that someone could do in their home office will be our hope that we could provide,” said MacKeigan. “And that even goes to office supplies. We’ll have some of those available, as well.”

The business center will also be staffed to assist clients with their needs; fees will be charged for the various services that the office offers. MacKeigan said other buildings that provide this service have shown the convenience clients gain from having a center on site is more valuable to them than the fees they are charged.

“We’ve even seen people who would normally bring a lot of materials not even bother to pay for the shipping of those. Instead, they’ve used a business center to eliminate that expense and they’ve come out ahead. And they have the assurance that their materials are going to be there,” he said.

SMG is working on getting a coffee service for the center, and is looking for a local company to become a partner in the center.

A date hadn’t been set as to when the business center would open when the Business Journal spoke with MacKeigan, but he confirmed that it would be this fall. And although many might not have heard of the center before, it was part of the original DeVos Place blueprint from the beginning.

“If you go to a good quality convention center and a good quality convention hotel, there is a business center usually incorporated within the facility, and so this was always part of what we envisioned,” said MacKeigan.

“We wanted to create an environment that was a little bit better than just a couple of desks with a couple of computers. I think what you’re going to see in the fall is a very welcoming, user-friendly, comfortable environment with probably more amenities than you normally might see.”    

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