Developer Hopes Lear King For GR Firm

December 8, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDSGrand Rapids Spring & Stamping may move part of its operation to the former Lear Corp. plant on Alpine Avenue in Walker. Or the company may send those jobs to Kentucky

The Alpine Endeavors LLC, the development firm that bought the massive plant from the automotive parts maker last April, is hoping the company chooses the Lear building.

"We don't have anything signed yet. We're in the process of trying to get a lease signed. We've pretty much negotiated all the terms, so it's probably going to go," said Jack Buchanan, who bought the plant with his father, local attorney John C. Buchanan.

"It's not 100 percent, but it's 90 percent there," he added.

GRS&S would lease 105,000 square feet in the Lear facility, which has been granted a Renaissance Zone designation, should it move to Walker.

GRS&S Vice President Merle Emery told the Michigan Economic Development Corp. the company would relocate its assembly and value-added operations, and the warehousing, shipping and logistics departments to Walker, if the company goes to the Lear facility.

Emery, also the firm's general manager, said from 120 to 125 employees would move from two locations on

Bond Street NW
to 2150 Alpine Ave. NW.

Emery said moving those departments from the company's headquarters in the Monroe North Business District would let GRS&S add additional stamping capacity at that site. He said business has grown steadily over the past few years, which has resulted in higher sales figures and roughly 50 more employees over that time.

GRS&S employs 280; about 160 would remain in Grand Rapids. Emery said the workers who would stay in the city earn more and are more skilled than the employees who would transfer to Walker, and new jobs would be added to the space vacated by the transfer.

But Emery said the firm is also considering moving the same operations to Richmond, Ky., where it has a plant that employs 100.

Emery said Richmond would be a good fit because many of the company's customers are located in the South. He added that GRS&S has made an offer on property adjacent to that factory.

MEDC Vice President of Business Development Jim McDonald said the move to Walker would benefit both cities. Walker would get a payroll it currently doesn't have, while Grand Rapids would retain the highest-paying jobs and get the new jobs GRS&S will create from its business expansion. Emery estimated the company would invest $2 million into its Grand Rapids sites and said it would take about six months to relocate the selected operations.

Grand Rapids granted GRS&S a Ren Zone designation for its location at

648 Bond Ave. NW
and City Economic Development Director Susan Shannon said the company met its investment requirement for that nearly tax-free status three years ago.

Shannon said city commissioners don't have to approve the GRS&S move to Walker because the state's Ren Zone law requires approval to come from the MEDC when the relocation is within 50 miles of a zone site. The MEDC has already done that and has asked the city for a letter supporting the move.

"When we closed we didn't know whether Spring & Stamping was a user for this space. When they passed the Ren Zone for this site, and they did it with three other big plants in the state, they added a special process to get approval for that part of the Ren Zone, and the city (Grand Rapids) has no real say in it," said Buchanan, who is CEO of Blue Bridges Ventures LLC.

"I've got a confirmation letter from the MEDC saying all they have to do is acknowledge that they heard or understand that Spring & Stamping is relocating."

The former Lear plant sits on 41.5 acres and has about 750,000 square feet of space. The facility already has a tenant, as Amstore has leased about 400,000 square feet. The company, which is based in Coopersville, makes shelving, display racks and other items for retailers.

"We got approval from the city of Walker for the Ren Zone," said Buchanan. "So now it goes to Lansing for the final approval in about two weeks."    

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