Customized Approach Leads GT To New Location

July 27, 2007
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When G&T Industries decided to erect a new building in Byron Township, the old real estate adage took on a new twist: location, location, customization.

“The proximity to M-6 and (U.S.) 131 was of importance,” President & CEO Rol Grit said.

Grit added that the employee-owned firm looked for existing industrial space in the Grand Rapids area to consolidate its two local facilities and one in Elkhart, Ind. But G&T was unable to find the ideal balance between an affordable, efficient remodel and the right location, which is especially important for the logistics side of the company, he said.

Founded in 1954, the 314-employee G&T Industries became one of the country’s 11,000 ESOP companies in 2005. G&T Industries is a holding company for four business units that have operated as separate companies: Decorative Services Inc.; G&T Foam Products; World Resources Partners; and Global Product Solutions, engaged primarily in manufacturing and distribution. The company has locations in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, as well as a wholly owned foreign enterprise in China.

With the new 205,000-square-foot building, expected to be ready for occupancy in spring 2008, “we are trying to gain some synergies from the four companies,” Grit explained. For the first time, employees of the four business units will be working under the same roof, he said.

“Right now, even here in West Michigan, the businesses are separated from an office standpoint and from a geographical standpoint,” Grit said. “In order for us to really gain synergies, we want to put everyone under one roof and mix these people in the same office environment. We’ll look at redundancy in the four companies and redirect people to generate new volume as opposed to doing something four times.”

Steve Marcusse, industrial advisor with Grubb & Ellis|Paramount Commerce, said the site at 1101 76th St. SW was likely the only one in town that suited G&T’s needs.

“They really wanted to be along the 131 corridor,” said Marcusse, who helped G&T find the new location. “If they had been able to locate closer to the airport, there would have been a lot more options.” The company also wanted to be near a bus route to accommodate employees, he added.

Jeff Baker, president of First Companies, which is installing the pre-engineered building, said projects of this size stand out in the state’s sluggish economy.

“They took a look at the market and tried to determine what was existing and then what it would take to retrofit what was existing,” Baker said. “They looked at building new, and coupled with that was the tax incentives the township was giving. They looked at their numbers and understood it was a very competitive way to go. They can get the space just how they want it. … Building new was more beneficial.”

Baker said the building, which will have about 20,000 square feet devoted to office space, will take about 10 months to construct. Ground was broken in early June.

“The most unusual thing in what they wanted was the ability to have cross-docking in their warehouse for their flow, so this site accomplished that,” Baker added.

Byron Township Supervisor Audrey Nevins said that under the township’s policy for Public Act 198 industrial property tax abatement, G&T Industries will receive a 50 percent tax cut for 10 years on the $5.3 million investment in the building, and for five years on the $1.5 million personal property investment in equipment. The company indicated to the township that it would employ 166 at the site within two years, Nevins said. Grit said 10 jobs will move to Byron Center from Elkhart, and he expects to eventually add 30 or 40 employees.

“Given our current economy, this is a unique project,” Baker added. “I want to make sure I don’t underestimate that. They’re taking one if their operations from Indiana and bringing it here. They’re investing in staying here, which is great. It’s just exciting to be a part of that.”

Grit said the Byron Center facility will serve as a prototype and a bit of a guinea pig for plants G&T is considering for other locations.

“This is going to be a prototypical model of the facility layout we are going to try to put in in Tennessee and grow the facility in Pennsylvania into a similar facility … and ultimately somewhere out on the West Coast,” Grit said.

“I can say we are one of the companies in Michigan doing relatively well. It (the company) is geographically diverse and our market is diverse,” he added, with 24 percent of sales in Michigan.

“We are growing and profitable, and those are two good things.”   CQ

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