Wierda Enjoys Being Creative
But he wasn’t sure what it was that he wanted to do in the business world until he took an “urban semester” in Philadelphia in his junior year at Hope.
“I knew nothing about commercial real estate. I never knew the field existed because I was never exposed to it. One of the people in the program was doing his internship at a major commercial real estate brokerage firm. He was doing market research for them, and it absolutely fascinated me. All I wanted to hear then is what he was doing,” he said.
Fast forward 21 years and Wierda finds himself one of the most successful and respected commercial developers in town. He started his lengthy career at a brokerage house in Indianapolis after earning his business administration degree at Hope. But he said his biggest career break came a little bit more than a year later, when he was specializing in selling and leasing retail and office properties at S.J. Wisinski & Co., now the Wisinski Group. In 1988, Wierda had been working there for about six months when the company’s owner, Stan Wisinski, introduced him to Brian DeVries. DeVries was one of the firm’s clients back then and was interested in buying a building on Michigan Street that Wierda had just listed. Little did Wierda know that the meeting with DeVries would have such a profound and lasting effect on his career.
“From that meeting, I started doing almost exclusively all of Brian’s work,” he said.
Name: Scott Wierda
Company: CWD Real Estate Investment
Title: Principal and managing partner
Birthplace: Grand Rapids
Family: Wife, Rebecca; children Spencer, Gabrielle and Hogan.
Business/community organizations: West Michigan Commercial Association of Realtors, International Council of Shopping Centers, Michigan Association of Realtors, National Association of Realtors and Grand Rapids Art Museum Board of Trustees.
Biggest career break: Having his then-boss, Stan Wisinski, introduce him to his future business partner, Brian DeVries.
“I was actually considering going into the development business, as it was something I always wanted to do. I was working then with Barnes & Noble to find some property for them to enter the West Michigan market. I was going to do that on my own and I had Brian analyze the deal with me,” he said.
Wierda said DeVries told him that he thought the deal would work. But DeVries also said that more capital would be needed if Wierda was going to get the transaction to closing. He was faced with the dilemma of either going it alone and trying to find more capital somewhere or get others involved in the project and take a smaller piece of the deal.
“So my wife, Rebecca, and I had a choice to make: whether we wanted to go that route or do it ourselves,” Wierda said. “We obviously chose to partner with Brian and start Jade Pig, and it worked out fantastically.” .
The partnership Wierda formed with DeVries 13 years ago still exists today. Although Wierda became a principal and managing partner of CWD Real Estate Investments a few months ago, he remains a co-owner of Jade Pig and retains his relationship with DeVries.
Wierda started CWD in June with two other well-known and experienced commercial realtors: Sam Cummings and Dan DeVos. Wierda and Cummings co-manage the company.
“With what we do, we have a pretty high responsibility to the community. I’ve found that in the industry, what we do directly affects the lives of others esthetically,” he said.
“I think probably one of the things that I was most intrigued about with Sam and Dan is they both understand that.”
Wierda said he also likes the real estate business because it gives him a chance to be creative — to have a say in what a finished project will look like, and to do some strategic planning to determine the type of development that can most help a community.
“It’s fun to be able to impact an area based on what you choose to do.”
Hope College not only gave Wierda the insight into his life’s work, the school also gave him the opportunity to meet his life’s partner. He met Rebecca on campus when both were attending the college. She majored in business and psychology. Today they live in Grandville with their three children: Spencer, 12; Gabrielle, 9; and 8-year-old Hogan. Rebecca is the president of Leigh’s, a high-end women’s fashion shop in Breton Village.
“I married my best friend. She is not only my best friend, she balances me quite well. She is calming to me,” he said. “Rebecca has been very, very successful. She went into sales right out of college and has been one of the top performers in the country.”
When he isn’t working, Wierda said he spends as much time with his family as he can. He calls himself a bit of a sports nut. He is a pretty accomplished golfer, but doesn’t get out on the course as much as he did in the past. So what does he shoot for 18 holes these days?
“Let’s put it this way: I’m no longer scratch,” he said with a laugh. “My score goes up proportionally with the time I spend with my kids. Tiger (Woods) has nothing to worry about.”
But Wierda still puts in some time on the links as he is teaching the game to his kids. He also spends many of his winter days at ice rinks watching Spencer and Hogan play hockey in a travel league, and in front of the TV watching the Detroit Red Wings when he isn’t lacing up his own skates.
“I also enjoy going to art galleries, art museums, and occasionally picking up a few pieces to hang on the walls,” said Wierda, who has been involved with the Grand Rapids Art Museum Board of Trustees for six years and is the 2008 incoming board president.
As for the future, Wierda said he believes that the structure of CWD will have a positive impact on the area for a fairly long time because the partners are committed to the city.
In the short term, he sees lots of opportunities for those who are properly positioned in an economy that poses plenty of challenges.
“We need to be very well capitalized and look for buying opportunities to reposition things in the marketplace,” he said. “We view this as one of the economic times for people who are well capitalized, understand the market and have the ability to reposition assets. It’s a pretty strong opportunity for them right now.”