'End of the year' recession break predicted by developer

November 14, 2009
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Grand Rapids Business Journal noted in breaking news last week the prediction of the end of the commercial real estate recession “near the end of the year,” as declared by Stan Wisinski III, chairman of the Wisinski Group.

Wisinski was speaking as part of a panel of elite Real Estate Award of Excellence winners at the 23rd annual University of Michigan Urban Land Institute Real Estate Forum in Ann Arbor (the statewide conference was held in Grand Rapids last year). But it was fellow panel member Duke Suwyn, president of Grubb & Ellis|Paramount Commerce in Grand Rapids, who audibly stirred the crowd of about 300 attendees with chuckles and a cheer. Suwyn had been asked about the differences between east and west Michigan, and out-state perceptions of the city.

Panel members representing the Detroit region had discussed the exodus of the young and talented from the state. Suwyn noted a study by one of West Michigan’s “larger companies” that revealed a history of “boomerang” children — young people who may move elsewhere after college graduation but return to the Grand Rapids area to raise families. He then described the impact and success of ArtPrize, held in downtown Sept. 23 to Oct. 10, crediting its creator, Rick DeVos, and the prize funding from DeVos family foundations. “I have to say, I’d love to see that family at the state level … yes, running the state and making changes,” Suwyn said.

Earlier, panel member Robert Grooters of Bridgewater Condos LLC and the Robert Grooters Development Co., noted a Grand Valley State University study showing that “95 percent of GVSU grads are retained in the work force in West Michigan.” Grooters had been lauded with the forum’s top west side prize for his several Grand Rapids projects over a decade, most recently the River House condominium building.

Not tardy for the party

Metro Health has joined the fray. As reported last month in the Business Journal, the Wyoming hospital has thrown open the doors of its MidTowne Surgery Center, just off of Michigan Street’s Medical Mile. While the outpatient surgery center serves all ages and genders, it occupies the entire second floor of the Women’s Health Center of West Michigan, developed by Pinnacle Construction Group near the College Avenue-I-196 interchange.

Metro Health looked at several suburban locations, including two sites in the Four Mile Road and East Beltline Avenue area, before choosing 17,000 square feet in the new building. Jeffrey P. Hunt of Craig Architects Inc. designed the space, which includes a waiting area, pre- and post-op areas and three operating rooms. Initially the center will be used for foot, ankle, orthopedic, urological, gynecological, ear, nose, throat and cosmetic surgeries.

“Our new MidTowne Surgical Center will provide a convenient alternative for patients in northern Kent County and surrounding areas,” Metro Health President & CEO Mike Faas offered.

Unlike many ambulatory surgical centers, the $8.6 million MSC is a subsidiary of Metro Health and does not currently include physicians as investors. A generous dose of doctors did invest in the building, which opened in 2008.

A taxing examination

A Spring Lake business operator was featured last week in an ongoing msnbc.com report on the economic fortunes (or lack thereof) in the Michigan neighbor towns in the area of Elkhart County, Ind. The story focused on the use of tax abatements by local governments to lure firms to locate in job-stressed areas, a familiar theme in Michigan business circles.

One of Middlebury, Indiana’s recent abatement beneficiaries is Izzy Plus, a Spring Lake-based company that makes high-end office furniture, which is relocating in Middlebury with a new chair plant. The story read:

“Izzy already had a chair assembly plant in Middlebury, in the northeast corner of Elkhart County when, early this year, it went looking to relocate an assembly line from a plant it was closing in Belton, Texas.

Its options included moving the line to Izzy facilities in Alabama or Michigan.

CEO Chuck Saylor recalled for the report how aggressive Indiana officials were in recruiting Izzy, including Gov. Mitch Daniels, who gave him his direct phone number and said state agencies would look into buying Izzy’s chairs.

It also didn’t hurt Elkhart’s chances that almost all the resources needed for the chair assembly line were within a 75-mile radius of the area.

Indiana offered nearly $1 million in tax grants and up to $100,000 in training grants if Izzy added 85 jobs in Elkhart within three years. Izzy projected those jobs would add $3.8 million to its payroll, which had been at $5.8 million for 140 workers.

Elkhart County sweetened the pot by offering a tax abatement worth $23,000 over five years if it met the jobs projection.

Saylor and his board did eventually decide to move the line from Texas to Elkhart County.

‘While there were some good incentives, it wasn’t so much about that, to be honest,’ Saylor says. ‘It was about the people and a governor who was walking the talk. I was just incredibly impressed.’

So far, Izzy has hired some 30 workers for the new line of business at the Indiana plant, which went through a major overhaul.

‘It was moving a factory into a factory,’ plant manager Les Stoller said while showing off the facility, which assembles up to 4,000 chairs a week.”

Center showcases community spirit

Bing Goei, Eastern Floral CEO, unveiled the Goei Center at a dedication event last week that attracted throngs of supporters and well wishers who marveled at the high-profile community leader’s ability to pull the project off amid a challenging economic climate. The center is a newly renovated, 80,000-square-foot facility on Grand Rapids’ southwest side. The multi-use building houses Eastern Floral’s new headquarters, an event rental space and office space.

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