Paramount Commerce links with a new partner

April 23, 2010
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One of the region’s leading commercial real estate firms has decided it’s time to change its affiliation. After a successful 13-year relationship, Paramount Commerce is leaving Grubb & Ellis and is joining Collier International; reportedly the world’s third-largest real estate services company.

According to the firm’s Web site, Colliers has 294 offices on six continents, worldwide revenue of $1.6 billion, 1.1 billion square feet of space under management, and 12,700 employees. Colliers claims it has more SIORs than any other national commercial real estate services firm.

“Colliers was the front runner, by far. It’s another big milestone for us,” said Managing Partner Derek Hunderman.

The local firm’s new name will simply be Colliers International.

“Because of the name some people might think there has been a change in ownership, but that’s not the case. We have 18 partners here and we will continue to have full control and full ownership of this company as we always have,” said Hunderman, who will also serve as regional vice president. “There’s no change in staff, personnel, leadership or ownership of this company.”

Hunderman said Paramount Commerce revamped its internal strategic goals last year and then began to search for a new partner. In one of his first meetings with Colliers, Hunderman said the company outlined it goals and those matched the objectives he and his partners set for their firm. From that meeting on, Hunderman said it became clear that Paramount Commerce and Colliers had nearly identical strategic and cultural purposes. In addition, he said Grubb & Ellis’ financial health had become a concern over the past few years.

“When a tenant’s lease is up, the tenant goes and looks at the market to see what the options are. Our contract was up and we really had very little intentions of moving but then you start to look at the market and realize what other people offer. It’s very similar to that tenant who really doesn’t want to move but can move down the street and get some bells and whistles that he doesn’t have now,” he said.

The amenities that swayed the local firm were Colliers’ global presence, technology and training offerings. Hunderman said Colliers offers affiliates more than 1,000 courses on a host of industry topics through its in-house university. “It’s a very well developed curriculum, the majority of which is available through Webcasts, Webinars and podcasts. So we have access now to an unparalleled education, which is huge,” he said.

But topping admission to Colliers University as an incentive to join was the firm’s technology. “They’re investing all of their capital right now into technology. They are offering us some tools that may be a little difficult to explain, but it’s going to revolutionize how we do business and how we interact with our clients. That’s exciting,” said Hunderman, who added they had more meetings with Colliers’ IT director than with any other of the company’s executives.

Another reason for the switch is Colliers offers a global service, while Grubb & Ellis doesn’t.  Of Collier’s 294 offices, 133 are in the U.S., Canada and Latin America; 97 are in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, while 64 are located in Asia. “Many corporations here in West Michigan have an international footprint and we were not able to service them (while affiliated with Grubb & Ellis),” said Hunderman


Hunderman said the firm would complete its transition to Colliers by the end of the summer. He said the rebranding effort would be deliberate and be done thoughtfully so as not to confuse clients. But he added that his business is based more on personal relationships between a broker and a client than a firm’s name.

“We’ve talked to a couple of our key clients and their response has been, ‘I work with (President & CEO) Duke (Suwyn).’ It’s very much a relationship business. I think once they see how we’re able to offer new services, new technologies, they’re going to be pretty excited,” he said.

FirstService Corp., a publicly-owned firm based in Seattle, is the parent company of Colliers. But FirstService was to have become Colliers International late last week. Colliers has offices in Chicago, Ann Arbor and Southfield.

Paramount Properties was founded by Bill Bowling and Jack Buchanan in 1995 and became affiliated with Grubb & Ellis in 1997. Ray Kisor merged Commerce Realty into Grubb & Ellis/Paramount a few years ago. The firm has its headquarters in Grand Rapids and offices in Kalamazoo and Holland.

“It was a tough decision. It wasn’t a decision that we took lightly. We’ve been with Grubb & Ellis now for 13 years,” said Hunderman. “Back to that analogy of the tenant looking for space in the marketplace that tenant may not have had a desire to move but it’s just good due diligence to look, and then you realize there is somebody down the street who has better curb appeal and better amenities.”

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