Market momentum is expected to continue across the region
When two companies merge, both firms acknowledge the risk involved in such a transaction and then hope for the best. In this case, the risk was worth it as the outcome has turned out to be better than best.
It’s been more than two years since NAI West Michigan and The Wisinski Group merged to form NAI Wisinski of West Michigan, one of the region’s top commercial real estate brokerage firms. Now the company is ready to take its next step.
“The merger has exceeded all expectations,” said company president and CFO Jim Decker. “That success has caused us to look at the Kalamazoo market.”
Decker told the Business Journal that NAI Wisinski has had its eye on the southwest Michigan real estate market for quite some time and is roughly two months away from opening an office in the region’s most populous area: Kalamazoo.
Decker said the firm has two RFPs it is considering for an office site. Both offer about 2,000 square feet of space with parking for up to 10 employees and clients. One location is close to downtown Kalamazoo, while the other is nearer the airport.
Decker said whichever site is chosen will offer the company’s clients convenience and accessibility. “So we’re excited about it,” he said.
The new southwest Michigan office will have up to five brokers and a staffer to provide sales support. All are still to be hired, but the person who will head the office has been selected. Decker said Marc Tourangeau will handle that duty.
Tourangeau has spent about 15 years in the commercial industry, most recently with the Bradley Co. of South Bend, Ind. While with that firm, Tourangeau specialized in the industrial and investment markets; he also has a background in the office sector.
“He came to us and, fortunately, he decided he wanted to work for us,” said Decker. “Marc was pretty excited about the platform we have here.”
Tourangeau was stationed in the Kalamazoo office Bradley opened last May. So when he came to NAI Wisinski last fall, he brought a practical knowledge of that commercial market with him.
“The market is 500,000 people, but across a large geographic area,” said Decker.
“It’s like covering all of southwestern Michigan,” added Stanley Wisinski, a partner at NAI Wisinski.
All the marketing for the Kalamazoo office will be done at the company’s downtown Grand Rapids address at 100 Grandville Ave. SW.
Decker said the firm can do the marketing and provide additional assistance from the main office because the partners invested heavily into developing an IT platform that gives it those capabilities. “And it’s easy to plug in the new office,” he said.
The company is betting that good things will happen in the commercial market this year. While 2012 got off to a good start, Wisinski said 2013 got off to an even better start. He and his partners see that momentum continuing this year.
“Our pipeline is very full for the first quarter and that gives us an idea we’ll be off to a good start,” said Doug Taatjes, also a partner at NAI Wisinski. “We’re off to a better start than in 2013 and that was a good year. There has been strong absorption in the office market.”
Wisinski added that sale prices and leasing rates have risen, even for retail properties in the good areas. The latter is a positive sign for the overall commercial market because retail is usually the last category to record any gains.
“For the right transaction and the right party, the banks have loosened up a bit — but they’re still being cautious,” said Wisinski.
Wisinski also said business owners are more interested in expanding, now that their concerns over the economy have eased somewhat. Even the nonprofits are getting into the act.
“When they’re looking, you know the economy is up. If they don’t have the money, they’re not going to expand. And people are starting to donate again,” he said.
Decker pointed out that the number of properties listed on the service provided by the Commercial Alliance of Realtors are down, meaning there has been some fairly strong absorption recently.
Decker is leaving NAI Wisinski at the end of February to pursue teaching and to work with nonprofit organizations. He has been in the commercial sector for 13 years, having joined Taatjes & Tol in 2000, and he was with the firm when it merged with Grand Real Estate to form NAI West Michigan in 2006.
Taatjes said interviews are being held for Decker’s position. The firm is looking for someone who will maintain the current culture and continue to grow the company.
“It’s been an incredible experience,” said Decker, adding he wasn’t leaving because of any problems or disputes. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really great people.”