Gordon Food Service begins new corporate HQ

April 15, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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The dirt was flying earlier this month on the Gordon Food Service property at 1300 Gezon Parkway in Wyoming, as workers prepped for the foundations of the company’s new corporate headquarters — a project that had been awarded state incentives last year for a different construction site.

Wyoming City Planner Tim Cochran said “it’s going up,” even though the architectural plans were still being finalized.

“It’s a big building — 382,000 square feet — intended to accommodate up to 1,360 employees,” said Cochran. He said GFS is apparently “getting that facility up as quickly as possible.”

GFS received approval on its site plan in January, according to Cochran, and its permit to start the foundations in early April, according to Wyoming Building Inspector James DeLange, who also noted that it is now a “fast track” project.

Company officials were not available to provide details on the total amount of the GFS investment and what, if any, government incentives it has been awarded to build here rather than in Ontario. However, Andy Maier, GFS marketing communications manager, confirmed that under construction is a “new corporate campus.”

More than 1,000 office employees will be relocated there, and the first phase of the project will have capacity for up to 1,600 office employees. Construction will begin this spring, and the relocation of employees is expected to begin in the summer of 2012, according to a handout from Maier.

Dan Vos Construction has been named the contractor. The building will be located on the south side of Gezon Parkway SW between Burlingame and Clyde Park, just east of Weller Court. Integrated Architecture has been selected to design the new headquarters.

On June 15 last year, Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s office announced several new investments that would grow jobs in Michigan, including a GFS proposal to invest “$24.2 million to consolidate facilities to a single location in Wyoming. The company is expected to create up to 400 total jobs, including 173 directly at the company.” Based on the MEDC’s recommendation, the MEGA board that day approved a state tax credit valued at $1.7 million over five years “to convince the company to consolidate in Michigan over a competing site in Canada. The city of Wyoming is considering an abatement in support of the project.”

A news release put out jointly that day by The Right Place and GFS stated that GFS was going to consolidate several of its business operations spread throughout Canada into a “new 100,000-square-foot facility in Wyoming,” which would house 173 new positions the company planned to fill over the next five years.

On Aug. 17, another announcement from Granholm’s office stated that the Michigan Economic Growth Authority board had approved incentives to lure a number of projects with new jobs to Michigan, over competing states and countries, including state brownfield tax credits for GFS valued at approximately $4.4 million. It noted that the project would redevelop four parcels on 50th Street.

When asked by the Business Journal last week what incentives GFS now has from the state for its new corporate headquarters investment, a spokesperson for the MEDC referred to those announcements from June and August. However, late last year, GFS dropped its plans to build on its property on 50th Street west of Clay Avenue. The new site on Gezon Parkway is about a mile to the southwest, and it is not a brownfield.

Wyoming Deputy City Manager Barb VanDuren said that last year GFS “received a boatload of incentives because they were going to clean up a (brownfield) site and build on that.” VanDuren said when GFS switched the location, “all the brownfield dollars went away. There is nothing to clean up” at the new site.

She said she understood GFS executives decided the 50th Street site wasn’t large enough for future expansion.

“Once they changed sites, everything changed for them,” regarding the MEGA decisions, said VanDuren.

Also last year, according to VanDuren, GFS approached the city of Wyoming and requested a local tax abatement of 100 percent on personal property.

“We were going to agree to that until they convinced the state of Michigan that they should be eligible for a regular tax abatement. They’re building this corporate center and it’s a huge investment,” said VanDuren. “They’re looking at about 300 new jobs, so we are looking to offer them a regular Public Act 198 tax abatement for 12 years, and that will be on real and personal property.”

VanDuren said Wyoming officials do not yet know the actual total investment GFS is planning.

“Right now, all we’ve gotten from them is the letter of intent that gives them the opportunity to start digging” at the site, said VanDuren. GFS has months yet to submit the application for tax abatements.

VanDuren said she is not aware if the state is going to offer GFS any incentives for the new site, but she said she understands GFS has been working with the MEDC.

Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt said GFS is now one of the largest employers in Wyoming. “These are all good-paying jobs; they’re all professional jobs,” he said.

“These are people who I think will be very good for our economy,” added Holt.

The company was founded by 23-year-old Isaac Van Westenbrugge who started an eggs-and-butter delivery service in Grand Rapids in 1897, according to the company website. In 1916, 16-year-old Ben Gordon went to work for Van Westenbrugge. In 1942, the company was renamed Gordon Food Service, and in 1962, it moved its base of operations to Wyoming.

The privately held company’s website states that it is “North America's largest family-owned broadline foodservice distributor.” It reached $1 billion in sales in 1994, and as of 2010 had almost 2,400 employees in Michigan. It operates in several Canadian provinces and several Midwestern states.

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