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October 10, 2011
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The former Imperial Metals building, at 801-803 Ionia Ave. NW, has changed hands. County records show 801 Ionia LLC recently closed on the deal with Irish Twins LLC.

A sales price wasn’t listed because an affidavit was filed, but the vacant building’s 2011 SEV was $44,800. Rockford Construction Co. CFO Kurt Hassberger is, what the state refers to as, the registered agent for the LLC and he said a user hasn’t committed to the site so a construction plan hasn’t been ironed out as of yet.

City commissioners granted the property’s previous owner two obsolete property tax exemptions, but they revoked both in August as the clock ran out on the tax breaks. But the city indicated then it was willing to grant a new owner the same exemptions. The city has also provided funds from an EPA site assessment grant to help with the due diligence process and Parking Services has built a surface lot adjacent to the property. The Metals taxable value is $18,842.

Rumor mongers celebrate

Who doesn’t love rumors, raise your hands. Well, we’ve got two, one for each hand and both are swirling in the downtown office market. Number one has a pretty established and somewhat large employer moving from a suburb into a pretty tall office building. The interested parties, though, are keeping quiet for now, but that will change when the hordes of moving vans arrive at the building and ask for valet service. Possibly, the biggest winner in this potential economically-satisfying snippet of gossip is City Hall, where all those new downtown employees will help GR Treasurer Al Mooney smile even more as he watches income-tax revenue go up, up, and up.

But as Blood, Sweat & Tears pointed out like eons ago, what goes up must come down. Rumor number two has the downtown real estate market spinning like the wheel they climbed the charts with, as it has an even larger employer leaving the city and taking an even bigger chunk of income tax revenue with it to what it obviously thinks is a greener pasture. We’re waiting on word to hear whether it’s true, and if it is the city will be blue.

Mayor co-stars in NPR broadcast

Speaking of the city, which of its favorite sons may have inadvertently become a candidate for the honorary, but highly impressive, title of “America’s Mayor?” If you guessed our very own George Heartwell you just may be on to something. The Grand Rapids mayor recently took part in a national news conference regarding President Obama’s jobs bill (he said cities need it) and was interviewed by All Things Considered co-host Guy Rose on National Public Radio last week along with Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.

ATC had both on because a recent report from the Brookings Institution found that both cities were hit real hard by the Grand, er, Great Recession and both were bouncing back while others on the “hard-hit list” weren’t. When Rose asked Hizzonor how he felt about Brookings citing the city as a recovery zone, he said with what the state has been through it might surprise some folks that there even is a city in Michigan that is doing well. Exactly.

Then the mayor said one key factor behind the city’s rebound is that its manufacturing sector, which has been its backbone for decades but has slipped over the last decade, has diversified. Heartwell offered Cascade Engineering as his example and company founder Fred Keller as an innovator by telling Rose that the plastics-injection firm has nearly flawlessly moved into the renewable energy field after making most of its money by serving the auto industry. “Outside of manufacturing, our strongest sectors are meds and eds,” he said. Translation for those who may speak English, but not the local dialect: The mayor meant the Medical Mile and higher education.

All hail ArtPrize; it’s about the economy stupid

To heck, we say, with the professional art critics as ArtPrize blew us away! We dip our brushes, cast our molds, and fire up our welding torches to Rick DeVos, Catherine Creamer, the artists, the venue owners, and the volunteers who enriched our lives with 19 days of style, creativity, and fun, fun, fun (even though daddy took the T-bird away) with things like a very large paint-by-numbers reproduction from the 1960s and a really nifty portrait of an elevated train winding its way between Chicago buildings that was made of duct tape. Four kinds of duct tape. Hooray!

ArtPrize is the perfect event for America’s most sustainable city, especially when we learn that Tracy Van Duinen used thousands of pounds of scrap glass from Vos Glass for his neat “Metaphorest” mural. “Our partnership with Tracy as a construction subcontractor and glass retailer is a great example of the diversity of business participation and contribution to the spirit of ArtPrize,” said Linda Vos-Graham, Vos Glass president. “And the fact that we were able to repurpose the material is an added bonus.” A professional art critic couldn’t have said it better, Linda.

Warehouses filling up again

John J. Zevalkink of Columbian Logistics Network on Hall Street in Grand Rapids says the “warehousing landscape has changed a lot over the past couple years” — but he was out of state and traveling at the time, so couldn’t add an explanation to that comment. But he did refer the Business Journal to John Nieuwenhuis, whom he described as a good source on what’s happening around here in warehousing and logistics.

Nieuwenhuis, COO at Van’s Delivery Service on Turner Avenue in northwest Grand Rapids, confirmed that “the warehousing landscape has changed — for the better.”

“Our existing clients are getting busier, resulting in more inventory turns,” he said. “We are also gaining new clients because they are growing and are reluctant to add space, so they then move inventory to us for storage and distribution.”

That’s a welcome sign of the growing strength in West Michigan’s industrial economy, and if that keeps up, it will ultimately have to be good news for the industrial real estate business, too — once we get past the fear of Recession Redux.

Bet on the visionary, not the critics

The death of Steve Jobs last week was a hurt felt ‘round the world. Apple stores were covered with Post-It notes from frame to frame in U.S. cities. West Michigan’s most famous creative-class techie Keith Brophy posted last Thursday: “Steve Jobs left his mark in many ways. One of the most significant is that he took the Computer out of Apple Computer. Apple, as we know it today, used to be named Apple Computer. Jobs foresaw that the role of the traditional computer in our society would shift to that of the mobile device, and along with introducing the products that drove this shift, he changed the company name to reflect this. In earlier years his moves and predictions were often criticized; in later years they were hailed. Always bet on a visionary over a critic! Rest in peace, Steve Jobs.”

Amy LeFebre posted a statement from Hanon McKendry partners: “The world lost a creative genius yesterday. But with Steve Jobs’ passing, we are reminded of the undying value and beauty of the creative mind: Inspiration.”

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