Street Talk

Street Talk: A buyer’s market

She means business.

March 22, 2019
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According to an online real estate site, 2019 is looking to be a hot year for Grand Rapids’ housing market.

Trulia identified 10 of the largest 100 U.S. housing markets it believes will take off in 2019, and Grand Rapids came in at No. 2, just behind Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Trulia’s rankings are based on five metrics: job growth over the past year, vacancy rates, starter-home affordability, more inbound than outbound home searches on Trulia and a large share of the adult population under the age of 35.

According to the ranking, Grand Rapids has a year-over-year job growth of 2 percent, a vacancy rate of 3.7 percent, a 1.8 ratio of inbound-to-outbound home searches on Trulia and a 21.7 percent share of its population under 35 years of age, representing a good number of first-time homebuyers.

Trulia also identified the hottest neighborhoods in each market and listed Alger Heights for Grand Rapids. The area experienced a year-over-year change in home values of 16.2 percent and 46.5 median days on the market for a given home. Homes on the market for Alger Heights also stayed on the market for 8.5 fewer days based on a yearly comparison.

Rounding out the top 10 housing markets to watch in 2019 are Jacksonville, Florida; Bakersfield, California; Austin, Texas; Fresno, California; Columbia, South Carolina; El Paso, Texas; Phoenix; and Oklahoma City.

Veggie spread

A local farm is increasing its CSA vegetable shares by 25 percent this year.

Green Wagon Farm in Ada — owned by husband-and-wife team Chad Anderson and Heather Anderson — grows 6 acres of certified organic vegetables year-round for Fulton Street Farmers Market, local restaurants and members in its community-supported agriculture (CSA) program.

This growing season, the farm is increasing its free-choice vegetable shares by 25 percent to a combined total of 170 shares — 100 summer shares and 70 year-round, according to Rebecca Henderson, Green Wagon’s year-round CSA manager.

The farm’s CSA system allows members to choose their own selection of vegetables at each pickup — based on household preference and meal-planning convenience — rather than assigning a rigid selection for each shareholder as some farms do.

Green Wagon provides two pickup locations, one in Ada and one in Grand Rapids, as well as three share sizes.

This season, members will have access to a Tuesday afternoon “U-Pick” garden with several summer crops.

The free-choice system is possible because of careful planting and harvest schedules. An algorithm based on crop availability and number of members creates a daily harvest list. Each crop is harvested on pickup days, just hours before members arrive.

“My husband and I wanted our children to understand the work that goes into growing the food we consume,” said Kari Reynolds, a Green Wagon CSA member.

“We didn't want them to think food just shows up at the grocery store and we buy it. We wanted them to know the farmers and the hard work they put into growing the food we eat. We wanted them to be able to talk to the farmers and ask what vegetables would be ready soon. We wanted them to be adventurous and try new foods. Being CSA members has given our children all of this and more.”

Reynolds is one of the farm’s 70 year-round members, accessing fresh greens such as kale, spinach and lettuce even in the coldest Michigan months.

Green Wagon Farm employs full-time farmers year-round.

More information about 2019 CSA memberships and pickup locations is available at greenwagonfarm.com/pages/csa.

Balancing the books

Grand Rapids Community College students saved about $3.3 million in textbook costs this past academic year through a partnership with OpenStax, Rice University's open educational resources program that provides free peer-reviewed textbooks.

Students can access the text from the OpenStax website, where they have the option to download a full copy, an e-book or obtain a printed copy at-cost.

With more than 35,000 students, GRCC is fifth among colleges nationally in the number of students using the service, according to OpenStax.

GRCC's impressive national ranking reflects an effort among faculty to make college more affordable for students, said Michael Vargo, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.

“At its very foundation, OER is about social equity, and I'm just so proud of the way our faculty and broader campus community have embraced this initiative," Vargo said.

Vargo said community colleges serve a disproportionate number of economically challenged students, and the high cost of course materials can create additional barriers to college access and limit student success.

Vargo said textbook expenses, which can range from $1,000 to $1,300 for full-time students, hit economically challenged and working-class students the hardest.

OpenStax textbooks are in use at 48 percent of colleges and universities in the nation, and 2.2 million students used at least one of its books in the 2017-18 school year alone, according to Rice University.

“These schools are driving access for all students by supporting the open educational resource movement,” said Daniel Williamson, managing director at OpenStax. “Thanks to their leadership and supportive campus communities, millions of students now have one less obstacle on their educational journey.”

Boss in training

It seems DeGraaf Interiors will be keeping business in the family for the foreseeable future.

During her reception of the Business Journal’s 2019 Top Women Owned Businesses Award, second-generation owner Deb DeGraaf regaled the audience with a story involving her own daughter who, it seems, has the same business-driven attitude as her mother.

When her daughter was 8 years old, she came into the office and was asked by one of the employees what she wanted to be when she grew up.

“She looked her dead in the eye and said, ‘your boss,’” her mother told the audience.

“I thought to myself, ‘I got my hands full with her,’” DeGraaf continued. “But at the same time I have to be proud of that, and as a woman-owned business, I can’t do it alone.”

DeGraaf’s daughter is now 16 years old and still talking to her mother about being next in line to run the family business. She would be the third generation owner of DeGraaf Interiors.

Deb DeGraaf took ownership of her father’s company just prior to what would be known as the Great Recession, but she and her brother, who holds minority ownership, led the company through rough waters, eventually achieving more than $20 million in annual revenue.

DeGraaf was honored as a Top Women Owned Business in the over $3 million revenue category at the Business Journal’s Women Who Mean Business event, held last Tuesday at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

During her acceptance speech, another of the winners, Dr. Elizabeth Christopherson of Christopherson Orthodontics, succinctly summed up the day for the nearly 400 businesswomen in attendance: “It’s a great day to be a girl.”

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