That revelation and the presence of available space at Creekside Business Center in Portage led Midwest Realty Group LLC President Rick DeKam to try a new concept: a business-class conference center.
The space’s capabilities fall somewhere between those of a traditional hotel conference room and a banquet hall, he said. Importantly, the new concept is only open to serve business customers — no weddings allowed.
“We wanted to bring a world-class business center to Portage,” he said. “We had traditional offices, virtual offices and a business center, but we didn’t have a conference area.
“We want to offer a one-stop shop. Businesses can start with virtual space, move to co-working and grow into traditional offices.”
Combined with the center’s other offerings, the company can offer solutions to satisfy customers’ needs from “seat to suite,” he said.
DeKam began looking for a new use for the space after the University of Phoenix moved out of Creekside. While the space needed some interior work, he said the former classrooms spaces offered a good layout for conferences or corporate training sessions.
He said he realized there was a need for the space when Midwest Realty went looking for a place to hold its strategic planning meeting and had to travel to Lansing to find a suitable location.
“We said, ‘Why couldn’t we rent these for conference rooms and create an environment for corporate America and be solely for business?’” DeKam said.
All the rooms have available high-speed Internet connections — the Creekside center recently worked with CTS Telecom to add a fiber optic connection — and screens for displays or presentations. The center also features computer lab space for corporate training sessions. The facility has space for caterers to easily set up and provide lunch for conference attendees. Businesses can rent the facility hourly or by half day or whole day. Rates vary depending on the size of the room, but range from $25 per hour to $300 for the whole day.
The location also features about 10,000 square feet of co-working space, with options for daily, weekly or monthly packages.
Phase I is already open for business, and the company is planning for a second phase to offer larger, 100-person conference rooms in the same building. DeKam said the second project could come online by November.
The company worked with Portage-based Bosch Architecture Inc. on the design of both phases of the project.
DeKam is taking a wait-and-see approach to expanding the concept to other places.
“As a fixed-asset developer, we need to develop for tomorrow’s needs today and remain flexible … and relevant,” he said. “The rate of change is accelerating.”