Staff writer, covers real estate, economic development and small business.
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Location factor: Strong apartment demand persists in GR, with thousands of units on the way
GRAND RAPIDS — Demand remains strong for urban apartments, although occupancy rates for the burgeoning market have begun to slip as new units come online.
West Michigan brewery seized by court for failing to pay judgment
A Cranker’s Restaurant & Brewery location in Grand Rapids was shut down temporarily on Thursday upon the orders of the state of Michigan, MiBiz has learned.
VandenBerg to leave Well House executive director role in April
Tami VandenBerg has decided to step down from the role of executive director at Well House, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit focused on ending homelessness, citing the current strength of the organization.
Grand Rapids misses out on Amazon HQ2 consideration
When online retail giant Amazon.com Inc. announced the top 20 possible locations for its second headquarters this morning, it did not include Grand Rapids in the list of metropolitan areas up for consideration.
Southwest Michigan First, Discover Kalamazoo resolve dispute over use of 269
A nearly year-long federal court case between two Kalamazoo-area economic development organizations over the use various iterations of “269” in publications and marketing materials has been dismissed.
Advanced Technology Recycling moves to southeast Grand Rapids
B&K Technology Solutions Inc. (which does business as Advanced Technology Recycling) has moved its Grand Rapids operations to a 25,000-square-foot facility on Cottage Grove St. SE, the company announced this week.
Schuler Books to close Lansing location in February
Schuler Books Inc. plans to close its Lansing location in the Eastwood Towne Center next month.
New opportunities eyed for GR’s South Division Avenue
GRAND RAPIDS — Planners and neighborhood stakeholders believe that investing in some basic infrastructure in downtown Grand Rapids’ Heartside district could help spur equitable economic development.
City documents show details for new infill project on Bridge St. in Grand Rapids
Mixed-use development keeps making its way to the Bridge Street corridor just west of downtown Grand Rapids.
Downtown Grand Rapids bar owners buy affiliated real estate
The sibling owners of downtown Grand Rapids bar and music venue The Pyramid Scheme have bought out a long-time partner and are now the sole owners of not only the business, but also the affiliated real estate.
Grand Rapids Mayor: More work ahead for city to deal with affordable housing concerns
As Mayor Rosalynn Bliss looks ahead to her third year in office, she’s tasked with leading a maturing city and grappling with the associated growing pains. The city also faces issues ranging from a constrained housing market to external factors such as potential changes to the federal tax code, which could have consequences for municipalities. Moreover, City Hall just started the process of searching for a new city manager with the hope of having a candidate selected in the first quarter of 2018.
Snyder to continue efforts to help ease talent crunch for Michigan employers
As Gov. Rick Snyder enters his final year in office, he remains optimistic about the state’s overall economic trajectory. The champion of “relentless positive action” continues to place heavy emphasis on better connecting the state’s resources for workforce development with employers in need of skilled talent. He’s also focusing on efforts needed to support the burgeoning autonomous vehicle sector. In a year-end interview with MiBiz, Snyder spoke about what he hopes to see in the state’s next governor.
2018 Outlook: Jason Lummen, The Peoples Cider Co. LLC
While 480 square feet of space may not seem huge for a taproom, it offers The Peoples Cider Co. needed visibility along the burgeoning West Leonard Street corridor in Grand Rapids. Owner Jason Lummen opened his new taproom in late October on a strip with a distillery and a brewery, which he hopes will create new synergies. The proximity to the other producers has increased the company’s exposure, as well as freed space at his production facility on Maryland Avenue in the Oak Industrial Park. Lummen’s operation currently produces about 200 barrels per year and he hopes that separating his taproom from his production operation offers room for growth. He describes business at the new facility in one word:
2018 Outlook: Doug Rothwell, Business Leaders for Michigan
Michigan’s business climate has made great strides in recent years, but there’s still lots of work to do. That was the message delivered in late November by Doug Rothwell, the president and CEO of Detroit-based Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s business roundtable. Released at the organization’s annual CEO Summit, the latest Economic Competitiveness Benchmarking Report shows the state continues to make improvements in terms of jobs, income and productivity, but it still lacks in college and career readiness and educational attainment, for example. And while incomes have improved, Michigan continues to lag other peer states, according to the data.
GVSU pushes further into ‘high-tech, high-touch’ learning environment
Grand Valley State University will continue to grow its presence in and around downtown Grand Rapids in 2018. As well, the university also hopes to tap into the ever-changing world of technology and data as a means of improving the learning experience for students. President Tom Haas discussed these topics and more at the recent Business Leaders For Michigan CEO Summit in Detroit.
Economic developers should focus on entrepreneurship, avoid distraction of ‘buffalo hunting’
Rather than focusing on massive corporate attraction projects, local economic developers should instead put their efforts behind homegrown entrepreneurial talent. That’s according to Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C. policy organization that tracks economic development deals around the country.
Economists, economic developers mull over next steps in tight labor market
GRAND RAPIDS — Employers continue to struggle to find people to fill open positions and drive growth in their business.
2018 Outlook: Dan Vos, Dan Vos Construction Co. Inc.
As president and CEO of Ada-based construction management firm Dan Vos Construction Co. Inc., Dan Vos would like to continue to see the pro-business philosophy that’s been on display in Michigan for nearly the last decade. Vos generally thinks 2018 will continue the momentum of the past few years, although he harbors some concern over burnout from the firm’s lengthy pipeline of work.
2018 Outlook: Matt Jones, Beacon Realty Group LLC
Matt Jones anticipates another banner year for the buying and selling of apartment properties in Michigan and around the Midwest. Jones, the founder and president of Beacon Realty Group LLC, a boutique commercial real estate brokerage practice focused on the multifamily sector, largely foresees a period of continued slow growth with some potential pressure coming from rising interest rates.
2018 Outlook: Jim Conner, Triangle Associates Inc.
With a backlog of construction projects extending out two years at Triangle Associates, Jim Conner feels “cautiously optimistic” heading into 2018. Conner says the company’s diversified clients ranging from education to health care to industrial work should keep it busy even in the event of a downturn.
Urban planner hopes state modifies development incentive criteria
As a development boom swept through the Grand Rapids area, municipalities have increasingly sought to engage in urban planning initiatives that help guide the investments. That’s translated into steady business for Lynee Wells through 2017 and into the next year. A principal and urban planner with Williams & Works Inc. in Grand Rapids, Wells works closely with municipalities like Caledonia Township and on large-scale redevelopments such as Plaza Roosevelt, a public-private project that will bring a host of new housing and services to the Roosevelt Park neighborhood of Grand Rapids. Wells thinks city and state policies could help fuel more and better development.
2018 Outlook: Mike Corby, Integrated Architecture
Executives at Integrated Architecture had thought 2017 would be a year of “stabilization” and maybe even some slowdown for the firm’s commercial architectural projects. But according to Executive Vice President Mike Corby, that’s not been the case. The Grand Rapids-based firm with a strong focus on mixed-use apartment and commercial buildings sees the momentum only continuing to gain steam.
AIA economist projects architecture industry in for ‘more of the same’ in 2018
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) publishes the quarterly Architectural Billings Index (ABI), which is generally viewed as a leading indicator for the construction industry. While the data fluctuated throughout the year, architects’ billings have been largely positive, according to the Washington, D.C. trade association. Heading into 2018, AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker generally expects more of the same, albeit with some uncertainty surrounding national policy issues.
2018 Outlook: Sam Cummings, CWD Real Estate Investment Inc.
Sam Cummings will be the first to acknowledge that he’s got a lot of office and retail space to fill in downtown Grand Rapids next year, with redevelopment work underway at 50 Monroe Ave. NW and unspecified plans in the coming years for the downtown Fifth Third Bank campus, which has been dubbed Vandenberg Center. Cummings says CWD plans to work diligently over the next year to attract large corporate users, bring more activity to ground-floor spaces and focus on the fundamentals of real estate development.
2018 Outlook: Rick DeKam, Midwest Realty Group LLC
The Great Recession might be years in the past, but commercial real estate executives haven’t forgotten the lessons learned from that time. Rick DeKam, principal with Midwest Realty Group, a Portage-based full-service real estate firm, has spent the last several years building up the company’s cash reserves to prepare for an eventual downturn. But beyond external factors such as “national and global issues related to the country’s presidency and the fact that our county continues to become more and more divided,” he believes the overall business climate continues to look positive.
Large-scale development to continue in 2018
Tower cranes constructing offices, hotels and apartments dot the skyline in and around downtown Grand Rapids.
Minority, women entrepreneurs wrestle with ingrained West Michigan culture
The growth in West Michigan’s small business and entrepreneurial community needs to be more equitable.
Herman Miller CEO ‘generally optimistic’ about 2018, despite ‘geopolitical noise’
Brian Walker continues to believe the overall fundamentals of the economy remain strong, but the ongoing wave of nationalism and demonstrations of military might cause him some degree of concern. The president and CEO of Zeeland-based office furniture manufacturer Herman Miller Inc. (Nasdaq: MLHR) counts on free and open access for the trading of goods for his company’s continued success. Meanwhile, the continued “geopolitical noise” from external events like Brexit only creates uncertainty, he told MiBiz at the recent Business Leaders for Michigan CEO Summit in Detroit.
Third Coast Development gets additional $1 million for Michigan Street project
The developers of a mixed-use project on Michigan Street have received an added $1 million in state incentives to offset unforeseen costs and finish the project.
Downtown parking ramp discussion clears MobileGR
GRAND RAPIDS –– After a largely procedural vote striking down a resolution to boost the inventory of public parking in Grand Rapids, city commissioners will likely reconsider the idea now that it’s gone through the proper channels.