Local economic development leaders have long sought to bring a global headquarters to downtown Grand Rapids, and it will soon become a reality as Perrigo Co. plc moves its North American corporate offices to the Medical Mile.
The pharmaceutical giant will occupy three upper floors of a building in Michigan State University’s Grand Rapids Innovation Park at 430 Monroe Ave. NW in what will be a $44.8 million project. Perrigo announced plans to relocate its offices to downtown Grand Rapids on Oct. 27, the same day the Michigan Strategic Fund board approved a $2 million Michigan Business Development Program grant, which was based on the anticipated creation of 170 jobs in Michigan.
The deal to bring the Perrigo offices to downtown Grand Rapids was led by Health Innovation Partners, a real estate and development joint venture between Rockford Construction Co. Inc. and Rockford Development Group, Walsh Construction Co. Inc. and Walsh Investors, Murphy Development Group LLC and Michigan State University.
Facilitating the relocation also involved the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the city of Grand Rapids and The Right Place Inc. Finalizing plans for Perrigo to relocate to Grand Rapids took about a year and a half, said Birgit Klohs, the retired president and CEO of The Right Place who led the economic development organization for 33 years.
“These projects are complex,” said Klohs, whose retirement was effective at the end of January. “There is a lot of work that goes on under the surface when you pull together the resources, and hiccups that happen that you never see once the deal is done.”
The complex nature of the project earned it recognition as a 2021 MiBiz Deal of the Year Awards winner in the economic development category.
Rockford Construction and Michigan State University were already a well established team with a high level of trust before the request for proposals for the space at the innovation park in Grand Rapids was sent out, said Mike Mraz, president of Rockford Construction’s real estate development team.
A key piece of the equation that will help Perrigo’s employees integrate into the local community involves the fact that Rockford Construction serves as the landlord of 700-800 apartments downtown, as well as many restaurants, offices and retail buildings, Mraz said.
“What we really strive to do is connect those employers and employees with an opportunity to live nearby and experience what downtown has to offer,” Mraz said. “That collaboration is already beginning. Companies are already working together even though the buildings aren’t completed yet.”
“We all instantly thought it was a perfect fit for Perrigo,” Mraz added. “It really took many teams to bring this to fruition. This is a landmark project for us and we’re very proud to be able to be a part of it.”
Perrigo is domiciled in Dublin, Ireland, but is run from its existing offices in Allegan, where the company was founded more than 130 years ago. Despite Perrigo’s local ties to West Michigan, a company as large as Perrigo had other choices for its North American headquarters, Klohs told MiBiz. The company was also considering Chicago and Southwest Florida for its office.
One of the big selling points was Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile, which company CEO Murray Kessler previously told MiBiz has the potential to become the “Silicon Valley of self-care.”
“The development of Medical Mile and that ecosystem that has developed around health and life sciences over the last 20 years was one of the key drivers of this project,” Klohs said.
The project is part of creating an ecosystem that will draw other companies to invest in downtown Grand Rapids, Klohs said. Helping to secure the Perrigo deal was a capstone project to end her career on at The Right Place, and even more noteworthy because it was all done virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic, Klohs said.
“If you would have told me two years ago that we could do a deal of this magnitude without ever meeting with the company in person, I would say, ‘No way,’” Klohs said. “It can be done. Economic development is a team sport and you never pull this off without collaboration from others. I’m very proud this all came together.”