SPRING LAKE — The residential housing boom in downtown Grand Rapids has led one West Michigan manufacturer of commercial casework and other custom furniture to shift its focus.
Dynamic Wood Solutions LLC of Spring Lake wants to capitalize on the business opportunity in the growing number of multi-unit residential projects in Grand Rapids. For the company, which primarily manufactures custom cabinets, desks and other custom interior pieces for the health care, banking, education and other markets, the transition was fairly straightforward.
“It’s not something we looked for or went after at all. We just had a customer approach us and say, ‘Hey, you should really look at this project because these cabinets look like the stuff you guys build all the time,’” said Ryan Gardner, project director at Dynamic Wood Solutions. “It was funny how this kind of fell onto us. The construction market seems to be booming, at least in Grand Rapids with all these multi-unit apartment complexes filling the need for downtown living. We made the decision to evolve with that, and it’s going well.”
Shifting consumer tastes in residential interior design also allowed Dynamic Wood Solutions to transition more seamlessly into the new market. Increasingly, residential units have moved to cabinets with flat panels on their face and more durable commercial-grade finishes, which are commonplace in the company’s traditional sectors, Gardner said.
That gave the manufacturer access to the multi-unit residential market without having to invest heavily in new manufacturing equipment or incur other costs.
“It’s been a pretty seamless transition on the floor for production,” Gardner said.
All told, Dynamic Wood Solutions expects to grow 20 percent this year as a result of entering the new market. The company generated approximately $2.25 million in sales last year. It currently employs 18 workers at its Spring Lake facility.
The company recently completed work on the former Rowe Hotel, a 77-unit CWD Real Estate Investment project at the northwest corner of Michigan Street and Monroe Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids. Dynamic Wood Solutions served as a subcontractor to Triangle Associates Inc. on the project.
Additionally, Dynamic Wood Solutions also won a contract with Orion Construction Inc. for the Venue Tower, an 88-unit, 140-foot-tower on the corner of Fulton Street and Monroe Avenue, next to The B.O.B.
The company is also bidding on several projects, including the proposed 12- to 13-story tower at 601 Bond Ave., just north of I-196.
It’s likely Dynamic Wood Solutions will continue to have opportunities to grow its residential business in Grand Rapids. Developers have more than 1,700 units planned among 18 proposed multi-family residential projects in downtown Grand Rapids and the nearby neighborhoods, according to data from Beacon Realty Group LLC, a Grand Rapids-based real estate brokerage firm.
Dynamic Wood Solutions also plans to bid on multi-unit residential projects in the Detroit area in the coming years, Gardner said.
But despite the boom in the residential market, the company still remains focused on its core commercial business.
“It’s business as usual in the other market sectors we’ve been in and enhancing that with this residential growth,” President Gary Moody said of the company’s growth strategy. “I don’t necessarily see us doing any multi-unit residential outside of Michigan at this point.”
Given the opportunity for growth in the Grand Rapids residential market, Dynamic Wood Solutions has instituted a selective philosophy when it comes to taking on jobs. Namely, it only takes on as many projects as it knows it can handle.
“We’re honest and don’t tell people what they want to hear,” Gardner said. “So if we can’t produce something in the time they ask for, we’re just honest. We’re kind of unique in the construction world with that mindset. People seem to want to take all the work they can when the economy is good and that hasn’t been our M.O.”
That philosophy allows the business to better manage against peaks and valleys in the building cycle. The company tends to work ahead on orders, since cabinets are one of the last items to be installed and take much less time to produce than the duration of the overall construction project.
“I believe that sets us apart from our competitors as well. I don’t think enough people do that,” Gardner said of the firm’s focus on working ahead. “People get behind and have to invest overtime and it’s a headache for everyone involved — the employees (and) the customer.”
The company often has to lease storage space to hold finished products while it waits for the job site to catch up. In that case, warehousing costs become the “lesser of two evils” compared to flexing its workforce up and down, Gardner said.
“We keep our guys on 40 hours. We don’t need to lay anyone off now and we don’t need to work them overtime later,” he said. “It’s a bit of a juggling act, but it tends to work well for us.”