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Davenport University invites MBA seekers to new $4M downtown Grand Rapids campus

After a $4M overhaul, the former home of Custer Office Environments at the corner of Louis St. and Ottawa Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids is now the urban home of Davenport University.

The facility, which is equipped to handle some 800 students, features three floors of state-of-the-art technology, open learning spaces, small-group gathering spots and a green environment, says Davenport University President Richard J. Pappas, Ed.D.

"Before we even got started (with construction), we did a survey and found out the demand for MBA opportunities in downtown Grand Rapids was huge," Pappas says. "We saw this large amount of people who live and who work downtown who didn't have master's degrees and we think the demand is powerful. A bachelor's is expected for most jobs, so an MBA separates you from the crowd for upwardly mobile jobs."

Davenport will start by offering both its MBA in healthcare management and its MBA in accounting and strategic management programs at the new downtown digs. Classes will be limited to 15 to 20 students. Student needs will determine the schedule, Pappas says, adding that Davenport will also customize any MBA program to meet the needs of area employers.

Davenport has applied for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

Public open houses are planned for June 14, 15 and 17, with free lunch for anyone who stops by. Faculty will be on hand to answer questions and the university plans a $1,000 scholarship giveaway and other prizes.

Fall programs are accepting students now. For more information, contact Marisa Buscaglia at 616-233-2598 or mbuscaglia@davenport.edu.

Source: Richard J. Pappas, Ed.D, Davenport University
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor




Dilapidated eyesore in Grand Rapids' Midtown demolished to make way for new Walgreens

What was once local grocery giant Meijer Stores' store #6 at the northeast gateway to Grand Rapids' Medical Mile and downtown is now a pile of rubble and pavement as developers move forward on the latest plan for the property -- a 14,000-square-foot Walgreens store.

Dave Duthler says it was just over three years ago when his store, Duthler's Family Foods, left its outdated building at Michigan St. and Fuller Avenue NE and relocated to Madison Square. The plan was that Spartan Stores would transform the vacated property into a D&W Fresh Market.

When the plan didn't go through, Duthler was left to wonder what to do with the forlorn 2.5-acre site. Duthler says his wondering ended when Anchor Properties, a developer for Walgreens stores, contacted him a year ago about erecting a new building to replace the aging store at Michigan and Diamond.

Besides featuring a drive-thru pharmacy, which the existing Walgreens doesn't have, the new store adds about 2,000 square feet of space. Perhaps more importantly for the neighborhood, the weed-dotted parking lot will be resurfaced and lined by landscaping, grass and trees, and iron fences with brick columns along both Michigan and Fuller. The new building will feature storefront windows facing Fuller Avenue.

"We're leasing an acre and a quarter, and Duthler's have an equal size parcel that wraps around Walgreens on the back and behind the Family Dollar," says Anchor Properties' Matthew Williams, VP of development.

The site plan includes possible future buildings on both Michigan St. and Fuller, but Duthler says he doesn't know what that part of the property might become.

"It's been hard enough to get the Walgreens accomplished and we're trying to get that behind us before moving on," he says. "That building was tired and old and we're thrilled to put something new there. Hopefully the area will be more attractive and we hope it will be more pedestrian friendly."

Williams says construction begins this month. Completion is expected in early 2012.

Rohde Construction, Kentwood, is handling construction. The Architectural Group of Grandville handled the design.

Source: Dave Duthler, Duthler's Family Foods; Matthew Williams, Anchor Properties of the Great Lakes, Inc.
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Better Buildings for Michigan invests $1.5M to help Grand Rapids homeowners reduce energy bills

A $1.5M grant through the State of Michigan's Better Buildings for Michigan program is helping residents of six Grand Rapids neighborhoods save money on energy costs by showing homeowners how to make their homes more energy efficient. The grant is part of a $70 million Department of Energy grant that could help improve energy efficiencies in some 11,000 Michigan homes, including up to 3,000 Grand Rapids residences.

The City of Grand Rapids hired the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) to conduct "sweeps" in the six neighborhoods to educate homeowners on the low-interest loans available through the Michigan Saves Home Energy Loan Program and various incentives for making their homes more energy efficient.

Through the program, homeowners pay $50 for a home energy assessment that determines where the greatest energy costs lay, says Ann Erhardt, WMEAC energy programs manager. In Grand Rapids, state-certified contractors DwellTech Solutions and WellHome conduct the assessments using a blower door and infrared camera to find air leaks and cold spots, and also test for gas leaks and safe combustion around furnaces and water heaters. While on-site, the contractors begin sealing up air leaks, wrapping pipes, and installing energy-efficient light bulbs.

The assessment produces a report and infrared photos showing problem areas, then provides a suggested action list ranked by estimated cost savings. If the homeowners choose, they can hire the contractor to fix the problems, or can hire someone else. Erhardt says the advantage to using the state-certified contractors is that they can help homeowners apply for the low-interest loans and state tax incentives.

"The assessments really tell you what improvements will help your home the most," Erhardt says. "It might not mean getting new windows, it might mean air sealing your home or insulating your attic."

The first sweep wrapped up in Eastown last March. A second is underway through the month of June in Riverside Park. In July, WMEAC will be in Oakdale, followed by three more neighborhoods to be determined.

For more information, click here.

Source: Ann Erhardt, West Michigan Environmental Council Energy Programs Manager; Jan Patrick, Michigan Biomass Energy Program
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Spring Sweet brings a bit of Paris, fresh flower market to downtown Holland

Spring Sweet has known since she was a child that she wanted to open a boutique filled with beautiful things. And now the lifelong Holland resident has flung wide the doors to a new Paris-inspired boutique filled with new and vintage home furnishings and décor, women's and toddler girl's fashions and fresh flowers.

The shop, also named Spring Sweet (27 W. 9th St., Holland), is 2,300 square feet of French country and modern goods that run the gamut from a vintage Michigan farmhouse table to gift items including lotions, perfumes and jewelry.

"I like things that are old and vintage and beautiful," Sweet says. "I find comfort in being surrounded by beautiful things and in my home being beautiful, so I modeled the store on a European boutique. I have traveled to Paris twice, and that definitely was part of the inspiration."

Sweet, 30, says she has created flower arrangements for weddings and other events for the past four or five years and sees fresh flowers as a great decorating accessory. The store offers choose-your-own bouquet options, pre-made bouquets and flower arrangements to order.

"I tend to do things that I feel are a little less traditional," Sweet says. "You can come here and find roses and daisies for sure, but I also have something different than the supermarket offerings. Right now, I have a lot of lilacs supplemented with bells of Ireland, hydrangeas and snapdragons. My goal for the summer is to offer flowers from local farmers as much as possible."

Spring Sweet will have its grand opening on Tues., June 7, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Store hours are Mon. thru Sat. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Follow the latest store happenings on its Facebook page here.

Source: Spring Sweet, owner of Spring Sweet
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor






Grand Rapids Wealthy-Jefferson development to break ground at last on $7.5M Phase 1

It's been dubbed The Wealthy-Jefferson Project for years, but the proposed multi-million-dollar development at Grand Rapids' southwest gateway encompasses three city blocks, not just one street corner.

Last week, the Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA) approved nearly $1.1M in Brownfield Redevelopment Authority tax credits, the final step to moving the decade-old residential/commercial/grocery store project to a point where the property owner, Inner City Christian Federation, a nonprofit affordable-housing developer, could break ground. The ceremony, set for May 31 at 5:30 p.m., could be what proponents call just the beginning of over $17 million in development.

The three blocks, bounded by S. Division Avenue (west), Wealthy St. (north), Jefferson Avenue (east) and Buckley St. (south), sit mostly empty after the removal of several outdated buildings years ago.

The $7.5M first phase of a massive six-phase undertaking could bring two three-story buildings with 30 one- and two-bedroom apartments and 8,500 square feet of retail space to the area on the south side of Wealthy, between LaGrave and Sheldon avenues.

"I believe the $17 million estimate in future development (the amount stated in a May 17 press release from MEGA) is extremely conservative," says Jonathan Bradford, CEO of ICCF. "We anticipate a minimum of 150 housing units, attractive green spaces and 55,000 to 60,000 square feet of retail space, half of which would be a grocery store developed in phase four."

Bradford says it's crucial that subsequent phases of the project follow on the heels of this first phase as encouragement for potential investors in the proposed grocery store.

"We're talking about changing six decades, since the expressway opened, of disinvestment and relegating this area as one of little or no desire," Bradford says. "If you were a grocer, you would want to know with some high level of confidence that all this other stuff is going to happen, that you're not going to be the lone ranger."

Bradford expects phase one to wrap up in March 2012. The project architects are Seth Harry and Integrated Architecture. Rockford Construction is the construction manager.

Source: Jonathan Bradford, CEO, Inner City Christian Federation
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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616 Lofts announces 65 new loft apartments for downtown Grand Rapids

Derek Coppess says demand for cool apartment spaces in downtown Grand Rapids has spurred him into developing some 65 loft-style apartments scattered throughout the city center.

Coppess, who owns The Coppess Group real estate firm, announced this week that his newest venture, 616 Lofts, has invested nearly $2M in 25 new loft-style apartments in two historic buildings at 139 Pearl St. NW and 206 Grandville Ave. SW. The apartments have a move-in date of August 1.

616 Lofts also proposes ten more apartments at 140 Monroe Center and another 30 at undisclosed locations throughout the downtown.

"Everything follows people living somewhere," Coppess says. "Grand Rapids has gone a long way to building up downtown through all the philanthropy, and now it's up to the rest of us to bring people downtown to enjoy what we have here."

The three floors above Flanagan's (139 Pearl NW) are now home to three studio apartments plus six one-bedroom and six two-bedroom units. Coppess says about half are leased.

206 Grandville offers six two-bedroom and four one-bedroom units on floors four and five.

Coppess says the apartments have traditional elements, such as exposed-brick walls, aged hardwood floors and ceiling heights from 12 to 16 feet. Modern amenities include stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. Rates range from about $700 for a studio to $1,600 a month for a two-bedroom.

"Eighteen months ago I opened up (616 Lofts) by word of mouth and was bombarded with demand," says Coppess, who developed what he calls a "prototype unit" at 190 Monroe two years ago and now lives there. "There are a lot of condos downtown, but they have served as a barrier to entry to some people who want to live downtown."

Coppess has opened the vacant third floor of the 140 Monroe Center property to the live art event, SPACE, which takes place on June 10. Read the article here.

Source: Derek Coppess, 616 Lofts; Suzette Garvey, Simply Genuine Communications
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor


Live art inspired by live music: SPACE brings new events to vacant spaces in downtown Grand Rapids

A new downtown Grand Rapids art event hopes to bring together live art, live music and networking as a new way of promoting the artists, musicians and the vacant downtown venues where they'll be creating.

SPACE, a concept imagined by Josh Marunde and Josh Beebe, gives artists 90 minutes to create a piece of art inspired by live music while attendees watch and mingle.

"We saw lots of other events and said 'why can't we do one?' So we met at a Starbucks and brainstormed," Beebe says. "We want to get people in the door to see the spaces and to hopefully inspire some economic development."

"We wanted to integrate music and art, and make it a networking experience," Marunde adds. "At a concert, you don't get a chance to meet people, and the music will provide inspiration for the art."

The first SPACE event takes place June 10 on the third floor of 140 Monroe Center, a venue that 616 Lofts hopes to develop into 10 loft apartments. Marunde and Beebe have issued a call for artists and hope to have 10 on board. Local musician Jason "Syts" Sytsma will perform original piano music.

"The doors open at 8, at 9 the music starts and art begins. The music will play for an hour and we give the artists another 30 minutes to wrap up their pieces," Beebe says. "The rest of the night will be an open gallery. We close at midnight and ticket holders can attend our after party at Reserve and get 15 percent off their bill."

Tickets are $8, with a portion of the purchase going to the Saint Cecilia Music Center.

SPACE plans to have two additional events this summer, one in June and one in July, says Beebe, with music provided by hip-hop artist The SEVENth and Indie rock act Valentiger. Dates and locations to be announced.

For more information or to register as an artist, click here.

Source: Josh Marunde, Josh Beebe, SPACE
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

New $1.5M Oxford Street Bike Trail connects Kent Trails system to Grand Rapids' parks, neighborhoods

A new three-mile bike and pedestrian trail connecting Grand Rapids' parks and neighborhoods with the Kent Trails system celebrated its grand opening Tuesday evening with an official ribbon cutting by Mayor George Heartwell during the third annual Mayor's Bike Ride.

The $1.5M Oxford Street Trail extension connects Roberto Clemente Park (where the proposed Clemente Skate Park is in the planning stages), the Black Hills and John Ball Park neighborhoods on the lower west side, and the Kent Trails system which takes users south to Millennium Park and beyond.

The trail includes a bridge over Chestnut Street and a renovated railroad trestle over the Grand River and Market Avenue SW, purchased by the City of Grand Rapids from Grand Rapids resident Bob Cunningham who bought it in a railroad auction some years ago, says Jay Steffen, director of parks and recreation for the city of Grand Rapids.

"The city has a great focus going on right now regarding the bikeability of the city, and we're trying to become a more bike-friendly community," Steffen says. "This is another great example of some of the things we've done to that end. It's another effort in our continuation to connect the dots with local and regional trail systems."

Steffen says riders traveling east to west can take the 12-foot-wide paved trail across the river, and then can choose to ride along Wealthy Street SW toward John Ball Park or travel along the Grand River for a jaunt through the former Butterworth Landfill area.

Trail funding came from a $943,000 MDOT Enhancement Grant, $20,000 Frey Foundation Grant and $518,000 from the city's capital and street fund.

Source: Jay Steffen, City of Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Director
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Detailed data on Michigan schools, neighborhoods just a click away with GVSU's new web tool

Researchers from the Charter Schools Office at Grand Valley State University say that comprehensive, up-to-date data on all of Michigan's public schools and surrounding neighborhoods is now available in one place: the new MI-School.net website.

The site features a web tool that works like Google Maps and lays out information that can be narrowed down to specific blocks within a neighborhood. The site compiles data from the 2010 U.S. Census, the Michigan Department of Education, Michigan Department of Community Health and local police departments and clerks.

Users can filter the data to obtain detailed population demographics; housing data; teacher salary averages; school performance levels, demographics and programs (such as, special education); neighborhood education levels; health; government funding and more.

"Each stakeholder group will have different uses," says Rob Kimball, director of research and measurement. "Parents are interested in identifying what schools around a potential home are highest performing for say, third grade reading. School improvement teams can use the information to understand where their school stands compared to their peer schools. School districts considering closing a school can use the tool to understand what each city block or community is like, and then decide if they need to transfer services to meet the needs of that population."

Kimball notes that the tool is useful for economic development, as well, since the information can determine the location of target markets or areas that might need particular services.

The tool, developed by the Charter Schools Office through a collaboration with the university's College of Education and Johnson Center for Philanthropy and the Michigan Council for Charter School Authorizers, will be updated each spring and fall, and will contain information on private schools beginning in spring 2012, says Kimball.

Source: Rob Kimball, director of research and measurement, Grand Valley State University Office of Charter Schools
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Exit strategies for small business owners the focus of new West Michigan collaborative, LifeWorks

A new West Michigan collaborative of small business specialists aims to help business owners sell their businesses, retire or leave a family business and keep the enterprise running and employees employed.

LifeWorks was formed by entrepreneurs Seth Getz, owner of Business Mastery, Ron Bullis, financial advisor for Northwestern Mutual, and Randy Rua, business broker and owner of Rua Associates. The trio, separately, advises business owners on how to build their businesses, prepare their businesses for sale and connects them with buyers. Together as LifeWorks, the three use their skill sets to help business owners transition from being the lifeblood of a business to being part of a larger entity that can survive on its own.

"Most small businesses are dependent on the business owner, because everything runs around them and needs them in order to run," says Seth Getz. Getz and Bullis are both Grand Rapids Business Journal Forty Under 40 2010 recipients.

"We help the owner learn how to make the business run consistently and predictably without them there," Getz continues. "And they need that in order for the business to sell for a good price."

With one-on-one counseling through their individual companies, Getz, Bullis and Rua help business owners get management teams in place to keep the business running, prepare financial records that are understandable to buyers, develop a presentation of the business and connect with potential buyers.

As LifeWorks, the three plan to have all that information available in one place at their first Exit Strategies Seminar on June 15, Getz says.

"The seminar is for the business owner who has a dream to sell the business," Getz says. "It might be a few years down the road, but they want to plan the business around the idea. Then, when they're ready, they can call us and we can help them."

The Exit Strategies Seminar will be June 15, 7:30 a.m. to noon at Lakeshore Advantage, 201 W. Washington Ave., Suite 410, Zeeland. To register for the seminar, email rsvp@lifeworks1.com. For more information, please call (616) 795-9755.

Source: Seth Getz, LifeWorks; Suzette Garvey, Simply Genuine Communications
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor


Holland's Ditto Upscale Retail contributes over $2M to local schools

Ditto Upscale Retail's sole mission is to contribute funding to offset tuition costs for all students attending Holland  Christian Schools and Zeeland Christian School. Since the resale shop's inception in 2004, the store has donated some $2 million, says Henry Dykema, one of Ditto's three managers.

Customers can spend hours looking over the store's 32,000-square-foot showroom of gently used furniture, lamps, home décor items, toys, electronics, year-round Christmas Corner and even the occasional stove or refrigerator. In addition, Ditto houses fashions for men, women and children sporting designer labels, which might include Aéropostale, Versace, Talbots or Chico's on any given day.

"We are upscale, which means everything is of good quality," Dykema says. "If there are any tears or stains in the clothing, we don't put it out, and the furniture has to all be in good condition. Right now, the proceeds from the store are supporting about 2,400 children."

Most clothing for adults is $4 per item, Dykema says, with the exception of the designer items which the store prices individually. Junior sizes run about $3, children's clothing is around $2 and infant togs are about a dollar each.

The shop moved to its current location (571 E. 8th St., Holland) from Waverly and 24th St. for more space and visibility. Dykema says that has paid off.

"Sometimes we might have as many as 50 customers in the store," he says.

Except for the three managers and a handful of high school students who work after school, Dykema says all the workers are volunteers, and all items except mattresses and box springs are donated. That leaves more money available for the schools.

Store hours are Mon. - Fri. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Source: Henry Dykema, Ditto Upscale Retail
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

MittenBrew raises a pint (or two) to Michigan microbreweries

This week, the guys behind the foodie madness at Grand Rapids Grub launched the next best thing to tipping a few at a Michigan microbrewery. MittenBrew.com takes readers on virtual visits to the state's breweries and samples their wares via articles and stories written by professional writers who have a passion for writing about, and drinking, good beer.

The articles, along with photographs of the breweries, their brews and their people, tell the stories of the breweries. Video tours give folks a taste of different brew houses, fermenting rooms and more, giving readers a front row seat to what's happening behind the scenes. Future plans for the site include featuring beer recipes for home brewers and brewing tips from brew masters.

Bryan Esler, Rob Kirkbride and Christopher Epplett, co-owners of grgrub.com and now MittenBrew, all have regular day jobs and are also journalists with experience writing for publications like The Grand Rapids Press, The Grand Haven Tribune and The Monday Morning Quarterback.

"We couldn't find a single beer website specifically about Michigan breweries and written by people who have journalism experience," says Chris Epplett. "We wanted to bring something to it in a professional manner as writers and editors. We love beer and we also have the abilities to write about it in a professional way and a journalistically correct way, which is different than just a blog."

MittenBrew has about five people working as writers, Epplett says, three in West Michigan, and others covering Traverse City, Ann Arbor and Lansing. While the first articles are about Grand Rapids and West Michigan breweries, future articles will take readers throughout the state, where Epplett says there are over 60 breweries to-date.

GRgrub.com launched in July 2009 and now has some 1,500 unique visitors a week and over 1,100 Facebook fans, Epplett says. In its first two days, MittenBrew attracted about 300 visitors.

"There really is a great respect for the state of Michigan and the beers that we brew, like Bell's Oberon and Founders, which are really growing around the world," Epplett says. "We have everything from a lot of bitterness to a lot of hops. The reputation for Michigan breweries is really growing outside the U.S. We want to do whatever we can to show our enthusiasm for it, as well."

Source: Christopher Epplett, MittenBrew and Grand Rapids Grub
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

New Grand Rapids farmers market aims to bring healthy food options to Heartside

A new farmers market sponsored by Saint Mary's Health Care, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital and Advantage Health Physician Network hopes to make farm-fresh foods and other goods available to Heartside residents and employees who work in the area.

The Wealthy Street Farmers Market will run from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays, May 19 through Oct. 13, in an unused parking lot off Cass St. SE, near the corner of Wealthy St. and Jefferson Avenue. Mary Free Bed owns the property.

"Saint Mary's Health Care is invested in improving the health of our own employees as well as the community," says Sheryl Lozicki. Lozicki is Saint Mary's manager of wellness and the coordinator of the market. "Saint Mary's began a wellness program where we're buying more food for the cafeteria from local farms and are involved in community events like the 5/3 Riverbank Run. The farmers market is one more way to improve the health of employees and the community."

The market will feature 12 to 18 vendors, including Dogwood Farm, Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters, Nantucket Baking Company, Funny Farm Organic Produce and Martin's Sugarbush & Produce.

Seasonal offerings will include the spring launch with annual plants, perennials, coffees and baked goods and will end with pumpkins, apples and fall perennials.

The market will have a different health-related twist each week that will include free recipes with a list of the ingredients available at the market and blood pressure screenings. Nutritionists will be available at different times to teach shoppers about antioxidants and the health advantages of various herbs.

"How can we help people eat more fresh foods?" Lozicki asks. "We need to get it on the table, and that means it needs to be more accessible at an affordable cost."

Source: Sheryl Lozicki, Saint Mary's Health Care and Wealthy Street Farmers Market
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor


Sparta's West Michigan Geothermal brings energy efficiency home

B & B Heating and Cooling started 10 years ago as two guys working out of cardboard boxes from the back of a truck, installing and repairing traditional heating and cooling systems. Today, company leaders say the firm is the third largest energy efficient geothermal WaterFurnace dealer in West Michigan.

Four years ago, B & B decided to diversify from offering just traditional heating and cooling methods by adding the geothermal WaterFurnace line and starting a second company, West Michigan Geothermal. Since then, the company has grown 25 percent, stabilized its workforce at 18 employees, has 10 trucks on the road and moved into a new 8,000-square-foot facility in Sparta.

The new building, heated and cooled by two geothermal units, serves as a showplace where both residential and commercial customers can experience the energy efficient systems first-hand.

"The demand for renewable energy is on the rise, and not just with new construction. If you have LP or fuel oil, the demand is way up because these geothermal systems run at about 450- to 500-percent efficiency," says Brad Delaney, co-owner with Bill Schriver. "We're seeing energy bills that were about $4,000 a year on a 2,000-square-foot house, and we're dropping the bills to $1,500 to $1,600 per year."

Delaney says that the systems run at 42 degrees for air conditioning and blow heat at 92 degrees, compared to a standard furnace, which blows about 120 to 130 degrees. West Michigan Geothermal designs and installs both open loop systems which use well water, and closed-loop systems which use a glycol solution that loops through a system of underground pipes.

Source: Brad Delaney, West Michigan Geothermal and B & B Heating and Cooling; Suzette Garvey, Simply Genuine Communications
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor


California private equity firm relocates headquarters, brings seven investment jobs to Grand Rapids

Irvine, California-based private equity firm Blackford Capital has relocated its headquarters to Grand Rapids' Heartside business district (15 Ionia SW) to be closer to its Midwestern clients. That move has generated seven new jobs for financial and market analysts, researchers and support staff, says owner Martin Stein.

Blackford invests in mature businesses with $20M to $100M in revenue and earnings that range between $2M and $10M. The company works with business owners who want to retire or leave the company. Stein says his current portfolio of companies have about 750 employees and create some $200M in revenue.

"Seventy percent of our investments are in the Midwest and on the East Coast, so it was redundant to have an office in Irvine and one in San Francisco," Stein says. "Ninety-five percent of our investments have been in manufacturing, and while we have investments across the U.S., there's an abundance of manufacturing here in the Midwest."

Blackford Capital has leased some 1,800 square feet of office space at 15 Ionia SW and is conducting "business as usual," even though the dust is still settling.

Stein says that when he graduated from Forest Hills Northern High School in 1990, there were no jobs in West Michigan for the type of private equity investing he wanted to do.

"We're looking to hire analysts, staffing support and fund administrators," he says. "We made offers to all eleven of our employees to come with us, and three considered it but decided to stay in sunny California. We've been recruiting from local colleges, looking for students who wouldn't otherwise have opportunities to start a career in the type of finance we do."

Source: Martin Stein, Blackford Capital; Kristie Burns, Lambert, Edwards & Associates
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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