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Swedish tech company Configura celebrates final expansion in Blue35 office space

Alongside customers, local community leaders, and executives from both its Swedish headquarters and two Asia offices, the Swedish tech company Configura celebrated the expansion of its downtown Grand Rapids offices with a grand opening event earlier this month. 

Maker of the CET Designer software, Configura was founded its original Sweden headquarters in 1990, only beginning to lay down roots in Grand Rapids in the early 2000s when company leadership began looking at cities throughout Midwest to establish a new North American presence. 

While company leaders considered locations in Wisconsin and Illinois, as well as Michigan, it was The Right Place CEO Birgit Klohs who helped them settle on Grand Rapids, touting the city’s rich history as a furniture industry capital with potential for growth into other sectors as a common-sense move toward larger goals of operational growth. 

Johan Lyreborn is CEO of Configura and says Grand Rapids is his company’s second home.  

 “We’re proud to have a major presence in this city and to be close to the world’s largest office furniture makers as well as manufacturers in other global industries,” he says. “We’ve created a space that’s a pleasure to be in –designed to attract and retain the best talent – a space that’s great for productivity, interaction and relaxation for our employees and guests.”

Led by Sweden native and Vice President Peter Brandinger, Configura opened its Grand Rapids office in 2006 with a total of just five employees -- including Brandinger, three other Swedish staff members, and two new hires they made upon arrival to the states. Operating out of an office located at 100 Grandville Ave. over the past decade, the Grand Rapids team has grown to a staff of 40 employees, prompting company leaders to relocate to a larger space with more potential for expansion last spring in the nearby Blue 35 building on Oakes Street. 

Using its own space-planning software, CET Designer, to design its new 12,000-square-foot space, the project’s lead designer Kendra Steinhaus began the planning process with a few rounds of small, casual employee meetings to give the staff a chance to talk about what kind of space they wanted to see come together. 

“Although we’re the developers of CET Designer, it’s not every day that we use the software ourselves to design and bring an entire space to life. Using CET Designer to create our new office space helped me see how our users experience the software,” says Steinhaus, adding that the software was particularly useful during those small group meetings, or “design charrettes,” because it allowed for real-time collaboration. 

With its recent expansion opening up the final two floors of the Blue35 building, the top floor of the new space is now home to marketing, sales, human resources, and finance teams along with a large communal kitchen and relaxation area. Research and development, along with training and support functions, are housed in the floor below that, and both floors feature big windows with lots of natural light afforded to the open-concept desk space. 

Configura’s new office space also features a rooftop deck on the outside, while its interior includes a large communal area with a full kitchen, soft seating, pool and ping-pong tables, a popcorn machine, darts, and a shuffleboard alongside a “quiet room” available for taking naps and for nursing mothers. 

“People need opportunities to step away from their work,” says Steinhaus. “They need fresh air and private spaces. And they need places to connect with one another we designed the new office to meet these needs.” 

For more information about Configura and its CET Designer software, visit www.configura.com. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor?
Images courtesy of Configura 


Related aritcles: 
Configura: A Swedish Company with a Grand Rapids Home

Swedish tech company Configura expands into GR’s Blue35 building with high-tech digs 

SalesPad, LLC invests $3.85 million with expansion of GR offices, addition of 91 new jobs

In an effort to meet an increased product demand with an expansion of its current Grand Rapids-based workforce, software developers at SalesPad, LLC have announced the addition of 91 new jobs and the growing of its operations at 3200 Eagle Park Dr. NE. 

“We need innovative, creative, tech-savvy software developers and support specialists to keep up with our company’s growth,” says SalesPad CEO Pete Eardley, whose company currently employs 110 people. 

The $3.85 million investment comes on the heels of the approval for a $364,000 grant by the Michigan Strategic Fund, which was made possible with help from economic development organization The Right Place, Inc. 

According to Economic Modeling Specialists International, West Michigan’s information technology industry is growing at a rate of 13.8 percent — 9.4 percent higher than the national average — and TRP’s Thad Rieder, senior business development manager and project lead for the SalesPad expansion says SalesPad is no exception to that industry growth.    

“West Michigan’s high-tech community continues to grow, and SalesPad is a part of that growth story,” Rieder says. “We firmly believe that our region’s strong work ethic, culture and innateness is what retains and attracts companies like SalesPad to West Michigan.” 

Founded in 2003, SalesPad products focus on increasing business productivity and efficiency with enterprise software that works with applications like Microsoft Dynamics GP and Intuit Quickbooks alongside creating customized software solutions for small- and medium-sized businesses. 

“In order to grow, we really need tech talent,” says Matt Williams, president of SalesPad. “We honestly believe in the people, work ethic, and resources found in West Michigan. We’re committed to expanding and doing things right here in Grand Rapids.” 

Click here for more information on career opportunities at SalesPad, LLC. 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of SalesPad, LLC. 

OST acquisition of Visualhero Design is necessary combination of strengths in changing tech industry

In an effort to utilize their respective strengths in a changing marketplace where design and technology continue to converge, information technology consulting firm Open Systems Technologies has announced the acquisition of Grand Rapids-based design consulting firm Visualhero Design, expanding OST’s capabilities to find solutions with new methods of problem solving that extend from research through product.

Though the official acquisition of Visualhero by OST is very recent, the two companies began collaborating about five years ago, with OST initially drawn to the application of Visualhero’s “human-centered” design strategy in its own software development practices.

“When we started working with Visualhero, we recognized the amount of energy and expertise they had in this area and how much value it provided in even just our customer engagement,” says Michael Lomonaco, director of marketing and communications at OST.

“It’s no big secret that IT is being challenged in ways that it has never been challenged before,” Lomonaco says. “Those traditions of what OST was built on and founded in with the data center and the cloud is obviously a piece of that — keeping lights on, high availability, disaster recovery — those things must continue and OST must continue to be a leader in those more enterprise technologies.”

However, Lomonaco says the once more distinguishable areas of design, data analytics, software development and a more recent Internet of Things are leaning increasingly on one another to provide the more enhanced user experience customers are seeking, and OST’s acquisition of Visualhero affords a more seamless alignment in strategy.

“More than acquiring new technology, it’s redefining our engagement and our service offerings and how they come to fruition and mature for our current and future customers, not to mention the product development side and that whole cycle,” he says.

Founded in 2005 by CEO Andy Van Solkema, who will now assume the role of Chief Designer at OST, Visualhero began building its reputation as leaders in human-centered design, or design thinking, as a response to businesses’ growing need for clarity in the management of more and more sophisticated technology. 

Van Solkema says in the last decade, the service of human-centered design itself has changed, going from designing communication to objects to now what are becoming more complex systems enabled by technology.

“To define that you have to understand the two aspects of design,” Van Solkema says. “The aspect most people think of first is the one that’s visceral and object oriented, and that’s really evident in our U.X. space and depth of knowledge we have.

"However, the design thinking and human-centric design…We come in to define clarity, to help to define strategies that can then inform technology choices, and likewise on the feedback loop, the technology choices and level of expertise OST brings to the table with its data center can inform our design teams with insight from the market,” Van Solkema continues.

OST and Visualhero will continue to operate from their respective west side offices at 605 Seward Ave. NW and 560 5th St. and maintain separate brand identities for the time being, though Lomonaco says OST did retain all 12 members of the Visualhero team in the acquisition.

However, both Lomonaco and Van Solkema say it’s not something as simple as shared office space that the partnership between the two firms is founded on — it’s a shared understanding of the complexity of what makes good design, and combined tools to make it happen.

“Good design is really not just about design; that it takes really smart business partners and their ability to allow us to create clarity for them and the really strong technology to enable those experiences, is really the whole basis of our motivation here and we’re really excited,” Van Solkema says.

This acquisition comes on the heels of another major announcement from OST, which the National Association for Business Resources just named as a “2015 Best and Brightest Company to Work For.” The accolade, which OST has landed two years in a row, was given to 101 top companies across the United States.

The winning companies were recognized in the January 14 online edition of Corp! Magazine.  In addition, OST will be recognized at an awards gala on May 5, 2016 in Grand Rapids.

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of OST/Visualhero Design



Related articles:

Silicon Valley knocks at West Michigan firm's door


Open Systems Technologies (OST) continues to dazzle


OST expands collaborative workspace; attracts employees, clients to Grand Rapids' growing West Side

Studio Blue brings multi-use work, retail and showroom space to heart of Grand Rapids

Earlier this week, Interphase Interiors announced plans to open a new multi-use space called Studio Blue in the first quarter of 20015 at 35 Oakes Street SW. 

Studio Blue will serve as a meeting and workspace for Interphase Interior employees as well as a showroom for customers and a collaboration space for partner interior designers and architects. 

The 1,600-square-foot space will be managed by developers at Rockford Construction Co. and owned by Haworth, Inc., with interior design by Interphase Interiors and structural design by GMB Architecture. The urban-industrial interior is met with custom woodwork designed around the building's original 1914 tilting, with modern furniture created by Haworth designers from around the globe.

The space will also come equipped with Haworth's collaborative technology solution, work ware, which Interphase spokesperson Adam Russo describes as a "technology solution that allows an unlimited number of users to wirelessly share their computer screens to a monitor."

Additionally, the technology's quad view feature allows up to four users to wirelessly share their screens at the same time. 

"We are excited to be a part of the downtown Grand Rapids creative community," says Interphase Interiors President Randy DeBoer. "With Blue35 being a  joint-venture between Rockford Development and Haworth, Studio Blue will give us a presence in a building with eight floors of Haworth product for showroom purposes plus member access to meting rooms, bluescape technology and shared collaborative workspaces." 

Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Studio Blue 
 

Technology industry demands new skills, Davenport Univ. responds with two advanced tech programs

In response to industry and government demands for technology workers with advanced skills, Davenport University will launch two new technology degree programs in the Fall 2013 school year.

The programs -- Master of Science in Technology Management, and a Bachelor of Science in Digital Forensics -- will prepare students for jobs that continue to open up as corporations and governments become more technology driven, says Dr. Michael Clancy, dean of Davenport University’s College of Technology.

"A new report from Hewlett-Packard and the Ponemon Institute says a cyber attack averages $8 to $9 million in damage costs," Clancy says. "Davenport sits on the Information Technology Executive Council (iTEC), which has the 18 largest companies in Michigan, so we're hearing all the challenges and problems they're having."

Clancy says that one of the problems he hears consistently is that, when people in IT are promoted to management, they don't have any management training, for example, in how to put together a departmental budget. The Masters of Science and Technology Management will fill that gap, combining technical and business education to prepare students for corporate and government IT management roles.

Digital Forensics -- preserving, analyzing and reporting on digital media, involving computers, mobile devices, memory storage and network activity -- is a "very, very techie program" that equips students to conduct in-depth investigation into cyber crimes, such as, data theft, data corruption, and the planting of viruses and worms in computers, mobile devices, memory storage and networks.

"Because Davenport University is labeled by the federal government as a Center of Academic Excellence in IT security, our graduates can move right into the NSA or Department of Homeland Security as a digital forensics specialist," Clancy says.

Interested students can apply now for classes that begin with the Fall 2013 semester.

Source: Dr. Michael Clancy, Davenport University College of Technology
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids tech firm to add office space, add 30 employees on and off site

Grand Rapids-based Atomic Object is so busy, the company plans to invest about $1M to expand its office space and bring on some 30 employees over the next five years. Four of those new employees are already on the payroll, with a fifth to come aboard shortly.

The company makes its home in an intensely creative and ever-evolving collaborative workspace on the second floor of 941 Wealthy St. SE. The company uses the first level as a teamwork space and meeting room. But about half of that space, some 375-square-feet plus a 120-square-foot former post office vault, will become "cozy workspace," says co-founder Carl Erickson.

"I am loathe to chopping it up into desk space," Erickson says. "We're very conscious of preserving our culture because it's critical to the success of the company. If we have to move down to the first floor, we'll do that, but will rotate everyone through the space so they don't become separated individuals who don't talk to each other anymore."

Erickson says Atomic Object prefers to stay in Michigan and develop the talent pool here by hiring locally as well as attracting talent from outside the region.

"We've done that twice this month," Erickson says. "We just hired a software developer with a degree from UCLA and another person who just relocated from Illinois to work for us."

Erickson expects that most of the 30 new employees will work in the embedded systems division where they will be embedded with teams on the clients' premises and not at AO headquarters.

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority recently awarded a tax incentive of some $162,000 over four years. The City of Grand Rapids is considering a $250,000 personal property tax abatement for the project.

Source: Carl Erickson, Atomic Object
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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$200K in grants fuel alternative energy, life sciences, biotech startups in Grand Rapids, Muskegon

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has awarded $200,000 in grant monies to fuel the continued development of two Grand Valley State University incubator programs for life sciences, high technology and alternative energy startups.

The incubators, housed at the West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative (WMSTI) in Grand Rapids' SmartZone and the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC) in Muskegon's SmartZone, each received $100,000 in separate grants.

"MAREC has always had incubator capacity, but it's never been fully developed, never had staff allocated," says Director Arn Boezaart. "The grant will allow us to ramp up the visibility of the incubator and the incubator capacity, and have some money to help entrepreneurs."

MAREC will combine the $100,000 grant with some $90,000 already on hand to fund enhancements that include furnishings, supplies, marketing and professional consultation services for incubator clients. The largest allocation ($44,000) will subsidize MAREC's first incubator manager, a two-year part-time position. Some $13,000 will also be allocated to a seed capital fund for energy and high-tech startups.

Boezaart says 60 percent of MAREC's 6,000 square feet of office and dry lab space is available for high-tech and alternative and renewable energy startups.

"Right now, MAREC is the lakeshore area's only publicly operated incubator facility," Boezaart says. "Given that we're so focused on economic development and entrepreneurial activity, it seems that we can make this facility as supportive as we can possibly be to new business development."

WMSTI will invest its $100,000 grant to continue development of its mini-lab incubator option for life sciences and high-technology startups, and to increase its marketing research and communications capacities to reach biotech entrepreneurs who need immediate lab space, specifically those receiving SBIR/STTR grants.

Background materials provided by GVSU state that the new funding will allow WMSTI to accommodate up to five more incubator members, who will have access to over 100 pieces of shared equipment and instrumentation.

WMSTI's funding will also support professional consulting services, marketing, business development and licenses for specialized management and tracking software to assist incubator clients in the development and commercialization of their product.

Source: Arn Boezaart, Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center; Bonnie Dawdy, West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative; Lambert Edwards & Associates
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Related Articles
Grand Valley State University alternative energy center attracts another energy startup to Muskegon
West Michigan Science & Technology Initiative develops incubator labs for medical device startups

Photos:

Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (3)

West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative


$70M high-tech library on track for Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus

It's reported to be the most technologically advanced building on Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus and features an automated storage retrieval system (ASRS) that enables the school to house tens of thousands of books in a fraction of the space required by traditional library shelving.

Construction on the $70 million Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons begins May 5, 2011, and project leaders at Pioneer Construction are in the throes of wrapping up subcontractor vetting for the proposed LEED-NC Platinum facility.

The 153,000-square-foot library features faculty suites, student collaboration areas, a cafe and a quiet reading room and reading hearth that will overlook the campus clock tower, ravine and central campus. Visitors enter through a multi-level atrium with a glass curtain wall and a soaring 62-foot-high ceiling.

"The ASRS allows the library to store thousands of books in bin-type storage," says Scott Veine, Pioneer's project manager. "Students go to a computer and type in book they want, then the automated crane retrieves the bin and brings it to the user."

Pioneer has narrowed the ASRS search down to two West Michigan manufacturers, but has yet to decide. The company will soon make final decisions on LEED-centric materials such as natural quartzite stone, low VOC paints and glues, Vision Wall systems and furniture, carpet and structural steel with recycled content.

Veine was Pioneer's project manager for GVSU's John C. Kennedy Hall of Engineering (LEED certified) on its Grand Rapids Pew Campus, and has worked on other GVSU construction projects for the past six years.

"I truly believe the library is going to be the premier building on the Allendale campus," Veine says. "Grand Valley builds for the next 30 and 60 and 90 years, and for my team to fall into that philosophy of campus development means this is going to be our capstone project for sure."

Experience a virtual tour of the library:



SHW Group is the project architect.

Source: Scott Veine and Chris Beckering, Pioneer Construction; Mary Ann Holcomb, Grand Valley State University
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor


Grand Valley State University alternative energy center attracts another energy startup to Muskegon

Brighton-based McKenzie Bay International launched 12 years ago as a mining company, then made the switch in 2004 to alternative energy. The company eventually ran out of money and a major wind turbine project stalled, but President and CEO Kevin Cook says the firm has not only rebounded but has re-launched as an alternative and renewable energy "research and development visionary."

McKenzie Bay is the newest tenant of Grand Valley State University's Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center (MAREC), at 200 Viridian Dr., Muskegon. MAREC is a cutting-edge facility created to advance innovations in alternative energy; it dedicates a portion of its 25,000 square feet as an incubator for energy startups.

The firm moved into the alternative energy arena with the development of the Windstor Wind Turbine, a three-bladed commercial turbine that rotates on a vertical access and can pick up the breeze from any angle, Cook says.

"The turbine prototype is installed at Pioneer Bluff Apartments in Ishpeming (Mich.) and has been built over a five-year period," Cook says. "When the project stalled, Clean Green Energy bought the turbine and they now own it. We are contracted with them to continue its development and they'll manufacture it. An important point is that we received a grant from the Department of Energy to develop it."

Other MAREC tenants are Energy Partners, LLC, Logical Lighting Systems, LLC. and Smart Vision Lights.

"MAREC has multiple spaces for conferences and meetings, a place we can bring our shareholders," Cook says. "We'll be able to collaborate with the other tenants here. I'm excited to see what could happen in the next year or so."

Cook says McKenzie Bay is also working on development of Ethereal Logic, a wireless lighting system that could control multiple electrical systems within a building, including HVAC and security.

Source: Kevin Cook, McKenzie Bay International
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Remodel of former Davenport Grand Rapids campus brings innovative classrooms to GRCC students

Deborah Johnson Wood

Grand Rapids Community College didn't have much opportunity to renovate any of the former downtown Grand Rapids campus of Davenport University before students occupied some of the classrooms last year. This year is a different story.

GRCC purchased the campus for $9.5 million in 2009, after Davenport announced its move to property in Caledonia.

This summer, the three-story Sneden Hall, 415 E. Fulton St., has received new infrastructure, HVAC, new décor, wireless Internet technology and new technology in the classrooms.

The most exciting development for faculty and students is the installation of Steelcase's LearnLab Environment in two classrooms, which could have a significant positive impact on how students learn. The technology includes the CopyCam Image Capturing System and the eno Interactive White Board.

"Tables are arranged in a five-point starfish design," says Vicki Janowiak, GRCC's executive director of operational planning. "There are three points around the room where images will be projected on mounted screens. From any point in the room any student can easily connect with the images."

"We can capture digital images of any work students may do on any of the white boards around the room, the instructor can load it to Blackboard and the students can use the image to expand on their own work," Janowiak says.

The technology also enables users to instantly email the work from any white board, print it or save it to flash drive or a LAN.

Eno Boards act as a white board, magnetic board and multimedia projection screen and enable users to make notes on a projected image and save everything to post, print, email or project later to continue working.

GRCC plans to conduct a research study on the effectiveness of the new concept.

Source: Vicki Janowiak, Grand Rapids Community College

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GRCC purchases former Davenport University for $9.5M, saves $25.5M compared to building new

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grand Rapids goes mobile citywide with new Clear 4G wireless Internet service

Deborah Johnson Wood

The city of Grand Rapids and Clearwire announced this week that years of efforts to provide mobile WiMax Internet access throughout the city has culminated in the availability of CLEAR 4G for businesses and individuals.

Grand Rapids is the first city in Michigan to have WiMax citywide, and one of the first 48 cities in the nation.

Subscribers can use the Internet at speeds four times faster than 3G using laptops, smart phones and portable gaming devices from anywhere in the city, including while on the go states a press release from Clearwire.

"If you have a laptop, you can take it with you anywhere in Grand Rapids, plunk down on a park bench or anywhere, and access the Internet – you won't have to find a specific hotspot," says Mayor George Heartwell, who put together a wireless broadband advisory committee to spearhead the project.

"We'll be able to put the service in our police cars, fire engines, and our building inspectors can use it," he says. "It will be cost neutral to the city; we'll pay to have it in our vehicles, but Clearwire pays the city for use of the towers."

The CLEAR coverage area extends as far north as 7 Mile Road, south to Route 6, east to I-96, and west to Route 11. Subscribers who want to access Internet service when traveling outside the service area can purchase a dual-mode 4G/3G modem to stay continually connected through Sprint's 3G data network.

Non-subscribers can access the service at any of a number of hotspots across the city, says Mayor Heartwell. These include neighborhood libraries and city busses.

Clearwire says subscriptions for home use start at $30 per month; mobile access starts at $40 per month. Low-income residents can get subsidized access through the city of Grand Rapids for $9.95 a month.

Click here for more information or visit The CLEAR Blog.

Source: Grand Rapids Mayor, George Heartwell; Clearwire press release

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Customer demand spurs Computer Help to open computer retail shop in Creston business district

Deborah Johnson Wood

This week Ricky Morgan opened his third Computer Help location in Grand Rapids and his customers from the north side of town helped him decide where it would be – the Creston business district.

Morgan, 31, and his partner Marte Smith own Computer Help, 1501 Lake Drive SE in Eastown and at 1066 Grandville Ave. SW.

"I got a lot of people asking if we had something on the north side of town," Morgan says. "A lot of people drive a long way to come to our Eastown store, so I was looking at Alpine or Creston. We had lunch at the Red Jet Café and I saw the storefront across the street. What caught my eye was the storefront window, and then the price point is what made me decide it was the right place."

Morgan says he founded the original Computer Help in Eastown 19 months ago as a computer repair shop specializing in virus removal. The store also sells computers, but he wanted a shop focused on computer sales.

"We'll offer a lot of new computers, and also will offer refurbished computers," Morgan says. "In this economy people don't want to pay full price. Even our new computers are lower price than the big box stores – we get them from China and we put the Microsoft operating systems on them ourselves. We don't have a big staff or a lot of overhead."

The store's inventory includes major brands of notebook, laptop and desktop computers including VAIO, HP, Dell, Acer and Lenovo, as well as accessories and printers. The shop will also offer virus removal and computer repair services.

If sales go as well as expected, Morgan expects to add four sales positions over the next year.

Store hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Source: Ricky Morgan, Computer Help

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com. Development News tips can be sent to info@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Monroe North business leaders hope new ASP will attract high-tech businesses, create river access

The Grand Rapids Planning Commission recently approved an Area Specific Plan (ASP) for the Monroe North business district that business leaders hope will help spur development of high-tech businesses.

Part of the district lies within the Grand Rapids SmartZone established in 2001. It is one of 15 clusters in the state designed to spur development of life sciences, high tech and advanced manufacturing ventures and jobs.

Although the ASP guides development for the entire Monroe North business district – bounded by Michigan on the south, Division on the east, Leonard on the north and the Grand River on the west – the SmartZone lies only in the area south of Coldbrook.

The ASP study reports that Monroe North's proximity to the Medical Mile and the city's track record for successful private/public partnerships are significant assets to attracting high tech ventures, especially if pedestrian and transit access is improved.

"Not as many life sciences incubators are being developed as we'd hoped," says Jim Zawacki, Sr., owner of Grand Rapids Spring & Stamping and a member of the ASP steering committee. "We're in the SmartZone and thought this would be perfect, but people who own the buildings aren't necessarily interested in creating incubators."

But there's also hope that will change.

"It will take one or two good developments to set the area on fire, just like when the Brass Works renovation started," says Howard Hanson of Parkland Properties and a steering committee member. "People thought that venture was crazy, but development really took hold after that.

"The city has money earmarked to make improvements in the infrastructure," Hanson adds. "Ottawa has a lot of potholes and tired buildings, but if they do the infrastructure repairs they certainly will make it more desirable for developers."

Bonus height incentives are in place to help develop the district, says Suzanne Schulz, planning department director. For instance, the Grand River Overlay Zone allows developers to build taller buildings in exchange for landscaped public access to and along the river.

Source: Jim Zawacki, Grand Rapids Spring & Stamping; Howard Hanson, Parkland Properties; Suzanne Schulz, City of Grand Rapids

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.


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