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volume 2 | Distinctively Downtown | Grand Rapids Downtown Alliance and Downtown Development Authority

We can do a lot for your business. Don’t take just our word for it. Listen to what our customers have to say.

“ First Community did more for us in a month than our old bank did for us in a decade.” Western Michigan Plastics

“ They’re a family-owned bank; we’re a family-owned business. For me, it’s a better way to go.” Monica’s Gourmet Cookies Does your business have the financial partner it needs to thrive? If the answer is not an unequivocal “Yes,” then we should meet. We will take the time to understand the needs of your business and show you how we can help. For over one hundred years, First Community Bank has been serving communities in Michigan. Improving cash flow, streamlining payments, accessing capital, restructuring debt, saving money—it all begins with a conversation. Business banking from a family-owned bank.

60 Monroe Center NW, Grand Rapids | 616-454-8447

volume 2 Distinctively Downtown GranD rapiDs


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A message from The Right Place, Inc. A message from the writer A message from the Downtown Alliance First National Bank of Michigan Grand Valley State University ArtPrize: Eyes on the Prize X Ventures Rockford Construction Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge Attorneys at Law Colliers International From Blight to Might Kendall College of Art & Design Custer Grand Rapids Community College HNi Miller Johnson Attorneys and Counselors Downtown Employees Stay Local for Food, Entertainment

The concept of “placemaking” – both the philosophy and process – continues to be a trending topic in the economic development world including greater Grand Rapids. Placemaking’s goal is to leverage a community’s assets to create public spaces that promote health, happiness, and well being. Thus, the goal of placemaking and the goal of a vibrant downtown Grand Rapids go hand-in-hand. Many of the development projects highlighted in this edition of 49503 are examples of the region’s commitment to increasing the vitality of downtown. Each project offers its own unique contribution to place and space in downtown. The amount of active projects speaks volumes to the economic investment happening in the area. There was a time (in the not so distant past) when development projects were announced once or twice per year. Today they seem to occur almost weekly! Each, in its own way, contributes to the long-term success of our region’s core. Equally as impressive is the manner in which many of these projects are being developed. Our region’s track record of successful public-private collaboration is more than noteworthy. Our partners at the City of Grand Rapids and Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. (the newly formed aggregate of organizations charged with managing the revitalization of Downtown Grand Rapids) continue to work with the private sector to set a strategy and vision that continues to bring investment and people to downtown. As we reflect on the many successfully-completed development initiatives in 49503, we should also acknowledge the long-term impact each will have. Warren Buffet once said, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” While we enjoy the projects today, future generations will appreciate these spaces and places tomorrow.

Birgit M. Klohs President and CEO The Right Place, Inc.

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Cool City i have lived in Grand Rapids much of my life.

I was born here and attended Grand Rapid Public Schools, exploring the downtown district as a teenager. Later, as a journalist for the Grand Rapids Business Journal, I navigated downtown learning from the business community and understanding the commitment that it takes to build a great city center. Now as an entrepreneur, I’ve chosen this area to grow my own small business.





Johnny Quirin

While preparing and writing the content for this issue of 49503, I gained the luxury of talking with many of the people who have embodied that commitment to downtown Grand Rapids.


Whether they started their business downtown or located here when they realized the benefits of being part of a lively urban space — these people are here because they saw something in downtown Grand Rapids. They wanted to be a part of it, and what’s more, they support it; they are in essence the substance and vitality of the 49503 postal code.

Christopher Pastotnik:

From using the downtown restaurants for catering and meetings, encouraging employees to live or shop around their workplace, to participating in local events such as ArtPrize — these companies and organizations have embraced downtown Grand Rapids’ culture and made it their own. Thank you for allowing me and Gemini Publications to share their stories of revitalization, community and most of all, commitment. Thank you, Elizabeth Sanders Writer and Small Business Owner




Melissa Brooks: Kristen Van Oostenbrugge: Robin Vargo: GENERAL SALES MANAGER


Christina McDonald Meister: Craig R. Rich: Drew Nelson: ADVERTISING SALES ASSISTANT






General Inquiries: TO ORDER REPRINTS

Karla Jeltema:, or call (616) 459-4545 49503, Volume 1 is published by Gemini Publications, a division of Gemini Corporation. Publishing offi ces: 549 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 201, Grand Rapids, MI 49503-1444. Telephone (616) 459-4545; fax (616) 459-4800. General e-mail: Copyright © 2012 by Gemini Publications. All rights reserved. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to 49503, 549 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 201, Grand Rapids, MI 49503-1444.

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The Downtown Alliance, the Downtown Development Authority and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. are proud to be a sponsor of 49503, a special publication that focuses on the businesses that inhabit Downtown Grand Rapids. Downtowns are the heart and soul of their communities. Downtowns provide a variety of services, starting with the traditional roles of government, education, commerce and medicine. But they also provide inspiration, excitement and quality of life, through art, museums, culture and events. These things build upon each other, becoming intertwined until the main purpose of our downtown is not a purpose, but a rich and multi-layered urban lifestyle. I think we’re starting to understand the great wonder of Downtown Grand Rapids. Yes, we’ve “come a long way, baby,” but we started strong, with gorgeous buildings, generous founders, dedicated businesses, a progressive city, and the people of West Michigan. Our success was imminent, because we work hard and we work together. Certainly, a big part of the success of the region and of the downtown is in the businesses that chose to locate here. From the buildings they renovate, to the people they employ and attract, to the services they offer, and the inspiration they provide…like this magazine of the 49503 district. The businesses and people investing in downtown Grand Rapids have made an art of exceeding what’s possible. This is a community where we strive for the best, with humble audaciousness. We show our skills as we construct green buildings, renovate entire blocks and create art. The next step for the downtown is the creation of Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. (DGRI). DGRI is a one stop shop for everything downtown. It will combine the staffs, resources and energies of the Downtown Development Authority, the Downtown Alliance, the Downtown Improvement District, and the Office of Special Events into one cohesive and effective organization—DGRI. It will develop the downtown vision, steer a collective impact for downtown, and provide leadership and advocacy. The bottom line is that DGRI will strive to make downtown Grand Rapids even better. And we want to be your partner. We cannot do it without you.

Sharon Evoy Executive Director, Downtown Alliance

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First National Bank of Michigan Partnering with 616 development to Build Community

On the corner where Division, Fulton, and Monroe Center meet, there is a building which has stood vacant for decades. Despite its prime location, the Kendall Building has been historically underutilized - until now. When 616 Development and founder Derek Coppess were looking for a partner to transform this empty space into a lively 24-hour building, they turned to a local community bank they knew would understand the downtown Grand Rapids culture. That partner was First National Bank of Michigan. “We moved downtown because it is the central business district. What that means to the banking community and to our customers is that this is the heart of the City,” said Dan Bitzer, Market President of West Michigan for First National Bank of Michigan. “It’s important to us to be part of that econom-

ic viability.” First National’s experience in construction lending and utilizing financing incentives combined with 616 Development’s emphasis on redevelopment, resulted in the perfect fit. A year after redeveloping a building downtown for their own offices, First National Bank of Michigan is helping others contribute to the growth of the downtown community. The 5-story, mixed-used building incorporates retail, residential and office space, including 616 Development’s new headquarters on the second floor. The top three floors of market rate apartments are being branded “616 Lofts at the Kendall,” in the same style as 616’s other downtown apartment communities. Construction is set to be completed in September. “This has been a fun project, and well received by the community,” said Monica Clark, Director of Community

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Development for 616 Development. “There are so many members of this community who want to see it grow. We have been fortunate to work right alongside them.” The 616 “Tribe” has been engaging the community - which includes 616 Lofts residents, other developers and the urbanite community at large - keeping them up-to-date on construction at 616 Lofts at the Kendall through social media, email newsletters, blogging and website updates. First National Bank of Michigan and 616 Development have built a strong relationship which will continue to expand and strengthen the Grand Rapids marketplace. More upcoming projects will be announced soon. Other partners involved in this project include: First Companies, Warner Norcross & Judd, Lott3Metz, Nederveld, the City of Grand Rapids and Michigan Strategic Fund/MEDC.

Left to Right: Jeff Baker, Dan Bitzer, Brian Campbell, and Derek Coppess

First National Bank of Michigan is proud to be a 2013 ArtPrize Venue. The Bank has chosen Ryan Groendyk, MFA, and his entry titled “Living Off The Fat Of The Land”

141 Ionia Avenue, N.W. Grand Rapids 616.242.6500 distinctively downtown 2013 49503 7

GVSU Private and Public Innovation

Grand Valley State University has always prided itself on the private-public partnership that created and sustains it. The latest building to open in downtown Grand Rapids brings the university’s investment in downtown to $250 million in construction and is proof of this partnership. The L. William Seidman Center was prompted by several well-known entrepreneurs and philanthropists, including Bill Seidman, Richard M. DeVos and members of the DeVos family, said Matt McLogan, vice president for University Relations. “They encouraged us to do this and got the proposal off the back burner and on the front burner,” he said. The building brings together the student- and public-focused entities within and affiliated with the Seidman College of Business, including the Van Andel Global Trade Center, the Cen-

ter for Leadership and Innovation, the Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and the Business Ethics Center. Being in the same location allows for both business and academic outreach from one center, said Sridhar Sundaram, professor at the business school and chair of the Finance Department. “We are one of the premier business schools in the state and region and now we have a building that conveys that message,” he said. “Just being where we are located brings tremendous visibility for Grand Valley. Going forward, you’re going to see some very innovative things coming from the college of business.” The entrance of the Seidman Center features a stock market ticker, a running report of the prices and trading volume of securities traded on the various stock exchanges. The center

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also features a state-of-the-art financial markets trading room, case rooms, 15 breakout team rooms for student interaction, and an accounting tutoring lab. The trading room includes nine Bloomberg computer terminals where students can monitor and access stock market action and has an interactive flat screen TV that also displays financial data. Grand Valley State University is also being innovative in the health care community. It is expanding programs where health care providers are needed -- nursing, physician assistant studies, occupational therapy and physical therapy. New programs in public health and speech language pathology are starting this fall, McLogan said. “We’ve listened closely to our private and public partners. They’ve helped us align our academic and professional program offerings to the needs in the region,” McLogan said.

50 Front Avenue SW Grand Rapids, MI 49504 (616) 331-5000

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eyes on the Prize


f you’ve been in Grand Rapids the past few years, you’ve heard of ArtPrize.

The public art competition has brought new notice to the Grand Rapids downtown and attracted the attention of artists and visitors from around the world. The top prize of the 19-day competition is $200,000 and is decided by public vote. This year the event starts on September 18, running through October 6. Many local businesses and organizations have joined in, as venues, supporters, patrons and more.

• For Colliers International, it’s a way for their tenants to connect with the community and they are encouraged to participate. ArtPrize has become a part of the rich culture of downtown Grand Rapids, which benefits the school, said David M. Rosen, president of Kendall College of Art and Design.

• Custer Inc. has been a venue, but also has thrown a growing party to kick off ArtPrize, hosting more than 450 people.

“We have not only been able to take advantage of the wonderful events, like ArtPrize, and culture, from the museums and galleries to the performance venues for music, dance and theater, but we have been able to partner with great organizations like the GR Public Museum,” he said.

• First National Bank of Michigan is displaying work from the family member of an employee, excited to support local talent.

From law offices to construction companies, universities and colleges to non-profit organizations, everyone loves ArtPrize!

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Creating greater value for: Community Benefit Community Engagement Education Employee Engagement Healthier Communities Innovation Regional Relationships Research Sustainability


Area students enrolled in the School of Health Sciences

More educational opportunities. More dreams coming true. At Spectrum Health, we know the value of building strong minds. It’s the reason we devote significant resources to local education. An example is our partnership with Grand Rapids Public Schools to develop the School of Health Sciences. This program has resulted in more than 300 students getting on the path to a career in health care. And their future has never been brighter. To see the full value of a health system creating greater possibilities, visit

Chip Bowling and Diane Dusendang

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X Ventures grand raPids treasure hunters

As every good adventurer knows - “x” marks the spot. President Chip Bowling and Chief Operating Officer Diane Dusendang took this to heart when opening X Ventures - a multi-faceted commercial investment and brokerage firm built on meeting the evolving expectations of their clients and the community. Sitting in their home-like lobby above Bistro Bella Vita in the Arena District, the pair, who previously worked together at Colliers International, look like they have indeed found treasure in this boutique brokerage company. “Our clientele has lead us into the commercial investment and development ring,” Bowling said, adding that landlord and tenant brokerage still remains an important piece of their dayto-day business. “By branching out on our own, X Ventures is now being exposed to more deals which, gives us the ability to better match our clients/

investors’ money into downtown developments and investments.” Having a boutique brokerage where he can serve these various needs, including consulting, was a natural fit for Bowling who has built relationships with many clients over the years, Dusendang said. “Today those young entrepreneurs are seasoned company owners and Chip is enjoying those relationships, as well as forging new ones,” she said. Though business has exceeded their expectations in the first six months since opening in December 2012, Bowling said they will remain a boutique firm. “We will continue to concentrate our attention on our clients and their investments by consciously being selective on what we can commit ourselves to. We don’t want to be all things to all people,” he said. From a Brokerage perspective, X Ventures does this in part by choosing

to represent one landlord/building in any one submarket at a time. “This allows us to focus our attention on only one building, one owner, in one submarket at a time.” said Bowling. “This eliminates any conflicts of interest and allows us to focus our attention on what matters the building, it’s amenities and the surrounding culture in the area and we then expose them to the public through exciting new marketing materials.” This part of their job is an extension of the passion they both have for the Grand Rapids area and its culture. “We really have a lot of fun at what we do,” Bowling said. “That’s the end result of choosing to focus in on an area and product that we believe in, downtown Grand Rapids. We will continue to promote and have a passion for the ever-changing landscape of downtown and want to be part of moving it forward.”

44 Grandville Ave SW, Ste 340 Grand Rapids, MI 49503 Phone: 616.726.2700

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Rockford Construction new horizon’s

After years of contributing to the skyline of Grand Rapids, Rockford Construction is now a part of it. The 26-year-old construction company recently relocated its offices to 601 First Street in downtown Grand Rapids. The move represents the company’s commitment to the revitalization of the urban core. “We’ve renovated or rebuilt almost 4 million square feet downtown,” said CFO Julie Towner: who is also acting as principal-in-charge for the new office construction. “We wanted our employees to share in the Grand Rapids culture, enjoy the walkability of downtown and support local businesses.” The building, former Miller Products paint factory, presented several challenges. Rockford utilized Brownfield Tax Credits to clean up the site and make the project viable. “We knew we had the capability and know-how required to make a major impact on this neighborhood,” said Towner. “It also gave us an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to sustainability.” The renovation is seeking LEED Gold certification. The new office will support over 200 employees of Rockford Construction, Rockford Development, and Rockford Trades, and accommodates all staff on one floor, a major goal of the project. “The space is much more collaborative. Conversations will happen, ideas will happen,” said Towner. Rockford also hopes to engage the neighborhood by making its large community room available to local organizations and participating as an ArtPrize venue. “We want to continue to be an important partner in the community we serve,” Towner said. “Grand Rapids is a city of growth and innovation. We’re proud to be a part of it.”

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Rockford Construction’s history of repurposing urban buildings includes development work such as Cherry Street Landing and Monroe Center. Rockford also specializes in creative uses for space, including GRid70, MoDiv, MoBevy, and coming soon – 35 Oakes.

The new office team of George Colvin, Superintendent, and Julie Towner, CFO.

601 First Street NW Grand Rapids, MI 49504 616.285.6933 p | 616.285.8001 f distinctively downtown 2013 49503 15

Bill Hondorp and Lori Gibson 16 49503 distinctively downtown 2013

Smith Haughey won’t you Be my neighBor?

Maybe it’s not the traditional cup of sugar that Smith Haughey is offering the people of downtown Grand Rapids, but that doesn’t mean they’re not neighborly. Being a real “neighbor” is one of the key reasons the law firm moved their Grand Rapids location from a high-profile office building to the Flat Iron Building - a building with upper floors that had long stayed empty as the street front experienced several tenants come and go. But since November 2011 - Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge has occupied the first floor store front - complete with caricatures of an “old” and “young” attorney entertaining guests who glance in - as well as the upper

levels. There is one additional street front tenant, Old World Olive Press. “It looked like a perfect partnership for us to revitalize a dormant building that was unoccupied,” said Bill Hondorp, the firm’s chief executive officer. “We looked at it as an opportunity to get more connected downtown.” The just over 100 employees of the firm frequently do business at area restaurants and visit the local businesses downtown. Smith Haughey has also allowed local organizations to use its space for events. It’s no accident that the firm choose downtown for its location, said Lori Gibson, chief operations officer. It’s in the firm’s culture.

“We are at the heart of the downtown in all of the communities we’re in,” she said, referring to locations in Traverse City and Ann Arbor. As the location was developed, the firm took pains to preserve the historical aspects of the building, while integrating modern technology, making it attractive to a progressive workforce. The location also is strategic in continuing their relationships with organizations in the community, supporting groups like Kid’s Food Basket and mentoring minority youth. The company is very active in volunteering and interacting with local entities. “We are a neighbor now,” Hondorp said.

100 Monroe Center NW Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503 |

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Colliers International Managing Main and Main As a gathering space for Blues on the Mall, swing dancing, ice skating and more, Rosa Parks Circle and the immediate area is arguably the heart of downtown Grand Rapids. This area has seen unprecedented levels of activity over the last few years, much of which stems from the unique events and tenants. Colliers International’s property management department has witnessed the activity firsthand, managing a number of properties within the core of downtown. Take 140 Monroe Center NW as an example. “It’s a very exciting place to be, kind of in the heart of everything,” said Anne Ficeli, director of Colliers’ property management. Right across from Rosa Parks Circle, the building houses Sweet Yo’s Premium Frozen Yogurt and Angel’s Thai Café, as well as a variety of other tenants. “It’s a location that sees a lot of foot traffic, especially in the warm summer months.” Also close by and seeing new life is 25 Ottawa in the arena district. Ficeli and her team proudly manage the home to new restaurant McKay’s Downtown, which embodies the highly-popular concept of buying and eating local. “We’re excited to see this restaurant space come back to life. It is an ideal location and sure to be a great success with an innovative operator like Michael McKay” she said. With ArtPrize around the corner, the heightened downtown activity is just beginning, and Colliers is prepared for the action. “We’ve got a lot of varied experience in our property management department giving us more depth on our bench than anyone else.”

Anna Ficeli talks with Chef Michael Santo of McKays Downtown Restaurant. 18 49503 distinctively Downtown 2013

Colliers Property Managers Kelley Mattice and Anne Ficeli

300 Ottawa Avenue NW, Suite 400 Grand Rapids, Mi 49503 616 774 3500

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from Blight to might

w a vibrant city.

hen urban centers have darkened windows, boarded doors, and empty spaces, it causes a blemish on the face of

For Grand Rapids, those blemishes are disappearing as local businesses, organizations, and other entities such as colleges and universities revitalize and rebuild those spaces.

As more and more businesses see the charm of locating in downtown Grand Rapids, the revitalization will keep moving outward from the city center, as Colliers International has seen.

alive,” said Anne Ficeli, director of Colliers’ property management, of the area around the Western Michigan University-Grand Rapids campus. “They’re exploding with growth down there.”

“The whole area has kind of come

And there’s sure to be more!

Law firm Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge and local business Rockford Construction have both moved their offices to renovated spaces in the downtown, focusing on original features of the buildings and preserving pieces of local history. Kendall College of Art and Design and Grand Rapids Community College have also taken historically important spaces like the Old Federal Building and White Hall on Fulton Street and made them significant again. For Custer Inc., it’s a part of who they are. “I think being downtown helps overall with our brand,” said Todd Custer, vice president of sales, of their revitalized space. “We’re ahead of the trends.”

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Kendall College of Art and Design giving BaCk and getting more

While Kendall College of Art and Design originally located in downtown Grand Rapids to help grow the core of the city, downtown is now supporting the college by providing an environment where creatives thrive. “Now the reason to be here is that the city core is growing and vibrant, a haven for creatives and those who energize the region through their ideas and activities,” said David M. Rosen, president of Kendall. Kris Jones, a graduate of Kendall’s MFA program and an admissions counselor, calls the relationship symbiotic. Artists and designers can explore and gain inspiration, but also give

back through various programs and volunteer opportunities. “An art and design school needs to have exposure and divergent thought and the city offers that,” he said. Events such as ArtPrize and partnerships with organizations such as the Grand Rapids Public Museum have made the city an even better location for the school. “You don’t have to go looking for exciting things,” Rosen said. “It is just outside the door, and in the case of KCAD, inside the door. We want to help stir things up and contribute to the buzz.” KCAD is making in-state tuition rates available to all states, hoping to

increase its student body, which is currently over 1,400. “We anticipate students will want the type of setting we have,” Jones said, describing the city of Grand Rapids as “safe, clean, and ready for them.” Grand Rapids is a place that embraces the KCAD community, Rosen said. “Artists and designers are outsiders in many communities. Here they are insiders, embraced and celebrated,” he said. “That is rare and wonderful. Because GR appreciates our work and the work of others like us, GR gives us the courage to do what we do.”

17 Fountain St. NW Grand Rapids, MI 49503 616-451-2787 Office distinctively downtown 2013 49503 23


Setting Trends in Urban Spaces

For workspaces in a comfortable yet urban setting, Custer Inc. has gained their share of credibility. From being one the first to redevelop a dilapidated neighborhood on Grandville Ave SW to supporting others who have helped revitalize a nowvibrant area of town, Custer has had a vision of what they thought Grand Rapids could be, and how to be an integral part of it. Today the company is transitioning to the second generation of leaders, with brothers Todd, Mark, and Scott Custer all currently involved in the business. Todd Custer is the Vice President of Sales, Mark Custer is in corporate sales and growth initiatives and Scott is in corporate sales and IT. Dave Custer, who started the business in 1981, is CEO and President. “Being downtown and having a building like this, we’re really living what we preach,” said Todd Custer of the renovated Custer headquarters which brought all company functions under one roof in 2004. These functions include their entire Furniture sales and Design teams, Operations department, Custer Technology team, Custer Architectural Products division, Custer HealthWorks team and

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their 3D animation division Dart Frog. “Seamlessly integrating the Architecture, Furniture and Technology within a building like ours through great design is what our expertise is.” “It was a huge decision to move into the building on Grandville because it was more costly to renovate,” he said. “But it just made sense to be a part of downtown, to be a part of this movement.” The location is now surrounded by amenities such as Hopson Flats, Grand Rapids Ballet, and Founders Brewing Co., so Custer has a real story to tell when giving tours to customers who are considering a renovation project rather than building a new location. “People who are contemplating moving downtown, it helps for them to walk through a space like this and see how we can help to design an interior that reflects their company’s unique culture,” he said. “Also, attracting and retaining great people is always important. We help companies plan their space for the next generation of workers.” For Custer, their culture is intertwined with downtown Grand Rapids, and that’s where it will continue to grow.

Scott Custer Director corporate SaleS Todd Custer Vice preSiDent of SaleS Mark Custer (seated) Director Growth initiatiVeS David Custer preSiDent

217 Grandville Ave SW # 100 Grand Rapids, MI 49503 Tel: 616.458.6322 distinctively downtown 2013 49503 25

Grand Rapids Community College Exponential Impact from the beginning of education

The impact Grand Rapids Community College has on its students is a given quality education at an affordable cost. But a new fundraising campaign is looking at exponential impact on students of all ages in the Grand Rapids community and beyond. Grand Rapids Community College is hoping to raise more than $6 million to build a modernized Early Childhood Education Preschool Laboratory, increasing the number of infants, toddlers, college students, and early education professionals it can serve. Right now, the program is run out of a local church and the needs are greatly outgrowing the space, said Dr. Steven C. Ender, president of GRCC. With the new space, they could have an impact on more children, students and educators. “It’s the exponential effect,” Ender said. “The real value add is the 250 students that we have enrolled in these programs going out in the community

working in early childhood education centers and the hundreds of community centers that have the opportunity to learn from us. This new location, built off the Applied Technology Center with expected groundbreaking in 2015, would allow the program to serve 120 infants and toddlers, up from 80. It will also employ more professionals and build proactive programming around bringing professionals into the lab to experience best practices, which is done on a reactive or request basis today. Setting the best practice standard is not new to the College, which has been serving the community for nearly 100 years. Beyond its work improving educational experiences for the youngest residents, GRCC also is focused on creating opportunities for its current students. Over the years, GRCC and its champions have partnered to design innovative learning spaces such as the

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Pietro and Regina Culinary Amphitheater – a modern demonstration cooking facility that supports the learning experiences of students enrolled in the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education. Not only has the college created innovative learning spaces, but GRCC also has been a partner in preserving local history. Its DeVos Campus uniquely positions the college next to Heritage Hill and has created a main artery to the downtown campus and the city of Grand Rapids. As the college prepares to celebrate its century mark next year, academic building renovations continue to take place to further evolve the learning opportunities GRCC creates for community residents for the next 100 years. “The economic development of this region would have been quite different without this college, which offers quality academics at an affordable price,” Ender said.

(616) 234-4000 143 Bostwick Ave. NE Grand Rapids MI, 49503 distinctively downtown 2013 49503 27

HNI Principals, Randy Phelps, Nathan Steffen, Jim McKinley, John Rogers

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HNI Risk Services Changing the insuranCe game

HNI is a non-traditional insurance and business advisory firm that focuses on improving culture, brand, and leadership in the companies it works with. Ultimately, this helps their clients better manage their total cost of risk. “We strongly feel we’re the only company in our space in West Michigan that turns insurance, employee benefits, and risk management into a strategic advantage for our clients, allowing them to outperform their competitors,” said Nathan Steffen, president of HNI Risk Services of Michigan. The company, which has been in Grand Rapids for two years, applies these values within their own office as well, Steffen said. “Our mantra, internally and externally, is ‘Change the Game,’” he

said. “We help our clients take on the ‘wicked problems’ in their business — the kind that keep leaders up at night and that you can’t just write a check to make go away.” HNI has set out to change the game inside its own four walls by testing a “results-only” work environment and allowing greater flexibility for employees. This approach, plus the company’s location on Rosa Parks Circle, has been a great fit for their company and a positive point for attracting talent to their company. In the past two years, they have grown from a company of four employees to 14, choosing the right people that fit the culture as they come along. “We’ve had the luxury of being able to be ‘choosey’ with the talent we bring

in. People come to this office and can feel the energy — they get excited,” Steffen said. Employees use this excitement and dedication when they meet with customers — getting to know them well enough to help develop and implement best practices within a company. This involves looking at their values, culture, management systems, and the realities of their business. “We know what it takes to change the direction of companies and get them headed down the right path,” Steffen said, adding that downtown Grand Rapids has been the right direction for HNI. “We’re in the heartbeat of Grand Rapids, which is the heartbeat of West Michigan.”

140 Monroe Center NW Suite 200 Grand Rapids, MI 49503 p: 616.264.3000

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Miller Johnson Changing family law

When someone mentions Family Law - the first things that come to mind are nasty divorces, custody battles, and horror stories. Miller Johnson and their Family Law group are trying to change that for West Michigan families—and it’s working. This group of seven dedicated attorneys works together in what could be considered a “boutique” firm within Miller Johnson. They range from lawyers with 30-plus years of experience to a young associate. Their common ground: “We’re committed to helping families keep their legal issues more private and less contentious,” said Mike Quinn, chair of the group. For six years the group has been seeking to resolve family issues before a visit to the courtroom becomes necessary. In divorce cases, Quinn said they often try to do “pre-divorce”

work so that couples have a clearer vision of what they are trying to attain in the divorce especially in regards to parenting time and the division of assets. The group also works on prenuptial agreements, domestic partnerships, and child custody. “A very small percent of our cases end up in trial,” Quinn said, instead finding success with collaboration, mediation, arbitration, and negotiated settlements— all with good results. The added benefit is that confidential information is treated privately and not part of the “public record.” While they came from diverse backgrounds, the attorneys in the Family Law group have all spent their careers practicing in West Michigan. They are committed to the community and think this approach reflects the area’s family-oriented culture.

While this unique perspective sets the group apart, it’s really the relationship-building skills that help this group achieve favorable results for clients. They can leverage relationships within Miller Johnson’s other groups such as tax and estate planning. Also, they are well networked with professional organizations and advisors including counselors and financial planners. It’s clear to see why they are invited to be members of distinguished groups like the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and are honored by groups such as Best Lawyers. “Clients really appreciate our ability to handle matters in a more discreet and polite way,” Quinn concluded. “We like to think this puts them on the right footing to rebuild their lives.”

Michael B. Quinn Joseph H. Doele Angel C. Dotson W. Jack Keiser Melissa Neckers Julie A. Sullivan Connie R. Thacker

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Front Row: Joe Doele, Connie Thacker. Back Row: Mike Quinn, Jack Keiser, Melissa Neckers, Angel Dotson.

Calder Plaza Building 250 Monroe Ave NW, Suite 800 Grand Rapids, MI 49503 616.831.1700 distinctively downtown 2013 49503 31

downtown employees stay local for food, entertainment

what’s the Best Part of working in downtown grand raPids?


op answers - food and entertainment.

Several downtown business leaders and employees were quick to point out the local restaurants, food, and entertainment as the best part of working downtown. When moving downtown from suburbs and strip malls, employees look to the flair of Rosa Parks Circle, Ionia Street, Monroe Center and more to feed their cultural appetite as well as their stomachs. Bill Hondorp, chief executive officer of the law firm Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, said members of the firm set up many meetings in the surrounding shops and restaurants. Though they were previously located downtown in another building, being

directly on Monroe Center has brought them closer to the local businesses. “It’s really amazing what a difference just that few blocks makes,” added Lori Gibson, chief operations officer of the firm. Nathan Steffen, president of HNI Risk

32 49503 distinctively downtown 2013

Services of Michigan, said being located on Monroe Center was being in the heart of Grand Rapids. The location has even been a drawing point for attracting top talent. “For attracting and retaining good, quality professionals, it’s been huge,” he said.

MICHAEL BUCK distinctively downtown 2013 49503 33



Just look around. While most regions are at a standstill, Grand Rapids remains on the move with cranes in the skyline and caterpillars on the ground. At The Right Place, we’ve been working hard to provide new and existing businesses the resources and direction they need to grow and thrive in any climate. Our team of experts can assist with: • Building business and regional collaborations • Identifying local supply chain opportunities • Providing guidance of tax incentive programs • Improving federal, state and local government relations • Providing custom business research services • Improving manufacturing processes • Improving innovation processes • Hosting business networking and educational events and private meetings To request a meeting with our team, visit or call 616.771.0325 to learn more.

49503 Volume 2  
49503 Volume 2  

49503 | Distinctively Downtown | Grand Rapids