Newsmakers 2016 and 2017

The greater Lansing area was filled with business news in 2016 and we at GLBM predict that 2017 will bring just as much exciting news to our capital region in the coming year. Here’s some of the top business news stories from 2016 as well as a few people and events we think will make a splash in the coming year:


New Jobs and Technology Roll into Mason

Mason, Mich. took center stage on the global scene as Spain-based automotive supplier Corporación Gestamp, an international supplier of metal parts and assemblies for auto manufacturers, announced plans to expand its Mason plant, bringing with it new jobs and technology to the Lansing region.

The project is part of a statewide expansion that will generate a total private investment of $158.7 million to create 295 jobs. Of this amount, $90 million will be used to expand Gestamp’s Mason location, making it the company’s largest physical operation in the U.S. From this investment, nearly $16 million will be allocated towards facility expansion, while the remaining $74 million will be used to invest in advanced technology equipment.

Sources from Gestamp say the Mason plant will produce hot stamped door rings, which will improve safety and crash performance of vehicles. When production begins in 2018, Mason will be the only location currently producing this product for Gestamp in North America. In addition, the company plans to open an additional operation in Chelsea, Mich. under Gestamp Washtenaw, LLC, which will include a new chassis assembly line and an electronic coat paint line.

Projects produced in Mason and Chelsea will generate a total private investment of $158 million and create 235 jobs. Michigan was chosen over competing sites in Tennessee, West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana. Both cities have offered support through property tax abatements.

“Gestamp North America is excited about the significant opportunities for growth in the state of Michigan. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), county and local government representatives have been extremely supportive in providing a path to allow us to secure this growth in our business from Michigan locations which will create jobs and investment in Troy, Mason and Chelsea,” said Jeff Wilson, CEO of Gestamp North America and Asian Division. “Gestamp is committed to being an industry leader in technology and products focused on increasing safety and reducing weight, and the growth in Michigan will reflect these enhancements in future vehicles.”

Gestamp North America plans to expand its existing headquarters in the city of Troy, Mich. investing $700,000 and creating 60 jobs.

MEDC, Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) and the City of Mason partnered with Gestamp to make the Mason expansion a reality. The plant currently employs over 400 people with plans to add 40 new jobs in the areas of engineering, skilled trades, management and production.

Initial site preparation activities have started at Gestamp’s Mason location. Pending approval by the City of Mason’s City Council for a property tax abatement, sources at Gestamp say that the company expects the project to be completed in time to start production in 2018.

Lansing Welcomed First Stand-Alone Chick-fil-A Restaurant in Michigan

On Oct. 13, local franchise owner Kate McNerney brought Chick-fil-A’s freshly prepared menu and award-winning customer service to Lansing, as she opened the first of two Michigan restaurants.

McNerney graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in psychology and later earned a master’s degree of Public Administration from Central Michigan University. She served in the U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force Reserves in Dayton, Ohio and it was there that she spent time at a Chick-fil-A restaurant learning about operator opportunities.

Earlier in her career, McNerney worked as an assistant manager and event coordinator for Centennial Hall, a banquet hall and catering business in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. McNerney, who grew up an hour from Lansing, is thrilled to return to the state with her husband, Joe, and their three children to introduce central Michigan to Chick-fil-A.

“I am originally from Mount Pleasant so I was excited to be in Michigan. The Lansing community has really welcomed us, and being from Michigan it just gives me one more way to connect with our guests and vendors and make the experience event better,” said McNerney.

The new Chick-fil-A at 5617 W. Saginaw Hwy., has seen amazing success since it opened its doors in the fall of 2016. Guests have traveled from all over to savor the restaurant’s freshly prepared fan favorites and gather with family and friends to enjoy the welcoming and comfortable atmosphere.

The restaurant currently employs 105 individuals with anywhere from 30 to 40 staff members, scheduled to cover lunch and dinner shifts to ensure top-notch guest service and experiences. With anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 guests visiting the location each day, it’s is no easy feat, but McNerney and her team are dedicated to providing their very best to each guest and the Lansing community as a whole.

“I love working with people, everyone from team members to guests. Someone might come in and be having a bad day and we can help turn that around,” McNerney said. “Sometimes we will surprise guests with cookies or ice cream, or maybe it’s just the offer to refresh their beverage, whatever it is we want them to know they are always welcome here.”

Lansing United Makes a Stamp on the Community

After three successful Lansing United soccer seasons, on the field and in the front office, team owner and general manager Jeremy Sampson, believes he has a sustainable sports business.

His soccer team is now well established in its league, drawing about 8,000 fans last season to its games at the East Lansing Soccer Complex and has a growing roster of corporate sponsors.

Building on the successful startup, he raised ticket prices last year and hired a new coach and general manager; and the team, absent two late game defensive collapses, would have qualified for the National Premier Soccer League’s (NPSL) playoffs.

Not bad for the former WILX-TV sports reporter, who fashioned his passion for soccer into a successful sports franchise. His full-time job is Marketing, Promotions and Ticket coordinator for the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

Lansing United and the other regional teams playing in the NPSL’s Midwest Region Great Lakes West Conference, embody the ideal of amateur soccer. That’s amateur with a capital A.

“The majority of the team – 90 to 95 percent – is current college players. They are registered with U.S. Soccer as amateurs,” Sampson said. The NPSL is a stepping off point for players seeking to advance through the ranks of professional soccer.

“We’re the equivalent of Class-A baseball, like the Lansing Lugnuts,” he said. In fact, with teams in communities like Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Pontiac and Dayton, Ohio, the league is structured much like Midwest League baseball.

Because it’s an amateur league, that is, no paid players, community size and finances have little effect on the quality of players acquired by the clubs. Where market differences appear is in the venues. Pontiac’s Michigan Stars play in the 6,600-seat Wisner Memorial Stadium and the Detroit City FC plays at the venerable 7,000-seat Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, Mich. Teams like Lansing United play on smaller community-level fields, often to smaller crowds.

But this doesn’t bother Sampson. “What I love about the East Lansing Soccer Complex is how close you are to the field. The fans are right in the action.”

It’s about fan relationships, rooted in the community. For example, Sampson didn’t pick the team’s name, it was chosen by fans.

“The community has supported us beyond my wildest imagination,” he said. In return, the club in past years has supported a range of charitable activities: food drives for the local food bank, donations to the Red Cross and fundraisers for Wounded Warrior Project.

In the coming year, Sampson wants to focus his team’s charitable outreach on a single charity, Sparrow Health System’s Herbert-Herman Cancer Center.

Jackson National Life Continues to Thrive in Lansing

Jackson National Life Insurance Company has long been a trusted and valued organization in the greater Lansing community and 2016 only solidified that relationship. From the newest addition of their Okemos campus opening in late 2015 to the exciting grand opening of the Jackson Teen Zone at the Boys & Girls Club in Lansing, Jackson has continued to make a lasting impact in the community.

Jackson has been a part of Michigan for 55 years and continues to grow and prosper. Being located in the heart of Michigan gives the organization access to outstanding talent within a very welcoming business community.

“We owe much of our success to the support of the surrounding community and the people who have made Jackson what it is today,” said James Sopha, president of Jackson National Life Insurance Company.

But even with over a half a century of history, Jackson isn’t settling into what’s comfortable, the insurance giant is taking big steps to shift the perception of the insurance industry as a whole.

Jackson believes in taking a leadership role in the areas of financial learning and empowerment, and strives to make an impact on the overall level of financial education and investing confidence in the U.S.

“Jackson believes you shouldn’t wait until somebody is nearing retirement to introduce financial planning concepts. We believe in working on a larger scale to start educating kids at the elementary school level with basic money concepts and continue to educate and talk to students throughout their academic careers,” Sopha said.

In 2016 Jackson continued to shake things up with the grand opening of the Jackson Teen Zone at the Boys & Girls Club of Lansing. The renovation and 4,680 sq. ft. expansion was funded by a gift from Jackson and its associates totaling $683,000. The new space features a state-of-the-art Teen Center, conference room and lounge space, which allows the Boys & Girls Club to provide, customized tutoring and educational programs utilizing enhanced technology.

But the company didn’t stop there, Jackson’s IT department hosted its third annual Charity Golf Classic, raising more than $100,000 for several local Lansing nonprofits to benefit the community in a myriad of ways.

Jackson continues to make big moves and offers big support to make big things happen for greater Lansing communities.


Gillespie Group Refocuses Development Downtown

It’s hardly an overstatement to credit Pat Gillespie for altering Lansing’s business district.

A cruise along Michigan Avenue is studded with markers that reflect his influence. Just blocks from Michigan’s State Capitol is the Stadium District complete with apartments, offices and retail shops. Across the street is the Outfield, the innovative apartment complex that looms over the baseball field at Cooley Law School Stadium.

Head east and there’s The Willis Apartments sitting over Moriarty’s Pub. Next comes the Midtown Apartments, with bold colors and an international flare, nestled in the shadow of Frandor Shopping Center. Conveniently located nearby are Altu’s Ethiopian Cuisine, the Midtown Leasing Office and Battery Giant.

For 2017, Gillespie is stepping back a bit from Michigan Avenue to focus on the Stadium District and the Shiawassee Street corridor. His company, the Gillespie Group, plans to add housing, manufacturing and retail entertainment to these burgeoning business districts.

The Lansing-based development and property management company is adding a second building on the riverfront’s Marketplace Apartments’ site, drawing another 120 to 140 people downtown, Gillespie said. On Shiawassee Street, the company has acquired and will redevelop the former NAPA Auto Parts property, possibly for offices, warehousing, retail or mixed-use. Its development of the Lansing Brewing Company site at the corner of N. Cedar and Shiawassee streets, has already begun transforming the area.

Two blocks to the east, Gillespie plans to remake the former Clara’s Lansing Station restaurant which closed in June 2016.

“It’s going to be a whole new concept, with a new name and a historically renovated building,” Gillespie said. “The whole Stadium District is really dynamic. We believe it will draw tens-of-thousands of people downtown.”

Gillespie continues to buy properties along Michigan Avenue. His company has acquired the site of the former Logan Bros. printing operation in the 2600 block and two houses near the Lansing Women’s Center. Down the road, and bright on Gillespie’s radar is the 14-acre Sears site. The troubled national retailer leases the dated 196,000 sq. ft. building from his company. Adjacent to Frandor Shopping Center, and in the rapidly developing neighborhood of the new SkyVue apartments and the proposed Red Cedar Renaissance, is where the development potential remains untapped.

“I think we will have a pretty dramatic impact in the next 12 months,” Gillespie said. “It’s about the way our team wants to make a difference in Lansing, not purely about dollars and cents, but about how we can move the region forward.”

Common Ground Decides to Scale Back

Scott Keith is president and CEO of the unwieldy sounding Lansing Entertainment & Public Facilities Authority. Sure, someone has to manage the real estate: the Lansing Center, the Lansing City Market and Cooley Law School Stadium. But the job really is about public entertainment and for this, Keith is Lansing’s social chairman, a vital role in advancing the transformation to a cool and vibrant city.

For 2017, the pace of change is accelerating, as Keith and his staff shuffle resources and strategies. The city is revamping Common Ground, acknowledging that the festival market is struggling and no longer viable in Lansing. What in 2016 was a six-day event, will shrink to four days in July.

“It’s really more of a concert series. This is where the market is going,” he said.

Of the six nights of Common Ground last year, only four were successful. “We understand that we have to evolve,” he said.

What’s happening quietly, but seriously, is planning for a permanent stage at Adado Park, a development that will significantly lower the cost of staging events there. Keith said there is an informal group looking for ways to upgrade the infrastructure and facilities at the river-front park, which for most of the year is essentially an urban pasture with a few dated amenities.

With better facilities, Keith envisions a Common Ground concert series with events throughout the summer.

“Think of all the other activities that could take place at Adado Park if there was electricity, water and permanent restrooms. It isn’t the stage that’s expensive. It’s the cost of regrading, drainage and power. All of this could be done for five-or-six million dollars. It’s a small investment for the potential economic return of jobs and coolness factor that’s so key to attracting and retaining young workers.”

While this percolates, initiatives for 2017 included an evolution of the City Market as a riverfront destination gathering spot.

The city has opened up the interior of the 11,000 sq. ft. building and has about 6,000 sq. ft. of open space for venues as varied as concerts and Euchre tournaments. The success of jazz and blues concerts in the market last summer, convinces Keith that this is what the public wants at the $1.6 million facility that has struggled since it opened in April 2011.

Also planned for 2017 is a new event, celebrating opening day for the Lansing Lugnuts. It will be staged on the plaza in front of the stadium with bands and vendors. Keith said similar events happen at the professional level, where there are more people outside the stadium than inside.

“It’s about making people excited about opening day,” he said.

Forsberg Brings Developments to Greater Lansing in 2017

Since 1950, greater Lansing has been home to T.A. Forsberg Inc., a development and real estate company. Now, under the direction of Brent Forsberg, T.A. Forsberg Inc. has been a huge part of the Lansing community through multiple development projects and acting according to their mission statement, “Enhancing the quality of life in the communities we serve.”

In 2017, Forsberg has big plans. One in particular is the development of a lifestyle community called Elevation.

“My team, our partners, BSD and Randall & Branoff Development, have worked hard in the last three years designing and working with Meridian Township, during the approval process, to build one of the greatest lifestyle communities in the Midwest,” said Forsberg about the project.

Although there will be approximately 390 apartments incorporated in the end, Elevation will be more than an apartment complex. The final Elevation project consists of an entire community nestled within the greater Okemos community. Restaurants, parks, shops, trails, ponds, businesses and more will all be within walking distance of the living spaces. The best part of all is that each of these non-residential amenities will also be available to the public, not just residents of Elevation.

“We are also working on building a 20,000 to 30,000 sq. ft. market that will be the focal point of this area in the region,” explained Forsberg. “We will have an outdoor pavilion, summertime festivals in our many gathering spaces and other amenities that will provide so much to what this area already has to offer.”

Forsberg noted that his company plans to break ground on this project in the spring of 2017 and that T.A. Forsberg Inc. will be testing new styles of housing in the region to help keep the cost of living affordable.

“I will feel accomplished when greater Lansing is considered the highest quality of life place to live in the country, based on affordability of housing, wages versus cost of living, social metrics such as access to trails for transportation and recreation, restaurants and other social hotspots like arts and sporting venues. My goal in the next year is to keep connecting like-minded individuals through our communities to build on these pillars,” said Forsberg, crediting his faith, his family, his friends and co-workers for his personal success.

“I never focus on what I am getting out of a deal,” he said. “We have to make money to survive, but that will come if you are doing the right things for the right reasons.”

Sparrow Celebrates 2016 and Anticipates Big Changes in 2017

For more than 100 years, Sparrow Health System has been a part of the greater Lansing community. Located on the Michigan Avenue corridor, Sparrow has been involved in making that area of town more walkable, livable and economically vibrant..

Over the course of 2016, Sparrow opened two huge assets to the health community. In July, the Gathering Place opened, which encompasses a 4,000 sq. ft. addition and 20,000 sq. ft. of renovations, and is a modern, upscale dining area on the main campus of Sparrow Hospital that allows both patients and caregivers to relax and recharge. The Sparrow Health Center Lansing, replacing the medical/dental building, expands access to primary care, provide senior health services and offers a drive-thru pharmacy, laboratory, physical therapy, endoscopy and more.

In the New Year, Sparrow is looking forward to opening the four-story, $64 million Plaza Building, giving a home to the much-anticipated Herbert-Herman Cancer Center and other services to streamline patient care.

“The Herbert-Herman Cancer Center will offer the latest technology and treatments and ongoing support services for patients and families,” explained a group of Sparrow executives. “It is designed around the multi-disciplinary teams of specialists unique to Sparrow and our regular collaboration with Mayo Clinic oncologists through our membership in the Mayo Clinic Care Network.”

This center will offer cutting-edge technology and new ways of fighting cancer, as well as specially commissioned artwork, with the intention of promoting a healing atmosphere.

Sparrow has also recently affiliated with Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital in Charlotte, Mich. which owns AL!VE, an experience-based destination health park, one of the only facilities in the country of its kind.

“At Sparrow, our commitment to providing the best patient care means providing facilities that meet the needs of our region, because our patients and their families expect quality care in a healing environment, and they expect it close to home,” said Sparrow executives.

In mid-Michigan, Sparrow has invested more than $285 million in construction and information technology projects in the last five years and they continue to transform care while implementing best practices in the medical field.

“Part of our role as a pillar organization in Michigan’s capital city is sharing our resources to benefit the citizens of Michigan. We work hard to build and maintain mutually beneficial long-term relationships with both corporate and foundation community partners.”


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