Mid-Michigan in 1987
Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce
The chamber had already developed its Regional Economic Development (RED) Team by 1987 to foster inter-county cooperation for economic development.
“[It] is composed of development specialists who represent major units of local government, education, economic development corporations, and utilities from throughout Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham counties….Normally competitors, these organizations now work together to sell the total three-county region to potential new investors.” said Jim Jordan, executive vice president of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce in the inaugural edition of the GLBM.
The Chamber’s Capital Choice program was established within the next year.
MSU and biotechnology
While many Spartans remember 1987 as the year MSU won the Big Ten football championship and went on to win the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1988 (generating millions of dollars from the Rose Bowl Committee and sales income1), the university was “rapidly emerging as a major hub for biotechnology research and industry.”2 In 1987, MSU donated the land for the new Michigan Biotechnology Institute (now MBI International) on Collins Road, and faculty and staff were actively involved at the institute2,3. The September 1987 GLBM featured biotechnology, including both MBI and the Neogen Corporation, which the MSU Foundation had established in 1981 to “encourage university researchers to pursue entrepreneurial interests while maintaining their academic posts,” the article stated.
Lansing Community College
Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, LCC was celebrating its 30th when the magazine started publication.
In the July edition, then President Philip Gannon stated sentiments still heard today. “We seem to be relearning some of those same lessons concerning our need to upgrade our science and math skills….Education should be an integral part of our capital investment; instead the U.S. is becoming less competitive in the world market because we are not competitive in our educational system.”. Gannon also predicted that the “gap between work and education is expected to narrow, as more and more of the workforce participates in learning experiences throughout its lifetime.”
In the first December issue, Michigan Retailers Association President and CEO Larry Meyer (who is now chairman and CEO) said retailers were predicting better Christmas spending that year over 1986. The magazine also did an article on the Toy Village, an old-fashioned toy store in a cottage on West Saginaw Highway, which is still there 20 years later.
Additionally, GLBM highlighted up and coming communities surrounding the Lansing area in its first few issues.
The Charter Township of Delta was only 25 years old then but already growing.
“I’m impressed by the cooperation we get from the township,” then Lansing Mall General Director Kevin Green said in the October 1987 issue. “’I think they’re well prepared for future growth. They’ve looked ahead. “But water and sewer systems had not yet been installed west of I-96, so one prediction was a little premature. “We’ve run out of land for strip retail, so probably we’ve seen the bulk of development there,” stated the planning director at that time.
Meridian Township was already trying to control the balance of both commercial and residential development. From January to August 1987, 164 single-family dwellings, eight commercial developments and 14 condominiums had been built. Central Park Place was soon to be added. “Meridian Township is the hottest spot in Michigan now,” said Jeff Shapiro, then president and now vice president of business development for TMN Builders, Inc., in the August 1987 issue.
Next door, the Haslett Village Square had been expanded and new offices and retail were planned for the corner of Haslett and Marsh roads. Holt was just creating the Delhi Development Department, adding commercial growth to the residential expansion it was already seeing. Grand Ledge had a thriving downtown, and Mason was taking advantage of the state’s Main Street program to enhance its “already healthy retail district.”
East Lansing, as it still does, was juggling the needs of its residents, MSU, and commercial enterprise. Then City Manager Tom Dority said in the August issue that East Lansing was not “anti-development” but set high standards. University Place, which was under construction at MAC Avenue and Albert Street in 1987, was cited as a prime example. Debate was ongoing about whether or not to develop the property just north of Lake Lansing Road.
Within Lansing, Old Town was just starting to come into its own with the first association formed in 1984. “I was running a series of forums which brought together people in the Greater Lansing community, MSU, LCC, and city government,” said Terry Terry, one of the founders and current president of the Old Town Commercial Association. “We did a yearlong visioning process of what could be done in that part of the city.”
Interestingly, in the second issue of the magazine, one company owner noted that “within the next five years, the phone network will be entirely digital.” Another stated, “Voice mail is the most exciting product in the entire market right now.” Also, cellular and fax services were just moving into the mainstream, and cellular phones had been “downsized” to about seven pounds.
The First Six Months
While many of the companies mentioned in the first six months of publication no longer exist (including big names like Motor Wheel and Oldsmobile), The Greater Lansing Business Monthly did rightly claim a renaissance in downtown and the overall community. While there is not yet a people mover, there is a minor league baseball team and The Thomas M. Cooley School of Law was given an Entrepreneurial Award in 2006 for its contributions toward revitalization of downtown. GM is no longer the largest employer, but the Lansing area has two new plants, as well as an influx of suppliers. Both MSU and LCC have expanded their campuses and offerings, and all of the communities cited have continued to grow. After documenting the last two decades of Lansing’s commercial enterprises, The Greater Lansing Business Monthly looks forward to covering what the next 20 years will bring.
1 Reid, Alvin A., “Our Bull Sees Black: Lansing’s Economy Stays Solid,” Lansing State Journal, December 27, 1987
2 “MSU Attracts New Biotech Companies,” The News Bulletin (MSU), Sept. 19, 1985
3 “MBI Sets June 4 Ceremony to Unveil Research Center,” The News Bulletin (MSU), May 26, 1987