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News & Press: FOCUS

Celebrating Regional Transformation

Thursday, November 1, 2018  
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Since the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce initiated its annual Celebration of Regional Growth Awards (CORG) in 2006, more than five dozen organizations have been recognized for their investments totaling a combined $2.5 billion. CORG honorees have been the leaders in an ongoing transformation of the Greater Lansing region.

Four more organizations will be honored at this year’s CORG awards, which are being held on Thursday, November 15, from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at the Michigan State University Kellogg Center.

This year’s CORG honorees include: Application Specialist Kompany (ASK), Auto-Owners Insurance Company, Cinnaire and Harbor Bay Real Estate Company. All four organizations are recognized for investments that are making a transformational impact in the community.

ASK CELEBRATES 25 YEARS OF BUSINESS WITH NEW REO TOWN HEADQUARTERS

What started as mid-Michigan’s premier IBM mainframe computing business, Application Specialist Kompany (ASK) has grown into a leading provider of technology and cybersecurity solutions. ASK started in 1993 with only three team members and now has a staff of 45. ASK is being recognized as a CORG recipient for their decision to acquire and renovate the former Moores Park Elementary at 316 Moores River Drive as its new company headquarters.

“We knew that as our business continued to grow we’d need to find a larger office space,” said Mike Maddox, president of ASK. “We wanted to find our forever home, where we would have more than enough space for our growing team.”

With an investment of over one million dollars, ASK began renovations in May 2018 and moved its staff into the building at the end of October. With more than 30,000-square-feet of office space overlooking the Grand River and Moores Park, the building offered exactly what the ASK team was looking for; solid construction, on the river trail, opportunities for staff to go biking, kayaking and walking and a gymnasium.

“Those kinds of amenities you just can’t find,” said Maddox. “It is a perfect fit.”

ASK is a statewide company that has always had a commitment to Greater Lansing and sees this move to REO Town as a way to give back to the community.

"Lansing has been incredibly loyal to us and has helped us build our business,” said Maddox. “We have seen new development and businesses come to REO Town and we want to continue to see the area thrive.”

ASK, its sister company, Elevate Marketing Co., and business partner AOS will occupy the main floor of the renovated building. The ground floor will include an expansive break room with a full kitchen, food dispensers and seating overlooking the park. When the renovations are complete, there will be an additional 12-15,000-square feet available for future growth and for community use. Maddox has been thrilled with the reception the Moores Park neighborhood has demonstrated.

“The Moores Park community has been fantastic,” said Maddox. “It is great to be part of the continued revival of this great, old neighborhood.”

AUTO-OWNERS EXPANDS ITS FOOTPRINT IN GREATER LANSING

Though Auto-Owners continues to grow nationally, the company remains steadfast in its commitment to its home in Greater Lansing. Auto-Owners is being honored at CORG for its development of 31,000 square-feet of a former Lansing State Journal printing plant on Ena Drive in Delta Township, which the company has turned into a new training center. The training center includes a two-story residential structure and commercial storefronts that are used for hands-on home and commercial building training for claim representatives and underwriters.

Previously, we sent new claims representative to out-of-state training facilities, which is not as convenient and costlier,” said Auto-Owners Chairman and CEO, Jeff Tagsold. “The new training center is a way to get hands-on and eyeball training right here in the region. Our trainers and trainees all feel it has greatly improved the quality of the training.”

Auto-Owners also recently announced a $105.3 million, 250,000 square-foot expansion of its Delta Township headquarters The project includes a three-story building on about 140 acres the company owns along South Creyts Road near I-496. The expansion will house up to 900 employees, to go along with the more than 2,500 currently in the Lansing area.

“Based on our current rate of growth, this expansion will give us space to last for eight or nine years,” said Tagsold.

The latest expansion comes just a few years after Auto-Owners constructed a four story addition and a 12,000 square-foot dining center at its main campus. The company also refurbished the former Michigan Hospital Association and Blue Cross Blue Shield buildings and constructed a new data center.

Lansing has been the home of Auto-Owners for over 100 years,” said Tagsold. “Our ability to attract and retain high quality, hard-working people that love being here in mid-Michigan is quite high. We’ve never had a reason to consider anywhere else.”

Auto-Owners now writes insurance in 30 states and it is the largest property and casualty insurance company headquartered in Michigan. The company has more than 5,200 employees nationwide, more than 2,500 of which are located in Greater Lansing. Auto-Owners is approaching $8 billion in revenue and was listed at No. 375 on the annual Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations. The growth pattern is expected to continue into the foreseeable future, which should mean good news for the Greater Lansing region.

CINNAIRE: CHANGING LIVES AND TRANSFORMING NEIGHBORHOODS

In 1993, Cinnaire’s founder and CEO, Mark McDaniel, launched a tax credit fund to support much needed affordable housing in Michigan. Twenty-five years later Cinnaire has expanded to more than 100 team members with six offices and programs in ten states. Since its founding, Cinnaire has provided $3.9 billion in total investments, which have provided over 47,000 affordable apartments in the communities it serves and created and/or retained 65,000 jobs.

As the company grew and developed a need for a new headquarters, McDaniel resisted suggestions the company locate in the suburbs, choosing instead to locate in Lansing’s REO Town neighborhood.

“If our mission is to transform communities and go where no one else wants to go, what does it say if we go to some suburban office park,” said McDaniel. “We focused on staying in Lansing. REO Town was an ignored neighborhood at the time with a lot of disinvestment, crime, prostitutes, drugs, and low home values. It was the perfect place for us to grow our business contributing to healthy communities.”

Among the local projects that Cinnaire has been key in the redevelopment of is The School for the Blind, which had been sitting vacant on Lansing’s north side for over 30 years.

“We have a special place in our hearts for Lansing. The School of the Blind site has been a blight on the north side for years. We believed there was an opportunity to redevelop the site and supported a proposal by the Lansing Housing Commission (LHC) to redevelop the administration building for affordable senior housing,” McDaniel said.

When the permanent funding source for the project fell through and the property faced foreclosure, Cinnaire stepped in and took ownership providing $12.85 million in equity investment and mortgage lending so that the renovation could proceed. The site will have 60 units of elderly housing. Similarly,on the School for the Blind campus Cinnaire made possible another affordable housing development by providing $9.7 million of financing for the nearby Walnut Park project which will provide affordable housing for 72 families.

“After many fits and starts we made it possible for a developer to start the transformation. This is the kind of work we do every day. We go where no one wants to go and transform communities. It’s the Why or purpose of Cinnaire - We believe that all people deserve the opportunities provided by living in a healthy community.”

HARBOR BAY REAL ESTATE COMPANY RESHAPING DOWNTOWN EAST LANSING

Located near the historic intersection of M.A.C Avenue and Albert Avenue in the heart of Downtown East Lansing, Center City District (Center City) is transforming East Lansing’s skyline and redefining what it means to live in Downtown East Lansing. Harbor Real Estate Advisors, a premier real estate development firm headquartered in Northbrook, Illinois, is currently constructing a $125 million multi-generational, mixed-use development that includes the Landmark on Grand River, Newman Lofts, Target, Public Parking, and 24,000 SF of retail along Albert Avenue. Harbor Bay President Mark Bell says the project is being built on pride.

By simultaneously constructing the 12-story Landmark on Grand River and 10-Story Newman Lofts Buildings, together with the support of the City of East Lansing Mayor, East Lansing City Council, State of Michigan, LEAP, Labor, and Lansing Chamber of Commerce, we collectively overcame the doubt that these types of developments can happen right here,” said Bell. “I always believed that Center City would be a key part of something much more, a catalyst and springboard for current and future economic development.”

The ground floor of the Landmark on Grand River will feature a Target store which will offer its traditional assortment of daily needs and dry good plus affordable and fresh food. Floors 2-12 will offer 273 residential units designed for Michigan State University undergraduate and graduate students, as well as young professionals. The first floor of the Newman Lofts building will feature a blend of local, regional and national retailers. Floors 2-5 will include 620 public parking spaces. Floors 6-10 provides 91 residential units designed with a robust amenity package for energetic, active adults over 55 years of age or older.

“Newman Lofts is being built for the Active Adult who wants the treasures of Michigan State University and Downtown East Lansing right outside their front door,” said Bell. “With one quick elevator ride down, residents will leave their residential oasis and become part of the urban fabric of East Lansing and Michigan State University. Add world-class amenities and Newman Lofts will be the new standard in active adult housing.”

Bell is grateful for the bond and partnership that has been created with the City of East Lansing, which he calls a true public-private partnership. “Harbor Bay doesn’t complete these types of development by ourselves. These developments are built with the support of the community and labor,” said Bell.

The City of East Lansing, through numerous community meetings, design charrettes, and conversations, embraced Harbor Bay as the community steward of its former city-owned surface parking lot,” said Bell. “We have embraced this stewardship and our partnership with the City of East Lansing.”

Click here to download the November edition of FOCUS.


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