Trezise: Momentum is building; future is bright

This article was originally published in the Lansing State Journal

After a good 2016 for economic development in our region, activity seems to have dramatically picked up for 2017-18.

Between many LEAP projects and some that are not LEAP projects — counting projects that have been announced and numerous ones that have yet to be announced and finalized — there could be somewhere in the range of $1.5 billion in new construction activity this time next year. One person who is familiar with statewide construction activity and has a long history with Lansing speculates the Lansing area could experience a “historic level” of construction over the next two years and finally “begin participating” nearer to the current construction levels of the Detroit and Grand Rapids areas.

According to a recent LEAP member survey, our members, both private and public sectors, have strong confidence levels in the future of the country’s economic development efforts (concern exists for current), less confidence in the state both now and in the future, but reserve their highest levels of confidence for our Global Lansing region now and in the future.

There’s good reason.

Sparrow’s incredible Herbert-Herman Cancer Center, set to open this summer on Michigan Avenue, is magnificent on the outside and innovative on the inside. The SkyVue building on Michigan Avenue is shaping into a beautiful “Columbus-like” structure.

Scott Gillespie’s The Venue at East Town on Michigan Avenue is taking shape. Forsberg’s Okemos Pointe project soon begins construction in Meridian Township.

Spartan Motors just completed its expansion in Charlotte. Gestamp in Mason begins its expansion soon. MSU’s world class $760 million F-RIB continues its construction and its F-PIC (agriculture accelerator) recently held its ground breaking ceremony. Pat Gillespie’s Phase II Market Place project is under way on the downtown riverfront. Kris Elliott is completing the Arcadia Ales building on Michigan Avenue.

Hopefully, both the Park District and Center City projects will be a go in downtown East Lansing, dramatically improving its downtown. Red Cedar Renaissance is truly on the cusp of finally moving forward along with many other unannounced projects in the pipeline.

Importantly, many of these projects are big, skyline changes.

But there is more good news for us all.

For the fourth year in a row, the city of Lansing has added residents, with more than 1,000 new residents choosing Lansing as a home in 2016, double the number from 2015. This, after decades of population decline. And the whole region continues population growth.

Hotel occupancy is at historic levels. And this, while the region has been adding many new hotels.

Recently, the region was named No. 4 in the Midwest for most attractive places for college graduates to live and work, due to affordable living costs and rising high wages.

The entrepreneurial ecosystem continues to evolve.

In 2016, Global Lansing finished second in the state for new high-tech business formations and No. 1 for LEAP’s work with Business Accelerator Funds.

A year ago, the region had no equity investment funds. Now it has two, including one created by LEAP, the other by the MSU Foundation.

All of these projects are far from easy, and everything still seems to be a mighty struggle.

But it’s maybe a tipping point for a new Global Lansing.

Bob Trezise is president and CEO of Lansing Area Economic Partnership.

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