East Lansing Business and Investing Guide
Here’s Capital Gains’ look at investing in East Lansing. Also check out our guides to visiting and moving to East Lansing.
The City of East Lansing
has worked hard to create an atmosphere that’s attractive to new businesses, and to the entrepreneurial individuals and families who start and run them.
By constantly remaking the community—updating its parks, revitalizing its many historic neighborhoods, offering educational programs, facilitating cooperation with Michigan State University, and making sure its walkable downtown is rich in spontaneous interactions—the city is attracting small and large businesses alike.
The Trillium Gallery
, started by owner Kalli Halpern, is a good example of what makes East Lansing work for small businesses. Halpern moved from Illinois to East Lansing more than 20 years ago because she was attracted to the intimacy of a smaller city that also offered cultural experiences found in larger cities.
“I read in a trade magazine that East Lansing really is one of the friendliest places people experience,” Halpern says. “It’s true.”
Friendly neighbors drew Halpern to the area, but she invested in the downtown because of its strong artistic flair. Downtown East Lansing has five galleries, including Hankins Gallery
, Mackerel Sky Gallery
, Saper Galleries
and SCENE Metrospace
The City of East Lansing also invests in the art community with an annual art fair, which it’s hosted since 1964. The East Lansing art fair draws artists from all over the world and creates downtown foot traffic for Trillium and other downtown businesses.
MSU students and recent college graduates also gravitate stick to East Lansing when they decide they’re ready to start their own businesses. Retroduck
, a global force in the vintage t-shirt business, was started by Adam Van Lente and Sean Maday when the two were still in college. They now run their enterprise from a second-floor office space at the downtown East Lansing intersection of Abbot and Grand River roads.
Ex-Spartan hockey superstar Ryan Miller and a partner also recently opened a downtown East Lansing shop, bringing high-end fashions to the MSU student crowd. The Refinery
is located at 115 Albert Ave.
The City of East Lansing also recently created an incubator to help meet the needs of a booming high tech industry. Through the incubator, the city is being proactive by creating a consolidated space for new economy businesses.
The city’s efforts are attracting big-dollar businesses as well as small start-ups, and East Lansing is coming into its own as a big center for the financial sector.
Michigan State University Federal Credit Union
, which is the largest university-based credit union in the country, is now constructing a $22 million headquarters on the city’s north side. The credit union’s new development is on the edge of East Lansing’s growing “financial corridor.” The corridor, which actually forms more of an uneven circle, includes important institutions such as Summit Bank
, Independent Bank
, Mercantile Bank
, Citizens Bank
and Fifth Third Bank
In 2004, Summit opened its own new headquarters on Abbot Road, anticipating a surge in its customer base as well as its $68 million assets. It’s since opened a branch in Okemos, added employees and seen profits grow.
Summit president and chief operating officer John Abbott says the company originally opened in East Lansing because the majority of its shareholders were based in the East Lansing area. However, a strong community, loyal customers and support from the City of East Lansing prompted them to build their new headquarters in the area.
“It’s been everything we had hoped for,” Abbott says about the expansion. “The community has been very supportive of us. They’ve brought their business to us and we feel very comfortable here.”Community attractions
Abbott says his bank wouldn’t be in the city if it weren’t an attractive place for business or his employees.
“I don’t think we have to sell it too hard,” Abbott says about East Lansing. “East Lansing has a great reputation.” East Lansing’s schools, parks, downtown and other amenities make the area very attractive to his employees and their families.
Though East Lansing has a fairly thick resume of expanding financial institutions, there’s still more to come. City manager Ted Staton says brokerage house Smith and Barney will expand its local office and move into East Lansing’s financial corridor next year.
Staton says it all moves together. “We make development convenient for the financial institutions and the construction companies,” Staton says. “I think there begins to be a bit of momentum once the entity decides to locate in one place. Others start to see that and think, ‘maybe we could be there, too.’”
Banks know a bit about investing, but so do developers, and they’re lining up projects in East Lansing that will ensure a constant supply of residents, clients and shoppers far into the future.
In fact, in the last several years, East Lansing has ignored the winter weather and extended its construction season, putting up buildings in the fall and winter as well as the spring and summer.
This year’s winter projects total $40.5 million for three different mixed use properties, including the West Village project ($15 million), the Avondale Square project ($11.5 million) and the Stonehouse projects ($14 million). All three of these projects are adding upscale lofts, condos and homes to East Lansing’s downtown.
When financial institutions and businesses are growing, they need high quality restaurants and entertainment venues to woo investors and clients. The area is rich in such establishments, and big-city style cultural attractions like the Wharton Center and a recently announced art museum expansion.
Food-wise, the All Seasons Bistro
is an unassuming, upscale restaurant that’s located off of Lake Lansing Road in the middle of East Lansing’s financial district. The All Seasons Bistro is a great place for a business lunch or dinner. Financiers who want to get away from dividends for an hour can also head downtown to Hershey’s Steak and Seafood
In business, there’s also always room for golf. Golf Digest
rated East Lansing’s Eagle Eye Golf Course the fifth-best new course in the country in 2005, and fourth-best new course in 2006.
Giving business executives viable food and entertainment options is just a portion of the package that comes with doing business in East Lansing.
The City of East Lansing has also made area attractive to its residents, a great selling point for any company hoping to relocate or attract new employees.
Ivy Hughes is the Development Editor for Capital Gains and can be reached here.
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
Retroduck owner Adam Van Lente
MSU Federal Credit Union office rendering
West Village project
East Lansing’s Eagle Eye Golf Course
All Photographs © Dave Trumpie