Great news for downtown, it's attracting small and midsize companies like these that are so key to reviving the office market.
Suburban firms to move in downtown
Compuware, Ilitch welcome neighbors to Campus Martius
September 12, 2007
BY TOM WALSH
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
In a boost for downtown Detroit, two growing suburb-based companies are planning to move their headquarters and more than 100 employees each into the new 10-story One Kennedy Square office building at Campus Martius.
Marketing Associates LLC of Bloomfield Township, whose majority owner is Edsel Ford II, and Health Plan of Michigan, the state's third-largest Medicaid HMO, each will occupy two floors of the lime green tinted-glass building. By the end of this year when the moves are expected to be complete, the building's office space will be fully leased.
A news briefing is planned for Thursday to announce details of the Marketing Associates move, which is expected to take place in the last week of October. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Edsel Ford and Mark Petroff, president and CEO of the 140-person firm, are expected to attend.
Dr. David Cotton, president and CEO of Health Plan of Michigan, told me Tuesday that he expects to move his 110 employees from Southfield to their Detroit offices by Dec. 20.
Two ground-floor retail spots, on either side of the building's entrance, have yet to be leased, although developers are said to be close to a deal with a high-end restaurant for one.
When construction began in April 2005 on the office tower across Campus Martius Park from the Compuware Corp. headquarters, automotive supplier Visteon Corp. was slated to be the building's primary tenant. It had planned to put its contract information technology workers there. But as Visteon's financial problems mounted, the firm decided to sublet its space in the building.
Accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young now occupies the top three floors, while construction firm Walbridge Aldinger moved its headquarters staff into the second and third floors in July. Marketing Associates will occupy floors four and five, and Health Plan of Michigan will move into the sixth and seventh floors.
Petroff is full of praise for his soon-to-be neighbors, especially Compuware CEO Peter Karmanos Jr. and Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, the umbrella firm for Little Caesars Pizza, the Fox Theatre, and Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings sports teams owned by the Ilitch family.
Compuware has offered Marketing Associates workers access to the fitness center and child care facilities in Compuware's building. And on July 20, Petroff said, Chris Ilitch provided 300 tickets to a Tigers game for the company's workers and family members. Compuware hosted a reception for them before the game.
When Petroff first told his employees about the decision to move to Detroit, he said "it went over like a lead balloon among some of our people, especially the ones with long commutes from northern Oakland County." But the outreach and support from other downtown businesses "created a real shift in attitude," he said.
"It's a real community taking shape down here. We'll be part of the new creative corridor,"
said Petroff, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who was a nuclear submarine officer before he earned his MBA from the University of Michigan.
Marketing Associates, until recently, was primarily focused on helping automotive companies with direct-mail and other traditional marketing campaigns. But after an investor group led by Edsel Ford bought the company out of bankruptcy from Lason Inc., the firm expanded into a range of interactive marketing services, ranging from e-mail blasts to archiving digital video assets and helping manage online contests and rewards programs.
Petroff, who joined the firm in early 2006, said he expects the staff to grow to 225 people by 2010.
Cotton, former chief of obstetrics and gynecology at the Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University, formed Health Plan of Michigan by buying and merging several managed care plans in the late 1990s.
The company has been growing at a rate of 31% annually since 2000, he said.
He, too, was full of praise for Compuware's good-neighbor efforts. "They took time to walk our people all through their building and answer questions about working downtown."
Petroff said he looked at other locations in Southfield and Troy for Marketing Associates but decided that moving downtown fit the rapidly changing nature of his business.
Even though office space was plentiful and lease rates attractive in the suburbs, Petroff said the new office tower's location in a Renaissance Zone provided a tax abatement that helped offset the costs of parking and the City of Detroit income tax. Marketing Associates is paying for parking and giving employees a raise to cover the tax bite, he said.
"One Kennedy Square is now filled to capacity, which is further proof that the business community has confidence in our ongoing efforts," Kilpatrick said of the firms.
Detroit development officials, with help from Karmanos, Ilitch and downtown business leaders, are still trying to persuade Livonia-based Quicken Loans and Rock Financial, along with other companies, to move into the city.
Contact TOM WALSH at 313-223-4430 or firstname.lastname@example.org