Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Formula for growth shared

Grand Action co-chairman John Canepa revealed the secrets to his group's success in getting Van Andel Arena and DeVos Place built this morning at the University of Michigan Urban Land Institute Real Estate Forum being held in Grand Rapids for the very first time in the event's 22-year history. And Canepa, a retired banking executive, disclosed those secrets in a very nice and neat order, which makes it relatively easy for other organizations to follow. "We do our homework on the front end of a project," he said.

Homework includes:
  1. Paying visits to similar facilities. Checking out those that make money and those that don't.
  2. Bring in a consultant(s) to conduct a feasibility study and an economic model.
  3. Create a fund-raising team.
  4. Move ahead and secure a lead gift. Canepa said this was a very important step to take as "a lead gift allows us to fund those activities," meaning the biggest giver tends to convince other to also donate.
  5. Establish a building committee.
  6. Start the fund-raising campaign with one-on-one visits to key individuals. "Eighty percent of the philanthropy comes from 20 percent of the donors," he said.
  7. Meet with public officials at the state, county and city levels.
  8. Hire an architect.
  9. Select an operations group. For the arena and convention center that turned out to be the Convention and Arena Authority, which was chartered by the state.
  10. Speak with related groups. For the arena, it was potential tenants like the sports teams and concert promoters. For the convention center, it would be the Convention and Visitors Bureau, hotel owners, show producers.
  11. Have the architect hold public workshops to showcase and explain the project. Canepa said getting community consensus for a project was vital because you can take that public support to local governments when you ask for public dollars. When Grand Action was trying to gets funds from the state for the convention center, Canepa said they asked then-Gov. John Engler for $80 million. Engler offered $45 million. Canepa said he and his co-chairmen, Dick DeVos and David Frey, got up to leave the governor's office and said,” Looks like we won't have a convention center. He then gave us $65 million. We were persistent in that case."
Canepa said the arena, convention center, the Civic Theater and the Michigan State University College of Human medicine, four downtown projects that Grand Action has been involved with, are worth $393 million in combined investment. Using the multiplier effect, Canepa said those projects have help catapult $2.7 billion in new investments downtown over the past dozen years.

—David Czurak

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