FLINT, MI – Ideas on how to push Flint’s economy into the future are taking shape within walls of a nearly 100-year-old building in the city’s downtown area.
Among those looking to aid in the effort are 39 new businesses set to fill up office space in the seven-floor Ferris Wheel building, which reopened in November 2017 after being closed for nearly three decades.
New businesses moving into the building include The Yoga Loft, Choice Office Products, furniture dealer MarxModa, NorthGate, Pop Mod Photography, Caudill Thornquist Group and State Bank.
Officials didn’t disclose how many jobs the new tenants will bring with them, though most of the additions could be considered small businesses.
“The heart and soul of the building is to be a business ecosystem,” said Phil Hagerman, founder and chief executive officer of Skypoint Ventures that led the push to renovate the building near the corner of Second and Saginaw streets.
Sitting in a conference room on the third floor of the building alongside Heather Kale, general manager of the Ferris Wheel building, and David Ollila, Skypoint’s president and chief innovation officer, Hagerman said the building does not work like a traditional business space.
“We are not that worried about keeping them here,” he said. “We will be somewhat transient for some companies. We want them here until they outgrow us.”
Offers have come in for businesses looking to fill up a half-floor in the buildings and have 30 employees working in the space.
“We are telling them, right now, we’re not your guy,” said Hagerman. “On half a floor, I can bring 15 entrepreneurs in.”
Ollila noted some businesses are using the facility to expand their operations, such as Foster Coffee Company, while others may utilize the non-profit 100K Ideas anchored on the first floor to share ideas and connect with local resources to get projects off the ground.
Flint resident Kiara Tyler admitted to having changed part of her thought process as she partook in some of the available resources.
The 25-year-old aspiring fashion mogul had been selling her Kalm Clothing line from her apartment and the back of her car for more than three years.
“After moving into the Ferris Wheel, they got me to shift my focus on the actual back end of the business because I didn’t care about that before. I just wanted to make clothes and that’s it,” she said. “They educated me a lot about that. It’s just quiet up here. It’s an easy space to work in.”