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The Ferris Wheel Building’s Grand Opening a Success

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The Ferris Wheel Building held its ribbon cutting and grand opening yesterday, and those in attendance included Chancellor Susan Borrego, Congressman Dan Kildee, and Governor Rick Snyder. The seven story, Art Deco style building has sat vacant for the past 30 years on Flint’s main artery, Saginaw Street, but recently underwent a $7.5 million renovation and is officially open to the public.

The project was funded by Skypoint Ventures, which is the company that owns the building, as well as from contributions from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and Huntington Bank. Roughly 40,000 square feet of usable work space is being restored and will be available to all types of businesses, both established and startups. The building was designed with an urban grunge feel, and has a revolving door as the main entrance.

While the building is still being restored, the first three floors are up and running. The first floor houses 100k Ideas, Foster Coffee, and FlintPrints. The second floor will house the UM-Flint Innovation Center, as well as GearUp 2 Lead, a non-traditional high school. The third floor will house a conference center to be utilized for meetings.

Junior Gabriel Stone, a project manager at 100k Ideas, was the first to speak during the ribbon cutting.

“Originally, I was just coming down here to work over the summer and planned to go to Ferris State University in the fall…I am now proud to say that I am enrolled in the University of Michigan-Flint and am here to stay,” said Stone. “I have had the opportunity to be a part of something so much bigger than I ever expected with the The Ferris Wheel and 100k Ideas.”

100k Ideas is a business incubator inside of the Ferris Wheel Building and occupies the first floor. The Michigan Times was able to speak to Stone after the event, and he offered more insight on the business.

“100k Ideas is a pre-business incubator that will help people looking to start a business find their footing,” said Stone. “100k Ideas is the business and The Ferris Wheel is just the building that houses it. We hope to get 100k to where the business can be portable, and not rely on the building it’s in to succeed.”

David Ollila, president of 100k Ideas, emceed the event.

“It is very purposeful that we have put in a revolving door. People and ideas will come and go, but they need a place where they can be treated with respect and can move their ideas forward,” said Ollila.

“Part of the environment here is that we have seasoned professionals mixed in with startups. More importantly, we mix with innovators are not necessarily entrepreneurs…. This is a place for everyone with a silly idea, it does not have to be a grandiose idea,” said Ollila. “If it makes sense, we will take that idea from napkin to market.”

Ollila turned the microphone over to Phil Hagerman, CEO of Skypoint Ventures and owner of the Ferris Wheel Building. Hagerman shared his excitement by starting with a loud, “whoohoo!” to the crowd.

“We bought this building (the Ferris Building) in 2013 when we bought the Dryden Building (which houses Skypoint Ventures) and we weren’t sure about what we were going to do with them, but we wanted to make an impact, we wanted be a part of the resurgence of Flint,” said Hagerman. “Our goal was to build something complexly unique to the needs of the city of Flint. We’ve got Fortune 500 companies that have already committed to take office space in the upper floors.”

 

The Michigan Times was able to speak to Hagerman after the event, and he explained the importance of student involvement.

“We’ve got the ability here to bring inventors of all different varieties in here. We want this space to be about the differences. We can change the world, but we can’t do it alone, the students are the juice that fuels this place,” said Hagerman.

After Hagerman, Governor Rick Snyder took the stand.

“This is a special day, this is an inflection point,” said Snyder.” If you go back to Grand Rapids, 10 to 15 years ago, it was empty downtown. If you back less than 10 years, look at Detroit. It’s Flints turn,” said Snyder He compared Flint to Detroit, as both cities have undergone social and economic hardship.

“What I can tell you though is it takes hard work. It’s not just for us today, it’s for the next generation, and the generation after that.” Snyder urged the crowd to double down on their commitment to Flint and to keep the long term goal in mind. “You don’t have to wait to be proud, you should be today of what’s going on. It’s not Flint versus any other community, embrace all the rest of Michigan. Figure out how to make it better,” said Snyder.

Congressman Dan Kildee, who represents Michigan’s fifth district, also spoke at the event.

“Some of you know I like old buildings. When I was running the land bank, I was look up everyone I could. what it creates is a way to celebrate our past while pointing us to the future,” said Kildee. The Ferris Wheel fits this criteria. Originally built in 1930 for the Gainey Furniture Co., the building later changed hands to accommodate the Ferris Bros. Fur Company, where it acquired its name.

“This building was built for a different purpose at a different time. Its creating a connection between our past with the future,” said Kildee. He touched on Flint’s entrepreneurial past, and the involvement it had with creating General Motors.

“100 years ago, just a few blocks away from here, a handful of entrepreneurs came together and created something incredible, that put the world on wheels and built the middle class in this country,” said Kildee. He ended his speech talking about Flint’s future and how another great company could stem from the city.

“We don’t know, coming through that revolving door, what will come. Maybe some kid walking in with a notebook in her backpack has the next billion dollar idea that will change the world. This community is and will always be a great place when we believe in ourselves, bet on ourselves, and invest in ourselves,” said Kildee.

Before the event, The Michigan Times was able to speak with Kildee, as well.

“This is all about innovation and creating great ideas, something Flint is based on,” said Kildee. “We don’t know what great idea might land here, but we do know we need to give them a chance.”

As stated previously, UM-Flint will house an innovation hub on the second floor of the Ferris Building, which was previously in the Northbank Center. Chancellor Susan Borrego told the crowd that UM-Flint knew it wanted to be a partner since the beginning.

“We want to expand the opportunities of students and provide them with hands on work,” said Borrego. “Flint played such an important role in the history of the United States, and we should be playing an equally important role in its present and future. When a city gets knocked down, you don’t simply throw it away.” Borrego continued, “This is our home. We’re not just going to school here and moving somewhere else. We live, work, and play here. This is a real moment in the life of the university.”

The Ferris Wheel is open 24/7 to entrepreneurs and community members to utilize the innovation hub. Membership consist of different levels, ranging from $25-$500 monthly. They can be purchased by anyone, including entrepreneurs, business professionals, and freelance artists.

More information about the space can be found on www.ferriswheel.com. Additionally, 100k Ideas is currently looking to hire students with a variety of backgrounds and interests. Resumes can be emailed to [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “The Ferris Wheel Building’s Grand Opening a Success”

  1. Barb Schank on November 7th, 2017 11:01 pm

    Bravo to every one of you! This is a huge accomplishment. You all should be extremely proud. This project is very cool and much needed in that area. Congratulations especially to Gabe Stone, I have known you Dad since he was age 15. Young people like you give us hope for a brighter tomorrow. Continued success!
    My best advice to this group of talented students…Keep doing what you love, and love what you do. Continue making the world a better place.
    Thank You for all the hard work.

    [Reply]

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