Grand Rapids firm content with picking Detroit over Chicago for expansion

Posted on March 11, 2013

DETROIT, MI – In 2011, Mindscape was growing at a fast enough clip that it could expand outside of West Michigan. Pete Brand, the web marketing company’s co-founder, wanted to go to Detroit.

“A lot of people were asking, ‘Why don’t you go to Chicago or something like that?’” Brand said. “When it came down to it, we love the state of Michigan.

Brand said all too often cities in Michigan such as Grand Rapids and Detroit can behave as though they are their own states, rather than realizing they’re all part of the Pleasant Peninsula. He said that when the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce started working more with the Detroit Regional Chamber it helped bridge the gap between the two cities. The Detroit Regional Chamber put him touch with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, which helped him find an office.

Brand officially opened Mindscape’s Detroit office in Harmonie Park in May 2012. He had been looking at spaces in the city since 2011.
“You could hear the energy coming from Detroit, even in 2011,” he said. “We wanted to move over before everyone else did.”

Since then, the change in downtown Detroit has been stark, he said.

“We had a quite a few conversations about how few people were walking around downtown,” Brand said of 2011, noting it was a departure from a smaller but seemingly more busy inner Grand Rapids. “Then you look at where we are now and there are people all over downtown.”

Brand started Mindscape in Muskegon in 2001 but was “basically working from home in Grand Rapids.” Most of his clients were initially from out of state, but he gradually began to pick up more local customers. In 2007, he opened an office in Grand Rapids to accommodate the local growth.

Within a year and a half, Hanon McKendry, the largest advertising firm in West Michigan, purchased a minority share in the company. Since then, Mindscape has grown its staff from 12 to 32 employees. Last year, it was no. 2,075 on Inc. 5000’s list of The Country’s Fastest Growing Companies.

In Detroit, Brand had been keeping time at the Harmonie Park office part of each week with a vice president of the company, but recently he hired a full-time business developer there. In the coming months, the firm will be adding more staff here, he said.

“The way that we rolled out in Detroit is very similar to what we did in Grand Rapids,” Brand said. “We didn’t have to get a physical location, because there’s no need – were a digital company. But we want to be a part of the community.”

David Muller, MLive.