A special Planning Commission meeting convened tonight to consider scheduling a public hearing about an application for special use permit for an upholstered furniture manufacturing business at 500 U.S. 31 south, also known as the old Super Tool building.
Northern Lakes Economic Alliance (NLEA) Director Tom Erhart spoke on behalf of Dennis Valkanoff, founder of 45th Parallel Furniture Company, who wants to manufacture upholstered furniture in Elk Rapids. Valkanoff is in North Carolina on business and could not attend the meeting.
Erhart stated that this proposed new business has several funding sources. One of interest is a a loan from the Grand Traverse Revolving Loan Fund, Michigan Economic Development Council, which granted this first-ever loan outside of Grand Traverse County. Plans call for 10 to 12 employees to work at 45th Parallel with significant potential for growth.
This business venture is part of a regional collaborative effort that includes Ed Hammer, Wooden Hammer as well as Mark Toteff, Traverse Bay Manufacturing. Hammer provides wooden frames and Toteff supplies upholstered parts, then Valkanoff adds fabric and other parts and assembles the furniture.
The unusual nature of the furniture business cycle drives the urgency of the application. The furniture buying process occurs each spring, so planning and ordering must take place now with production starting in May.
Mark Toteff spoke next. His company will provide the cut and sew kits for 45th Parallel, which previously came from China. Six months ago, Valkanoff expressed renewed interest in local manufacturing and approached Toteff, who stated that this new business would allow him to retain or re-employ five to seven workers plus hire three or four more.
Ed Hammer spoke last. He asked “Why now?” then answered that now is a key time to do manufacturing regionally in the United States.
Hammer stated that there is a tentative agreement for 45th Parallel to purchase the building.
He also mentioned that Valkanoff, a long-time professional in the furniture business, already has the relationships with buyers and distributors that is vital for success.
A site plan has been submitted to the Planning Commission, a portion of which is show below.
During questioning, Toteff stated that he has a business connection with the Super Tool building and that both Hammer and he might become principals in the 45th Parallel business in the future. If the Super Tool building is not ready for use in May, either or both of the other businesses might be used for final assembly.
Because of our scenic location, part of this unique business plan envisions inviting furniture business personnel to this area for a tour and local entertainment, further helping the local economy.
Elk Rapids Economic Development Director Lindy Bishop spoke at the close of the meeting about the importance of regional, multi-dimensional, interdependent clusters of businesses. She calls it 3D Market Development. And we have it here, in beautiful and innovative Elk Rapids.
The Planning Commission scheduled a required public hearing for April 26. Zoning Administrator Steve Ravezzani will check to see if it is possible to meet legally on April 19 instead, to expedite the approval process.