GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When one of Luciano Hernandez's mentors suggested he needed to take some risks, his employees convinced him that meant expanding his 11-year-old Zeeland business into Grand Rapids.
Tiger Studio, an industrial design studio, now has a small storefront suite in 38 Commerce Ave. SW, a stylish mixed-use building in downtown Grand Rapids.
With the Medical Mile and GRid70 design hub a short walk away, the location couldn't be better for the growing firm to raise its West Michigan profile.
"We don't know who else is around the corner," said Hernandez, company president and owner. "We are going to find out."
Businesses and new development are magnets for more business and new development, said Jay Fowler, executive director of the city's downtown development authority. The catalyst for development into Heartside District was the Van Andel Arena in 1996.
"It really expanded the downtown south of Fulton," Fowler said.
Hernandez also likes being in the Heartside District, where some of the city's homeless shelters are located.
"We want to be part of the neighborhood and give back," said Hernandez, a former Holland city councilman and Ottawa County commissioner who made an unsuccessful run for state representative before he started Tiger Studio.
He believes he can do more for the community as a business owner than he could as an elected leader.
"We are about using our ideas and creative design process to create jobs, serve our clients, invest in our community and contribute to a successful business environment," said Hernandez.
The entrepreneur is chairman of the board of the economic development agency Lakeshore Advantage and serves on the board of the business training company New North Center for Innovation and Applied Design.
HIs company signed a two-year lease for Grand Rapids studio-size space, and the center is filled with little more than a long Steelcase table and chairs.
While most of the company's work will be done at its office at 201 W. Washington St. in Zeeland, the Grand Rapids space will be used for meetings and conferences with clients. At least one employee on the 15-person staff will work out of the satellite office. There's lots of interest because several of his employees live in Grand Rapids, he said.
"A lot of our clients are in Grand Rapids, too," said Hernandez.
The company's growing list of clients includes Knape & Vogt, Spectrum Health, Priority Health and Brillcast.
Tiger Studio is finding success tapping into the pent-up demand for new products.
"For a long time between 2007 and 2009, there was virtually zero product development and innovation," Hernandez said.
With companies spending more on research and design, Tiger Studio provides support from concept development to product design along with graphic and website design.
This year, the company has added a new division, Tiger Lab, specializing in commercialization and bringing new and innovative products to market.
Hernandez said he expects to add two to three employees this year.
Information from: The Grand Rapids Press, http://www.mlive.com/grand-rapids