TRAVERSE CITY — By Kathy Gibbons
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network want to insure the vitality of Michigan's downtowns.
To prove the point, the company relocated its area sales and service center and roughly 30 employees to downtown Traverse City. It's the same strategy the insurer has used in other Michigan cities including Detroit, where 3,000 suburban workers were moved downtown, and in Lansing and Grand Rapids.
"We believe in core city strategies: get your employees downtown to help revitalize the urban core," said Jeff Connolly, Blue Cross vice president and president of West Michigan Operations and Managed Care. "By doing so, you attract better talent and improve the economy."
Blue Cross previously operated from a facility it owned at 1769 S. Garfield, but leased about 10,000-square feet on one-and-a-half floors in the City Centre Plaza building at 202 E. State. The space had been vacant since Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge attorneys moved out in late 2010 to take up residence in the new 101 North Park Building on Front Street, said Bryan Crough, executive director of the Traverse City Downtown Development Authority.
"We're thrilled to see the building fully occupied, and of course, a large employer like that is great," said Crough. "It's exactly the kind of thing we needed to go in that building."
The insurer's customer service center is located on half of the first floor to make it easily accessible, said Traverse City Regional Sales Manager Frank W. Smith. Blue Cross in Traverse City sees between 400 and 500 walk-in clients a month, most of them senior citizens who have limited use of or access to the Internet.
"There's parking for our customers without having to fill meters or go to the parking deck, behind the building," Smith said. "We've designated seven spots for customers."
Blue Cross also occupies the entire second floor. In addition to the traverse city staff, several other employes will be scattered around the north.
Blue Cross signaled its commitment to maintain a northern Michigan office by signing a long-term lease, Connolly said.
"It's a great opportunity for us to support the local economy and a message that we are here to stay," Connolly said.
Crough said Blue Cross' move downtown reflects a growing trend nationwide.
"People are realizing that having employees who can interact all day long with customers and shop or eat without moving their cars is a big deal," Crough said. "I think the office parks are suffering.
"Fortunately, we didn't have much of that in this region. But the idea of isolating office workers nationwide is really waning."
Neighboring Cherry Capital Cadillac Subaru purchased the Blue Cross property, said General Manager Mike McFarlan.
"We bought it so we could exercise any options we may want for future growth," he said. "We're still up in the air as to what to do with (the building). We want to decide whether to move it, use it or tear it down."
Move signals commitment to downtown, maintaining local presence
TRAVERSE CITY — By Kathy Gibbons
UPDATE: Northwestern, Chemical banks merge
The Grand Traverse region’s burgeoning economy sparked the proposed merger of Northwestern and Chemical banks in a deal that will cause layoffs.Continued ...
Northwestern Bank reaches sale agreement
TRAVERSE CITY - Northwestern Bank will be purchased by Midland-based Chemical Bank for $120 million cash, the financial institutions said.Continued ...
Quartet crosses ice to N. Manitou
A moment of pure terror surged through Tom Bisbee when the ice cracked beneath his feet. The cold came next as he plunged into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan nearly 1.5 miles from the nearest piece of dry land.Continued ...
Hearing planned for Garfield theater complex
The public will have a chance to comment on one of the area’s largest post-recession development projects.Continued ...
3 injured in separate crashes
A Mayfield man remains hospitalized after a snowmobile crashed into a shore station at a frozen southern Michigan lake.Continued ...
Kingsley oil well erupts in flames
A mechanical problem likely sparked a spectacular eruption of flames from an oil and natural gas well near Kingsley, a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality official said.Continued ...
Attic fire damages East Bay Township home
A fire destroyed most of an East Bay Township home’s roof before firefighters extinguished the blaze.Continued ...
Rec authority seeks facility manager
The joint recreational authority of Traverse City and Garfield Township won’t wait for a $650,000 makeover of the Cathedra Barn to start planning events.Continued ...
- Monday, March 10, 2014
Sheriff: GPS led Canadian duo astray
A craving for milkshakes and faulty GPS directions turned a young Canadian duo's late night quest to find a McDonald's restaurant into an overnight misadventure along a Kalkaska back road.Continued ...
Inuit art collectors make the trip
To say Ann Conway loves Inuit art is an understatement. Every available space in her Traverse area townhouse is covered with intricately carved figurines.Continued ...
Winner dedicated to social work, ed.
This year's recipient of the Sara Hardy Humanitarian Award was so shocked to be selected by the Traverse City Human Rights Commission that she called back the chairwoman two days later to make sure she'd correctly heard the news.Continued ...
Frat takes to road for MS
Quentin Callahan slumped in the corner of a booth at Mackinac Brewing, eyes closed, hood over his head.Continued ...
- Sunday, March 9, 2014
Zoning question to delay decision
A decision whether to use a city-owned warehouse for an emergency homeless shelter likely will extend into summer as city planners devise a new zoning ordinance.Continued ...
Heroin floods court docket
Another day, another heroin case. Illegal drugs inundated Grand Traverse County’s court docket last week.Continued ...
Taxes paid, code violations still remain
A downstate bank paid Sugar Loaf Resort’s outstanding taxes, but whomever owns the property needs to address a slew of building code violations before any major changes can occur at the long-shuttered Leelanau County winter retreat.Continued ...
Judge sides with township in Kasson gravel case
A local judge ruled against a landowner who challenged Kasson Township zoning rules because she wanted to mine gravel on her Leelanau County property.Continued ...
Low-income housing project lost
A development group lost control of 15 acres on the city’s west side, and along with it their proposal to develop 102 low-income, work-force housing apartments.Continued ...
- Saturday, March 8, 2014
How to finance history?
Talks continue between a host of local nonprofit officials who could overlap their organizations for history’s sake.Continued ...
Parking-space dining latest twist for downtown TC
The opportunity to dine in a street-side parking space could become the latest epicurean delight — or potential nightmare, in one official’s mind — to arrive in downtown Traverse City.Continued ...
'Good Samaritan' injured in wreck needs help
They called Scott Peterson “Good Samaritan” after the late January car wreck that nearly killed him. But friends and family said Peterson, a man who would “give a stranger the shirt off his back” needs some payback for a lifetime of good deeds.Continued ...
Union pact on TCAPS agenda
Traverse City Area Public Schools board members will consider a contract with the Food Service Employees Association, the purchase of 11 new school buses and employee layoffs, resignations and retirements at their meeting Monday night.Continued ...
Nominate an outstanding educator
Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District wants to hear from the community about area educators who have made a difference.Continued ...
Two arrested in drug bust
Traverse Narcotics Team officers arrested a Detroit man and woman after a months-long drug probe.Continued ...
- Friday, March 7, 2014
Benzonia woman accused of prescription fraud
A Benzonia woman faces a felony charge after authorities said she fraudulently obtained hundreds of prescription pills.Continued ...
Dispatch: Smart911 worth the price
An online service that gives Grand Traverse County 911 responders potentially vital information about callers cost taxpayers almost $19 per call in its first half-year of operation.Continued ...
- UPDATE: Northwestern, Chemical banks merge