Renovation and innovation combine to bring 39 businesses to iconic downtown Flint building

FLINT, MI – It wasn’t a difficult decision. As Greg Ballard and Julie Cauley moved into their new satellite office space inside the Ferris Wheel building, they said this move was inspired by a want to be a part of the growth in downtown Flint—and it just made business sense.

Choice Office Products, where Ballard is company president and Cauley is a sales representative, is one of about 40 businesses that moved into the Ferris Wheel, a newly renovated building in downtown Flint that dates back nearly a century. Here, Choice Office Products finds a convenient central location, close proximity to existing clients (some even in the building), and an opportunity to keep business local.

“There’s just great things happening down here (downtown Flint),” says Ballard.

“It puts us in business with other names and faces that are here. We want to keep local dollars in our community,” Cauley adds.

The official move-in party for The Ferris Wheel was June 21, celebrating the completed renovation of the iconic downtown Flint Building. Previously known as the Ferris Furs building, the 40,000-square-foot art deco building was shuttered for 30 years until being purchased by SkyPoint Ventures, a venture capital firm founded by Phil and Jocelyn Hagerman. 

“It’s really not about us talking about what we’re doing or what we want to do,” said Phil Hagerman, founder and co-owner of Skypoint Ventures. “It’s about us listening to the community. (It’s) about listening to the city and its needs.”

Unlike many office and business spaces that require long-term lease agreements, membership at the Ferris Wheel is month-to-month. Accommodations range from executive suites to flex memberships that allow members access to meeting areas and desks. Pricing starts at $25 for a student flex membership and offices starting at $300 per month. The Ferris Wheel aims to be a location to enable businesses to grow or, if need be, pull back and reduce operation cost, says Heather Kale, general manager of the Ferris Wheel.

“It’s a business ecosystem, so folks that are just starting up get to work with established businesses,” Kale says. “Folks that have been around can feed off of new energy and creativity, and we are hoping it’s a reciprocal relationship.”

Skypoint Ventures is also a backer of 100k Ideas, a non-profit organization that helps potential entrepreneurs, located on the first and second floors of the Ferris Wheel. The ground floor is also home to Foster Coffee Co. and Flint Prints.

Built in the 1920s, the building first served as retail space for Gainey Furniture and then Ferris Bros. Furs before being closed in the 1980s. It sits next door to the also recently renovated Dryden Building, the headquarters for Skypoint Ventures and the Hagerman Foundation. 

“We’re strong. We’re proud. Watch Flint grow now,” Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said at the grand opening celebration. “We want you to know that we’re not only going to have a renaissance here in the city of Flint. It’s going to be a renaissance that’s fueled by local businesses, by the residents that are here in the city.”

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Read more articles by Tim Galloway.

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