Grand Traverse Industries expansion begins

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Sep. 15—RAVERSE CITY — "Where Opportunity Works" is the slogan for Grand Traverse Industries.

By next summer, opportunity may be working under one roof.

GTI held a groundbreaking ceremony for a 30,000-square-foot addition to its manufacturing plant and production facility at 2170 Traversefield Drive. The expansion by Peninsula Construction and Design comes after two years of planning and after the sale of two other buildings, one a short distance away at 2291 Traversefield Drive, the other at 2883 Aero Park Drive.

The sale of the Aero Park Drive facility to Evil Queen Candles was completed in March. The building at 2291 Traversefield Drive was sold to a downstate developer, who continues to lease space to Grand Traverse Industries until the expansion and remodeling at 2170 is complete, hopefully in the summer of 2022.

"We're going to consolidate here," said Cindy Evans, who was promoted to executive director at GTI Jan. 1, 2021. 'It's exciting; it's good. We'll all be under one building, in Traverse City anyway."

A private nonprofit corporation, Grand Traverse Industries' products and services include employment and training, custodial, manufacturing plastic bags, industrial assembly and packaging. In addition to its operations in Traverse City, Grand Traverse Industries has a location in Mancelona.

GTI is also a provider of custodial services to the FAA at Cherry Capital Airport through the AbilityOne Program.

Grand Traverse Industries employs 200 client workers with disabilities on its payroll and offers training and services to hundreds more. GTI has a staff of about 70.

"Our goal is to ultimately provide better services to the people we serve," Evans said from a conference room at the building at 2170 Traversefield Drive. "It will provide more opportunities for people to find work. Everything we do is for people to earn a paycheck and this will open up more opportunities for all those individuals to have work."

Until it can centralize its operations in the one building, GTI will lease space back from the new owner at 2291 Traversefield Drive and lease additional space on Keane Drive for other programs and services formerly provided at the Aero Park Drive location.

GTI's American Sign Language Interpreter Services to people who are deaf and hard of hearing will maintain offices at Disability Network Northwest Michigan, 415 E. Eighth St., and at the new building.

Grand Traverse Industries will continue to use the 2170 Traversefield facility during the different phases of construction. After the addition is completed, Evans said the existing building will be remodeled.

"We will be in there the whole time," Evans said.

The construction project is under the direction of former GTI president and CEO Steve Perdue, who retired from those positions earlier this summer after 51 years.

"I never have enough," Perdue said for a Jan. 14 Record-Eagle story about his retirement. "I love what I do."

Consolidating its operation into one building will allow GTI to continue the mission it began in 1974.

"There's always saving when you have one building instead of three," said Evans, who worked with Perdue for 20 years before her promotion. "With those savings, we can invest more into the people we are serving."

The expansion will feature exterior rooms with large windows to provide natural light for activities like physical, occupational, art and music therapy. There also will be a covered Bay Area Transportation Authority stop outside, because many GTI clients rely on the service.

"We tried to be very intentional with the design and what worked for all the people we serve," Evans said.

The expansion and consolidation also offers benefits beyond the client workers. Evans said GTI cooperates with many companies in the industrial park and others not far away.

""This is a win for all the partners we work with," Evans said.

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