What’s brewing up business in the Midwest? Look no further than Grand Rapids. With 7.2 microbreweries for each 100,000 residents, the city has earned the title of Beer City, USA—and rightfully so. With a rising number of breweries tapping into the Grand Rapids region, the city’s brewing economy continues to grow.
Today, Michigan is one of the top five pint producers in the U.S., thanks to the rise of the beer industry in Grand Rapids. In fact, the state’s beer industry alone accounts for $10.5 million. These breweries and pubs offer more than just a good time and tourist attraction; the industry contributes 34,390 jobs in Michigan. We’ll toast to that.
In our latest case study, What Beer Can Do for Your Town, we highlight several ways the industry has impacted Grand Rapids and the spaces brewers are eyeing up for their next venture.
A City with an Economy Fueled by Beer
Grand Rapids has come a long way to earn its reputation. Once a thriving Midwest beer exporter, the city fell into a 46-year-long beer drought following prohibition. That is, until Founders Brewing Co. opened its doors in 1997. The brewery withstood the test of time and dedicated itself to brewing unusual beer. Eventually, it gained national attention. Founders led a resurgence of the industry and played a pivotal role in transforming Grand Rapids’ economy, culture and vibe.
Today, Grand Rapids microbreweries offer a lively bar scene and provide high-quality manufacturing jobs, attracting millennials to the city. Voted USA Today’s “Best Beer Scene,” Grand Rapids’ breweries now attract over 42,000 visitors and yields over $7.05 million to each year. Additionally, beer festivals, museums, tours, classes and biergartens have been major drivers of tourism for the city.
Reuse-Projects and Low Rental Rates Make Grand Rapids a Brewer’s Playground
Grand Rapids’ low rental rates and tight industrial market make it an ideal place for breweries to break ground. Brewers are re-purposing underutilized spaces, such as dry cleaners, auto garages and fire stations as they boast even lower rental rates and build out costs.
Additionally, brewers are positioning on the outskirts of town where they can build out their extensive space and capture lower rates, which run almost $6.63 per square foot (psf) lower than the median retail.
Adaptive repurposing projects and low-cost spaces make Grand Rapids the ideal place for breweries to set up shop. As new breweries continue to enter the market, Grand Rapids should continue to experience a decrease in retail and industrial vacancies, giving real estate investors something to toast to.
Grand Rapids Breweries Are Diversifying
As the market becomes increasingly saturated, some breweries are veering away from the status quo to differentiate themselves. For example, Atwater Beer, famous for its taproom innovations, offers bike and brew tours, in-house music nights and a variety of local foods and brews to improve the overall customer experience.
Similarly, Brewery Vivant is located in a refurbished, historic funeral home. The brewery fosters an atmosphere where people can socialize with friends and strangers alike. The building’s layout encourages diners to interact with one another, providing a unique dining and drinking experience.
New breweries continue to invigorate the market bringing unconventional offerings, lowering vacancy rates, and expanding the city’s beer scene. All eyes are on Grand Rapids as promising growth of the beer industry keeps tourists and residents coming back for more.
About the Authors
Bob Horn is a Senior Vice President and Assistant Director for the Capital Markets group in JLL’s Grand Rapids office. Bob specializes in industrial brokerage and has successfully completed more than 13 million square feet of industrial transactions. He is affiliated with the Michigan Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors. Learn more about Bob’s experience here.
Harrison West is a Research Analyst in JLL’s Royal Oak office in Michigan. Harrison is responsible for building and contributing to JLL’s research initiatives for the Ann Arbor, Detroit and Grand Rapids markets. Connect with Harrison on LinkedIn.