Elk Rapids Economic Development Director Lindy Bishop recently sent out this important announcement: A sofa is not a couch. No, that’s not it. The real one follows:
More Than Spare Change Under Sofa Cushions
Antrim County furniture maker finds start-up loan
Some things are just lucky that way, like as a kid, finding spare change dropped deep in the sofa cushions from your dad’s trouser pocket after he’s had a good snooze on the couch. But here, it was creative thinking and a regional perspective towards business clustering that uncovered start-up cash for Dennis Valkanoff’s new company, 45th Parallel Furniture, designed to assemble upholstered sofas. The Grand Traverse County staff approved a $150,000 loan for 45th Parallel under the GT County Revolving Loan Fund Program, managed by The GT County staff and the Chamber’s Traverse Bay Economic Development Corporation (EDC).
Dennis Valkanoff lives in Elk Rapids as well as North Carolina with a background in the furniture industry, law, and franchise restaurant development. His entrepreneurial mind couldn’t stop thinking of ways to put a business together with two complementary manufacturing companies existing in Elk Rapids: a furniture and cabinetmaker, Wooden Hammer, Ltd., (owned by Ed Hammer), and a garment cut and sew contract company, Traverse Bay Manufacturing (owned by Mark Toteff). So he’s making it happen with help from The Grand Traverse County staff, The Chamber’s Traverse Bay EDC, The Northern Lakes Economic Alliance and The Village of Elk Rapids.
Grand Traverse County officials recently revised their loan program reuse plan to fund projects outside of Grand Traverse County. “This is how we need to compete in today’s complex marketing environment,” said Tino Breithaupt, Senior Vice President of Economic Development for the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. “Supporting regional cluster development is exactly what Grand Traverse County’s loan program is targeted to accomplish. And we are excited to make it happen in Antrim County.”
Andy Hayes, President of The Northern Lakes Economic Alliance, instrumental in identifying and facilitating this project for 45th Parallel Company, commented on the accomplishment, “This is a great example of everyone pulling together to assist an entrepreneur grow our local economy.”
As the first recipient of the Grand Traverse County Revolving Loan Program outside of Grand Traverse County, Dennis, along with partner, Steve Heckenlaible, are now poised to take over the old Super Tool Building along US 31 in Elk Rapids. This is a building that sat empty for over 26 years. The Elk Rapids Planning and Zoning Commission convened in a special preliminary hearing for this project this past Tuesday evening where a decision was made to hold a public hearing on April 26th, 7 p.m., at the Elk Rapids Governmental Center.
“We are looking forward to community enthusiasm and support for this project as it has many benefits including job creation and exposure to national furniture retail buyers pulled into the area by Dennis. He is going to use the inherent outdoor recreation assets of our region as the perfect sales backdrop for his business.” said Lindy Bishop, Elk Rapids Economic Development Director.” Bishop went on to say, “Dennis was so good at connecting the dots in a multi-dimensional way with his new enterprise that it looks like a form of market development we could truly call 3D. “
And she continued, “This is a great example of viewing the region in terms of industry clusters, recognizing efficiencies and shared resources. We are looking for ways to strengthen marketing channels and build opportunities for related industries here. Sometimes it’s in the holes, the negative spaces of these clusters, where new potential lies.”
45th Parallel Furniture will be adding 13 new jobs in the area initially and looks forward to increasing that number dramatically over the next few years. Additionally, jobs will be retained and added at Wooden Hammer, Ltd. and Traverse Bay Manufacturing.