Sparta's consolidated downtown area and business-friendly policies were part of what attracted a Virginia-based cybersecurity company. Courtesy Village of Sparta
(As seen on WZZM TV 13) As Grand Rapids continues to grow, its outlying towns have been benefitting, as well.
One of those is Sparta, which has been “aggressively” moving toward becoming a “business-friendly” community, said Julius Suchy, Sparta Village manager.
The village had about $30 million in projects in 2016, said Suchy, who was given a Business Journal Newsmaker award in the economic development category that year.
Suchy thinks that activity is what has caught the attention of additional companies and developments since then.
Plus, he said Sparta works to support existing companies.
The Downtown Development Authority has a façade improvement program and has given some local businesses up to $100,000 to update their facilities, Suchy said.
“We think that helps get the word out that Sparta is a pretty business-friendly community,” he said.
Besides that, he said Sparta has a low cost of living and is increasing downtown activity.
One of the companies that has taken notice recently is GRIMM, an Arlington, Virginia-based security engineering and consulting firm that researches, develops and advises on cybersecurity.
The firm said it plans to invest $621,000 to grow its presence in the region and create at least 27 high-tech jobs over the next three years.
Brian DeMuth, CEO of the company, said it considered Sparta for several reasons, one of which is its proximity to Grand Rapids, which Suchy said is the village’s biggest asset.
Also, Sparta is a couple hours from some big commercial clients — close enough to drive, but far away enough not to clue in the public about which projects GRIMM is working on.
The company was considering places to grow, and there already were several remote employees living in the Sparta area, including a company leader who had some good things to say.
“Without knowing much of the details, I could tell there was something going on in Sparta,” DeMuth said.
He said the area’s general growth is something he would like the company to be involved with going forward.
GRIMM connected with the village, which then connected the company with The Right Place, an economic development organization based in Grand Rapids, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
Now that GRIMM is moving in, Suchy is excited about what that could mean for the economy.
The high-tech employees that will be based in Sparta make an average of about $120,000, DeMuth said.
Whether those workers live in Sparta or somewhere else in the area, they will be spending and contributing to the economy, Suchy said.
Another reason DeMuth said his company was so attracted to the area is the number of colleges and universities in the area.
He said the company is passionate about training the next generation, and he plans to work with area universities and give those training opportunities to young workers.
To Suchy, this business deal shows how the hard work in developing Sparta is paying off.
“We look at this as a continuation of all our hard work to create an environment where businesses want to locate,” he said.
While Suchy would love more high-tech businesses to move into the area, he said the village is “open to all businesses that want to invest and become part of the Sparta community.”
“Hopefully, this is the first of many good businesses that want to move to Sparta,” he said. “We have land available and are always willing to talk to people.”