Mackinac Center to Build $2.4 Million Headquarters

Grants Fund Construction and Operations

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has announced plans to build a new $2.4 million headquarters on the site of the former Woolworth store in downtown Midland, Michigan. The Center also reported $2 million in new operating grants.

The Midland-based research and educational institute has received $1.5 million to date in local foundation commitments earmarked for purchase and renovation of the property, according to Center President Lawrence Reed. Work on the existing 17,000-square-foot structure will begin this spring and is slated to be finished in 1997, Reed said.

The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow and the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundations have pledged $1 million and $500,000, respectively, for the headquarters project. Reed said he is "very optimistic" that the rest of the $2.4 million will be raised soon from strong support both locally and from around Michigan. The headquarters funding campaign is co-chaired by Midland residents Margaret Riecker, a philanthropist and founding director of the Center, and Alan Ott, chairman of the board of Chemical Bank and Trust.

Two special gifts announced in conjunction with the expansion project will bolster the Mackinac Center’s operating budget. One million dollars has been pledged by both the Morey Foundation of Winn, Michigan, and by a supporter who named the Center in a bequest.

The new headquarters will ultimately accommodate over 50 professional Mackinac Center policy experts, economists, and support personnel. A seminar room will house programs designed for teachers, students, scholars, government officials, and the public. A distribution center will handle requests for policy studies and reports, which today comprise about 2.6 million pages of Center-produced research each year. An economics and public policy library, conference rooms, a reception area, and offices will make up the balance of the facility.

Design of the building is being performed by Three Rivers Construction of Midland, which will also play a major role in its construction.

The Mackinac Center opened its doors in Midland in 1988 with two employees and a budget of $80,000. Today, the Center has sixteen staff members and a budget of $1.2 million. It currently leases office space at 119 Ashman Street near Main.

President Reed says there are two reasons the Mackinac Center is expanding. "First, our explosive growth forced us to look at moving to larger quarters. We knew we wanted to keep our main office in Midland, but we looked at Lansing locations as well," Reed said. "We explored several sites in Midland, but the old Woolworth building was clearly the best both for us and for downtown. Gordon Carson and Orrin Barrett were particularly helpful in helping us evaluate our options," said Reed.

According to Reed, the second reason for the Center’s expansion is the growing realization that free-market policies, which the Center champions, are more effective than government central planning. Reed cited as evidence the collapse of Communist governments worldwide, historic domestic electoral changes, and the establishment of free-market oriented policy institutes in about 30 states. He said, "Berlin walls are coming down; Mackinac Centers are going up."

Although Midland-area sources account for just 15 percent of the Center’s operating income, they are playing a much larger relative role in the building project. Herbert D. Doan, president of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation said, "The Mackinac Center attracts top-flight brainpower to Midland, and the new building solidifies the Center’s presence here. The entire community benefits from the Mackinac Center staying in Midland."

Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation Vice President Ned Brandt said, "The grant for the new building lets us support downtown development and the important policy work of the Mackinac Center at the same time. Midland is fortunate to be the home of the Center and we’re glad we can help it stay here."