2021 Entrepreneurial Awards

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Gillespie Group’s encouraging vision for Lansing   Pat Gillespie is an eternal optimist. When the founder and president of Gillespie Group hears of a business closing, his…

Gillespie Group’s encouraging vision for Lansing


Pat Gillespie is an eternal optimist.

When the founder and president of Gillespie Group hears of a business closing, his focus turns to what the land and the building could be instead of what it was.

He views the fact that Lansing isn’t like Detroit or Grand Rapids as an advantage instead of a setback.

“We’re grittier. We’re smaller. We’re more diverse. That’s our advantage.”

He observed that Lansing is growing more slowly than other cities, but he also pointed out that the area’s growth hasn’t stopped in the last decade, even when other cities stalled out.

“It’s hard to complain about steady progress,” he said.

So, why is Gillespie so optimistic about Lansing’s potential when a lot of comments centering around the city tend to be negative? “It beats the other way,” he said. And, when you view the city through his eyes, it’s hard not to share in that optimism.

It seems Gillespie’s optimistic attitude started when he was a child growing up on Lansing’s east side. During his youth, he was enamored with the downtown area and loved visiting the Knapp’s Centre. Even though he never thought of his hometown as one that needed fixing, he always loved the idea of buying rental homes to improve. It was something he knew could really make a positive impact on a neighborhood.

Taking something old and making it new again was Gillespie’s first love within the real estate field, which may explain Gillespie Group’s passion for revitalization projects.

It also explains its monumental role in Lansing’s growth over the last decade.


Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Gillespie’s vision includes that of his team. Where he goes, the team is on hand working in sync to bring projects to life.

“Early on, I learned that the vision I had for Gillespie Group could only go so far with what I know and can do by myself,” said Gillespie. “In order for those visions to become a reality, it became clear that I needed a team of exceptional people who’s unique abilities and passions surrounded the execution of a well laid out plan to truly be successful. What we are able to achieve today simply would not be possible without the entire team we have at GG.”

Gillespie’s team includes Vice President Rachel Michaud. A part of the team for nearly 22 years, Gillespie described Michaud as “the steady force that manages the vision from start to completion. She is the glue that holds things together at Gillespie Group, playing a crucial role in every aspect of the organization.”

Director of Finance Tricia Walthorn lines up funds to make the big dreams and vison become a reality.

“Often, that means blazing trails in a whole new territory while navigating complexities that are sometimes uncertain and managing risks and expectations of our investors,” said Gillespie.

Director of Operations Jennifer Charette leads the largest group of team members within Gillespie Group with a focus on both residential and commercial management, as well as Human Resources.

Director of Marketing Ashley Brzenzinski communicates the vison of Gillespie Group’s projects, often introducing new concepts to the area.

“Ashley is passionate about our vision here at Gillespie. She works to deliver our message both internally and externally with a focus on progress and positive community impact.” Gillespie further noted that he feels it’s important that people know that they are here by choice. “We are thrilled to be able to develop and manage outside of the Lansing area, and have done so in many wonderful markets, but this will always be our home.” Gillespie said.

Jason Kildea, director of project and construction management, oversees making the dream a visual reality.

“Jason leads all things related to the construction, renovation and rehabilitation of our developments. He finds his passion by being the boots on the ground, if you will. As the Gillespie team member working in the trenches, he is charged with making sure our brand and vision are executed at every level of physical construction,” said Gillespie.


Big Names Spur Small Projects

No matter how you view its progress, there are signs everywhere that Lansing is making dramatic strides forward. You can see those signs of life in the activity taking place not only in the city but across the region. Although it can test one’s patience, the constant construction is a sign of progress. The cranes, the new subdivisions and buildings popping up are all signs of the future.

“The whole region is growing,” said Gillespie.

Those cranes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon as big names make commitments to come to the Lansing area. That itself is a great sign.

“Companies like Meijer and Marriott do their homework,” Gillespie said of two major projects coming to the downtown area. “They’re taking notice and they’re deciding it’s time to be in Lansing. When the big players start taking a look like that, it means we’re onto something.

“These are the moments in which cities really start to change,” he added. The Gillespie Group team is now turning their optimistic eyes on the cities that seem to be “outgrowing” Lansing.

When Grand Rapids got the Medical Mile and its hotels and high-rises, that’s when the big things started happening. When the big developments come in, it drives the older buildings in smaller neighborhoods to be hipper, cooler and worth investing in, Gillespie said.

“We don’t think you get one without the other,” he noted. “They come hand in hand. Big things come in and the locals bring back the old buildings and small neighborhoods to support the new developments.”

While a closing business may seem like a setback to many, to an eternal optimist and real estate professional, the bankruptcy of Sears means that a 14-acre piece of land on the highway, next to Michigan State University and across from a $300 million development is an opportunity to put something new and progressive there, something that really draws people to the area.

“Yes, a business is closing and that’s awful,” said Gillespie. “But, freeing up a piece of land of that size to develop on the Michigan Avenue corridor, opens the doors to great possibility. That may be one of the best pieces of land in Lansing and a lot of other cities.”

He and his team aren’t the only ones that thinks so. Gillespie Group is already getting calls from outside developers about the land.

Gillespie Group sees that area as the target for the next round of growth for the city. Gillespie and team think that in the next five years, the area from U.S. 127 to the MSU campus could be explosive.


Building a Place of Pride

There’s still much more growth to come, but the team also sees the growth we’ve already achieved.

“We hear a lot of outsiders come in, and the ones that haven’t been here are pleasantly surprised. The ones we like the most are the people that have left and come back after five or seven years; those are the best barometer. They saw what it was, and when they say, ‘I can’t believe how much it’s changed,’ those are the comments that let you see you’re making a difference.”

Gillespie Group wants current residents to have that same sense of awe. Their ultimate vision for Lansing doesn’t focus on a specific a dollar amount for developments or a specific number of new buildings. It centers around an overall experience.

Gillespie Group has contributed a lot to Lansing’s growth. With his team, Gillespie knows his ultimate vision is possible: “They’re all entwined in the community. The whole team has a passion for making the city and the community better. They take pride in it.”

The pride Gillespie has in his team shows. The staff genuinely enjoys working together. They celebrate the wins and play hard frequently as a team.

“We pride ourselves on professional growth of teammates and promoting within,” said Gillespie.

Whatever the formula, it’s working for Gillespie Group.

And that’s why teamwork makes the dream work.  


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