First Companies’ History
First Companies dates back to 1968 when Jerry Baker founded First Real Estate. The company became incorporated in 1974, and in 1994 took on the name First Companies, Inc. Today, First Companies provides commercial real estate, construction and property management services in Grand Rapids and surrounding areas, with a well-earned reputation for quality, integrity and service excellence.
The company initially developed four industrial areas near the Gerald R. Ford Airport. While developing and selling commercial land, the company identified the need for additional industrial space around the airport. This is when the team began to establish its unique ability to attract the right investor groups, and then coordinate the construction and leasing of buildings to meet the needs of local businesses. First Management, Inc. became the company’s construction division, establishing key relationships and a strong client base that soon provided a steady stream of repeat business. Significant early projects included the Teledial building, Action Wholesale, Kentwood Corporate Complex 1, 2, and 3, and a number of others in the airport and Roger B. Chaffee areas.
Craig and Jeff Baker joined the team in the late 80s/early 90s. Craig began working in construction, while Jeff focused his skills in real estate. As the company grew in both construction and commercial real estate sales, they also saw and met the need for property management services after new projects were completed. The company’s portfolio of work continually expanded to include a wide range of projects: downtown mixed-use buildings, educational institutions, industrial and manufacturing facilities, corporate offices, retail, class-A medical buildings (single and multi-tenant), restaurants, resorts, and more.
Throughout the 1990s, Jerry worked on succession planning, closely monitoring the market and trends that could impact the health and future of the business. The company’s leadership and strategic vision was transitioned over time to Craig and Jeff once they were fully prepared to assume their leadership current roles.
Based on identified needs in the market, the decision was made to invest in expanding the construction division, and in the early 2000s, new projects and corresponding staff quickly grew. Along with this expansion came a wealth of experience, from small to increasingly larger, and more complex projects. Throughout its history, the company has always maintained its reputation for excellence, with many high-profile projects in the healthcare industry (including several for Spectrum Health) and intense manufacturing environments.
Among the company’s many successful projects, First Companies completed the Heritage Pointe Complex (corner of Burton and East Paris) with well-known tenants, including: Michigan Pain Consulting, Raymond James, Centre for Plastic Surgery, and a Spectrum Health Draw Lab. The company also completed the Heeren Brothers Produce facility which provides over 177,000 square feet of space, including corporate offices, apple processing and controlled refrigerated storage areas.