Van on Vine: Reflections by Van Martin, President and CEO

By Van W. Martin / 03.22.21 / 3 min read

I’ll admit. I’m a fan of history. My story begins with a family business that grew and prospered while weathering ups and downs. About 60 years ago, my parents—William G. Martin and Nanette VanDervoort—were inspired by the passion they saw in the business and civic communities of Greater Lansing. They wanted to contribute and be part of it. Mostly, they wanted to give back by helping to shape the prosperity of the community where they lived. They found the answer in real estate and established a small business that could meet client needs from start to finish.

Today, that local enterprise my parents started from a small 800 square foot office in 1962 has grown to serve Mid-Michigan, Grand Rapids and beyond. Our corporate office remains rooted a mile from our original location on Vine Street, providing services that reach 16 countries on five continents. Although we’re bigger now, we’ve never wavered from our commitment to continually refine what we do for our clients’ benefit. We do that by receiving feedback from our community, analyzing trends and data, and being respectful of what history can tell us about the future.

Understandably, most of us right now are focused on the present. Efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 affect every aspect of our lives—from personal to professional. Since last March, we’ve all had to make sacrifices and shoulder hardships we didn’t anticipate. Sadly, one of the few constants is disruption. Uncertainty is another.

While the economic effects of the pandemic are profound, we can all take some comfort in knowing we’ve bounced back before. Even now, as we face this immense economic challenge, Martin is in the early stages of launching a new line of investment services to add to the synergy of our brokerage, development and property management specialties. Business isn’t easy, but we know from experience that it’s important to find strategies to maintain stability and growth, and to keep looking toward the future.

For me, I entered the business world in 1980—a year everything fell off the ledge. But I didn’t know any better, so everything was business as usual. We marched forward but were slammed again by recessions in the mid-1990s. I vividly remember the mantra “Stay alive til ‘95” by Sam Zell. New approaches and strategies brought us back, only to have our resolve tested again with the Great Recession of 2008.

Now, in 2021, things are significantly different in our world of commercial real estate. We’re more prepared and nimble, buffered by lessons learned from history. Stimulus and lending programs have changed, some driven by federal policies. Businesses and office-based organizations are adapting, discovering new ways to work remotely or in spaces that adhere to public health standards. While retail has experienced significant downturns, some are finding new ways to serve customers or provide goods. Other sectors like industrial have grown by double digits, spurred by e-commerce and manufacturing needs. Rules have changed, and so have conditions. What hasn’t changed is our goal to provide trustworthy and well-informed real estate, development and property management services for your organization.

What we know is that we will carry on. The recent roll out of the vaccine has brought renewed hope. The U.S. economy will recover and rebound with the help of science and ingenuity. Consumers will buy goods, companies will distribute them, and people will occupy offices and workspaces. History tells us that. It also tells us we’re resilient, and that we have the spirit to help one another. Despite having been put upside down and sideways and inside out by COVID-19, we’ll forge ahead and take care of things the best way possible, based on what we’ve learned.