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Posted on Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Inovo Group leases downtown Ann Arbor space vacated by company moving to ex-Borders building

By Ben Freed

Technology companies are continuing to play a game of musical chairs with their office spaces in downtown Ann Arbor.

As growing companies move into larger offices, other businesses are waiting to snap up the smaller spaces they leave behind.


The Inovo Group co-founders Larry Schmitt and Steve Schwartz

The Inovo Group announced Thursday that the company has signed a lease to take over the space that PRIME Research North America will be vacating in September. PRIME signed a lease in January to move into the former Border’s Flagship store at the corner of East Liberty and Maynard streets.

Inovo has been itching to get back into downtown Ann Arbor since it moved out to its current 2,500 square foot office in Research Park Technology Center off of North Main Street.

“We’ve been looking for about two years now,” president Brian Christian said.

“We were downtown before at Fourth Avenue and Washington Street and we were trying to move into a bigger space. Some things fell through and we ended up moving out of the downtown area.”

Downtown Ann Arbor has become a hot place to be, especially for technology companies and startups, which often like to cluster and create entrepreneurial communities.

“There are a number of reasons to want to be downtown,” Christian said.

“The first thing is that our employees want to be there, then when our clients come into town they like being downtown, and then the third thing is that it’s just more fun.”

The Inovo Group, founded 12 years ago in Ann Arbor, works mostly with Fortune 1000 companies on what Christian called “strategic innovation.”

“We are helping major companies develop the next big thing,” he said.

Christian said as innovation consultants with backgrounds in science and engineering, Inovo primarily works with the research and development departments of major corporations. He said large companies want to try out new and innovative ideas but also come in with a certain amount of bureaucracy to deal with.

“So because of those concerns, we need to have a professional appearance. But we also actively work in innovation so it’s important to be fun and exciting as well,” he said.

“The ability to bring new ideas into conservative and traditional corporate organizations is walking a fine line. Being downtown and especially in the area just off Main Street gives that nice balance of nice and professional but also has kind of a cool and innovative vibe.”

Inovo’s client list includes pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and Dow Chemical, automotive manufacturers Ford Motor Company and Johnson Controls and major retailer Sears.

Brendan Cavender and Jim Chaconas of Colliers International Ann Arbor represented Inovo in the deal. The company’s 13 employees are all based in Ann Arbor and will move into the new office sometime in the fall. Christian said the company plans to add one employee before the end of 2013 and grow by one or two people per year throughout next few years.

“Our growth is organic, because we did not want to take outside funding that would make us give up control over the company,” he said.

“It can make it more challenging but we’ve been able to stick with that model and we’re very proud of that.”

The office transition marks the first time that the building, located at 213 E. Ashley St., has joined in the rotation of downtown businesses.

“This is the first turnover we’ve had since we redeveloped the building close to 10 years ago,” said Bill Kinley, who represents the management team that operates the building.

“We are at 100 percent occupancy and all of our other tenants are the original tenants who were in the building when we started managing it.” Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Get in touch with Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Chip Reed

Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 10:39 a.m.

Not to be picky, but Ashley runs north and south. I do not believe that there is an "East Ashley" in Ann Arbor (unless the flood did more damage than I realized...).


Sun, Jun 30, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

flood're funny! row-row-row your boat, gently down the streammmmm........


Sat, Jun 29, 2013 : 2:08 p.m.

Maybe it's because we have had a shift in our magnetic field due to solar flare ups and the compass used to determine the location is now topsy-turvy....or no one at can locate a map of Ann Arbor...