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Business turns airport hangar into modern office

Jackson Citizen Patriot

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) — In one day, Dave Richmond woke up in Jackson; took a plane to meet with clients in Madison, Wis., Marietta, Ga., and Columbus, Ohio; and was home in time for dinner.

Richmond is a founding partner and chairman of Richmond Brothers, which relocated its office in January to the old Consumers Energy building and hangar at the Jackson County Airport, the Jackson Citizen Patriot reported. The convenient airport access is part of what makes the multimillion-dollar building worthwhile, he said.

Richmond Brothers employs 12 people through its real estate holding company, a core money management business and a private equity business. The group purchased the hangar at a 2014 auction.

“If I need to have a monthly meeting with a portfolio company that we own, I can jump on a plane and be there in 45 minutes,” Richmond said. “When you have that face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball contact and they know you’re coming there every month to have that meeting, it changes behavior.”

Part of the office space includes windows to see into the 12,000-square-foot hangar. Employees can also work from the Wi-Fi-capable roof as planes take off and land at the airport in the background.

Inside, the design encompasses a 21st century understated elegant look, while still bringing a rustic element in, Richmond said. Large airplane propellers and other aviation-themed designs also make the office unique.

“We’ve got stuff that is really new, innovative, cutting edge, willing to serve us for the next 20 years,” Richmond said. “And yet, we wanted to bring the old world with us.”

The office isn’t just meant to look beautiful, however. It’s purpose is to be functional and efficient.

Employees can raise and lower their desks so they can stand and work to get their blood flowing. A treadmill desk allows them to walk about 2 mph while working, as well.

“If you sit at your desk for more than 45 minutes, studies say your productivity starts to drop,” Richmond said. “The idea in a lot of these open environments is, I need to be able to move. When you’re in that afternoon lull and you want to go take a nap, you just go (on the treadmill desk) for 15 or 20 minutes and start moving, start walking and then go forward from there.”

The cushions on the sofas are designed to flip one way to “kick back and relax” and another way for lower-back support, he added.

The tables in multiple meeting areas are set at bar height. Not only is this done for comfort, but it also has a psychological effect, Richmond said.

“If I’m giving a presentation and I’m standing up and you’re sitting at (a lower) height, I’m domineering over you, so I’m the one giving you information and talking down to you,” Richmond said. “If you’re at bar height, we’re still looking eye to eye. It’s all the little things psychologically that we could do that puts our people in the best position to perform.”

The employees moved in less than a year ago and a few aspects of the project still are ongoing, like the furniture on the porch. Richmond said it’s too soon to see tangible results for their soundproof glass meeting rooms, technology-driven meeting rooms and adjustable seating options.

Still, he said he sees happier employees, now that they aren’t cooped up in cubicles like before.

“It was a big change. We thought it would go well, but to actually see it go well, it felt good,” he said. “It turned out exactly the way we designed it. Now whether that’s the way we need it, time will tell.”


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