Munter In The News...

Brothers buy industrial park acreage with eye on business expansions as economy recovers Read more: Brothers buy industrial park acreage with eye on business expansions as economy recovers

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The Business Review - ROBIN COOPER

Brothers John and Michael Munter invested $1.9 million this winter to buy the remaining 195 acres of vacant land at the W.J. Grande Industrial Park in Saratoga Springs.

The civil engineers, who own and operate Munter Enterprises Inc. in Middle Grove, used their personal savings to capitalize on an opportunity to diversify their general contracting business.

“This is kind of the last frontier in our view. It’s the only remaining industrial property in the city that hasn’t been developed,” said John Munter.

The land acquisition is part of the Munters’ new strategy to win more office, manufacturing and industrial construction work.

It’s a gamble they were willing to take at a time when the demand for commercial construction remains soft. The recession continues to make many businesses and investors reluctant to expand and take on new risk.

Purchasing the undeveloped portion of the industrial park enables the Munters to market themselves as a one-stop shop. They now have the ability to sell industrial property in addition to providing design, engineering, excavation and construction services to clients looking to move or expand.

“This will allow us to cut out a lot of the inefficiencies of having to deal with multiple parties,” John Munter said. “We can handle everything from land acquisition to construction to turning over the keys to a new building.”

That’s a unique set of tools to have, said Dennis Brobston, president of the Saratoga Economic Development Corp., an organization that recruits businesses to Saratoga County.

“They are in a position to market not just to GlobalFoundries but to the rest of the industrial corporate world,” Brobston said.

He has been working with commercial landowners throughout Saratoga County to ensure they are ready to move quickly to sell, lease or develop land as SEDC markets the area to suppliers who will locate near the $4.2 billion computer-chip fabrication plant GlobalFoundries is building in Malta.

“There are a lot of businesses in the area that are asking ‘what, who and how many companies will be moving into the area,’ ” Michael Munter said.

That has added some value to the investment.

“But we certainly couldn’t base a risk this size on GlobalFoundries’ business alone,” he said.

The Munters are well aware of the competition they face from commercial landowners such as D.A. Collins Cos., which is marketing some of its 130-acre property in Wilton. Another local contracting firm, Abele Builders, has obtained a “shovel ready” designation from the state to help market a 68-acre light industrial tract it owns in Halfmoon.

There’s competition, John Munter said, but it’s not cutthroat.

“We have a close relationship with the guys at D.A. Collins and the Abeles,” John Munter said. “We’ve worked together.” The Munters think that as the economy rebounds, commercial landowners will benefit as more companies begin expansions delayed by the recession.

Brothers Chris and Ed Abele of Abele Builders agree. That’s why they recently began marketing their 68-acre Global Business Park-North property off Route 146 in Halfmoon. They purchased the site roughly six years ago for $1 million, but just began marketing it in the past few weeks.

“I think a lot of us realize that the only way to get through this [downturn] is to grow out of it,” said Chris Abele. “The only way we are going to do that is with private investment.”

D.A. Collins has taken a similar approach. Vice President Dan Collins said last May that the company was investing $4.7 million to renovate its Wilton property to consolidate its operations and attract office and light industrial tenants. That work is underway.

Brobston said there has been a big push over the past year by other local developers and contractors who have stepped up their commercial property marketing around Saratoga County.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of opportunity,” Brobston said.

For the Munters, acquiring the last section of undeveloped land at the W.J Grande Industrial Park was a big transition from focusing primarily on providing construction and design services for mostly commercial customers.

It adds another dimension to the business, Michael Munter said.

The brothers took over the general contracting business from their father in 1998 after each went away to college to study civil engineering before spending a few years working for other companies.

Over the past 12 years, the brothers became familiar with the industrial park, having worked on construction projects for Ball Metal’s can production plant, FedEx’s distribution center, Guyson Corp., Quad/Graphics, Saratoga Eagle Sales & Service, Unlimited Potential and other companies.

The property has access to electric utilities, water, sewer and a railroad spur.

The Munters’ father, also named John, had experience working in the park. He maintained and expanded the former General Foods building before acquiring it and leasing it to SCA Tissue.

That experience, and the Munters’ close ties with Saratoga Springs, are why the owners of the park—the nine grandchildren of park builder and founder W.J. “Bill” Grande—decided to approach the brothers to see if they were willing to buy, according to Tim Grande, one of the former owners.

“It was kind of a natural to approach them,” Grande said. “They are a long-time Saratoga family.”

And the Munters are positioned well to continue developing the park that his grandfather started, Grande said.

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