T he view from the 12th floor of the Equity Engineering Group
offices in Tower East makes it easy to understand the attraction
of Shaker Heights to businesses. In one direction the Rapid
Transit tracks cut through the new Van Aken District
towards the towers of Downtown Cleveland. In the
opposite direction the extensive highway network and
rolling hillsides come into view. To the north the
deep blue of the lake glistens, a haven for boating,
fishing, and relaxing.
This proximity to transportation, diverse
housing choices, and numerous recreational
opportunities attracts the attention of new and
expanding businesses – mostly because it also
attracts and retains the high-quality workforce
that allows them to grow. Add in the new living
and dining options of the Van Aken District and
unique amenities like the Shaker Rocks indoor
climbing gym, and Shaker Heights can meet the
needs of nearly any business.
David Osage, the president and CEO of Equity
Engineering Group (or E2G), and his original
partners saw this promise nearly 20 years ago. That
was when they rented a small office on Warrensville
Center Road after going through the “outplacement”
process at BP America.
“The oil industry was in a downward spiral,” Osage explains,
and there were few opportunities, so he and 12 other partners started a
specialty engineering business focused on refinery and related oil and gas systems.
The timing worked in their favor, and within a few years they needed more space. The
top floor of Tower East was available and “the building needed an anchor,” Osage says. “We
rented two-thirds of the space and about six months later expanded to the whole floor.”
The need for more space continued and the firm’s Employee Stock Ownership Plan also
needed an investment, so it initially bought the top three floors, soon after added a fourth
floor, and then bought the entire building in 2015. Since moving into Tower East, Equity’s
personnel count has shown an 11 percent increase.
The fast-growing business could have bought a building anywhere in the region, but
chose Shaker Heights. From the very beginning of their occupancy in Tower East, Equity
Engineering worked closely with the City, with each making a substantial investment in their
mutual success. When Equity purchased the top floors, it qualified for the City’s Vision Fund
forgivable loan program. Targeted at renovations to the building, designed by Walter Gropius
and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the loan was based on increasing the
City’s receipt of payroll taxes over 10 years. Equity exceeded that goal in only four years.
This investment by the City accelerated the ability of Equity to position Tower East
as the premier address in Shaker Heights for professional firms in growth mode. The
renovations, true to the Modernist theme of Gropius’ design, were critical to this success.
New tenant Mannik & Smith Group, an engineering consulting firm, was attracted
to the building as well as to the walkability of the Van Aken District location. It joins
other innovative firms in the building such as BioMotiv and its unique approach to
commercializing therapeutics with partners like University Hospitals.
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