by Michael Brennan, Executive Director of the Graaskamp Center for Real Estate
James P. Grusecki, Chairman and CEO of Northern Builders, was the honoree of the E.J. Plesko Distinguished Speaker in Real Estate Development Award given to those who embody the Wisconsin Tradition in their spirit, imagination, entrepreneurial skills and enthusiasm for improving the built environment. The event was held on October 22, 2010 at the Fluno Center and was attended by both MBA and undergraduate real estate majors, members of faculty, and numerous outside guests interested in learning more about the successful history of one of Chicago’s leading industrial development companies.
The E.J. Plesko Speaker Series is funded by a gift from developer E.J. Plesko, a Graaskamp Center Board Member and President of E.J. Plesko & Associates, a real estate development and management company based in Madison.
Jim’s talk revealed the remarkable growth not only of Northern Builders, but of Jim’s personal growth as a businessman and an executive leader of his firm.
Northern Builders was started in the late 1920’s by Mr. Grusecki’s father, originally in the residential business, slowly making the transition into industrial development and ownership. “In the beginning, we were a family business in every sense. On our first build-to-suit with Ingersoll-Rand, my mom, dad, and my siblings were all partners. My dad told me that I would have to pay $24,000 for my share of the deal. Somehow, I scraped it together. Those days taught me valuable lessons.” Northern Builders today owns over 5 million square feet of Class A industrial property, as well as a few office and retail properties.
Jim offered a few personal insights, on aspects of his life he was most proud of and suggestions for those starting their careers. “I take great pride in meeting my obligations…Northern has never given back a property to a lender.” Jim continued by saying that while he certainly faced times of adversity, the business model of savings, and reinvestment, helped them weather the often severe cycles of development.
Jim offered several interesting perspectives for those beginning their careers. “Do not become impatient in your career…opportunities open up for those who are dedicated.” Jim further remarked that “there is an interconnected, three-legged stool- family, business, health – that has to be properly balanced. Each one affects the other.”
Jim Grusecki resides in Chicago and has now assumed the role of non-executive chairman of Northern Builders. Jim is active in numerous civic and charitable organizations including a family foundation whose mission is to support education, the arts, and to provide housing to single parent households.
The next E.J. Plesko Series Speaker event will occur in the Spring of 2011.
Photo of James Grusecki, flanked by E.J. Plesko (left), Stephen Malpezzi (right) and Michael Brennan (far right).