Heather Kale, General manager, of the Ferris Wheel which is located at 615 S. Saginaw can definitely be described as the “QUEEN OF EVERYTHING”. It’s the absolute truth in saying Kale handles about 50 balls in the air at one time managing this 7-floor work incubator that provides a spectrum of innovation, entrepreneurial and operational support to all people and companies with a product, software, service or social venture at any stage of the business cycle. This outlier Co-Habitating Work Incubator, which had been vacant for over 40 years was purchased by local business owner Phil Hagerman and after a year of renovations opened its doors November 6th, 2017 and was named The Ferris Wheel after the last operating business called Ferris Brothers Furs keeping in line with legacy and tradition.
Prior to her role as General Manager, Heather Kale had an impressive resume working within the city of Flint, a city she grew up in. In fact, Heather still lives in the same College Cultural neighborhood she grew up in and graduated from Flint Central High School then attended Mott Community College for a short amount of time ultimately graduating from University of Michigan- Flint with a degree in Mass Communications. The education didn’t stop there, Heather then attended Wayne State University receiving her MA for Public Relations and Organizational Communications. Heather did a lot of work in education beginning with Flint Community Schools in After-School programming and then moved on to Priority Children still working in After-School programing but also worked in a teen pregnancy prevention program for an impressive 11 years. During this time, she tapped into her political aspirations and was the Deputy Field Organizer for the Gore Campaign in 2000 which she describes as a “Super cool Experience”. Kale explains she grew up watching her Dad work for the city, so she was exposed to municipal leadership which led her to volunteering for multiple campaigns, so when the opportunity for the Gore Campaign presented itself, she actually landed a paying position in what she describes this “Hot Spot” of a corridor between Saginaw and Pontiac which was very sought after. Heather Kale explained this job had her doing everything from picking up Jesse Jackson from the airport to meeting Cicely Tyson, Melissa Ethridge, the Goo Goo dolls and handling over 10.000 people in the Flat Lot. Heather explains these experiences were so amazing but originally, she went to school to be a Broadcast Journalist and after doing what she describes as a very rigorous internship, she decided it was an industry she didn’t want to work in. Though Heather loves connecting with people, she found it difficult sticking a microphone in people’s faces at their most vulnerable moments. She was young at the time and felt she didn’t have the thick skin to do that type of interviewing day in and day out. Heather Kale explains, “obviously as you get older you acquire those types of skill sets so as I got older I switched gears and ran for Flint City Council.” Though Heather didn’t win the election, she describes it as quite the learning experience and a lot of work she didn’t expect. “People are going to love you and they are also going to hate you.” She has not one regret running and learned a lot; however, she now has a young daughter in elementary school and priorities have changed quite a bit. At the same time she was campaigning, she was working for the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce as Member Services Director for almost 5 years, a position now occupied by Steven Elkins. Steven and Heather are still close friends, and both continue to communicate on how to collaborate and continue to grow the city.
Fast Forward to 2017, Heather sees a Community Coordinator position open up at The Ferris Wheel to which she reaches out to David Ollila for coffee to discuss what she felt she could bring to the table and actually how she can even bring more. David then introduces her to Phil Hagerman and obviously impressed with her skill sets she has a new job 10 days later. As General Manager, Heather Kale walks through The Ferris Wheel doors in 2017 and at the time there were no established businesses, only contractors which taught her so much about infrastructure and immerse her into the facilities side. Heather explains “To me it’s about managing expectations. When you come in and you’re interested in the space, it’s about open communication and again managing expectations with complete transparency.” Kale talks about how far they have come since she first walked through the doors, there are roughly 65-70 suites to fill and they are currently at 93% occupancy in just two years. Heather explains there is not a local business model quite like The Ferris Wheel because traditional leases are becoming obsolete. It’s a different world and if a business comes in and purchases a big space, however, say in three months the same business faces financial challenges Heather and her team aren’t going to make them leave, they are going to work with them to ensure there is a plan to get back on the road to success. This is exactly what makes Phil Hagerman, David Oillila, Heather Kale and the entire Ferris Wheel team so special, they want everyone to succeed and will work with you to assist in making you a successful and viable business. This is what makes The Ferris Wheel such an outlier, they want you to start in an affordable space, work your way up, and then go buy your own building. Heather Kale explains the team was very strategic and intentional in letting them know what the building needed to be because innovation and entrepreneurship can be so vastly eclectic which is why the energy and culture at this very special location truly is magical. Heather Kale says “The value is in the mix.”
On that amazing note, Hope For Flint highly recommends you contact The Ferris Wheel directly at 810-213-4710 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org for a personal tour. In addition to the exponential growth of The Ferris Wheel, they also host events and collaborate with several other businesses and organizations not just within Flint but all around the globe.