Alan Ott’s legacy lives on through SPACE’s new brand

a red bridge over a shining lake

How Alan Ott became my mentor

Alan Ott was a lot of things to a lot of people. But for me, he was a trusted mentor and friend. 

Mr. Ott served as Chemical Bank’s fifth president, CEO, and chairman of its board—leading the organization to acquire 17 community banks across Michigan’s lower peninsula. He volunteered with many Midland organizations, forged strong relationships with business leaders and philanthropists, and aimed to make Midland “the best town in America.”

With his vast array of connections and his leadership, Alan truly guided our community. It’s amazing how he could build consensus between different groups. And everyone who really wanted to help the community stopped by his office to share ideas and requests.

In 2001, I asked Mr. Ott to help me better understand the financial side of running a small business. I vividly remember the first time I sat down with him—he glanced at my financial statements for about 45 seconds before asking me a handful of questions. I couldn’t answer a single one.

From that point, I met with Mr. Ott monthly for several years. He would point out critical numbers on my income statement or balance sheet, ask about my business strategies for improving them and, over time, gave me the ability to understand how I could interpret the numbers to create a more sustainable business—on purpose.

By the third year of receiving his mentorship, I was beginning to catch on. And in the fourth year, I could ask the questions myself.

That gift of learning how to lead my own business and understand financial literacy myself is something I couldn’t possibly repay him for.

For 20 years, we met often—and I benefited from his sage wisdom. He taught me due diligence and how to mitigate risk. He never once told me how to do something, but always asked me to share my perspective and solutions—an uncommon approach at the time. I am incredibly grateful for the huge time commitment he gave me and for the safe environment he created for me to learn in.

“When things are bad, there’s one thing you can always do: work harder.”

Alan Ott

Alan Ott’s legacy continues in SPACE’s new brand

After he retired Mr. Ott had a wonderful office in the Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation that looked out at Curry Bridge. He wanted that bridge to be painted red, similar to the beautiful red bridges in Dow Gardens. And, true to form, Mr. Ott got that bridge painted a lovely red—and it made him very happy.

As SPACE began our rebranding process, we wanted our company to reflect our Midland community and the mid-century modern color palette so prevalent in the Alden B. Dow architecture Midland is famous for. 

We hoped to use an orange/red hue, so popular in mid-century modern design. With the help of graphic designer Kallee Hobohm, we decided to create our own color formula and christen it “Ott Red.”  

We couldn’t think of a better way to honor the memory of a wonderful man that embodied both our Midland heritage and a love of all things red.  

We hope you like it, Mr. Ott.

A Q&A with SPACE Gen 2 leadership

young man sits at desk and smiles

As we celebrate our 26th anniversary and the launch of SPACE’s new brand, we’re excited to continue designing for the future of work. But what’s next for SPACE? Join us for a Q&A with SPACE Gen 2 leadership: Paddy Hobohm, president, and Jenni Bush, senior vice president.

How did the Gen 2 leadership get started at SPACE?


As Kathie’s son, I grew up in the business. But it was a requirement that I spend some time learning outside of SPACE. 

I attended high school in Midland, got my associate’s degree locally at Delta College, then spent a few years in Colorado. There, I earned my bachelor’s degree and worked at a property management company.

When I moved back to Michigan, I started at the bottom in installation. I worked my way through scheduling and project management—focusing on our larger federal government projects these past few years. Last year, I was named president.

While 2021 is a transition year for SPACE, I’ve learned and grown alongside Kathie for the past 12 years. As a small business leader, it’s important for me to have a strong grasp on all areas of the business.


I’m a Michigan native, as well. I attended Grand Valley State University for undergrad before earning my master’s degree at Central Michigan University in administration and leadership. My career began in higher education for Cornerstone University. 

At that point, I had literally never thought about working in commercial interiors. What I loved—and still do—is coaching, managing, and leading people. 

I got my start with SPACE in order entry. Later, I transitioned into sales and project management for our home organization services and, later, the commercial side of our business. Thanks to Kathie’s incredible encouragement and support, I grew into my current role where I oversee our team of 24 people. I also manage human relations, sales, and events. 

What does the new brand mean to SPACE as you continue growing?


I often find that external shareholders think SPACE is a lot bigger than we are. That’s pretty cool, especially when we’re competing against companies ten times our size when bidding for federal government jobs. This new brand will take us to the next level. We want to compete nationally and stay on the front lines of interior workplace design trends.

The modern look, paired with the growing ability to work remotely, will be an important asset in attracting top talent across the country. In our industry, whoever gets the best designers, wins.

What trends do you foresee when designing for the future of work?


If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that the future of work isn’t going to be just one thing. We’re going to continue to see a variety of work settings—from offices, to homes, to coffee shops, and joint work spaces. 

We’re embracing the positives of remote work by allowing our staff more flexibility and recruiting across a wider talent pool. 

But we’re also seeing these trends emerging for our clients. We’re helping them design smaller office spaces that build community, collaboration, and loyalty for when staff are in the office. Beyond selecting furniture and design styles, we hope to be a trend-leader in supporting employers’ efforts to focus on staff’s wellbeing.

What message does the Gen 2 leadership have for staff and clients as you look to the future of SPACE?


I want everyone to know that we stand by our mission to make work life better for everyone we impact. And I plan to continue emphasizing our strong work culture, so we can continue being named one of the Best and Brightest places to work!


We’re a nimble, high-performing team, and this is what’s going to sustain us as a business over the next decade. At SPACE, we want to be able to celebrate our successes among our team and with our community. Being laser-focused on performance and experience will ensure that we are sustainable and viable now and going forward.

Carpet Tiles, What You NEED to Know!!

Carpet tiles have been and still are considered to be the height of fashion and practicality in the corporate office environment.  Here are just a few of the advantages of choosing carpet tiles for your office space.

Creativity:  Carpet tiles are the first and foremost when wanting to truly design a space.  With their small size and ability to be cut to precise shapes, carpet tiles let you create an environment that is right for your business.

Versatility:  Because of their size and layout, carpet tiles can be laid to fit rooms that are less than conventional.  Because carpet tiles can be cut easily, the process is easier, faster and produces a finished final product.

Durability:  Carpet tiles are VERY durable.  There is a reason carpet tiles have been around since the 50’s!

Warranties:  Carpet tiles can come with the best warranties for the life of your carpet.  Engineered wood and Laminate can come with a warranty, but most times are a shorter length with stipulations.

What is Activation?

In the construction and design world, everyone knows the main phases of a typical project: Pre-Design, Design, Procurement, Construction, Post-Construction.

So, what is Activation and where does it fit?  

Activation – or to activate, a verb — means to set in motion; make active or more active.  

In construction management, Activation is the phase of a project that prepares a building/space for occupancy.

Activities could include:

  • Mechanical and electrical commissioning
  • Furniture installation
  • IT network configuration
  • Phone installation
  • Actual move of occupants into the space

On face value one could say, “Oh, that’s just another name for Post-Construction.”  

However, Activation, specifically for technical projects like bio-medical research laboratories and hospitals, is a phase that spans the whole project schedule.

The goal of any project is to create a space where the occupants can perform their activities effectively — from a scientist reviewing newly formed stem cells to a doctor operating on a sick patient.  

These high-tech buildings need to function.

At the end of the day, what is the point of turning over a new facility to talented researchers and medical personnel if the building can’t serve them?

A common problem that I’ve experienced over the years is that by the time the construction project is completed — sometimes taking multiple years — the technology & equipment used by the occupants is outdated and obsolete.

Furthermore, scientific personnel and/or research projects have changed.  

Utility requirements, whether electrical, mechanical heat loads, or lab/medical gasses have been modified and the whole space needs to be renovated before the occupant can move in.

Yes, brand new facilities must be renovated to meet the needs of the users before they can move-in.

How is this an effective use of resources, time and money?

Therefore, I believe that Activation needs to be in the forefront of everyone’s mind throughout the whole project lifecycle.  Continual check-ins with the users, surveys of equipment, discussions with IT and equipment manufacturers need to occur.

Coordination between the design/construction and activation teams need to occur early in the design process, rather than after construction is complete.

By focusing on Activation early, the project has better success of staying on schedule too.  The more time you have to adjust to new information the more time you have to incorporate it into your project plan.  The last thing a project needs at turnover is finding out that a user piece of equipment requires a specific kind of power outlet, requiring change orders and additional work.

And this model can be used for other building industry groups like retail tenant fit-out, hotels and high-rise residential.  Maintaining high levels of quality on day one for users and guests is paramount for brand justification.

Again, our goal as service providers in the construction industry is to deliver a space that can be used by the occupants on the day that they arrive in the space.

Working together with that goal and foresight in mind by starting Activation early is a great way to make that goal a reality.

What areas of Project Turnover do you struggle with?  Please leave a comment and we will respond!

SPACE Inc. named 101 Best and Brightest Companies to work for in the nation

SPACE, Inc. has been named by The National Association for Business Resources as one of The Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in the nation.

The Best and Brightest Companies to Work For competition identifies and honors organizations that display a commitment to excellence in operations and employee enrichment that lead to increased productivity and financial performance. This competition scores potential winners based on regional data of company performance and a set standard across the nation.  This national program celebrates those companies that are making better business, creating richer lives and building a stronger community as a whole.  The Best and Brightest Program honored 437 national winning organizations from across the country out of 2000 nominations. In addition to honoring all national winners, this year a new subcategory was introduced, The Top 101 National Winning Companies.

SPACE Inc. was recognized as one of the highest 101 scoring companies that demonstrated exceptional innovative human resource practices and set high standards for all businesses. The elite categories include: Compensation, Benefits and Employee Development; Recruitment, Selection and Orientation; Employee Achievement and Recognition; Communication and Shared Vision; Diversity and Inclusion; Work-Life Balance; Community Initiatives; Strategic Company Performance and the Best of the Best Businesses.

SPACE is a commercial interior design firm and office furniture dealership that transforms workplaces into beautiful and productive work environments across Michigan and across the nation, the company stated. Founded in Midland in 1995, SPACE has always put employees’ needs at the forefront of their policies, according to the company. It said with a strong focus on innovation, continuous improvement and community engagement, SPACE positively impacts the lives of the SPACE family and the overall community.

“We are thrilled to be recognized as a 101 Best and Brightest Company to Work For in the Nation” said Kathie Fuce-Hobohm, president and CEO. “We have always been highly committed to our clients, our team and the Midland community. It is the way we do business and the right thing to do. Winning national recognition for these core values is an unexpected honor.”