Joe Parker, Livingston County’s Serial Entrepreneur
In the beginning of January, SPARK’s Livingston County team met with Joe Parker from C & B Machinery to learn more about his story as an entrepreneur in Livingston County. Not only is Joe the owner of a successful machine tool company, he has also had a big hand in the revitalization of Downtown Howell with his Heart of Howell development. The Heart of Howell is a mixed-use, historic development that includes over 18,000sf of leasable commercial space and 2FOGS Pub, a highly-regarded local bar and restaurant. In addition, Joe played a vital role in his daughters’ efforts to redevelop a building in Downtown Howell into a co-working space, the Frontal Lobe.
Joe’s story with C & B started in 1981, after word of mouth spread of his work repairing grinders. He decided to name his company C & B Machinery after his daughters, Courtney and Brooke. Family values are important to C & B and the name was a reminder to Joe that his kids are his number one reason for working hard, “that’s who you work for most of your life, your children,” Joe said.
In summer 2016, Joe completed a $2.9 million expansion, bringing C & B closer to his employees and his home in Livingston County. Today, the facility has about 50 employees and the potential to grow even more. Joe works hard to stay in the forefront of the machining industry, and looking ahead, C & B is exploring a couple new products and will be sharing a new spec machine at a trade show in Chicago. In addition, Joe is exploring strategies to diversify from automotive and tap into a larger market. Joe’s business acumen and understanding of changing markets has contributed greatly to his success.
C & B Machinery is only one of Joe Parker’s successful endeavors. In Howell, Joe has established himself as a major player in Downtown Development after he purchased and rehabilitated three buildings in the city center naming the project, “Heart of Howell.” While C & B has been what Joe described as the “Golden Goose” in terms of where he has invested (and reaped the rewards of his investment) the most, the Heart of Howell project was a major catalyst for Downtown Howell.
Heart of Howell started out as a small rehabilitation project and soon barrel-rolled into something quite amazing. Initially, Joe purchased one building with the intention of developing a coworking space. Soon after, two other contiguous buildings went on the market, and Joe purchased them as well. The redevelopment project started, and Joe was able to partner with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Howell Downtown Development Association to leverage grant funding for historic rehabilitation. The buildings were transformed into leasable commercial space, with the highly-regarded 2FOG’s Pub in the basement. When a space down the block opened up, Joe refused to pass up yet another opportunity, which ultimately became the Frontal Lobe, the coworking space he had initially envisioned in the Heart of Howell. Today, Joe’s daughters, Courtney and Brooke, own and manage the Frontal Lobe.
“My family was proud that we were doing stuff close to home,” Joe said, explaining why he decided to work on Downtown Development projects. Joe’s passion and pride that he has in Livingston County is evident: he loves it here.
When asked about his favorite parts of Livingston County, Joe shared that he loves the natural surroundings, “When I brush my teeth, I’m looking out at deer and cornfields. I’ve got my space and I’ve got some freedom,” but even more importantly, he loves being close to his family, “What you do after hours is what gives you the energy, drive and ambition to keep working. When your whole family is rewarded, it makes the work easy to do.”