CHICAGO — Robert W. Baird & Co., Michigan's financial adviser, continues to expand its public finance presence with the opening of a new office in Lansing.
The office will be staffed by Brian Lefler, director, who joined Baird earlier this year from Fifth Third Securities Inc., and Rachel Eubanks, vice president, who has worked at Baird since September 2006.
Managing director Wayne Workman will manage the firm's Lansing and Traverse City offices.
"I've been doing business since the mid-1980s with the state, and since 2000 have been up in Traverse City, commuting to Lansing, three hours each way, a few times a week," said Workman, who worked in state government prior to joining Baird in 2002.
"A lot of the business we do in Michigan is here. It becomes a central point for all people in Michigan public finance," he said.
The new office is part of Baird's ongoing expansion of its public finance team. The Milwaukee-based firm has opened four new municipal finance offices in the last two years, in Atlanta, Winston-Salem, N.C., Exton, Pa., and Denver.
It has also hired 17 new public finance employees since the beginning of 2009 and now employs more than 70 public finance professionals.
In Michigan, Baird is one of the largest underwriters and financial advisers for local governments, according to Workman. In addition to that business, the firm plans to expand its charter school business with Lefler at the helm, as well as its K-12 business.
Legislation pending in the Michigan Legislature would increase the number of charter schools in the state, making it a growing niche for public finance, Workman said.
"Even with the existing charters, they are experiencing pretty significant growth. We see that sector growing not just in Michigan but across the country," he said.
Michigan continues to struggle, but some economists and fiscal officials predict the state will start to see some growth by late 2010.
On the public finance front, Workman said refinancing will continue to pick up as the market offers attractive interest rates for governments looking for savings.
"We're pretty optimistic about the public finance sector in Michigan," he said.
There may not be "so much new money, but there will be significant refinancing opportunities," Workman said. "Interest rates continue to stay very low, and each year that goes by another pile of issues become callable and become efficient refinancing candidates."
Meanwhile, Baird continues to eye new locations, particularly in the Southeast, West, and Northeast, according to a statement from Keith Kolb, the firm's public finance director.
For the first nine months of 2009, Baird captured the top spot among senior managers of small issues, with $1.29 billion underwritten and a 7.6% market share, according to Thomson Reuters.
As a financial adviser so far this year, the firm ranks 38th nationally, ninth in the Midwest, and second in Michigan.