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Graydon’s Crossing brings English pub and grub to East Grand Rapids

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Last March the restaurant space at 2237 Wealthy St. in East Grand Rapids’ Gaslight Village was just an empty shell. Now it’s the second location of Graydon’s Crossing, an English pub with a full line of beers, wines and liquors and an unusual menu of Celtic-style fare.

Dubbed The Derby Station, the 5,000-square-foot pub has booths and tables up front, a custom-crafted bar, and a quieter dining area in the rear. An outdoor dining patio along the front of the building adds an open-air option for diners.

“The buildout looks very English with brick interior walls, wainscoting, and lots of wood trim,” says Brian Steinberg of Fryling Construction, the company handling the interior construction. “The wood floors and wood ceiling really stand out.”

Steinberg says the construction took just 10 weeks, but because of the pub’s visibility on a corner near Gaslight Village’s fountains the activity created a lot of interest.

“The owners had put a sign and a menu in the window, and there was always people walking up and looking inside to see what we were doing,” he adds.

Pub owners Larry Zeiser and Brian Giampapa also own the original Graydon’s Crossing on Plainfield, JD Reardon’s, Cambridge House and Logan’s Alley.

Source: Brian Steinberg, Fryling Construction

Photo by Brian Kelly

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Geothermal heat pumps boost water conservation by millions of gallons

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Did you know that a 200,000-square-foot office building that uses a conventional heating system and cooling tower—the stack that emits a plume of steam on cool mornings—can use two million gallons of water per year and sends another 20,000 gallons to the sanitary sewer?

geothermal heat pump, by contrast, uses the earth’s constant temperature to heat or cool water (depending on the season) in buried closed-loop pipes, recycling the same water through the loop over and over. No water is wasted, no heat releases into the atmosphere, and the pipes can last up to 100 years.

“The type of soil makes a difference,” says Steve Hamstra of Holland-based GMB Architects-Engineers. The company has installed geothermal heat pumps for over a decade, but is doing more of them now than ever before, including installations at Caledonia High School, which has one of the largest geothermal heat pump systems in the state, Zeeland West High School, Quincy Elementary, two schools in Kentwood, and Davenport University’s Lettinga Campus Academic Building and Residence Halls.

“We do a test bore to determine the type of soil, and then put polyethylene pipes vertically about 400 feet into the ground, it makes a U-turn and comes back up,” Hamstra adds.

“We built Zeeland West High School. It's 200,000 square feet and has 120 of these holes for the heat system. It’s a $2.2 million system, comparable to a conventional HVAC system, but it will save them $80,000 to $100,000 a year and won’t waste any water.”

In addition, GMB just completed the school’s new indoor pool building and is looking at ways to heat the pool by using the geothermal heat system to capture the heat exhausted by the building’s air conditioning.

Source: Steve Hamstra, GMB Architects-Engineers

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Dwindling sturgeon population focus of $119K Muskegon River study

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Lake Sturgeon are the largest fish in the Great Lakes, with females at times reaching longer than six feet and living some 80 years. Their numbers have dwindled precariously over the last century, placing them on Michigan’s Threatened and Endangered Species List.

A new $119,000 study by Carl Ruetz of the GVSU Annis Water Resources Institute and Kregg Smith of the Michigan DNR focuses on the Muskegon River below Croton Dam to determine how many fish are left, their spawning habits and their habitats.

Before 1890, fisherman destroyed sturgeon for ripping their nets, and later overfished them for their caviar. Dams also block streams preventing access to spawning habitats. The fish, as a result of such intrusions, have struggled to sustain their population because of their slow reproduction rates: females don’t spawn until they’re in their twenties; males spawn at about 15 years.

The study tracks the numbers, sizes and genders of adults as they enter the Muskegon River to spawn, the number of larvae emerging from the gravel spawning beds and drifting downstream and, this fall, calls for implanting tracking devices in juvenile fish.

“There are lots of unknowns, like where their rearing habitat is,” Ruetz says. “It’s logical it’s a flat-water habitat that’s rich in food sources, but we don’t know where. The transmitters will help us find out what habitats they’re using and how long they stay in Muskegon Lake and in the river.”

The DNR’s Kregg Smith has studied sturgeon for a decade and brought in Ruetz this year to increase man-hours and talent. He says that in the early 1900s there were millions of pounds of sturgeon in the Great Lakes, but a count during the 2002 spawning season estimates only 50 to 60 fish are left.

Source: Carl Ruetz, Grand Valley State University Annis Water Resources Institute; Kregg Smith, Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Trio of prominent Grand Rapids developers launch investment enterprise

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

If you’ve looked around Grand Rapids and East Grand Rapids this week, you’ve probably noticed new signs advertising properties offered by CWD Real Estate Investment in several commercial buildings.

That’s because three well-known Grand Rapids developers have formed a new enterprise geared toward providing high net worth investors with a portfolio that includes a variety of real estate investment opportunities.

Sam Cummings of Second Story Properties, Scott Wierda of Jade Pig Ventures, and Dan DeVos of DP Fox Ventures LLC created CWD Real Estate Investment, a firm with 14 employees who will work out of a 4,000-square-foot space at 15 Ionia SW, the expanded former office space of Second Story Properties.

“With over 70 years of experience between us, we tend to look at investment in real estate as part of a well balanced investment portfolio,” says Sam Cummings. “Over the course of our careers there are a number of individuals who have approached us wanting to be investors in real estate, and they want to have those investments well managed by people they know and trust.”

The new company will offer clients four investment options: real estate investment, brokerage, property management and development.

“We’ve gained experience in different product types in real estate: I’ve done urban redevelopment, Scott’s done retail, and Dan’s experienced in almost everything and has an extraordinary strategic thinking capacity,” Cummings adds. “We get that diversification of product aptitude that allows us to diversify in product type and in geography. We’re looking at Midwest investments, perhaps beyond that.”

The names of Second Story Properties and Jade Pig will go away, replaced by CWD, although the former Jade Pig—the partnership between Wierda and Brian DeVries—will continue to operate as a separate company. DeVos will guide CWD’s strategic direction while continuing with DP Fox, which owns several auto dealerships and real estate endeavors.

Source: Sam Cummings, CWD Real Estate Investment; Kate Washburn, Wondergem Consulting

Photograph by Brian Kelly for CWD Real Estate Investment

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

GVMC conference explores elements of a 21st century development strategy

How to build successful urban developments, establish entrepreneur-centric cities, and expand public transit and improve commuter mobility are just some of the topics slated for discussion at the annual Growing Communities Conference sponsored by the Grand Valley Metropolitan Council.

Douglas S. Kelbaugh, FAIA, Dean of Architecture and Urban Planning at University of Michigan and a founder of the New Urbanist movement will deliver the keynote address.

Milt Rohwer, president of the Frey Foundation, will lead a photographic tour of Grand Rapid’s progress in building a stronger community, and Dan Gilmartin, executive director of the Michigan Municipal League, will share his perspective on the direction Michigan is headed building and enhancing our cities.

The GVMC also will present its annual Blueprint Award to a recipient who has helped West Michigan achieve the goals of the GVMC.

The conference will be at the Prince Conference Center at Calvin College on June 12.

Source: Grand Valley Metropolitan Council 

Local First doubles membership, launches economic impact study

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

You’ve probably seen the yellow triangular window clings in area businesses indicating they are members of Local First. But what is Local First?

Local First, a nonprofit dedicated to creating demand for locally owned businesses and educating consumers on the economic impact of shopping at those businesses, logged 40,000 hits on its online directory in 2007. In the last 16 months, the organization more than doubled its membership of locally owned businesses, jumping from 150 members to 370.

Monthly networking events, the Local First Street Party, the Eat Local Challenge, and a new Entrepreneurial Resource Network where business owners share resources and business solutions are a few of the organization’s events to promote locally owned businesses.

“My firm landed three new clients as a result of connecting with a colleague through Local First,” says Craig Clark of Clark Communications. “Local First is the organization to belong to if you own a local business and want to connect with other individuals and businesses that support the triple bottom line theory of sustainability.”

The organization recently commissioned a local study to determine the impact of locally owned businesses on the Greater Grand Rapids economy, and to identify the number of locally owned full service restaurants, bookstores and banks. A similar study in Chicago determined that $73 dollars of every $100 spent at locally owned businesses stays in the community, compared to only $43 spent at national chains.

“We’re taking the study to the next level by asking what would happen if, as a community, we shift 10 percent of our spending from national to locally owned businesses,” says Elissa Sangalli Hillary, executive director. “What jobs would that create?”

The results of the local study will be available in a few weeks.

Source: Elissa Sangalli Hillary, Local First; Craig Clark, Clark Communications, courtesy photo

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Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Kendall student wins top honors in LEED design competition

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

He says he’s an interior designer who thinks like an architect. That thinking is what snagged Kyle Baker top honors for the 2008 Natural Talent Design Competition spearheaded by the U.S. Green Building Council’s West Michigan chapter.

The challenge? To redesign Grand Rapids Public Schools’ 52-year-old Brookside Elementary using LEED’s eco-friendly design principles.

Baker, 32, graduates Saturday from Kendall College of Art and Design with a degree in interior design. He entered the competition last year, but says “I pretty much got my butt kicked.” So this year, he geared up.

“I really wanted to win,” says Baker, who received his award at a USGBC gala event last month.

“I explored cutting-edge technology to determine if the roof shape could hold rainwater to help insulate the school and then be recycled to use in the toilets. I placed a wind turbine in front of the school to produce some energy, and made sure every space in the school has daylight.”

Baker added a second story, and instead of putting a hallway down the middle of the building with classrooms on either side, he put the hall along one side of the building (on both levels) with classrooms on one side and a 25-foot-high window wall on the other.

The two-story lobby has spaces to plant live trees. A catwalk on the second level crosses the space to join two learning areas.

Baker won a $1,000 cash prize and the opportunity to present his design at the November Greenbuild Expo in Boston, MA.

All the competitors’ designs will go to the GRPS for possible implementation.

Source: Kyle Baker

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Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Habitat teaches high school, college students LEED-construction ropes

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

In 2007, Habitat for Humanity Kent County decided that, moving forward, all the affordable houses they build will be LEED-certified. To achieve that lofty goal, the organization’s Educational Partnership Program teaches green building and LEED techniques to students enrolled in the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Small School of Construction and in Grand Rapids Community College’s M-Tec program.

“The market wants LEED and green homes, and our students are ahead of the curve because they have the knowledge and expertise they’ll need for the construction trades after graduation,” says Pam Doty-Nation, Habitat’s executive director. “We encourage them to go to GRCC’s M-Tec program because they earn college credits in advance for having had the training in high school.”

Doty-Nation says that of the 50 GRPS students this year, many of them, because of finances, wouldn’t consider attending college without the credits already in place.

“This is a great opportunity for them to get ahead of the game on the green economy that will intensify over the next 10 to 15 years,” she says.

The chapter has built 250 affordable homes for people who make just 30 to 50 percent of the area median income — between $18,700 to $31,050 per year for a family of four. Those homeowners purchase the homes with a zero-interest mortgage and must put in 300 to 500 hours of “sweat equity” before moving in.

In Kent County, Habitat receives 1,000 requests for homes each year, but can build only 20.

In 1983, the chapter was the 13th Habitat affiliate in the U.S. There are now over 1,700 affiliates. On April 25, a Rock the Block “un-gala” 25th anniversary celebration is planned.

Source: Pam Doty-Nation, Habitat for Humanity Kent County

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Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Design competition aims to put every kid, GRPS students included, in a green school

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

In the past decade, West Michigan developers have made Grand Rapids one of the 'greenest' cities on record, and as the Grand Rapids Public Schools continue to upgrade its educational facilities its fitting that one local competition focuses on LEED design principles for the proposed renovation of Brookside Elementary School.

LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the nation’s leading set of standards for the construction and certification of sustainable buildings.

The 2008 Natural Talent Design Competition asks university level designers or those who have graduated in the past five years to create a plan that incorporates LEED standards into the existing 54-year-old building, or to design new construction using LEED for Schools criteria. The competition is sponsored by the United States Green Building Council's West Michigan chapter

"The USGBC has a goal of having every child in a green school within one generation," says Sam Pobst, chair of the USGBC Regional Council, "and we chose to align with that for the competition theme."

A polluted creek runs through the school's nearly 40 acres at 2505 Madison SE. The property is adjacent to the proposed Salvation Army Kroc Center and both developments will be used as a catalyst for revitalizing the neighborhood.

Criteria from the competition guidelines include:

  • Engage student populations in sustainable design
  • Improve operating conditions for Brookside Elementary
  • Provide a catalyst partnership with the Kroc Salvation Army Community Center
  • Spotlight sustainability efforts in the region
  • Expand public awareness of LEED
  • Showcase a LEED Platinum building

All designs will be shown to the architect of record for the Kroc development.

Designers have until April 14 to submit their plans. Finalists will present their plans at Greenbuild in Boston, MA. Winners will receive cash prizes and will be announced on Earth Day, April 22, at a gala event at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

Source: Sam Pobst, US Green Building Council-West Michigan Chapter

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Finalists for national urban leadership award include one from Grand Rapids

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

LISC, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, announced this week that Kimberly Van Dyk, executive director of Neighborhood Ventures, is the only finalist from Michigan nominated for a national State Farm-LISC Spirit of Revitalization Award.

Last year, LISC, a recognized powerhouse in the community redevelopment movement, invested $1.1 billion in the revitalization of local communities, which spurred some 3.2 million square feet of new commercial space and 20,400 affordable homes.

Van Dyk's nomination in the category of community leadership recognizes her work in Uptown, a collaboration of the East Hills, Wealthy Street, East Fulton, and Eastown business districts.

"There are three categories and three finalists in each category—community leadership, development, and placemaking," says Tom Pfister, Grand Rapids' LISC program director. "Neighborhood commercial district revitalization is not an easy task and it's quite an honor to be recognized by your peers across the nation."

The Uptown Forward group, spearheaded by Van Dyk, is comprised of business owners and community stakeholders who have worked closely with the city staff and officials to draft a policy for the establishment of corridor improvement districts (CIDs) in the city. The group is currently working on plans to establish CIDs in the Uptown districts.

"Kim has the rare ability to keep the big picture in mind while handling the details," says Baird Hawkins, board member of the Eastown Business Association. Hawkins works with Van Dyk on a number of committees, including Uptown Forward.

"She's very good at bringing together diverse groups of people and keeping them on task," he adds. "Neighborhood Ventures has a miniscule budget and Kim goes way beyond her pay to get done what she needs to do."

LISC will announce the winners at its Urban Forum in Indianapolis on April 29.

Source: Tom Pfister, Local Initiatives Support Corporation;

Photo by Brian Kelly

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Local interior designer launches website touting 'green' products, principles

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Sue Norman, an active member of the Sierra Club and an organizer of the local US Green Building Council chapter, is an aficionado of all things eco-friendly. But as an interior designer and owner of her own Grand Rapids area firm, Design Is, she had a hard time finding the products and sustainable design information she needed to help her complete a builder's or client's 'green' vision.

So, in January, she launched her own web-based company targeting all aspects of green design and green products specifically for interior designers: Easy To Be Green.

"The site is for interior designers who want to weave sustainability into their practices," Norman says. "The industry doesn't serve interior designers as specifically as I would like, and when I thought about the kinds of services I wanted I thought other designers would like them as well."

While the site features green products, that's a small part of the bigger picture of how to integrate sustainable practices into interiors.

"I include a book review, I research articles on sustainable topics, and I provide snapshots of sustainable concepts like chemical basics, daylight and views, and how to reduce, reuse, and recycle," Norman says. "Every product page has important sustainable attributes—it gives the manufacturing location, where the product is distributed, and a link to each company."

For products like paint, Norman lists the volatile organic compound content. Chemical basics helps designers take into account the entire life cycle of a product from manufacturing through the chemical breakdown in a landfill.

Annual membership fees are $85 for individuals. Norman also offers group and student rates.

Source: Sue Norman, Easy To Be Green

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grand Rapids forum debuts first-ever standards for racism-free organizations

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The Partners for a Racism-Free Community have a goal: in 10 years, 50 percent of all organizations in Greater Grand Rapids will achieve the designation racism free.

The clock begins ticking March 28 at the 2008 Partners for a Racism-Free Community (PRFC) Forum, formerly called the Racial Justice Summit, where the first-ever standards and credentialing process for creating racism-free environments will be revealed.

"The PRFC defines racism-free as the individual and systemic condition achieved when all persons, regardless of skin color, feel welcomed and wanted in all places and treat others the same way," says Faye Richardson, chair of the standards and credentialing committee.

The standards target six areas of an organization:

  • Leadership engagement
  • Internal policies, practices and processes
  • External collaborations and relationships
  • Contractor, supplier, and vendor practices
  • Client, congregation, customer and marketplace practices
  • Measurements and results

The process helps organizations determine:

  • What do our leaders practice concerning racism?
  • How do we create a rich environment for everyone?
  • Who are we working with to remove racism from the community?
  • How do our suppliers reflect our values?
  • How are we reaching out to a diverse base of students, customers, or congregations?
  • How do we identify best practices and measure where we stand now?

Several area businesses, nonprofits, and service organizations, including the YWCA, Steelcase, and the West Michigan Strategic Alliance, are testing the pilot program, which started in January. The committee will reveal the results of the pilot to-date at the forum.

"Creating these standards for organizations is very unique to Grand Rapids," Richardson says. "We're hoping it catches on around the state and the country. It's really way past time for us to be eliminating racism."

Source: Faye Richardson, Partners for a Racism-Free Community

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Legislative luncheon targets mass transit funding for Grand Rapids

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

On Monday, Disability Advocates of Kent County will hold a Legislative Lunch on Transit to bring state legislators and city, county and township elected officials up to date on the progress of mass transit in the county. The nearly 100 attendees include Senators Bill Hardiman and Mark Jansen and Representative Glenn Steil.

"We’ll talk about funding from the feds for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line and will ask the state legislators to vote for the 20 percent financial match needed to receive the 80 percent federal funding," says Frank Lynn, spokesperson for Disability Advocates.

The federal government approved some $29 million for the BRT, the most advanced transit undertaking in the state to-date. Disability Advocates emphasizes that public transit is a good economic engine. Citing the publication Property Futures by Jones Lang LaSalle, Lynn says that 77 percent of new economy companies rated access to mass transit as an extremely important factor in selecting corporate locations.

"We're hoping that some of the attendees will make a commitment to funding the matching portion of the BRT proposal," Lynn adds. "We’ll also encourage them to fund the comprehensive transportation fund with the full 10 percent of the gas tax allowed by law."

Statewide, the transportation fund pays for road repairs and maintenance, and provides funding for mass transit.

"The potholes we have in the roads right now are because of a lack of a state funding for roads," Lynn says. "A raise in the gas tax provides better roads and an increase in transit funding statewide."

The luncheon is open to the public and will be at LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church from noon to 1:30. Cost is $10.

Source: Frank Lynn, Disability Advocates

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Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

New Belmont organization helps families flower

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

A new baby brings much happiness to a family. But that little bundle of joy also brings fatigue, confusion and, in some moms, extreme postpartum depression.

MomsBloom.org, a web-based nonprofit in Belmont, aims to help Kent County parents of infants from newborn to three months old get the support they need to be successful parents.

“We train volunteers who are passionate about the bond between mother and baby—grandmas, moms, empty nesters, social workers. They provide non-judgmental support to parents of infants,” says Sara Binkley-Tow, president. “We're the extended family for the 21st Century.”

The volunteers provide services at any time of day or night, including emotional and physical recovery from birth, lactation consultation, teaching baby soothing skills for screaming infants or infants with colic, meal preparation and light housework.

The group helps families connect to community resources that can include finding a postpartum depression support group or getting help with addictions.

“Our goal is to reduce child abuse, such as shaken baby syndrome, by reducing the postpartum depression and the fatigue,” says Binkley-Tow, 36.

Binkley-Tow, a certified Happiest Baby Educator, infant massage instructor, and certified postpartum doula, began providing services for parents about a year ago as All In The Touch, the forerunner to MomsBloom. That’s when she spent time caring for an infant who slept all day and was awake all night.

“I went in to their home and cared for the baby during the night so the parents could sleep,” she says. “This is not something parents can prepare for. Many parents are worn out.”

She founded MomsBloom with Angie Walters and Alice Christensen last July. The group received its nonprofit status in February, and begins accepting clients mid-April.

MomsBloom’s services will be provided free to families of any income level. Volunteer training begins in March.

Source: Sara Binkley-Tow, MomsBloom.org

Deborah Johnson Wood is the development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Sports Commission partnerships could generate $12M in tourism

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The West Michigan Sports Commission spent 2007 building partnerships with local sports associations. Those partnerships, which now involves at least 17 different events, could generate 20,000 tourists and $12 million for West Michigan in the next three years.

"We want to focus on the opportunities out there, like fencing, rugby, gymnastics, and hockey," says Mike Guswiler, sports commission executive director, "Our relationship with the Amateur Athletic Union will bring the 2008 AAU Softball Central Region Championship and a national beach volleyball national qualifier to the region."

U.S. Airborne Gymnastics is one of the commission's new partners. The commission is helping with the annual U.S. Airborne Gymnastics Invitational at Cornerstone University on March 1 and 2. The event attracts 350 competitors and their families from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Canada, and could inject some $185,000 into Grand Rapids hotels, restaurants, shops, and attractions. Winners will move to national competitions as Olympic hopefuls.

"We can raise awareness of any event and what it brings to West Michigan," Guswiler says. "We help put proposals together highlighting the benefits of the area, we identify the needs of the tournament organizers, locate facilities, get sponsors and volunteers, and other services. And it all gets to the underlying reason of why we exist and that's to draw economic benefit to the community."

Other partnerships the commission established involve a variety of events, including the Great Lakes Lacrosse Classic, the Grand Haven Beach Vault, the Men's and Women's Collegiate LAU Rugby Championships and the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions. The latter event, alone, will bring some $1 million to the region.

Source: Mike Guswiler, West Michigan Sports Commission

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

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