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Longtime Holland meat market embraces change -- a new home in Grand Rapids' Downtown Market

Montello Meat Market has been a Holland staple since the '50s, first as Montello Park IGA in one location, a move to another part of town in the '80s (746 Michigan Ave.), and a name change. And, holding true to its history of change amid the constancy of supplying top-notch meats to customers, the market is ready for a new pasture: the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids.

The Downtown Market (435 Ionia Ave. SW) hopes to be the region's go-to center for everything food, from fresh veggies at the outdoor farmers market to baked goods, coffee, site-made ice creams, and now, a local butchery. But Montello Meat Market owners Tony and Tina Larson are not pulling out of their beloved Holland community entirely.

"We're creating Montello Meat Locker, a meat market on wheels, instead of having the (Holland) store," says Tina Larson. "People still call in their orders; they want a tenderloin roast for Friday night, or lamb chops for a family dinner. We'll continue to offer freezer bundles for people who don't have big deep freezers."

The Larsons haven't ironed out all the details on deliveries or pickup locations, but will have those figured out soon, Larson says.

Tony and Tina have owned the meat market for 10 years and each of their four children -- Alex, Sam, Hayley, and Grace -- now young adults, have worked, or still work, at the store. Sam, 25, will be the market's executive butcher; Dad Tony will still make the market's 24 types of brats and sausages from scratch, including Tony's Original Brats, Cherry Pecan, Belgian Country Sausages from a recipe from Belgium, English Breakfast Sausage from a recipe of a butcher shop in England, two chicken sausage recipes, and lamb sausage.

The Downtown Market will become Montello's primary butchery, with 1,900-square-feet of cutting, aging, mixing, and packaging space and a 24-foot-long meat counter. The beef, all from Michigan farms and hormone-free, will be dry-aged on site in coolers with large windows. The store will also sell frozen meats, plus homemade meat loaf, ham loaf, and pea soup.

The Market Hall in the Downtown Market opens in August.

Source: Tina Larson, Montello Meat Market
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids Downtown Market adds some "spice" with popular Saugatuck spice shop

As the list of foodie-oriented vendors in the new Grand Rapids Downtown Market continues to grow -- a bakery, an ice cream maker, a specialty food and wine shop, a coffee shop, a florist, and a butchery -- it seems only natural that a spice shop could bring it all together as a complete one-stop shopping experience.

Spice Merchants
, a corporate and franchise spice seller based in Saugatuck, plans to have hundreds of its bulk spices, proprietary spice blends, and artisanal teas at the market when it opens in August.

"We'll pair well with everything at the market -- vegetables, olive oils, meats, coffee; we'll have fantastic spices and sugars that will go with everything being sold," says owner and founder Lisa Freeman. "Customer can buy large or small quantities. Everything is in a large jar with a label and lid. You tell me what you want, and I measure it into a bag. We sell as little as one-half ounce and more."

Spice Merchants' blends are from Freeman's own recipes, she says, adding that the blends contain no manmade fillers, artificial colors, or chemicals. Freeman says the spices only make one stop between the grower and her stores: the east coast, where the spices are cleaned and processed in a "clean warehouse" that's peanut-free and FDA-approved.

Spice Merchants' top sellers are Smoked Paprika, Hot Smoked Paprika, Black Truffle Sea Salt, Saugatuck Steak Rub (smoked paprika base, Worcestershire, garlic, sea salt, cracked black pepper), Raspberry Chipotle blend, Coffee Barbecue blend, and Tuscan Blend to add to olive oil for dipping bread.

"People can get healthy and fresh products (at the Downtown Market)," Freeman says. "It represents just a great wholesome venue where you can go to get everything. A passion for spices and cooking, that's what got me started. The idea of walking into a store and being able to have all kinds of spices at your fingertips in smaller quantities and more economically appealed to me."
 
Source: Lisa Freeman, Spice Merchants
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Grand Rapids technology startup offers medical practices unique options to improve bottom line

Digital Limelight Media (DLM) doesn't work with just anybody. The Grand Rapids-based technology startup has been in existence for just over a year, working with medical practices to improve the practice's bottom line by determining which advertising method is attracting new patients, where those new patients are coming from, and how much money those patients spend at the practice.

And while DLM could do this for every medical practice that wants to hire them, they don't. DLM says it offers exclusivity to every client in every city, working with only one plastic surgeon, for example, or one family practitioner.
 
"We don't report on first-page rankings, we report on revenue," says company founder and CEO Kyle Peacy, 27. "We don't care who ranks on Google first; we care if they made money and where that money's being made. We measure returns on new business only, not business referred by a friend or a doctor, but patients who found the website and contacted the doctor."

DLM (15 Ionia Ave. SW, Suite 320) operates out of a collaborative workspace that generates an overflow of creative energy among the five people in the company. Peacy and business partner Ryan Rogers, 28; Drew Page, 22, business development; Tyler Rix, 22, graphic design; and Jake Moore, 26, account manager.

While the group's camaraderie is lighthearted, as exemplified by Rix's white board graffiti of a grizzly bear wearing a sunglasses and a necktie, and a he-man panda with a Two Hearted Ale in his fist, it's an integral part of the serious business of keeping the energy flowing for clients.

DLM offers the whole media package: website development, search engine optimization, email marketing, reputation management, and social media management.

But lead management is the company's bread and butter; when a lead comes in through the client's website, it generates a call to the medical office, which prompts the office to contact the potential new patient within five minutes of them hitting "Send." That, says Peacy, leads to setting appointments, which leads to getting new patients into a client's office.

Source: Digital Limelight Media
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Opening day of Grand Rapids' Downtown Market welcomed 8,000 - 10,000 visitors

On Saturday, May 4, the new $30 million Downtown Market opened its 80-stall outdoor vendors area for the first time, welcoming an estimated 8,000 – 10,000 visitors, says market spokesperson Brian Burch.

The outdoor vending area is part of the larger Downtown Market (435 Ionia Ave. SW), which will offer restaurants, pubs, a coffee shop, bakeries, food boutiques, culinary kitchens, greenhouses, and more when it opens later this year. The market, whose focus is on locally produced foods, will also offer a culinary classroom and other educational endeavors.

Pots and hanging baskets of brightly colored flowers dotted the market where vendors like Visser Farms offered them for sale. Crane Dance Farms offered their grass-fed beef products, other farmers and growers had tables filled with potted herbs and tomato plants ready for planting. Gammy's Artisan Pies offered deep-dish fruit and savory pies.

Simpatico Coffee, which will have a shop in the indoor Market Hall, offered samples of freshly brewed coffee and tea. Go Nuts filled the air with the smell of fresh mini fried cakes prepared hot on the spot for a long line of customers anxious to try them. Breads, focaccia, and fresh vegetables filled other tables, as well as a variety of jams, jellies, salsas, and dried herb mixes from Frozen Creek Farms.

Non-food offerings included cedar birdhouses and garden ornaments.

One of the most colorful vendors was Ed Dunneback & Girls Farm Market with its eye-catching hot pink John Deere tractor and matching aprons. The Dunnebacks offered samples of donuts, and had several varieties for sale.

The outdoor market will be open Tuesdays and Saturdays, 8 to 1 p.m.; Thursdays, 4 to 7 p.m.

Source: Brian Burch, Downtown Market
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

GVSU's $40M Seidman Center opens with state-of-the-art learning technology, first trading room

On May 6, the long-anticipated $40 million L. William Seidman Center at Grand Valley State University welcomed its first students to its state-of-the-art facility designed specifically for the needs of the university's business students. The 127,643-square-foot Seidman Center (50 Front St., Grand Rapids) offers the Seidman College of Business students and affiliated departments a fresh new perspective on learning, beginning with an electronic tickertape feed in the lobby that displays current stock trading.

The facility offers students a high-tech trading room with nine Bloomberg Training Terminals for accessing near-real-time stock market action, equipment and opportunities the Seidman College didn't have before. The trading room, named The Gary L. Tilken Financial Markets Center, allows students to practice making trades and to conduct research.

The building also offers a student lounge, a quiet study area, and 15 break-out rooms that accommodate five students for small study groups or projects. The break-out rooms are equipped with file-sharing technology and monitors so students can plug in their laptops and work on a shared project.

Students who miss a class equipped with Classroom Capture technology will be able to view the recorded classroom session on their laptops via a split screen that shows both the instructor and a close up of the smartboard.

"(This building) will keep Grand Valley on the cutting edge of business technology," says John Reifel, Seidman College's interim dean. "It will give us one more thing to help attract students. It's another step that keeps us really ahead of the game."

The Seidman College of Business has over 3,000 students.

Source: John Reifel, Seidman College of Business
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Blueberry Haven specialty boutique touts West Michigan blueberries, future blueberry cookbook

Tiffany Balk wanted a uniquely Grand Haven gift for friends. She lived near a 900-acre blueberry farm and wondered why someone hadn't done for blueberries what Cherry Republic had done for cherries.

The search for that one gift lead Balk to create a few blueberry delicacies of her own that she wholesaled to local specialty stores and online. She started selling them at the Grand Haven Farmers Market in 2008, and in 2011 she opened Blueberry Haven (213 Washington Ave., Grand Haven).

Balk buys her blueberries from 40-50 West Michigan growers, plus contracts with area co-packers who make the products based on her recipes. Her products span a variety of tastes, from the delectable Spring Lake "Laker" Jam with pineapple, orange, and lemon, to Blueberry Almond Biscotti. Other delicious treats include Oatmeal Blueberry Cookie Mix, Cinna-Berry Pancake Mix, Blueberry Coffee, and Blueberry Salsa.

"In the back of our store is our sample bar where we have all the jams, chocolates, and sauces so customers can taste them," Balk says. "We ship anywhere. One customer from New Hampshire came in because they got one of our products as a Christmas gift, so they bought more. On the way home, they stayed with friends in Chicago, so when they got back to New Hampshire, they got online and shipped something to their Chicago friends as a thank you."

Balk says that although she offers free recipes in the store and online, customers were constantly requesting a cookbook.

The cookbook doesn't have a name yet or a publication date, but the first draft is finished. Grand Haven-based Splattered Ink Press will publish the book. Along with traditional pies and muffin recipes, the book will feature some unusual dishes, such as, Grilled Lobster Blueberry Salad, Leg of Lamb with Blueberry Relish, Blueberry Jalapeno Cornbread, and Blueberry Mojitos.

Store hours: Mon. - Sat., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Fridays open until 8 p.m. ; Sundays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m..
 
Source: Tiffany Balk, Blueberry Haven
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

New craft brewery and beer brewing supply store on tap for Ada's downtown

It won't be long and Ada will be home to the area's first, and maybe only, craft brewery and brewing supply store mash-up.

Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery & Supply (418 Ada Dr., next to Ada Dental Associates) could be open this June, bringing patrons a place to enjoy an expertly crafted brew made onsite and a spot for home brewers to purchase grains, hops, and equipment.  

"The idea is that we wanted to bring brewing closer to people, to have it be an experience so people can be part of the operation as much as possible," says Gravel Bottom's owner Matt Michiels. "You'll walk in, and that's all taproom area with a sit-down bar, and directly behind the bar is the actual brewhouse, just four or five feet away."

Michiels has been home brewing for 14 years, and has been "kicking around the brewery idea" for about five. His goal is to make the brewery a place where people can taste different recipes, talk with each other and with experts employed by the brewery, and then pick up the supplies they'll need to make the beer at home.

Besides equipment and starter kits, the brew store will carry 80 grains, hops, honey from local beekeepers, and other local products. Eventually, the brewery will offer brewing classes onsite, which will use a small brew house in the shop.

The larger brewery is a three-barrel (100 gal.) system with eight three-barrel fermenters and five three-barrel serving vessels, which allows Gravel Bottom to have 15 barrels on tap at any given time, and 24 barrels in active fermentation, says Michiels.

"We want people to be able to come into the store and try a beer, and then say I really like this, or, I wish it had more body, less bitter, more sour," Michiels says. "And then we can tell them that hey, here's the recipe, and here's what you can do to achieve that."

The brewery will not offer a food menu, but Michiels hopes to partner with the half-dozen restaurants nearby for deliveries or catering.

Source: Matt Michiels, Gravel Bottom Craft Brewery & Supply
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Images by Steph Harding

Creative Youth Center keeps writing, reading, and books alive at former Literary Life Bookstore

It seems fitting that a young nonprofit dedicated to helping children find their literary voice would occupy the same space as a former bookstore -- a space where the muse was, and is, nurtured and called upon for inspiration.

That's what's happening with the Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center (CYC), an after-school program dedicated to helping kids aged 6 to 16 learn to write and publish fiction, plays, screenplays, poetry, and all manner of creative literature. The former Literary Life Bookstore at 758 Wealthy St. SE is the new home of the venture begun by Schuler Books & Music owner Cecile Fehsenfeld and CYC Executive Director Lori Slager.

"We left the fireplace in place, and brought in furniture," Slager says. "We want an inspiring space for the kids to come and work, a place that's not institutional after being in school all day. We have a theme of 'adventure,' sort of an Indiana Jones explorer adventure theme. We made hot air balloons from paper lanterns hanging all over. We want them to think about traveling, exploring, and discovering new things."

The Creative Youth Center offers free, age-specific writing classes taught by experienced writers, playwrights, and others in the writing arts and publishing industry. Slager says future plans include a small bookstore that sells the CYC's own books, written by students, and other items.

The store will be named Captain H. Tanny's Adventure Trade & Supply after the organization's elusive adventurer and world-traveling mascot, Captain H. Tanny.

"Captain H. Tanny is gender-neutral and open to kids' interpretations," Slager says. "We never show a picture of the captain. The captain's is always traveling and when people we know are off traveling, we have them send a postcard from the captain from wherever they are."

The first summer classes to be offered in the new location are for high school-aged kids -- one is on the spoken word and will be taught by Grand Rapids poet Azizi Jasper; the other is about screenwriting and will coordinate with the Mosaic Film Experience 2013.

Source: Lori Slager, Creative Youth Center
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Images by Lisa Beth Anderson

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Grand Haven to invest $700K from state for trees, streetscapes to raise downtown's profile

Grand Haven's business leaders say too many people think the strip of businesses along US-31 make up the entire shopping and dining opportunities in town. But businesses in the traditional downtown area of this busy summer hotspot have an idea that could change all that.

Grand Haven was one of nine Michigan communities to receive part of a nearly $4.5 million Downtown Infrastructure Grant pot from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation's Michigan Strategic Fund.

The grant of $711,449, plus matching local funds of nearly $250,000, puts about $1 million in the city's hands for this project.

"I've heard the comment that some people think US-31 is the downtown," says Assistant City Manager Sam Janson. "We need to let people know where our business districts in the city are. (The planned improvements) will help visibly identify our community to those who are passing through. The goal is for people to want to stop here and spend some time here. And it will help us attract people who are interested in developing or opening a business."

The project will run along Washington St. from Beacon Boulevard (US-31) west to the railroad tracks. One of the most important aspects of the project is to create visible, inviting gateways that direct people to the downtown business district. Janson says the design and placement locations have not been decided.

Streetscape improvements will include planting 30 trees, new light poles, sidewalks, and benches, plus a Harbor Transit bus stop. Underground work will add new utilities and water lines, plus stormwater catch basins that will allow the sandy ground to absorb the stormwater rather than sending it into Lake Michigan.

Engineering services: FTC&H
Landscape design and services: Johnson Hill Land Ethics Studio

Source: Sam Janson, City of Grand Haven
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Not your grandparents' library; thousands get exciting peek at $65M GVSU Mary Idema Pew Library

With its four-story glass walled atrium, a cafeteria and coffee bar, and state-of-the-art learning pods, the future Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons on Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus is not your grandparents' hushed library.

Over 2,000 students and media braved winds and pouring rain on April 17 for an exciting sneak peek at the 150,000-square-foot eco-friendly facility. Excited shouts of "woohoo!" and "yes!" could be heard as students entered the atrium space, mobile phones raised high to capture the moment on camera. One student was overheard saying, "Going to the library just got cool."

The $65 million library, which connects to the Kirkhof Center, will serve GVSU's 25,000 students, offering 150,000 shelved books and 600,000 library items accessible using an automated retrieval system.

But the offerings incorporate more than just reading materials. An innovative Knowledge Market will allow students access to expertise in research, writing, public presentations, and technology through other students who are specially trained as peer consultants.

"The state librarian is looking at our Knowledge Market as a model for other libraries," says Lee Van Orsdel, dean of Grand Valley’s University Libraries. "This concept is a first in academic libraries. We don't know anywhere else where learning is so fully integrated."

The library also includes private study areas, a student art gallery with glass walls, private presentation pods with audio/video technology, and upper-floor views over the campus.

The project is on track for the highest LEED certification, according to architects Tod Stevens and Janice Suchan of SHW Group, and will use half the energy of traditional buildings of similar size.

The library will open at the end of June.

Design: SHW Group
Civil engineers: FTC&H
Construction: Pioneer Construction

Source: Lee Van Orsdel, Grand Valley State University; Tod Stevens and Janice Suchan, SHW Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Proposed taquería just a matter of time for abandoned Wealthy St. gas station

Renovation of a long-vacant gas station at Wealthy St. SE and Henry St. SE into a proposed taquería could be moving forward soon. Recently erected construction fence surrounds the property owned by Winchester on Wealthy/Hidden Pearl LLC, implying that preparations are moving forward.

Paul Lee, owner of The Winchester restaurant (648 Wealthy St. SE) nearby, says preliminary approvals by the Grand Rapids Board of Zoning Appeals, Grand Rapids Historic Preservation Commission, and Grand Rapids Planning Commission are in place, and construction awaits only the needed permits before breaking ground. Lee adds that the restaurant could open in July or August, but declined further comment.

On Oct. 11, 2012, the planning commission approved a proposal to waive the on-site parking requirements for the building, paving the way for construction of an addition that will more than double the size of the existing gas station and include an outdoor seating area. At that meeting, Lee and Ted Lott of Lott3Metz Architecture said the project has support from the neighborhood and area businesses. Lee also stated he would seek a liquor license for the new eatery.

Also mentioned was a seating capacity for 129, which includes approximately 40-60 outside seats and a patio with landscaping.

Lee says his family acquired the property about a year ago and he believes the old gasoline holding tanks were removed in the 1980s.

Source: Paul Lee, The Winchester; Grand Rapids Planning Commission meeting and minutes of Oct. 11, 2012
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

$10M concourse upgrades, West Michigan beers, new security checkpoints planned for Ford Airport

Changes are in the air for the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, including plans for a $10 million expansion to accommodate new airline services, creating a single security checkpoint, and new retail and concessions that promote products and brands unique to West Michigan.

One of those products is Kalamazoo-based Bell's Brewery. A new Great Lakes Tap Room will replace the current Home Turf pub at the airport, offering Bell's craft brews, says airport Executive Director Brian Ryks. Ryks says concessions operator HMSHost has contracted with Bell's and is working to engage other local microbreweries to get their products into other areas of the terminal.

"We wanted to bring more local and regional aspects into our environment, so when people land or fly out they recognize Grand Rapids and the region and what it has to offer," Ryks says. "Once we get the new checkpoint built in the next three or four years, then we'll put out other RFPs (Requests for Proposals) to bid on opportunities to create branding for new concessions opportunities in the concourses."

The new concessions are part of the concourse expansion plans, which include adding two more gates to Concourse B -- one to serve Southwest Airlines, which begins service in August, and another gate that will accommodate future growth. Concourse A will see some upgrades, and the separate security checkpoints for each concourse will eventually be consolidated into one large checkpoint area where the current retail travel store is now. Construction on the security checkpoint begins in late 2014 or early 2015.

A new partnership between HMSHost and Grand Rapids Magazine brands the retail store as the Grand Rapids Magazine Travel Retail Store and includes products from Schuler's Books and Music. Renovation of the current store begins this summer. The store will relocate when the security checkpoint consolidation begins.

Source: Brian Ryks, Gerald R. Ford International Airport
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Raad's Mediterranean Grill brings fresh-made family recipes from Lebanon to Grand Rapids' East Hills

A new Mediterranean restaurant wants to be your go-to place for freshly prepared recipes straight from Lebanon. The Raad family's authentic Greek and Lebanese cuisine has been tested and tasted at the family's first restaurant, Mediterranean Grills (6250 28th St. SE), for the past 10 years. Now they've opened Raad's Mediterranean Grill (962 Cherry St. SE) in East Hills in the former Bloom restaurant space.

Restaurant Manager Ashtin Raad, son of owners Linda Akkari and Ashtin Raad, Sr., says the extensive menu includes meat lovers, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free offerings.

"There are a lot of vegans and gluten-free diets in this area, and so we're creating a lot of those dishes," Raad says. "All of them are recipes from my mom and grandma. They recreated the best recipes for made-to-order foods at a fast pace."

The menu offers Greek gyros, salads, vegan plates, vegan desserts, traditional kabobs of lamb,  chicken, or beef, raw kibbeh, falafel, stuffed grapes leaves, shawarma, and more. Prices range from about $3 to $19.99.

Raad says the dining room needed just a small facelift to give it a Mediterranean feel.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The eatery also offers delivery to any place within one mile of the restaurant.

Source: Ashtin Raad, Raad's Mediterranean Grill
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Shared workspace on Grand Rapids' West Side links Lucid Group, Holland Litho, Boxboom Creative

A small unassuming building at 900 Muskegon Ave. NW is hardly the place one would think great creativity happens, but the olive green-painted brick belies what takes place inside.

Sunshine streams through two walls of storefront windows, brightening the contemporary décor where three companies build their own businesses, plus collaborate on client projects.

Lucid Group's Rick Overway and Matt Wish, Holland Litho sales rep Paul Soltysiak, and Boxboom Creative's Julie Lankes have staked their claims, each in their own far corner of Lucid Group's showroom, desks facing the center, leaving plenty of space in the middle for a meeting of the minds.

Lucid Group specializes in trade show displays and permanent branding installations, like the Welcome Wall at Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Holland Litho offers printing services from brochures to bindery services and more. Boxboom Creative is Julie Lankes's graphic design and marketing firm.

Overway, who bought the building in 2010, worked there alone for several months, using the space as a showroom for his trade show displays. "I've always had the idea this type of collaboration would be beneficial," he says. "I wanted the kind of a place where clients could come and get a lot of different things taken care of without having to go to an advertising agency."

As with many collaborations, the connections at 900 Muskegon happened organically. One by one, the other three moved into the space. Besides working and creating, they use the location for occasional casual "happy hour" gatherings of business associates. A brightly colored conference room in the back provides room for meetings and private consultations.

"Not everyone we work with works with the others here," Soltysiak says, "but it's great for the people who do want all these resources."

All four say the most valuable aspect of the arrangement is how quickly their networking circles expanded.

"My husband and I moved here from Chicago, and I kind of had to start my business over," Lankes says. "These guys are connected to different groups and I can go with them and meet people."

Source: Rick Overway and Matt Wish, Lucid Group; Paul Soltysiak, Holland Litho; Julie Lankes, Boxboom Creative
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

OST expands collaborative workspace; attracts employees, clients to Grand Rapids' growing West Side

A 5,000-square-foot expansion within the historic Drueke Company warehouse (605 Seward Ave. NW) is spurring a lot of activity on Grand Rapids' West Side, an area of town enjoying a surge of development.

OST (Open Systems Technologies) recently expanded its operations into space adjoining its existing 15,000-square-foot offices.

Lofty 18-ft. ceilings, expanses of canary yellow walls tempered with gray and black, and a number of huge flat screen TVs surround 34 "benching" (collaborative) work areas dotted with laptops and flat screen monitors. Small four-person conference rooms line one wall. Over a dozen IT developers work quietly in groups of four or five, some glance occasionally at the sports news on TV; another three developers work alone, wearing earbuds.

"Technology is transforming quickly and, as our clients become more sophisticated, they're asking to be more innovative and connected with their clients," says Meredith Bronk, COO. "There is a lot of collaboration, and a lot of team orientation, so creating a space that really fostered the absolute advantage was just an opportunity we couldn't pass up."

Marketing Manager Mike Lomonaco adds that many client groups, including several from client Johnson Controls, call OST home.

"How many other businesses have their clients working in their space?" Lomonaco asks. "We could do conference calls, but the quality of the solutions is so much better and we develop relationships."

In 2010, OST had 49 employees; today there are 114, plus 60 contract employees. Ten new employees have come aboard recently. The result of this influx of employees, clients, and client teams means West Side restaurants, pubs, and the nearby Fifth Street Hall have new customers.

"If we can be a part of that resurgence that Bob Israels started several years ago, and if we can be a part of extending that vision," Lomonaco says, "that's what we want to do."

Source: Meredith Bronk, Mike Lomonaco, OST
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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