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Innovation + Job News

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Grand Rapids technology company earns Microsoft recognition, looks to add jobs

NVINT, a Grand Rapids-area information technology (IT) infrastructure company, has been invited to join Microsoft as a leading hosting partner at the 2013 Microsoft Management Summit taking place April 8-12, 2013 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.

NVINT will be featured as a pioneer of cloud backup that uses Microsoft's Data Protection Manager (DPM). Currently, NVINT is one of only a few companies that offers this service worldwide.

Chris Vinton, NVINT president, says the invitation (one of four extended to U.S. companies) is a strong affirmation of the firm's decision to be an early adopter of cloud technologies. "For us, it is a real honor to be invited to the conference," Vinton says. "It is a great opportunity for us to capitalize on our previous work with cloud technologies."

NVINT currently has a staff of 18, with two positions added in the last six months. Vinton also says they are looking to hire 1-2 individuals this year and the plan is stay local. "We are finding the people here locally. We pull a lot of talent out of Davenport. They have a good computer science program, as do GVSU and Calvin. Developing IT talent starts with the quality educational institutions."

To learn about Microsoft's DPM, you can click here. To learn more about NVINT, you can view their site here. 

Source: Chris Vinton, NVINT
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

West Michigan marketing and design studio Thinkbox Creative adding jobs

Thinkbox Creative is a West Michigan-based, full-service marketing and design studio, specializing in web, branding, search engine optimization (SEO), print, video, and social media.


The 13-person firm, founded 18 years ago in Big Rapids before moving to Grand Rapids in 2007, is on a growth trajectory with no plans for slowing down. Brian Dokter, a partner at Thinkbox, says the firm has added six jobs in the last six months and has doubled its revenue in the last three years. Dokter says the biggest catalyst for growth came two years ago when they brought on a high level developer as a partner, moving the firm from primarily a front-end development shop to a full-service marketing and design business.


Two other factors Dokter cited for their success include a commitment to running a lean organization and the ability to attract talented and ambitious employees.


"We strive to minimize risk as a business. We keep our overhead low and that funnels down to how we gain employees. They enjoy the creative opportunity. They begin part-time and earn their way into full-time. We attract people who want to build a business, enjoy challenges, and are not looking for just employment."


Dokter says the proliferation of mobile devices (tablets and smart phones) and the continuing trend of how consumers are researching and making purchasing decisions has created a big opportunity for his firm to help clients meet customer expectations.


"Typically, many businesses are just catching up to where current web expectations are, and they are now willing to invest in becoming more responsive to the customer. We help our clients become either mobile-friendly or totally mobile with their sites, including e-commerce. We can make all marketing materials cohesive and keep clients ahead of the curve."


To learn more about Thinkbox Creative, you can visit their site here.


Source: Brian Dokter, Thinkbox Creative

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Dear Prudence adds some bling to downtown Grand Rapids' boutique scene, expands workforce

Another tiny boutique in the retail incubator space at MoDiv has opened, this one with a bit of bling and a lot of custom jewelry options including pieces crafted by local artisans. Dear Prudence, whose flagship store remains in East Grand Rapids (701 Bagley St. SE), jumped at the opportunity to open a second shop, this time in a central downtown location (40 Monroe Center Ave. NW).

Prudence and Brad Kauffman set up the new shop in just 200 square feet nestled next to bokay by Eastern Floral and Wolverine Company Store. The owners, who both have full-time day jobs, added a full-time position to the downtown economy when they brought Stephanie Wood aboard as shop manager.

"We wanted somebody who could be creative, and confident enough to make decisions on their own," says Prudence Kauffman. "We met Stephanie several months ago and she was available. She wants to eventually open her own shop, so she's getting a lot of experience with us."

Kauffman says she selected the most popular items featured at Dear Prudence in East Grand Rapids to sell downtown. Those items include custom monogrammed necklaces, phone cases, iPad cases, and wire jewelry in the shape of the state of Michigan. Other pieces include jewelry made from vintage maps -- customers can customize the pieces to any location -- and jewelry by local artist studios Luminous Creation and Lake Effect Studios.

"We lived in Winston-Salem for 20 years and saw how that city struggled because it didn't have a vibrant downtown district," Kauffman says. "So when we moved here and saw the big push to create downtown, we wanted to be a part of it. When we opened the first store, we couldn't afford anything downtown, but then we heard about MoDiv."

Dear Prudence will have a grand opening on Thurs., April 18 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Source: Prudence Kauffman, Dear Prudence
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Plante Moran adds new partner to Grand Rapids office

Joel Mitchell, CPA, has joined the Grand Rapids office of Plante Moran. Mitchell concentrates his practice on international tax, with an emphasis on global tax compliance, financial reporting, repatriation planning, and global structuring.

Mitchell brings 13 years of corporate and firm expertise to his new role, most recently serving as director of tax for X-Rite, Inc.

A native of Novi, Mich., Mitchell says it was his wife Melissa, a Grand Rapids native, that led him to move to the area, which he says has a noticeably different vibe from other cities where he has worked.

"West Michigan is a great place," Mitchell says. "People pull for the city and local community pretty strongly. I've worked in Detroit and Chicago and it's much different here."

Working at Plante Moran has been on Mitchell's radar since he was college.  "Ironically, when I was in school, Plant Moran was one of my three finalists for work. So, it's been an indirect journey."

Mitchell, in addition to his BBA, has his Master's in Accounting, with distinction from the University of Michigan. Mitchell also holds a Master's of Science in Taxation from GVSU, where he has been an adjunct professor for both undergraduate and graduate classes.

To learn more about Plante Moran, you can visit their site here.

Source:  Joel Mitchell, Plante Moran
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Introducing Rooftop Cocktail, the latest event designed by To The Top Media

To The Top Media, founded by Crystal Hilliard, provides online marketing solutions (websites, social media, SEO), public relations consulting, video production, and event planning.

Hilliard founded the firm in May 2012 after leaving WOOD TV 8, where she was a reporter. She credits her experience in broadcasting as critical for her current business.

"Everything that I learned as a reporter prepared me for this avenue in life," she says. "Thinking fast and being able to quickly move to plan B, effectively communicating, and telling stories visually are the most significant."

In addition to providing media and marketing services for her clients, To The Top Media works on community projects as well. The most recent project is Rooftop Cocktail, an event to highlight art, cocktails, and fashion in West Michigan.

"It's the second event in The Rooftop Culture Series, designed to uplift West Michigan's creative class," she explains, noting that Rooftop Couture was the first. "Four competing cocktail designers will mix drinks on the rooftop of the UICA. Directly underneath, local fashion designers and boutiques will display and sell pieces from their summer collections."

The event is scheduled for June 7.

To learn more about To The Top Media and the Rooftop Cocktail event, you can visit their Facebook page here.

Source: Crystal Hilliard, To The Top Media
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Meijer expands "Made in Michigan" program

For devotees and supporters of "buy local," Meijer is making it much easier for everyone to find a wide variety of Michigan-made specialty products.

Meijer's "Made in Michigan" program, launched in January 2012, has expanded to include all 102 Meijer stores in the state. The program now features 55 new Michigan-made grocery products, including kettle chips, salsas, barbecue sauces, jams, and much more. It is expected to have an economic impact of $900k statewide.

According to Meijer spokesperson Christina Fetcher, the program was developed in conjunction with the Michigan State University Product Center, and was intended to help Michigan entrepreneurs and small businesses tackle the difficult challenges of finding distribution and creating brand awareness for their products.

Fetcher says the expansion was market driven. "We expanded the program because it received positive support from customers. We went from 40 products in 33 stores to 55 products in all of the Michigan stores."

Fetcher adds that a handful of the original Michigan-made products have already been mainstreamed throughout all Meijer stores.

For individuals or small businesses interested in learning how this program might help them, Fetcher recommends contacting the MSU Product Center. Contact information can be found here.

Source: Christina Fetcher, Meijer
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Naturopathic healthcare clinic opens in two locations

Naturopathic Doctor Kelly S. Hassberger, ND has opened up a new practice: Grand Rapids Natural Health.

Hassberger earned her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, and is one a very few naturopathic doctors in Michigan.

Hassberger acknowledges there are inherent challenges to bringing a different type of healthcare delivery to West Michigan. "There is very little awareness of what naturopathic medicine (is). Many people are not aware of what it means. There are not a lot naturpaths in Michigan, and not enough lobbying and support behind it yet."

At this time, there is no licensure for naturopathic doctors, but Hassberger says there are legislators in the state working behind the scenes to address the issue.

Naturopathic Medicine addresses lifestyle changes, nutritional supplementation, homeopathy, and other holistic therapies for treatment of illnesses and chronic conditions.

Hassberger's clinic is located inside the two Chiropractic Unlimited locations, and she will be offering 15-minute complimentary consultations to help introduce individuals to a holistic approach to healthcare and medicine. Individuals interested in a consultation may contact Grand Rapids Natural Health at 616-940-4647 to schedule either a 15-minute phone meeting or appointment.

As her practice grows, Hassberger says she plans on adding staff in the upcoming 12 months.

To learn more about Grand Rapids Natural Health, you can visit their website here.

Source:  Kelly S. Hassberger, ND, Grand Rapids Natural Health
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

New name, new office, new website: RCP Marketing opens office in Grand Rapids

RC Productions, a Muskegon-based integrated marketing solutions firm, has undergone a name change and will now be known as RCP Marketing.

The firm also launched a new website (www.rcpmarketing.com), and has opened an office in downtown Grand Rapids.

Amy Atkinson, president, says both the name change and the move are part of a natural progression brought on by growth and the availability of new technologies.

"As our business has grown, we have brought more services in-house, so we wanted to be more clear about the work we do," Atkinson says. "In our early days, our roots were in radio and voice production, but we grew over a 32-year period into a full marketing firm. We do more than people think we do. It is all about solving problems for clients."

Opening a second office in Grand Rapids is also an extension of the firm's growth. "We already are working with clients in Grand Rapids. We just felt we needed to be a member of the community," Atkinson says.

The firm is also anticipating the addition of two to three team members to the Grand Rapids office sometime within a year.

To learn more about the offerings of RCP Marketing, you can visit their website here.

Source: Amy Atkinson, RCP Marketing
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Local design firm launches Beer O'Clock Grand Rapids

Beer O'Clock Grand Rapids is the latest project from Tyler Doornbos Design, a web, marketing, and graphic design studio based in downtown Grand Rapids.

The website is a joint project between Tyler Doornbos, Daniel VanderMolen, and Megan Streng. It's designed to serve as a guide for people exploring Grand Rapids and looking to find the best happy hour deals in the city.

Doornbos says the inspiration for the site came after the trio returned from Portland and found themselves unable to find a good Grand Rapids guide to the happy hours at local bars. "When we were in Portland, we enjoyed the happy hour scene," Doornbos says. "There were a bunch of different websites in Portland that helped identify what was going on, so we took the best features and created our own site." 

Besides identifying the best deals, Beer O'Clock Grand Rapids features in depth content, a variety of search functions, and a "tag" system that allows for people to plan out their evenings. Taken as a whole, Doornbos is hopeful that the site will encourage people to explore the city and check out some of the interesting nightspots that often go overlooked.

Although Tyler Doornbos Design has a broad client base, Doornbos has an affinity for promoting urban living and the use of technology as a tool for doing good. He's a co-founder of the popular urbanist meetup event, The Salon, and is also involved with Friendly Code, a volunteer organization that helps cities adopt new technologies. "As a designer, things should beautify and work well. The same goes for websites and cities," he says.

To learn more about Tyler Doornbos Design, you can click here. You can also visit the Facebook page here.

Source: Tyler Doornbos, Tyler Doornbos Design
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Taking the road less traveled, new restaurant launches a web-based business plan to raise capital

St. Anthony is a self-described "small, progressive, yet traditionally grounded restaurant" that is scheduled for opening in Douglas, Mich. in spring of 2014.

The restaurant is a labor of love for two veterans of the West Michigan progressive food scene, Matthew Millar and Brandon Joldersma.

With plans to bring a creative touch to both the menu and the dining experience, Millar and Joldersma are taking a very creative approach to raising the capital for the restaurant by utilizing a web-based business plan and pitch.

Millar explains: "It is not really done in the industry. Originally, we took a more traditional approach to find investors, but it did not work out. We are looking for the right investor to be part of something special versus a quick return on investment. We did not see a drawback to being very quiet, so we might as well start from the beginning doing something different."

The site features a video and a very detailed explanation of the concept, menu, and their philosophy. There is also a password protected section that includes financials for serious investors.

Millar, most recently the executive chef at Reserve, says the decision to open a restaurant in Douglas is two-fold. "I live in Fennville and have been here quite awhile -- it is where I want to be in the long term. The lakeshore also brings tourism and supports restaurants that do something interesting. The people like to eat and drink at a higher level."

Millar says they anticipate a total of 20 full- and part-time jobs created, with seven to eight of those jobs being in the kitchen. Although Millar is keeping the exact location a secret for now, he does share that it will be in the Blue Star corridor.

To learn more about St. Anthony, you can visit their website here.

Source: Matthew Millar, St. Anthony
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Architectural and engineering firm Hooker DeJong seeks project manager, BIM specialist, others

Hooker DeJong architectural and engineering firm has added six new employees and seeks to add more.

In addition to bringing aboard a civil and structural engineer, two Building Information Modeling (BIM) specialists, a mechanical designer, and two architectural interns, the Muskegon-based company has an immediate need for a senior project manager and another BIM specialist.

"We're constantly reviewing applications and resumes so we can stay ahead of the curve with needs for management of special projects," says Cindy Hindi, client services specialist. "We always need BIM specialists, and are always looking for mechanical designers or engineers. If we find (someone) who fits our purpose and our outlook, we'll hire them."

Hooker DeJong has been in business in Muskegon for 75 years and recently opened a Grand Rapids office. The company works with developers of housing projects, construction of financial, healthcare, and government buildings, and education construction projects. Company services range from planning through design, development, and construction administration.

Click here to contact Hooker DeJong about job openings.

Source: Cindy Hindi, Hooker DeJong
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Brewers Professional Alliance adds staff as craft beer industry continues to grow and mature

The Brewers Professional Alliance (BPA) has added Joel Koch to the team as a salesman and Craft Brew Industry Specialist. Koch has nine years experience working in the sales industry. 

As many breweries advance from small startups to more mature enterprises, The BPA provides the businesses with a wide variety of operational and management assistance.

According to Dan Slate, BPA founder and CPA, the BPA was established in 2011 to help craft brewers reach financial success. "There are lots of challenges out there, from regulatory reform to fundraising, and from shelf space to maximizing operational efficiencies. Small breweries are still facing obstacles for financing their growth, while larger breweries are looking at optimum ways to grow throughout the U.S."

Slate says Koch's primary role will be establishing relationships and being a resource for brewers to get operational assistance through the BPA.

To learn more about the BPA, you can view their website at BreweryBiz.com, and sign up for their free Brewery Enhancement Evaluation Report (BEER) Analysis.

Source: Dan Slate, BPA
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Northern Air adds new contract, anticipates new jobs

Northern Air, Inc., located at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, has been appointed a factory approved satellite service center for Pilatus Aircraft, Ltd., an international aircraft manufacturer.

This new business not only continues Northern Air's recent growth, but also is expected to create four new jobs in the area.

Northern Air President and COO Jeff Anderson says the new contract reflects both the firm's reputation in the industry and the desirability of doing business in Grand Rapids. "We are always out there looking to expand that side of our business -- we want to grow," Anderson says. "So about six months ago, we heard the service center became available and, along with others, we began the process of acquiring the service. Our operation has a good reputation, and we went full guns at it."

Anderson says being located in Grand Rapids was a very positive factor, too. "Where Grand Rapids is located and how the city has revitalized is very important. It is a win-win situation for Pilatus because they can market themselves to Chicago, Wisconsin, and the Detroit markets."

Northern Air, Inc. is also a certified factory service center for both Cessna and Piper Aircraft Inc.

To learn more about Norther Air and to inquire about jobs, you can visit their website here.

Source: Jeff Anderson, Northern Air
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

New app allows art lovers to explore master prints from the GRAM

Grand Rapids-based design firm Conduit Studio and the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) recently announced the launch of The Jansma Print Collection iPad app, the first digital product created by Conduit for the GRAM.

The app was released on iTunes March 8 and downloaded in 10 countries the first week including China, Mexico, France, the U.K., Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, and Saudi Arabia.

For Conduit, the project was an opportunity to work with a very creative and passionate team from the GRAM. John O'Neill, creative director, explains: "It's been an interesting experience in collaboration. We worked with the eduction director, art curator, and digital strategist at the GRAM."

O'Neill says that particular combination really allowed the development of the app to address multiple user perspectives. "You can use the app horizontally and it gives more academic details," he says. "When viewed vertically, you focus on the images."

O'Neill says this approach appeals to a broader audience and lets individuals explore in a way that aligns with their interests and preferences.

For the GRAM, the app allows The Jansma Print Collection -- which is not only a significant addition to the permanent collection, but also very old and delicate -- to be shared, viewed, explored, and studied by a global audience.  

To learn more about the app, you can view the website here. To download the app from the iTunes store, click here.

Source: John O'Neill, Conduit Studio
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

North Ottawa Community Health medical group seeks medical assistants, receptionists, physicians

The rapid growth of North Ottawa Community Health System's (NOCHS) physician practices group over the last three years has slowed, but leaders at NOCHS say they are still looking to fill several medical positions, including specialty doctors, medical assistants, and receptionists.

Since early 2010, the physician practices group has added 18 medical jobs ranging from doctors to midwives. In addition to having two to three current openings for medical assistants and receptionists, the group seeks two OB/GYN doctors, two to three family practitioners and one internist.

"NOCHS is a small community-based hospital, versus a big Trinity Health or Spectrum Health," says Barbara Nyblade, director of physician practices. "The board members are people who live in the community and they drive what we do and what our future holds."

With national trends shifting to keeping people healthy instead of making them well after they're sick, Chief Communications Officer Jan VanSkiver says the push is on to make that transition in local healthcare.

"In community healthcare, chances are you'll be taking care of someone you know -- a neighbor, another parent from your child's softball team, your child's schoolmate," VanSkiver says. "We're looking for people who understand the cultural fit. Community healthcare is doing more with less, and many times these folks have to wear many hats and are personal ambassadors for the healthcare system."

For more information on the jobs available, click here.

Source: Barbara Nyblade and Jen VanSkiver, North Ottawa Community Health System
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
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