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The West Michigan Sports Commission hires new manager

The West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) hit two big milestones recently: the hiring of a manager, and the launch of new website to support the Art Van Sports Complex.

The updated website is still "a work in progress," according to Mike Guswiler, president of the WMSC. Initially, it will help support the fundraising efforts for the baseball and softball sports complex, before eventually becoming the home of the events calendar.

In the newly created position of complex manager, Bryan Baar will manage operations of the Art Van Sports Complex, reporting to the commission and a complex oversight committee. Baar's role for 2013 is to first help oversee construction operations. As construction nears completion in 2014, his role will shift to marketing the complex and creating a tournament schedule. He is then expected to manage all complex operations, including tournaments, once the complex opens in 2015.

Baar has been coaching and training baseball and softball athletes for more than 15 years, beginning his career in 1989 when he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers as a catcher. He played for four years in the Dodgers' organization. In 1995, Baar founded Elite Baseball and Softball Training in Grand Rapids.

Guswiler says the broad experience and long standing involvement in the project were key in the hiring selection. "When we began looking at the feasibility of building the complex, especially the construction and fundraising efforts, we reached out to many individuals, including Bryan. He has been helpful through the process. When it came time to look for a manager, Bryan's name came up naturally. We feel good about the selection and are excited to get things rolling."

To learn more about the WMSC and the Art Van Sports Complex, you can visit their website here.

Source: Mike Guswiler, WMSC
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Collective seeks to catalyze urban farming in Grand Rapids

City Farmers is a new collective that exists to support urban farming, entrepreneurship, jobs, stronger neighborhoods, and healthy foods in Grand Rapids.

The organization grew out of Andy Dragt's Urban Farm venture at 940 Wealthy St. SE and is on track to plant organic produce on six vacant lots in Grand Rapids immediately. More expansion is planned for 2014.

This produce will then be sold at local farmer's markets, to area restaurants, and through local delivery service Doorganics, which will also be providing cold storage for the farms.

Mike Hughes, founder of Doorganics and one of the organizers of City Farmers (along with Dragt and and Jonathan Williams of Thinkbox Creative), says the demand for locally grown organic vegetables far outweighs the supply. "One small urban farmer can't maintain the relationships and produce for markets and restaurants. If all city farmers come together, they can begin meeting the demand."

To help support City Farmers, a crowd funding campaign seeking additional investors is being launched. The collective is also in the process of creating educational programming and community outreach initiatives in 2014 to identify more land and business partners for the organization.
A Community & Media Day with City Farmers is scheduled for Monday, Au6. 26, 6 - 8 p.m. at  Uptown Farm, 940 Wealthy St. SE. The event is open to anyone interested in urban farming and food.

More information can be found at CityFarmers.us.

Source: Mike Hughes, Doorganics, Press Release, City Farmers
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Web developer, graphic design jobs available in Grand Rapids, Muskegon with growth of PR firm Revel

West Michigan marketing firm Revel is in growth mode -- again -- and the result puts more technology jobs on the table in Grand Rapids and Muskegon.

Revel, which has offices at 900 Third St., Muskegon, and 25 Ionia Ave. SW, Grand Rapids, has made its mark by telling its clients' stories effectively using radio, TV, branding, web development, video production, and print. The company has grown from 12 people in 2010 to 17 employees today -- with four of those coming aboard in the last 12 months.

The company seeks a web developer with at least five years' experience who is proficient in PHP, a variety of CMS systems, and is able to write custom code. And, although there isn't an official opening for a graphic designer, Revel partner Jason Piasecki says the company is always looking and welcomes opportunities to work with graphic designers on projects to see if the designer is a "fit" for the company for a future hire.

"We're looking for people that thrive in a collaborative environment -- you're not isolated on one project for six months, but will work on several different client projects at one time, interacting with clients and coworkers," Piasecki says. "We're pretty laid back. We're an ad agency, so it's an open work environment, and people can wear jeans or shorts or whatever they're comfortable in."

New hires will have an option to work at the Muskegon HQ, the Grand Rapids office, or even occasionally from a home office, Piasecki says. The group likes to keep the work environment fun, and is looking for a space-saving replacement for the Ping-Pong table the Muskegon office sacrificed to make room for more desks. The Grand Rapids office is in the heart of the entertainment district, which Piasecki says provides a diversion when needed.

Click here to learn more about the open positions or to apply.

Source: Jason Piasecki, Revel
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Grand Rapids' flourishing Downtown Market in search of Creative Specialist, Facilities Manager

For those interested in contributing to the growth and development of a unique, year-round hub of local food innovation and healthy-living education, there are two full-time positions currently available at the Downtown Market. This one-of-a-kind food experience located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids (435 Ionia St. SW) is the first LEED-certified market in the country and boasts 25,000 square feet of market space.

Mimi Fritz, market president/CEO, says the Downtown Market is "a new, exciting place where the work you do makes a difference. You help provide the community access to fresh, local foods and education on preparing healthy foods."

The Creative Specialist will lead the Market's creative efforts and be accountable for the concepting, quality, and completion of deliverables for marketing communications and promotions. The ideal person will be skilled in social media management, proficient in design and video software, and adept at business communication. To learn more and apply, click here.

The Facilities Manager will plan, organize, and supervise the daily maintenance, custodial services, and repair of all structural features, furnishings, fixtures, operating systems, and landscaping. To learn more and apply, click here.

With the Outdoor Market having made its debut this past spring and the Indoor Market opening in late August/early September, the people hired to join the Downtown Market team have the rare opportunity to shape and define their roles through implementation. The Market is new and no one has previously held the positions.

Fritz says, "We're looking for people who will stay on top of things and keep it fresh and exciting."

Source: Mimi Fritz, Downtown Market
Writer: Susan Julien Larimore, Freelance Reporter

Images courtesy of Downtown Market

Downtown building completes renovation, becomes home for technology startups

Grand Rapids Collaborative, or coLab for short, recently finished renovations on the third floor of the Leonard building at 38 W. Fulton.

The building, formerly known as the Grand Rapids Tech Hub, features a wide variety of benefits including a shared kitchen, broadband Internet, coffee delivery from San Chez, a parking space, and a common space that encourages "startup" camaraderie.

Erik Hall says the coLab provides a unique opportunity for their tenants. 

"First thing, we are focused on startups and small businesses. An issue with real estate is that it can be difficult to enter into a lease. We are very flexible with short-term leases. Within the building, you can start in The Factory, incubate the business, then graduate into the smaller offices. As the business grows, you then can move into larger spaces."

After the renovations, the third floor features 15 office spaces and five conference rooms. The tenants include several businesses recently profiled by Rapid Growth, including Open Device Lab, Ambassador, and Huron River Ventures. The fourth floor of the building includes The Factory and Universal Mind. Moving forward, the second floor of the coLab remains a possibility for development. 

According to Hall, the name change is mostly about differentiating the building from other initiatives using "hub" in their name. It also plays off the popular "coLearning" technology and programming classes being offered at The Factory.

To learn more about the Grand Rapids Collaborative, you can view their site here.

Source: Erik Hall, Grand Rapids Collaborative
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Skytron adds to senior leadership team, adding jobs to support growth

Skytron, a West Michigan firm that makes a wide variety of products for healthcare clinicians, named Craig Wassenaar President and David Straw Chief Operating Officer as part of an expansion of its senior leadership team.

According to Wassenaar, the moves were made to support new opportunities for growth. "We are staying within the healthcare industry, but will be expanding beyond the operating room. We sell our products throughout the world, but we do not cover the geography in the hospital."

Besides the reorganization at the top, the firm is also hiring. Wassenaar says they have hired 10 people since January and are searching to fill another five positions.

"We are a private, family-owned company. We value our partnerships with customers, suppliers, distributors, and people. We have a profit sharing plan for our employees to benefit from the success of business. We also have a generous benefit package. We are investing in people, systems, and growth. It's a great place to work. There is a bounce in the staff."

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

Source: Craig Wassenaar, Skytron
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Performance beverage launched by Grand Rapids firm

West Michigan native Dr. Jeffery Hendricks, a natural health physician, has developed a performance beverage designed for athletes and the health-conscious consumer. 

The drink, RIZE Performance Beverage, is a 100 percent natural, pre-training drink intended to increase stamina, strength, and memory. It currently comes in two flavors: Citrus-Mango and Apple-Pear.

The beverage took five years to develop and features a  blend of 19 ingredients, two of which -- Trehalose, a plant sugar, and Huperzine A -- are not found in other drinks, according to Teresa Hendricks, legal counsel and director of sales for RIZE Performance. 

"It took five years to get the perfect flavor. We displayed it at the 2012 Natural Food Expo, where it was very popular," Hendricks said. RIZE was also named 'find of the show.' 

After the expo, the drink was picked up by distributors in New Zealand and Australia. It is schedule to launch in Venezuela next.

In the U.S., the drink is in nine states and 400 stores. Locally, it is scheduled to be on the shelves in the pharmacy section of Meijer beginning August 3.

Hendricks says the beverage is currently made in Wisconsin, but she is interested in bringing the entire canning process to West Michigan. The search is on for a co-packer who can accommodate the can's size. 

To learn more about RIZE Performance, you can visit their site here or their Facebook page here.

Source: Teresa Hendricks, RIZE Performance
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Job News Editor

South African 'big data' scientist opening business in Grand Rapids, adding jobs

Frans Berkelaar is a big data scientist who moved from South Africa to East Grand Rapids two years ago, bringing his big ideas in data analysis to establish a new business called Knowblet.

"In 2010, Knowblet incorporated as a break-away from my previous company, Metonymy. We are here to establish a development team for the South African market while seeking growth in data sciences in the U.S. We have some cool algorithms and methodologies around big data to work with."

Berkelaar elaborates on his firm's process and explains how big data can be used.

"We build algorithms to authenticate application forms for service and identify fraudulent ones. For this to work, you need to know everything about everybody and have the ability to identify patterns and read the messages in the data. Thus, we support both CIO and CMO in their efforts to make sense of the market they have and don't have (yet), abstracted from the available data streams."

Initial hiring plans for Berkelaar involve building his technology team. 

"We are looking to employ a team of 'direct hires' who are able to take prototypes to product level. The nucleus of the team is an experienced web developer or java architect [who is] supported by junior developers. At least 40 percent of the time, we like to see the team work on researching and mastering new technologies such as Hadoop, NoSQL, Cassandra, and LMAX/Disruptor."

To learn more about Knowblet, you can visit their site here. To contact Berkelaar, you can connect with him through LinkedIn.

Source: Frans Berkelaar, Knowblet
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Grand Rapids DDA seeks marketing communications manager for new full-time position

As Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. -- a multi-function combination of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), Downtown Alliance, and Office of Special Events -- moves forward with plans to combine resources to promote entrepreneur and economic opportunities in Grand Rapids' core business district, the DDA plans to bring on two crucial new positions.

One, a transportation demand management professional (TDM), will work with companies and individuals to address vehicular congestion and help develop other ways, besides cars carrying only the driver, for downtown workers to get to their jobs. Candidates for this new position are already under consideration.

However, a second new position is still open: strategic marketing and communications manager. DDA Executive Director Kristopher Larson says he's looking for "an individual who will identify key messages and tailor them to our constituencies and take ownership of our marketing initiatives. We want to do more to spread the message about downtown opportunities for people to live, work, and play."

Ideally, the preferred candidate will have seven to 10 years' marketing and communications experience with the ability to think strategically, says Larson. The working environment is fast-paced and serves several constituencies, so the ability to balance different pressures from downtown stakeholders is crucial.

"We're looking for someone that doesn't need to be taught why to love downtown, but who already knows those reasons and believes them," Larson says. "There's a certain level of passion that helps differentiate the quality of the candidates, and that's the person we're looking for."

To find out more about the job and how to apply, see the link on the DDA's Facebook page or click here.

Source: Kristopher Larson, Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Business is bustling: Dear Prudence expands location at MoDiv

The downtown jewelry and gift boutique Dear Prudence is rocking. After opening a second store in MoDiv in March, the store quickly needed more room and expanded in July. 

Prudence Kauffman, founder, has a inspiring backstory which is outlined on her website here, but for now, she is focused now on growth.

"We opened our MoDiv location back in March and we just moved to this larger space at the beginning of July. We really wanted to have a location downtown and be part of this amazing growth," she says. "We noticed there was nowhere to buy children's items downtown, so we were lucky enough to sign on with tori's bitty bows to be their exclusive retailer in Michigan."

All of tori's items are handmade in Chicago. "So, we now have hair bows, hats, tutus, [and] onesies. We expanded to make room for all these adorable items," Kauffman says.

Getting the word out and perceptions about parking remain challenges for all urban retailers, but Kauffman is very appreciative of the energy and efforts to make downtown a retail destination.

"Dear Prudence started as a dream of ours. The whole fact that it's real is still a shock to me," she says. "We are tiny, but growing. We feel like we have a lot to offer and so far, we've been fortunate that people care about what we do."

Kauffman's first store opened in Gaslight Village in July 2012. They currently have three full-time and two part-time employees at both locations, and anticipate adding more jobs during ArtPrize and for the holiday shopping season.

"We have been fortunate to have surrounded ourselves with amazing employees, customers, [and] vendors," Kauffman says. "We feel blessed to be in Grand Rapids. This city is just full of great ideas and amazing opportunity; we can't imagine being anywhere else."

To learn more about Dear Prudence, you can visit their Facebook page here.

Source: Prudence Kauffman, Dear Prudence
Writer: John Rumery; Innovation and Jobs Growth Editor

Artisan sausages spice up the food scene

Link Love is an artisan sausage making venture that grinds, stuffs, and links its sausage out of Grand Rapid's Uptown Kitchen.

The business was founded by Kristen Fauson in March 2012, beginning on the same day that Uptown Kitchen opened its doors for business.

Fauson says she began in her own kitchen and found success with family and friends.

"I could not find good sausages in the area, so I played around with recipes in kitchen. They turned out very well," Fauson says. "Everyone loved them."

Fauson says the sausage making business is a perfect blend of business opportunity and passion.

"I have a passion for the local food system, especially with local meat products, and I wanted to build a company that was good for the local economy and farmers," she says.

Fauson currently sources her meat from Heffron Farms and, for the time being, focuses solely on pork sausages. She currently sells her product at the Downtown Market, The Fulton Street Farmers Market, and the West Michigan Co-op. Her product is also available for restaurants to purchase.

Like a parent attempting to choose a favorite child, it's difficult for Fauson to identify her favorite sausage recipe. "We just launched a Michigan cherry sausage [using fresh, Michigan cherries]. It is very unique -- there is nothing like it."

She mentioned that several restaurants who have tried her product really liked the Kalamata Olive and Feta sausage, as well as the the Sweet Onion and Fennel link.

Link Love is currently a one-person operation, with part-time help for market coverage when she is not available. As the business grows, Fauson plans to add staff. 

To learn more about this business, you can visit Link Love's site here or the Facebook page here.

Source: Kristen Fauson, Link Love
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Open Device Lab provides entrepreneurs and small business owners free access to technology

'Explore. Test. Play.' is the very succinct description on the Grand Rapids' Open Device Lab's homepage. 

Eric McKee, lead organizer behind the space, describes Open Device Lab as a modern library. But instead of books, the lab provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business owners to explore, test, and play with new technology. 

McKee, founder of Vero Design, which is located a couple offices away from the lab in the Grand Rapids Tech Hub, says he "stumbled on" the idea through social media. 

"The concept came through a need I had personally. I started a conversation on Twitter in February and had so much feedback that I ended up researching the concept. It was during research that I stumbled on the national movement for open device labs."

Moving quickly, McKee teamed with several partners, including device manufacturers, to open the lab in March of 2013. Besides allowing individuals and businesses access to the devices for testing, the lab also serves a larger purpose for West Michigan: increasing the awareness of what mobile can do for an organization. 

"A second group of users we serve are businesses looking to enter the mobile space and individuals looking to understand mobile development and best practices. What does it means to be mobile as an organization?"

McKee says the concept is not unique; rather, it's just not well known in the U.S. "It's part of a global movement that originated in Europe. Typically, small companies and  entrepreneurs  do not have access to a wide variety of mobile devices. The lab provides new devices plus older devices for testing and exploring."

McKee says the Grand Rapids space is only the fifteenth of its kind in the U.S.

McKee says the lab is still early in its formation, as he is currently in the process of forming relationships with all major manufacturers to ensure access to a wide variety of devices. He is also still securing sponsoring partners. Additionally, McKee says educational seminars and classes surrounding mobile technology will be added soon. 

To learn more about this facility -- including hours, contact information, partners, and available devices -- you can visit the site here.

Source: Eric McKee, Open Device Lab
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Zeeland's ZBx Technology moving forward with plans to add 3 jobs to keep up with client demand

Zach Nordhof, owner of Zeeland-based ZBx Technology (135 N. State St.), says he started doing a "computer gig" back in 2003 when he was still in high school. After graduating college, he became a corporate IT guy, but became disillusioned with how the company pushed its own solutions and products on clients instead of listening to the client's needs.

So Zach, now 24, launched ZBx in 2007. Now with two employees working at client locations and in the ZBx office, the company has plans to add three more positions to keep up with demand: web developer, IT consultant, and a search engine optimization expert.

ZBx Technology offers IT consulting, helps clients deploy new software and phone systems, analyzes the efficiency and abilities of systems already in place, cleans up computer viruses, offers hardware repair and replacement, and does web design and development.

The company also provides voice over Internet protocol phone systems with all the bells and whistles, and is one of three Michigan companies to have a 3cx certified engineer.

"We're looking for college grads or someone close to graduation who has a degree in computer networking or in graphic design/web development/programming," Nordhof says. "Our goal is to have a fun-loving person. We're very serious about taking care of our customers, but we do it in a fun way. It's a pretty laid back environment, an open environment with no walls, and usually some sort of music playing. Everybody takes turns with their music."

Nordhof says the interview process starts with a phone interview, then moves to a lunch gathering with all the staff, then they invite promising candidates back in to the office to spend time with the team and observe the work flow.

For more information or to apply, click here.

Source: Zach Nordhof, ZBx Technology
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of ZBx Technology

Grand Rapids' Orion II Construction adds new project manager to team

Tony Cronkhite joins Orion II Construction as a project manager/superintendent and will be focused on the construction of the new Hyatt Place in Lansing Township. 

According to Deb Filipiak, marketing director, Cronkhite brings the needed experience to manage a project the scope of the Hyatt Place. 

"With more than 25 years of construction experience, Tony has amassed the credentials and skills necessary to manage projects of any size or complexity," Filipiak says.

Filipiak checks off budgeting, estimating, scheduling, negotiating, and management of vendors and staff as only a handful of the responsibilities that Cronkhite will be overseeing.

Orion II is a multi-service construction company founded in 2000. The company provides general contracting, construction management, design/build services, and sustainable/LEED consulting. Filipiak also indicates the firm will be hiring other project managers for other projects starting in the next few weeks.

To learn more about Orion II Construction, you can view their site here.

Source: Deb Filipiak, Orion II Construction
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Scoville Farms celebrates one-year anniversary

Scoville Farms, the manufacturer of Everidae Sauce, has just completed its first year of business.

"When we started, we really had no idea what to expect so we planned for the best and prepared for the worst," founder Dominic Sorenson says. "We are still a very small company trying to stand out amidst massive corporations. If it weren't for the support we received as a result of shopping local ideology, there's a good chance we wouldn't have made it this far."

Key milestones and "surprises" in the first year included a $20,000 investment from Start Garden and placement in the Michigan section at all Michigan Meijer stores.

"The Start Garden investment had a huge impact on the speed at which we were able to expand," Sorenson says. "The capital allowed us to increase the size of our production runs which lowered our costs. The investment also allowed us to create a marketing budget about a year earlier than planned." 

With a marketing budget, Sorenson says he immediately invested in new labels, website updates, and point of sale displays.

Although still a one-person operation, Sorenson does plan to add jobs when the time is right. "Deciding the right time to hire is a difficult thing and jumping too soon can leave you with a frustrated employee and cash flow problems. We do look forward to creating many jobs in the coming years and hope to keep Everidae as hand-made as possible."

For the short term, Sorenson is focusing on taking Everidae Sauce as far as possible without enlisting outside help with distribution. "We are currently expanding our reach into specialty stores in Grand Haven and Holland, and hope to add several more cities as we head east to Ann Arbor and Detroit. We've also teamed up with fellow Uptown Kitchen clients GR Bagel and Link Love, who are helping us show just how versatile Everidae sauce can be."

To learn more about Scoville Farms and Everidae Sauce, you can visit their site here.

Source: Dominic Sorenson, Scoville Sauce
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
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