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Innovation + Job News

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Social media butterfly wanted at growing Grand Rapids PR company, 834 Design & Marketing

If you have a passion for helping clients achieve their goals, plus a talent for weaving a compelling story via social media, the blogosphere, and website content, 834 Design & Marketing might have the perfect job for you.

834 Design & Marketing, a young, growing communications and design firm at 560 Fifth St. NW, Grand Rapids, has a brand new position open that owner Kim Bode has dubbed "social media butterfly." The title might be lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek, and having fun on the job is a key element for this firm, but Bode says, "we live and breathe what we do."

The firm began in 2008 with just Bode, working from an office whose address was 834. Now, with three full-time people, the need for someone to coordinate social media and other web content for 20-plus clients looms large.

"They'll be curating the content, customizing the networks (Twitter, Facebook, and others), monitoring the communications, looking at the successes of the communication, and really looking at what the data's telling us, like when is the best time to post, what types of posts are getting the most reactions," Bode says. "They'll serve as an editor for the business media content channels, promote clients, execute strategy, and manage content and design.

"We are web-content machines," Bode adds with passion in her voice. "Anyone we bring into the organization has to know how to write; it's what sets our clients apart from their competitors."

Bode says that 834 Design & Marketing integrates marketing, design, and public relations. Besides online content, client campaigns often include branding, graphic design, event planning and coordination, global marketing, advertising, and community relations.

The company believes in helping college graduates get an education outside of school, and works with six to eight interns each year to provide them with hands-on research and marketing experience.

To find out more, or to apply for the social media coordinator position, click here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of 834 Design & Marketing

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Breaking bread with Field & Fire

Field & Fire is one of several bakeries in Grand Rapids that focus on making breads using traditional techniques, local suppliers, wholesome ingredients and a respect for craftsmanship.

Located in the Downtown Market, Field & Fire uses a wood-fired oven to bake a wide variety of breads and pastries with a special attention to the process. "Artisan breads are made in house with the hands of people," says founder Shelby Kibler.

Kibler grew up in West Michigan has extensive experience within the industry, including two stints with Zingerman's bakehouse in Ann Arbor. His move back to Grand Rapids was driven by his belief in a business opportunity. "The downtown market sounded like an interesting project," says Kibler. "I had family and friends here and no one was producing the products I wanted to make: wood-fired, organic breads. The market was waiting to be filled."

Business has been steady since opening. Kibler says they now employ 11 people, including a new position that was just added. He also remains very flexible with his business model, adjusting as he introduces his concept to the area. "Bread sales [are] the important component every week. We tried to introduce pizza but did not have enough customers so we stopped offering for the time being. We'll keep it on the back burner," he says. 

Recent additions to the product line include Challah, which is made on Fridays. Kibler is expanding his business footprint beyond the downtown market as well: "We've added some restaurant accounts. The wholesale is helpful." Kibler cites the organic grocer, Nourish, as an important account, helping to create awareness for his products beyond the market customers.

Kibler acknowledges his business depends on the market becoming a destination for food lovers and says all the vendors at the downtown market are engaged in a constant discussion about how to drive people to downtown market. He remains very optimistic, saying, "The trends are toward unique, authentic locally sourced food."

To learn about Field & Fire you can visit their website here or their Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Part time job opening for lovers of the arts at the Fulton Street Market

The Fulton Street ARTisans Market has a job opening for the Market Coordinator.

According to Joe Lesausky, assistant manager of the Fulton Street Market, the ARTisans Market started in 2005 with only a few artists and vendors. Now, the market's popularity is at an all-time high, with more than 500 vendors having been approved throughout the years.

He says the new position will support the current vendor committee that has been running the market by being the designated staff person responsible for a wide variety of tasks.  These include administration, advertising/marketing, public relations, and scheduling entertainment as well as basic operational duties including light janitorial work.

Lesausky says the person will work March through mid-October and will need to be able to work Sundays, June through September. He says the contract for the position calls for 200 hours of work over that that time frame. "It's a great job for someone who is interested in a part time job, loves the community, and wants to support the local artisan community."

If interested in learning more about the position, please send Lesausky an email at joe.fultonstreet@gmail.com. Deadline is February 14 (so hurry).

Writer: John Rumery, Innovations and Jobs News Editor

Friendly Code promotes government transparency and efficiency through open web technologies

Friendly Code is organizing Code Across Grand Rapids on February 21-22.  The goal: bring together civic-minded developers, designers, city employees, and citizens to work on projects that use technology to increase citizen engagement.

Jonathan Pichot is one of the lead organizers of the Grand Rapids Chapter of Friendly Code, which is part of a national network of Code for America Brigades.

He says the Grand Rapids group, which was established just over 18 months ago, has about 15 active members and meets every other Tuesday in the downtown CoLab space, on the 3rd floor above SanChez.

Pichot says the projects that the group will develop at the weekend event will vary based on how the participants decide to prioritize the opportunities. "These will range from apps that text you [about] your trash pickup, to visualizations of public data, to drafting an open data resolution for the City of Grand Rapids. Open data is a trend on all levels of government," says Pichot. "It's happening all across the country."

The event will take place at the offices of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. Friday night will be focused on introductions, learning about the opportunities and discussing what projects to work on, with Saturday devoted to making the applications.

Pichot says the event is well supported by the city of Grand Rapids and will coincide with the public launch of a data portal by the city that will be a repository of data sets the city maintains and will provide "the fuel for building the applications."

The event is free and Pichot encourages anyone with an interest to attend, not just programmers and developers. You can register for the event here. "The objective is not only for government to be more transparent but to be more efficient and to make it easier to share information."

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

IT Resource has "never been out of growth mode," seeks 4 more technology engineers

IT Resource needs to fill four technology engineer positions at its Coopersville headquarters, and possibly more positions beyond that as the company looks to expand its Traverse City and Chicago operations.

IT Resource, 701 W. Randall St., provides IT onsite and remote engineering and consulting services to small- and mid-sized companies that either don't have an IT department and need one, or that have a small IT department and need a bigger one.

"We need security and voice engineers, and virtualization and storage experts," says Gary Lutz, co-owner with Leo Reap. "These are full-time positions, and we will hire as many as the market will allow us. Immediately, we could use four more people. We are slow to hire because it's hard to find the individuals that have the technical capabilities as well as the customer service aspects."

Eighteen months ago, IT Resource decided to focus energies on sales strategies and building the sales team. Staff numbers remained in the low twenties, but Lutz says revenues grew 40 percent over the 2012 revenue, and now it's time to increase technology support to service the growing client base.

"We've never really been out of growth mode since we started in 2000," says Director of Sales Carrie Borchers. "But we're now looking to ramp it up even further. Companies are spending again, and they've been maintaining their IT teams, but now they need to upgrade and need trained people to take care of that."

Both Lutz and Borchers say that their Milwaukee and Chicago markets are steady. The Coopersville HQ services both markets, but as the Chicago market grows, the company aims to establish an office there as well as an office in Traverse City to service its growing client base there.

To inquire about, or apply for, the jobs, contact IT Resource through its Facebook page here or its LinkedIn page here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Pillar Technology hiring Java developers in Grand Rapids

Pillar Technology is growing in West Michigan and has immediate openings for new jobs.

Citing a large backlog of Java development work, Paul Warner, executive director of Pillar's Grand Rapids office, says the firm is looking to hire experienced Java developers: "We are looking for developers who care about quality, craftsmanship, and are looking for a place to grow and be creative." Warner says the majority of Pillar clients are Fortune 500 companies with large enterprise systems in place.

Warner says they anticipate hiring 6-8 people in the next year with immediate openings for 2-3 developers. Besides direct hires, Warner says they would be willing to talk about sub-contracting or working with independent developers who are looking for work or have availability.

In a highly competitive industry for software talent, Warner says Pillar has a very attractive culture for the right person. "It's a good opportunity. We are growing and emphasize the entrepreneurial spirit. We want people to bring their ideas and creative solutions to be part of our winning team," says Warner.

Pillar Technology has over 150 employees spread throughout the the country. Its headquarters are based in Columbus, OH, with offices in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids.

To learn more about Pillar Technology you can visit their site here. Warner says anyone interested in learning more about the job opportunities can email him directly here.  pwarner@pillartechnology.com

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Soul Food Cafe set to open in Madison Square Business District

LINC Community Revitalization, Inc. will be the home of Grand Rapids' newest addition to the local food scene.

The LINC Up Soul Food Cafe inside the LINC Development Center at 1167 Madison Ave. in southeast Grand Rapids, will have its grand opening on February 10. It will be the first sit-down restaurant in the Madison Square Business District.

Jorge Gonzalez, director of economic development at LINC, says the restaurant is a job creator, with nine new jobs being added immediately. The business will serve as an extension of LINC's "Buy Local, Hire Local" initiative, as all the jobs will be given to local residents.

The menu will focus on "southern-style food" and the team is in the process of working on sourcing local products from area farms and markets. Menu items will include traditional country staples such as barbecue rib tips, baby back ribs, catfish and brisket. Veteran chef and pitmaster Don Everette Sr. will be overseeing the restaurant. Gonzalez says their focus will be on high quality food: "It will be a family restaurant with a great customer experience."

The LINC Up Soul Food Cafe will be open for business Monday- Saturday from 7 a.m.- 8 p.m. and Sunday for brunch from noon-4 p.m.

LINC Community Revitalization, Inc. is a neighborhood revitalization organization that provides services to Kent County.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Kendall College creates new position to coordinate community projects

Katie Moore is the director of community engagement at Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD), a newly created position that will make it easier for businesses and organizations to connect with the college and for students to connect with the community.

The new position is designed to allow KCAD to drive growth and innovation through community partnership efforts. Moore says the long-term plan is to create a center for community engagement, but in the short term her focus will be on creating a process for organizations interested in working with Kendall to submit their proposals and then be connected with the most appropriate class and professor.

Moore cites a recent project with the Meijer State Games of Michigan, where there was an opportunity for students to create a logo for an event. Students were then able to apply design and branding principles they were learning in class to a real-world project.

This type of collaboration is a real win on multiple levels for students, says Moore: "As a former student from Kendall, the most positive experiences were when I was working on projects in the community. Making connections and understanding how the business of art works is very important for students."

Moore says they accept any type of project request (private industry, nonprofit, governmental) and that she will then review and find the right fit and right time for all parties involved. She says the best approach to learning about the program is to email her directly at Katiemoore@ferris.edu.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

More office locations, growing client base spur new medical, marketing jobs at Neurocore

With two new offices recently opened in the Detroit area, another one about to open in Bloomfield Hills, and three more planned for later this year in other parts of Michigan, it's safe to say that Neurocore is breaking new ground medically and physically.

Neurocore, founded in Grand Rapids by Dr. Tim Royer, uses brain science (theta/beta analysis) and computer technology to collect brain activity data and create customized neurofeedback training to help people focus, sleep better, and manage stress. One of the company's specialties is helping ADHD-diagnosed kids and adults function at levels where medications are no longer needed.

Neurocore now has nine locations statewide, and has grown from 20 employees in 2010 to 60 employees now. Some 15 employees have come aboard in the last 12 months.

After adding its first marketing position some nine months ago, Neurocore now needs a communications coordinator who will work alongside the marketing director, says President Rick Kuiper.

"We're very intentional about creating advocates for our program," says Kuiper. "It's very important that we have folks who tell our story well; not only our staff, but clients who are comfortable sharing their story, as well."

Kuiper says that part of the rapid growth of the company is due to adding Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network to its list of health insurance companies. Furthermore, last July the Food and Drug Administration approved the marketing of theta/beta analysis as a diagnostic tool for ADHD.

"We have something that can change peoples' lives with a quantifiable brain-based diagnostic tool for ADHD and the tools to treat it and provide best support intervention, as well," Kuiper says. "As we open more locations, we'll look to staff them with clinical staff and that naturally creates the need for administrative members to support those clinicians. I see us looking to add some staff that is very technically competent, and with nine locations and additional expansions planned, facilities management services for acquisition and planning is needed."

To find out more about Neurocore careers or to apply, click here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Neurocore

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Documentary film company one of West Michigan's best-kept secrets

Grand Rapids-based Wolfer Productions is an award-winning documentary film company. It has made films in fifteen countries, focusing on stories about women's rights, humanitarian and religious issues, and the plight of orphans.

One of its documentaries, "Adopting Haiti," released January 2011 on Hulu.com, has been shown at film festivals and humanitarian events around the world, winning the San Diego indie fest "Best Documentary" and a silver "Telly Award."

Interestingly enough, the founder of the production company, Tim Wolfer, says, "I never had a client in Grand Rapids yet."

Wolfer works out of the downtown co-working facility The Factory and has a team of five talented contractors who provide background research, music, graphics and editing.  

Having traveled throughout the United States and various parts of the world to capture film footage of humanitarian efforts, Wolfer says he has learned how to be prepared for unexpected travel. His basement serves as a staging area where everything he needs for a quick get-away is packed up and ready for him to leave on the drop of dime: "I have it set up where we can be anywhere in the world in 24 hours. Everything is pre-packed, all customs information and travel documents are ready."

His most recent adventure took him to the Philippines following the recent typhoon. After unsuccessfully pitching his services to various organizations providing aid, he bought a plane ticket and decided to go on his own. 

After landing in the Philippines he quickly was hired as a freelancer and recouped his expenses. At the same time, he took advantage of the experience and filmed the rescue and aid efforts which he is making into a documentary.

"I shot a film there about the food drops and flew with the helicopter pilots," Wolfer says. He recalls walking up to the pilots with his camera in hand and asking, "Can I hop on the chopper?" He says the pilots flew throughout the Philippines to remote villages to drop bags of rice.

Wolfer started his business five years ago, but it is only the last two years that he has been full-time. Although he has the capability to make any type of documentary, his primary customers are humanitarian and religious organizations. His goal is to accurately represent the lives and the feelings of the people he is filming: "We try to connect with people. Get them comfortable versus scripting it out."

Wolfer's goal is be able to hire 3-4 full time people in the next five years. He feels this would be the perfect size for the business, still allowing him to enjoy the adventures but not be bogged down as a full-time manager. 

To learn more about Wolfer Productions, go here. The link to the trailer for his Haiti documentary is here. 

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Hitting the the road: American RV expands, adds jobs

Family owned and operated American RV is expanding. The West Michigan business -- which sells, services and finances travel trailers, fifth wheels, campers, and class A gas or diesel motor homes -- is adding an additional five acres to the new and used RV lot, doubling inventory space to a total of 10 acres at 201 76th Street SW.

As part of the expansion, the business has also been adding jobs. RV General Manager Chad Neff says the organization has added sales and tech positions, too.

Neff says Class B Motor homes have become very popular primarily because of how they drive like a truck or SUV and get relatively good gas mileage at 20 mpg. 

Another trend that Neff identifies is the popularity of bunkhouse trailers. "A bunkhouse trailer has up to four bunks in the back. Families are using these to go north or go to a property. It is a home away from home. Instead of flying a family to Disney, you can go on extended trips. It's an investment up front but a very affordable lifestyle for families," Neff says.

Construction for the expansion is set to begin in early summer 2014 and to be completed around July.

To learn more about American RV you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Open Systems Technologies (OST) continues to dazzle

When asked, "How's business at OST?" Mike Lomonaco, director of marketing, quickly cites some impressive figures. The tech company:

- hired 40+ people in 2013
- hired 80 new employees since 2011
- reported revenue of $55m in 2011 and anticipates $100m this year
- has 22 current job postings on their site here  http://www.ostusa.com/company/careers

Lomonaco then provides the rest of the story. He points to his firm's diversity of skills, projects and clients as driving much of the growth, including a robust App Dev practice that he says is one of the fastest-growing in the state. 

He adds their firm's work with long-time client Priority Health/Spectrum Health as another key factor for growth: "With the Affordable Care Act in full swing, healthcare organizations, both on the delivery (hospitals) and insurance side are looking for ways to innovate and improve their process."

Other work that Lomonaco mentions includes a new project with Mall of America, their firm's expertise with VDI space (Virtualization) within the healthcare industry, and significant growth in their Managed Services practice.

Keeping up with these projects requires talent. Tamara Iakiri, director of talent acquisition at OST, says they now have a dedicated team of three people focused on finding the right people and are involved on multiple fronts to identify candidates.

Iakiri says OST relies heavily on personal and employee referrals. She says internships are a great way to identify candidates and that they work closely with computer science programs at GVSU, Calvin, the coLearning program and other schools to identify potential employees.

She also says her team is heavily committed to networking through technology advisory boards at colleges, involvement on special projects such as Hello West Michigan, and spending time actively reaching out to the tech community through conferences, user groups and meet-ups.  

To learn more about OST you can view their site here and their job listings here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

MyWay Mobile Storage launches new franchises, opens larger facility, adds jobs

In 2008 when the economy tanked, Grand Rapids-based MyWay Mobile Storage was about to go out of business and leave its franchisees with nothing to show for their $500,000 to $750,000 investments.

Instead, the franchisees -- located in Baltimore, Denver, Grand Rapids, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis -- banded together and formed MyWay Equity under the leadership of CEO Stuart Hill. They stopped selling franchises for five years, stabilized the company, and invested in a new 20,000-square-foot storage warehouse and national call center at 3696 Northridge Avenue NW, Grand Rapids.

This afternoon, the new facility cuts the ribbon to open its doors to the public and MyWay Mobile Storage announces the launch of two new franchises in Salt Lake City, UT and Tyler, TX.

"We believed in the concept we have and if you can emerge from that kind of market as a startup it's a real testament to the band of brothers formed to save the company," says Gary Schuler, Grand Rapids market owner with Dale Plowman. "We are looking to sell more franchises this year and have markets interested and in various stages of development. Now the infrastructure has been built to accommodate that growth, and we have the call center and computer systems in place."

Schuler says MyWay Mobile Storage's Grand Rapids call center will handle all customer calls for all franchises nationwide. The call center has added one job thus far, but will add one person for every two new franchises that come online.

Franchisees do not compete against each other because they purchase the market in an entire metro area. The company targets franchise locations in metro areas with populations of about one million.

Besides individual customers who might rent a storage container, have it delivered to their home, pack it, and have it stored at the central warehouse, MyWay Mobile Storage has expanded its offerings to serve business-to-business clients, including fire and water restoration companies and real estate professionals.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Photography by John Wiegand.

Atomic Object creates app to help customer detect damage in oil and gas pipelines

Atomic Object is the final stages of completing a very innovative and challenging project for Inline Devices / Microline Technology Corp. in Traverse City.

AO project lead Jordan Schaenzle explains the genesis of the project. "We were contracted by Microline because they were taking on a project which was very technically challenging and they wanted to complete it in about one year. They only had a small development team and did not have capacity to get it done in the desired timeframe."

Inline and Microline create Pipeline Inspection Gauges (PIGs), which run through oil and gas pipelines and inspect them for defects and weaknesses. These cylindrical devices are 24" in diameter and approximately six feet long. They are inserted into a pipeline and pushed through the pipe by creating pressure behind it. They can travel up to 300 miles, collecting data from dozens of sensors. Managing and storing the data requires over one TeraByte of flash storage.   

Schaenzle explains the importance of this information. "This data is then used to determine the condition of the pipe. It can detect very small cracks, pitting, corrosion or buildup. If a problem is found the data can tell them exactly where the problem area is. This information is crucial to the owners of the pipeline because it allows them to detect a problem before a leak happens. This can save them a great deal of money and bad publicity by allowing them to do a controlled shutdown to replace small sections of pipes that are compromised."

As part of the project, AO created Streamline, an app that controls the launch sequence and runs diagnostics before and after the PIG is used. The data from Streamline is then designed to be displayed in a visual manner, making it more understandable for the users in the field. The Atomic Object team developed the PIG software and the Streamline app simultaneously reducing the risk of development errors miscommuncation between teams.

Schaenzle says the biggest technical hurdle the team had to overcome was the passing of data between over 78 different circuit boards. "A lot of time and effort was spent making sure that these transactions of data happened as efficiently and reliably as possible," says Schaenzle.

Schaenzle says the project began just over a year ago and he had five developers working on the project throughout the process.

To learn more about Atomic Object you can view their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor.

Iserv announces network expansion and more job growth

The Iserv Co. has announced that it can now offer business customers in the area of 36th St. and Patterson new wireless connectivity options.

Jeff Potter, director of business development, says this recent expansion will greatly enhance wireless services for local businesses and is one of many network expansion projects that will deliver additional Iserv products and services throughout West Michigan. "That particular area, around a two mile radius, had a lot of businesses that were underserved and connectivity was an issue," Potter says.

Potter says that as Iserv grows its network, the need for new jobs also increases. "As we expand our network, we will be adding jobs." He says they just added  positions in engineering and sales in the last two weeks and have several more openings. He adds that the jobs are highly technical and customer service focused, and that a background in telecommunications is preferred.

If interested in working for Iserv, you can review the open positions through their website here.

Iserv is also hosting a lunch-and-learn for businesses interested in additional information on this new wireless option. The seminar will be on January 28 at noon and held at Iserv's headquarters located at 5222 33rd St. SE, Grand Rapids.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
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