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Innovation + Job News

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2010 ArtPrize winner launches website to auction his drawings

Chris LaPorte, the winner of ArtPrize 2010, has launched an auction website featuring his original drawings.  

The site, DrawingsDaily.com, will feature an original LaPorte drawing every weekday with a starting bid of $50. The highest bidder at the end of the two-week listing wins the auction and receives the artwork in the mail.

"I learned about several painters who did a daily painting and sold them on eBay," LaPorte says. "As far as I know, no one has applied the concept to drawing."

Another inspiration for the site comes from LaPorte's desire to share the process and smaller drawings with fans of his work. "Those monumental pieces (Calvary and City Band) are impractical for many to own and display, but this site allows me to share the process and the individual drawings that go into to the larger works."

With the site launching on April 15, the majority of feedback LaPorte has received on the concept has come through his fanpage on Facebook -- all of which, he says, has been encouraging. 

LaPorte credits Frederick Polk of design studio One Black Crayon for the development of the website.

To learn more about Chris LaPorte, you can visit his personal site here. You can visit his auction site here.

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

Iserv doubles sales staff, offers 24/7 customer service

The Iserv Company, LLC (Iserv), an independent Internet service provider located in Grand Rapids, has recently doubled its sales staff and has plans to add more jobs to West Michigan. The new hires come less than 10 months after its purchase by 382 Communications, a Quincy, Mass.-based company. 

Richard Koch, a director of 382 Communications, says the sales team is now at 10 individuals, and the hiring will continue with a focus on technical staff. "The main reason is that we added more services, such as voice and a lot of wireless services. As we add more sales staff and more services, everything else follows," he says.

Besides the new sales staff, the firm has also extended its call center to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Koch says there have been no surprises since the acquisition, and job growth is as expected. "We are reinvesting  everything back into Iserv and West Michigan," he says. 

To learn more about Iserv, including employment opportunities, you can view their website here.

Source: Richard Koch, Iserv
Writer, John Rumery, Jobs and Innovation News Editor

Grand Rapids payroll firm adding jobs, expanding and remodeling office

Dominion Systems is hiring. The West Michigan-based payroll and human resource solutions firm has been in business for over 40 years, offering services on a regional and national level.

Paul Nysse, marketing specialist, says the firm has added eight staff in the last few months and is looking to add more. "We were at 37 employees, and now are at 45. We are looking to get to 52 total this year," Nysse says. According to Nysse, the firm is looking to add both developers and sales staff.

Nysse attributes the hiring push to both internal and external factors. "We have new management that has been focusing us on growth versus maintaining status quo. We are offering more tech-based solutions for West Michigan businesses, many of whom want to buy from local businesses," he says. "The economy is turning around and as companies grow, we grow. We also have a great product."

The company is located at 401 Hall SW, an emerging office center with a focus on service businesses and technology. The Dominion Systems offices are also undergoing a remodel, adding 1,000 square feet and opening up the work space for more collaboration.

To learn more about Dominion Systems, you can visit their website here.

Source: Paul Nysse, Dominion Systems
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

As economy improves, Wolverine Building Group adds superintendent position

As the economy continues to improve and construction projects pick up, Grand Rapids-based Wolverine Building Group seeks to bring on an experienced superintendent to oversee multi-family construction projects.

"We're looking for somebody that has experience with multi-family buildings, mixed-use buildings that include retail and residential components, and high-rise/mid-rise projects," says Michelle Berry, human resources representative. "(We're) definitely looking for somebody who's a strong self starter, is organized, and with good communication skills."

Wolverine has built some of the area's more high-profile multi-unit residential buildings, including Division Park Avenue Apartments, 101 South Division Lofts, Serrano Lofts, and River House at Bridgewater Place.

For more information on jobs at Wolverine Building Group, visit the website here.

Source: Michelle Berry, Wolverine Building Group
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Workforce demands for high tech skills highlighted at statewide competition

In order to bring awareness to the increased demands for more technical skills across the workplace, the SkillsUSA championship competitions are taking place at Grand Rapids Community College and DeVos Place on April 20, 2013.

Over 1,100 career and technical education students from across the state will be competing in the event. Students will work against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations such as welding, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, automotive service, culinary arts, cosmetology, and criminal justice. All contests are run with the help of industry experts, trade associations, and labor organizations. Test competencies are set by professional industry standards.

"Everyone has to get a job," says SkillsUSA State Director Tammy Brown. "Back in the day, vocational education programs were for the students where you couldn't figure where to put them. Today's employers need highly skilled, smart workers... The students need to know so much more – math science language skills, communication skills, and how to present themselves in business situations. Michigan has an aging workforce, and we need jobs and skills that can't be outsourced."

The complete schedule of the events can be viewed here. The winners will go on to compete in the National Championships this June in Kansas City, MO.

Source: Tammy Brown, SkillsUSA
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

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
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