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Innovation + Job News

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Urban living drives growth for local property management firm

Brent Fisher, who recently joined Green Property Management as the senior portfolio manager, says it's a good time to be in the property management business in Grand Rapids, especially in and around the downtown area where college students and young professionals are interested in living, working and playing. "It's a very exciting time to be an investor."

The firm, which was founded by Marty Green in 2008, specializes in managing properties with 30-150 units. It also recently began managing office space, such as the Midtown Executive Offices, which Fisher describes as something akin to a co-working space.

Fisher says a typical housing for their College Hill property is a younger demographic. "They are looking for value relative to living downtown and a good location. They don't want to spend a ton of money. Access to public transit is important as are walkability and biking options." Several of the properties managed by his firm are just on the outskirts of the central downtown area.

The firm currently employs 13 people, and they anticipate quite a bit of growth in the near future, especially as the downtown living resurgence continues. "Our model is, we come into a property and make an investment. We work with owners that want to add value in the community by making the building more sustainable to increase the value of the property.  Everything we do -- construction, maintenance -- is done in house. As we grow, we want to raise the bar on property management." 

To learn more about Green Property Management, you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Holiday gift program gets a makeover and investment through Start Garden

There is a personal backstory to the Elf Factory's tag line: "a handmade holiday school program specializing in gifts that parents don't have to pretend to like!"  

Kirsten Field, founder of the Elf Factory, explains the inspiration behind her new venture. "I volunteered at my kids' schools and I was disgusted at the products for the holiday workshop. I knew there had to be something better."

Describing herself as a "stay-at-home-mom getting back into the workforce," Field submitted her idea to Start Garden and received $5,000 in funding after she ran one pilot program with an elementary school. Field says she will use the Start Garden funding for  customer development experiments with five new schools and ultimately try to determine if the idea is scalable. "Our goal is to get a 75 percent participation rate at the schools."

Operationally, Field says that once a school decides to go ahead with the Elf Factory program, she partners with a parent organization and then provides all the craft materials  order forms, timelines, online training videos, and other tools they would need to run an Elf Factory at their school. The concept is designed to for simplicity (approximately four minutes to make a present), affordability, and a much higher quality product than existing holiday programs.

Currently, Field is the only full-time employee but she has four part-time staff that help with assembling the craft boxes.

To learn more, you can follow on Facebook for Elf Factory updates or check out their website at www.elffactory.com.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Jobs are being added at Northpointe Bank

Northpointe Bank is hiring, thanks in large part to the recovery in residential home sales and new home construction.

Mike Winks, executive vice president and chief lending officer, says the resurgence of home sales has put Northpointe back into the hiring mode. "There has been great demand from our customers so have added positions in sales and operations, all within the West Michigan market place. We have filled 17 positions in September and have an additional three open." Wink says the positions include both entry level and senior level positions.

Wink says their hiring efforts are attracting local talent, especially individuals who prefer to work in a collaborative environment. "We are a small community bank and our culture is very client focused. We live our corporate culture from the top down. We have been fortunate enough to find acceptable talent locally. We rebuilt our business unit with very attractive pricing and take a very consultative approach with our clients. We are attracting top performers."

To learn more about Northpointe Bank, including employment opportunities, you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Local farmers enjoying the growth of farm-to-table demand

If you are looking for an example of how a "rising tide lifts all boats," Green Wagon Farm is a terrific example of a local supply chain that is benefiting from increased consumer demand and cooperation between producers and suppliers.

The Ada-based CSA (community supported agriculture) has grown steadily since its beginnings in 2010, when it was founded by Chad Anderson. Currently, the farm employs a combination of seven full- and part-time individuals. It sells it produce to area restaurants with the farm-to-table ethos, at farmer's markets and through other partners like Doorganics, the organic produce home delivery service.

Heather Anderson, Chad's wife, reflects on the local farming upsurge and how it has benefited their farming practices. "It started a few years ago. The whole food movement took off. Restaurants in general are more concerned about where and how the food is grown.  It has also made it easier for us to offer different products. You don't always need a perfectly round tomato." 

Besides restaurant demand, Anderson also cites the recently opened Downtown Market as a catalyst for demand. "I think it is another good location. It is expanding the food movement and bringing it to downtown. It is bringing in more people, and serves almost as a tourist attraction."

Anderson says 2013 has been an exceptional year, coming off drought conditions in 2012. "This year melons and cucumbers have really grown well. Doorganics has been great too. When we have extra stuff, he can put it to good use for his delivery service." 

Finishing out the year, Anderson says there is still work to be done. "Farming work takes us through mid-November. In the winter we begin planning and schedule for rotations."  In 2014 the Green Wagon farmers have plans to purchase some land and will be adding new products, including a few animals to their mix.

You can sign up online for Green Wagon's CSA here. You can also view the market times and restaurants that buy Green Wagon Farm's produce on their website and follow them on Facebook here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Fish Market set to open seafood bar at Downtown Market

Fish Lads of Grand Rapids has completed their first month of business at the Downtown Market, and the fishing is good.

The first impressions of bringing a fresh fish market to Grand Rapids have been very positive for fish monger Jeff Butzow, who started this venture after working seafood markets in Seattle. "The opening week was very busy. The whole week after that was busy too. Now it has become steady during the week and we are very busy on weekends. The attitude of our customers and excitement is overwhelming."

The biggest surprise so far for Butzow has been peoples' willingness to try new fish. "People have embraced the whole fish. Sardines, skate wings and whole snapper have been very popular."

Fish Lads' next milestone, planned for early October, will be the opening of their seafood bar, where customers can enjoy fresh fish cooked in a variety of ways. Butzow says further additions to their business model will feature cooking demonstrations and seminars, slated to begin in 2014.

Fish Lads currently employs 10 individuals. It is open during regular market hours. You can follow their business through their website here or their Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs Growth Editor

Firstronic in the process of adding 110 full-time jobs

Grand Rapids-based medical device manufacturer, Firstronic, has announced plans to invest $2.45 million in building renovations, machinery and equipment at its Michigan Street headquarters. 

With this investment, the company also announced it will be adding 110  full-time jobs (with benefits). The positions will range from engineers and technicians to entry-level electronic assembly operators and skilled hand solderers.

This announcement follows a successful collaboration between The Right Place, Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the City of Grand Rapids, which approved a $300,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant for Firstronic.

John Sammut, president, says the growth is a direct result of the firm's ability to compete on a global stage. "We won contracts against direct competition with offshore companies. In fact, much of the revenue from these contracts will be from our products being exported to Mexico, China, India, and Korea."

Sammut also credits their highly automated advanced manufacturing process, commitment to quality, and highly skilled workforce as being key to their global competitive advantage.

Firstronic provides advanced electronics manufacturing services and optimized supply chain solutions for companies in a wide range of industries including automotive, industrial and medical device

To learn more about the open positions at Firstronic, you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Eastown restaurant looking forward to fall's bounty

The next transition for Terra GR is a bit less dramatic than the mid-July change in ownership and name. It is, in fact, the reason for their existence.

The restaurant, which is located at 1429 Lake Dr. SE in Eastown, employs over forty people. Its focus is on serving seasonal, local and healthy foods. Its latest transition is one greatly anticipated by its team.

Chris McDonald, general manager, says the fall menu is a real joy for the staff. "We look forward to this season the most. We have the opportunity to find different ways to use the harvest that is coming through." 

McDonald says they will be sourcing a wide variety of meats, vegetables, and dairy products from Michigan suppliers. "Our local supply chain is fantastic and growing. If they create a good product, they are going to sell it. It isn't just to us either, but other restaurants, too. Customers are asking, 'Where does my food come from?'"

As one of the local pioneers in the farm-to-table movement, McDonald estimates that 70 percent of the produce used by Terra comes from a 50-mile radius. The rest is sourced from northern and eastern michigan, along with a few products purchased regionally.

McDonald says a commitment to working closely with their suppliers and passion for education are key components that support their commitment to local and healthy foods. He says Terra staff teaches classes at the Downtown Market along with holding special events at the restaurant and participating in private events. "Doing classes can help us educate people on seasonal uses of produce. It also helps our suppliers to increase market awareness of their products."

Past customers who have not visited since ownership changed hands will experience a few differences at Terra since the July transition. "We expanded our menu items and make more foods in house," says McDonald. McDonald also notes the decor has changed. "We have a new color scheme and tried to make the atmosphere homier and more comfortable for our guests."

To learn more about Terra, you can visit their site here or "like" their Facebook page here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Love's Ice Cream churning out hand crafted goodness from the Downtown Market

After months of preparation, Love's Ice Cream is now open in the Downtown Market. The artisan ice cream maker that features hand crafted ice cream made from organic, grass-fed dairy is located in stall 123.

In the early stages of what founder Chris McKellar hopes is long and successful journey, McKellar describes the first few steps as a "work in progress" as he settles into the marketplace and waits for the larger dairy production facility at the market to be finished. "Right now, being in week four, we are trying to figure out what the demand is. We are trying to figure out the demand in production. We are cooking everything over a stove in our booth. We are making 13-gallon batches of ice cream base daily. This then gets broken out into 2.5 gallons of ice cream that we churn. Once the dairy plant is built out, I can do 100-gallon batches and turn out flavors one after the other."

Other operational discoveries for McKellar have been identifying the staffing needs for his artisanal process. "I just went out to the market and bought corn and pumpkins. They are in the cooler now and then we will be roasting them in preparation to go into our ice cream. We do it all by hand. We can control the quality, but it takes more work."

Currently McKellar says they employ 10 individuals, but will be reviewing staffing needs as the business settles into a routine. "We are putting the final touches on our team, figuring out what the traffic patterns are and what hands are needed in scooping and at the cash register."

To follow the progress of Love's, McKellar suggests you "like' their Facebook page.  Love's is open during standard market hours; Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Iserv covers ArtPrize hotspots with free Wi-Fi, seeks sales and tech folks to fill jobs

Grand Rapids-based Iserv has been incredibly busy covering some of ArtPrize's busiest hotspots in downtown Grand Rapids with free public Wi-Fi while also seeking new employees to fill call center technology-assistance jobs and sales positions. The job growth is due to the company's continued growth as a business-to-business provider of voice services, Internet services, data networking, and co-location services.

As a sponsor of ArtPrize, Iserv implemented free Wi-Fi at some of the highest traffic art venues in 2012 where 10,000 users tapped in. In 2013, free Wi-Fi zones include Rosa Parks Circle, inside the Grand Rapids Art Museum, inside the ArtPrize Hub on Sheldon Avenue, inside the ArtPrize Clubhouse at J. Gardella's, in the park between the Blue Bridge and the Grand Rapids Public Museum, and on the Blue Bridge. All free Wi-Fi zones except the ArtPrize Clubhouse zone will remain operational after ArtPrize.

"Wi-Fi is faster for accessing the ArtPrize app and for voting for art," says Iserv's Director of Business Development Jeff Potter. "The Wi-Fi augments some of the coverage areas where cellular coverage is weaker, like inside a building. Carriers have data limitations, so users tend to look for free Wi-Fi services so they can conserve on their data plan."

To access the free Wi-Fi, simply search for a network when you're within the zone, click on 1 FREE WIFI-ISERV and then on the button to connect you to the Internet.

Regarding the job openings, Iserv's HQ at 5222 33rd St. SE looks to fill a half-dozen positions, including a handful of call center technology support positions and at least one salaried account executive position.

The company, which has 50 employees, offers call center support 24/7 and these jobs are ideal for college students who have classes during the day and need part-time work in the evening, Potter says. The company is looking for people who are technology-centered, and who are committed to the local community and serving customers who live here.

To apply for a position or to get more information, click here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

Zipments receives funding, looks to add talent to its development team in Grand Rapids

Zipments, the New York City-based technology company which was founded in Grand Rapids in 2011, has announced that it has closed a $2.25 million seed round.

The firm, intent on modernizing the same-day courier and delivery industry, offers its network of service providers advanced software tools to manage their businesses. 

Zipments will use the funds to upgrade their technology systems, develop new apps and expand into new markets. The lead investors are Michigan-based Huron River Ventures, with offices in Grand Rapids, and FirstMark Capita out of New York. Other investors of local note include the Windquest Group.

Garrick Pohl, co-founder of Zipments, says that although the headquarters (sales and operations) for Zipments is in New York, Grand Rapids is the home for their product development team, and ideally, he plans to add jobs here to support growth. "We were founded in Grand Rapids and our product development team is still in based in Grand Rapids. We have three people here now and continue to look to add more talent to the Grand Rapids office." Pohl says Zipments provides a great opportunity for developers looking for a challenge within a highly entrepreneurial organization. 

The Zipments technology allows customers to make local pickup requests through the Zipments mobile app or on Zipments.com. The delivery requests are then automatically dispatched via the firm's mobile app to its network of couriers based on the type of transportation required (bike, car or truck) and the time in which the delivery needs to be performed.

To learn more about Zipments, you can view their site here. You can also read the investment story from TechCrunch here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

OST becomes the first Michigan partner of national leader in enterprise mobile app development

Open Systems Technologies (OST) has announced that they have become one of 20 premier partners with San Francisco, CA based Xamarin and the first partner in the State of Michigan.

Xamarin is a leader for enterprise, cross-platform mobile development. It is used by over 350,000 developers from more than a hundred Fortune 500 companies.

Brian Anderson, OST's business development manager for application development, explains the primary benefits of this relationship: "Their tools are very unique in the marketplace. Building individual apps is very expensive. We now can share all the code which accelerates the development and maintenance of apps. We will also have direct access with their firm. As we get opportunities, we can work with the right people and they will have the opportunity to come to us with projects." 

Anderson also says the relationship is opening up more job growth at OST as they look to hire developers to meet the customer demand for cross-platform mobile technology.   According to OST, their application development practice is one of the largest App Dev teams in Michigan, with annual revenues of $9 million and a roster of 30 full-time developers and 50 full-time contractors.

OST is an $80 million company with offices in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, Michigan; Minneapolis; and London, England.

To learn more about Xamarin you can visit their site here. To learn more about OST you can view their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Grand Rapids-based Atomic Object has acquired the Ann Arbor software development firm, SRT Solutions

The recent acquisition of SRT Solutions by Grand Rapids-based Atomic Object (AO) is a classic win-win scenario. 

Atomic Object gets a new office in Ann Arbor, one of Michigan's technology hubs, while acquiring more top talent.

The team at SRT becomes part of a larger organization with a very similar organizational culture while remaining in their existing offices, which they call home.

Carl Erickson, founder and president of AO, says the benefits to both firms is pretty simple. "The most exciting thing for Atomic Object is being present in the three major technology markets: Grand Rapids, Detroit and now Ann Arbor. This puts us at the table to help a lot of startups and exiting companies that are looking for software to be part of their innovation process."

Equally important as the geographic expansion is the talent acquisition. "We are getting four very talented developers, three very experienced and one young but with a lot of potential. They are in Ann Arbor. They like it. They are also very excited about being part of Atomic Object. That is a heck of a way to bootstrap an office in an industry with such a skill shortage."

After the acquisition, Atomic Object now employs 45, and the company is actively recruiting designers and developers for both its Ann Arbor and Detroit offices.

To learn more about the acquisition you can read Erickson's blog post here. You can also visit Atomic Object's site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

West Michigan landscape management co. seeks mechanics, accountants, sales, and seasonal workers

Some 50 job seekers turned out for a career fair last week at DJ's Landscape Management in Grand Rapids, but the 80 percent of those who will be called back for second interviews won't begin to fill all the full-time, part-time, and seasonal jobs the company has in its Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Holland locations.

With well over 100 jobs available due to the company's growth, and with the busy snowfall season looming, company spokesperson Liz Young says the need for more applicants is large.

"Snow season is our busiest season," Young says. "Crew members are needed in several different departments, from irrigation to landscape installation and plant health. Many of the positions come with benefits. We'd love to fill 100 percent of the positions, but the goal is to fill 50 percent by October 31."

Young says the Grand Rapids office has 25-30 full-time openings and 75 seasonal openings; Kalamazoo has 30 seasonal and five full-time positions, and Holland has room for 15-20 seasonal workers and five full-time. Jobs range from snow shovelers starting at $19 per hour, to small equipment mechanics, large equipment mechanics, account managers, salespersons, a project estimator, crew members, crew leaders, and more.

Some positions, such as the project estimators and account managers, require some type of horticulture degree, such as landscape design or soil science.

Young says the company serves only commercial clients, not residential, and that it’s a great job for college students and high school seniors because it pays well and the hours are flexible. "We will work around their class schedules and they are considered part-time," she says. "It's a great way for college and high school seniors to make money seasonally, and is as easy as lifting a shovel."

For more information on the jobs available, or to apply for a job, click here.

Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

500 jobs expected with new call center

The Right Place, working together with The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Cascade Township, announced that Paris-based Teleperformance, Inc. has reached an agreement to establish a new customer support center in West Michigan.

Teleperformance is expected to invest a total of $3.79 million, creating 500 local jobs in the region. The facility will be located at 2680 Horizon Drive SE, Grand Rapids (Cascade Township), Michigan. It will serve as an inbound customer care center, and the new jobs will include customer care agents, supervisors, trainers, and IT specialists.

According to Megan Sall, business development manager at The Right Place, the deal took a while to negotiate but eventually came together, with success due in large part to our reputation as a region with a skilled workforce. "Our workforce has a great reputation. We speak a lot of languages and have a lot of colleges and student pools to recruit from," she says. 

West Michigan also boasts a strong telecommunications and fiber-optic infrastructure that provides a reliable technology platform, which is very important for a business operation that is online 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To learn more about Teleperformance, including their open positions, you can visit their site here.

Source: Megan Sall, The Right Place. Press Release, The Right Place
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

500 jobs expected with new call center

The Right Place, working together with The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and Cascade Township, announced that Paris-based Teleperformance, Inc. has reached an agreement to establish a new customer support center in West Michigan.

Teleperformance is expected to invest a total of $3.79 million, creating 500 local jobs in the region. The facility will be located at 2680 Horizon Drive SE, Grand Rapids (Cascade Township), Michigan. It will serve as an inbound customer care center, and the new jobs will include customer care agents, supervisors, trainers, and IT specialists.

According to Megan Sall, business development manager at The Right Place, the deal took a while to negotiate but eventually came together, with success due in large part to our reputation as a region with a skilled workforce. "Our workforce has a great reputation. We speak a lot of languages and have a lot of colleges and student pools to recruit from," she says. 

West Michigan also boasts a strong telecommunications and fiber-optic infrastructure that provides a reliable technology platform, which is very important for a business operation that is online 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To learn more about Teleperformance, including their open positions, you can visit their site here.

Source: Megan Sall, The Right Place. Press Release, The Right Place
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
1551 Articles | Page: | Show All
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