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50 Companies to Watch honors five West Michigan job- and revenue-generating companies

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Of the 50 dynamic companies honored in this year's Michigan 50 Companies to Watch list, five of them are generating jobs and revenue in West Michigan.

The five companies are All About Learning Inc., Sparta; Alternative Mechanical LLC, Grand Rapids; Flow-Rite Controls Ltd., Byron Center; OST (Open Systems Technologies), Grand Rapids; and ThinkWise Inc., Grand Rapids.  The companies received honors on April 30 during a special awards ceremony in Lansing.

Combined, all 50 Michigan companies contributed amazing investments during the four years leading up to the current economic turmoil: $1.1 billion in revenue (126 percent increase) and added more than 700 employees (87 percent increase).

In 2008 the 50 firms generated $405 million in total annual revenue – a $99 million increase in total annual revenue – and created 296 new jobs.

In addition, for 2009 the 50 companies predict a 35 percent revenue jump and 23 percent growth in employees.

The West Michigan companies, alone, predict the creation of some 14 jobs by the end of 2009.

The purpose of the awards is to recognize second stage businesses that are doing good work today and setting themselves up for growth, says Joy Kitamori, program production manager with Cassopolis-based Edward Lowe Foundation.

Also considered are emotional intelligence factors: are the companies good to work for, are they good partners to other CEOs and other companies, and a range of features that might make a company tick.

Nominees undergo a rigorous application process that documents employee counts, gross revenues for the previous three years and the current year (2008), the projected year (2009). They also must provide detailed answers to open ended questions, including, what makes them a company to watch, and they must detail their philanthropy, how they use technology and innovation, and what makes the company culture unique. A panel of eight judges determines the 50 winners.

The Edward Lowe Foundation received 157 applications for the 2009 awards.

Source: Joy Kitamori, T.J. Becker, The Edward Lowe Foundation

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Statewide internship initiative launches today, goal is 25K internships statewide, 3K West Michigan

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Today the West Michigan Strategic Alliance (WMSA) and the Detroit Regional Chamber launched an initiative to create 25,000 new internships statewide by 2013, including 3,000 new internships in West Michigan by 2012. The initiative, Intern In Michigan, is the largest intern initiative in the state.

The goals are to provide an online hub to connect students looking for internships with employers who have internship programs and vice versa, to help employers establish internship programs, and to retain young talent in Michigan through internships that develop into permanent jobs.

"There's a quote from the National Association of Colleges and Employment that says that in 2008 50.5 percent of interns converted to full time employment with the company they interned with," says Cindy Brown, WMSA internship initiative project manager.

"Retaining college grads is a lot easier than attracting them from somewhere else and it's a way for employers to evaluate a prospective employee at their organization. They can then fill positions with interns that they're interested in."

In addition, WMSA provides support for employers and students. In February, WMSA launched its Employer's Internship Toolkit to help employers develop internship programs or enhance programs already in place.

Brown says she will personally help any employer or student who needs it, as will the initiative's regional advisory committee – made up of colleges, universities and employers who have internship programs.

"The more we can sit down with an employer and work with them, the more they'll understand how an intern can assist their businesses and the better program will be," Brown notes. "As for students who land internships, they learn on-the-job business etiquette and the culture of an organization. They also get to see how a corporation works and can build a résumé while gaining tangible work experience."

Source: Cindy Brown, West Michigan Strategic Alliance; Tim Penning, Penning Ink

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grand Rapids Mercantile Bank first in Michigan to offer deposit at home for personal accounts

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Mercantile Bank in Grand Rapids might be the first in Michigan to offer deposit at home services to clients with personal accounts. The service, launched on April 13, enables clients to deposit checks without have to take the check physically to the bank.

Clients scan the check into their computer, and then log in to the Mercantile Bank web site to send the scanned image to the bank. The bank records it as a deposit and sends the scanned image to the originating bank for payment. The client making the deposit prints a deposit receipt and keeps the check until the deposit clears the bank and they've reconciled their account.

"A similar service has been available to businesses for a while," says Michelle Shangraw, retail banking director, "but they need a sophisticated scanner that handles a high volume of checks. A lot of people will go for a week with a birthday check or another check in their pocket. With Merc@Home Deposit (www.mercdeposit.com) they can make the deposit from home and get it into the bank sooner."

The service could also be a convenient solution for micro businesses that have a few check deposits a month.

Mercantile Bank also launched MercMobile, enabling cell phone users to pay bills, transfer funds, check account balances, and more, using a smart phone with Internet capabilities.

"We want to package convenience for our customers and offer them innovative products and ways to do business easily," says John Schulte, CIO. "We worked with an existing vendor partner, keeping an eye on this technology and getting it ready for market. We believe we're the only bank in Michigan to offer this on the personal banking side."

Mercantile Bank offers both new services at no charge.

Source: Michelle Shangraw, John Schulte, Mercantile Bank; John Zimmerman, Seyferth & Associates

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Holland manufacturer finds prosperity in diversification, adds four jobs

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Holland-based Kenowa Industries, an automotive materials handling supplier, recently made its first foray into the alternative energy field, adding one more industry to its diversified customer base. Kenowa's diversification efforts have kept the company afloat in a turbulent economy. 

Kenowa designed and manufactured a precision solar panel work-in-process cart for Grenzebach Corporation, Newnan, GA, an international supplier of conveyors and robotics. Grenzebach's end user, a solar panel manufacturer, needed a cart to move custom-formed 2-by-3.5 foot glass panels through a conveyor system without breakage.

"A robotic arm loads the panels into 40 shelves on the cart, so the measurements for each shelf have to be very, very precise," says Mark Doyle, sales manager for Kenowa. "Grenzebach tried to source it down there, but couldn't find anyone to meet their critical lead time or to manufacture the carts holding the tight tolerances – corner to corner, side to side and top to bottom the measurements could only be off less than a millimeter.

"This project is by far the most intricate and most precise of any project we've ever done," Doyle adds.

Five years ago Kenowa went looking for new clients in the medical, aerospace, lumber and retail industries. Today, about 40 percent of the company's business comes from those diversification efforts; the rest comes from the automotive industry.

Government contracts are next on the to-do list, which prompted Kenowa's leaders to enlist help from Right Place Inc. to make crucial business connections and to become a certified minority-owned business.

Kenowa celebrates 30 years this year and logged $4 million in revenue in 2008. The Grenzebach work generated four permanent jobs and two temporary positions, bringing employment to 25.

Source: Mark Doyle, Kenowa Industries

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Grand Rapids law firm forms health care law practice group, hires six

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Grand Rapids law firm Rhoades McKee has formed a new practice group whose focus is to assist physicians and health care organizations with health law issues. The Health Law Practice Group pulls together lawyers who each have expertise in health law and expertise in other areas of law, as well.

The legal issues physicians and hospitals face can touch on tax law, real estate law, environmental law, fraud, criminal defense work, liability and more.

"Health care is the highest regulated industry in the country because it's driven by taxpayer dollars and because we care about the quality of care we're receiving," says John Lichtenberg, an attorney and chair of the practice group.

"There's significant movement back to hospital-based or hospital-owned physician practice groups," Lichtenberg says. "It's a product of economic pressures on physicians and the structure of the payment systems where they're left to try to negotiate with large insurance companies and the federal government for Medicaid and Medicare. They form physicians' groups to provide themselves with some sort of protection and seamless health care to patients."

Lichtenberg expects the new health practice group will focus on physicians and their physician practice groups.

"These issues become unusually complicated with the huge nonprofit entities that are major players in the health care industry," Lichtenberg adds. "Because they are so involved in so many transactions, they touch many individual physicians and practice groups and they touch other nonprofits such as the Van Andel Institute, as well as for-profit entities."

This year, Rhoades McKee added four experienced lawyers and a lawyer just out of school. Another new grad joins the firm later this year.

"My hope is to see our health law practice group grow," Lichtenberg says, "and to help in the transformation of the health care industry here in Grand Rapids."

Source: John Lichtenberg, Rhoades McKee

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Bicycle summit gears up to create bike-friendly Grand Rapids

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

A coalition of bicycle enthusiasts is gearing up to host Bike Summit I, an event it hopes will be the catalyst for making Grand Rapids a League of American Bicyclists (LAB) Bicycle Friendly Community. The coalition, Bike Grand Rapids, aims to get more residents riding bicycles for recreation and transportation.

LAB's Bicycle Friendly Community program recognizes communities that offer numerous safe bikeways, secure bike storage centers, and bicycle education programs. Bike Grand Rapids has asked that metro Grand Rapids to be designated as a Bicycle Friendly Community by demonstrating achievements in bicycle-related engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and planning.

Bike friendly cities attract young talent seeking vibrant, sustainable communities in which to live and work. Portland, OR is one example where urban workers are finding they don't need to own vehicles, freeing up discretionary spending for non-auto-related items. Some workers have even become bicycle industry entrepreneurs.

"The summit will include breakout planning sessions for on road, off road, education and advocacy," says Kevin McCurren of Bike Grand Rapids. McCurren was involved in a similar program in Louisville, KY before he moved to Heritage Hill last summer.

"At the breakouts we'll talk about which roads you want to ride on, which need bike-friendly improvements, improving trails and easy connections to parks, and what programs we have now and what programs we want," he says. "We'll hopefully get some concrete ideas to keep this going."

Featured speakers include Bill Nesper, director, Bicycle Friendly Community program; Ann Freiwald, consultant, Alta Planning and Design, a national leader in bicycle, pedestrian and greenway design; and Suzanne Schulz, planning director for Grand Rapids and Green Grand Rapids.

The summit runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 24 at Grand Valley State University's Loosemore Auditorium. Click here for the agenda or to register.

Source: Kevin McCurran, Bike Grand Rapids; Green Grand Rapids

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

West Michigan green manufacturing conference goes carbon neutral

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

This year's Embracing a Green Future conference has adopted a new twist that helps organizers practice what they preach – the conference will become carbon neutral by purchasing carbon credits from local green energy endeavors.

"The purpose of this conference is to help manufacturers get on, or continue, on their sustainable journey," says Anne Saliers, innovation director, Right Place, Inc. Right Place and MMTC-West are hosting the conference. "One of the new topics is carbon management, and one of the ways to make the conference as sustainable as possible is to purchase carbon offsets."

Right Place has partnered with Holland-based Viability to make the conference carbon neutral.

"Through our Green Events Program, we marry a local nonprofit that is, for example, putting up a wind turbine or solar panels and is eligible for carbon credits, with events happening in the area," says Chris Byrnes, Viability president and founder. "The projects come from Viability's registry, and are not on any global registry."

For Embracing a Green Future, Viability assesses the electric usage, waste, heating usage, and transportation for speakers and attendees to determine the carbon footprint. The carbon credits will be purchased and retired, and the nonprofit gets the money to help pay for their green energy project. In return, the conference lists Viability as a sponsor.

"It's primarily a marketing program for us," Byrnes says. "We intend to promote the program around the country."

The conference features presentations on greening your company through environmental management systems, product/service design, facilities, purchasing/supply chain, operations, packaging, and more. Attendees can choose two half-day workshops on operating lean and green, green materials and chemistry, carbon management 101 or green marketing guidelines.

The conference is April 28 and 29 at Grand Valley State University's Eberhard Center. For more information or to register, click here.

Source: Anne Saliers, Right Place Inc.; Chris Byrnes, Dan Kuipers, Viability LLC

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

SoundOffSignal investing in $6.1 million expansion, adding 100 Jobs

By: Ivy Hughes

Emergency vehicle product provider SoundOff Signal, is investing $6.1 million over the next seven years to expand its Jamestown Charter Township facility.

The expansion will accommodate SoundOff Signal’s new project, which involves the production of Hilux LED lighting systems. SoundOff Signal plans to provide Hilux for parking lights, streetlights and municipal lights, among other markets.

“Our experience with emergency vehicles and LED technology combined with our experience in design lighting, propelled us into this new area of green lighting,” says Mark Litke, president and CEO of SoundOff Signal.

SoundOff Signal plans to add 100 jobs over the next seven years to accommodate the new project. The state approved a $1.4 million tax credit over seven years to help SoundOff Signal defray project costs. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) will also provide a $25,000 job-training grant.

“I would say the talent here is good,” says Thomas Roe, SoundOff Signal CFO. “It’s an emerging industry so we’re doing things people haven’t done.”

Roe says SoundOff Signal was looking to move to China.

“We’re trying to launch a product quickly and it helps using in house talent to do that,” Roe says about SoundOff Signal’s decision to stay in the state.

Source: Chelsea Nimiac, DP Company

Ivy Hughes is the managing editor of Capital Gains, a sister publication of Rapid Growth covering growth in Lansing, Michigan.

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Right Place brings $460M capital, 8,400 jobs to West Michigan; increases planned through 2013

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Every five years throughout its 25-year existence, Right Place Inc. sets a five-year strategic plan outlining goals for regional economic development and jobs retention/creation. The Strategic Plan 2009-2013 unveiled recently, if successful, will establish unprecedented capital investment in West Michigan and create thousands more jobs.

Here are the measurable accomplishments of the most recent strategic plan that wrapped up in 2008:

  • Capital investment, goal $340 million. Actual: $467 million.
  • New-payroll, goal $75 million. Actual: $228 million.
  • Jobs created/retained, goal 4,500. Actual: 8,366.
  • Companies assisted, goal 2,000. Actual: 2,332.

The 2009-2013 strategic plan (A.K.A. the West Michigan Action Plan) sets the bar even higher with new five-year targets:

  • $500 million in new capital investment
  • 5,000 new/retained jobs
  • $175 million in new payroll
  • Right Place assistance to 7,500 companies.

“We have to be very agile to stay ahead of the competition, we’re going into new businesses like life sciences and aerospace, and we’re looking at clusters where we think we have strategic advantage,” says Birgit Klohs, executive director. “We’re already working on diversification plans with 25 companies straight off the Automotive Diversification Summit held February 18th.”

The strategic priorities for the next five years are to:

  1. Lead West Michigan business development efforts to retain and expand existing businesses; attract new businesses from global and national markets; and promote sustainable land and building use.
  2. Identify and develop emerging growth opportunities, including life sciences with special emphasis on medical devices and biotechnology; advanced manufacturing; sustainable practices including renewable products, services and technologies; renewable energy sources and suppliers of solar, wind and biomass power; aerospace and defense.
  3. Strengthen the global competitiveness and innovation of our existing regional manufacturers by supporting commercialization of regional, national and international intellectual property; develop and implement innovative products and services to support best-in-class manufacturing.

Source: Birgit Klohs, Right Place, Inc.

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

North Ottawa Health System adds first-ever chief marketing, communications officer

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

As health care becomes more competitive and patients have more choices, the 90-year-old North Ottawa Community Health System (NOCHS) will use a newly created position to help strengthen community awareness of the hospital’s services. Jen VanSkiver is NOCHS’ first-ever chief communications officer and director of external affairs, charged with developing growth strategies and strengthening the system’s core competencies.

NOCHS employs 750 throughout the system: the 81-bed hospital at 1309 Sheldon Road in Grand Haven, the attached Harbor Dunes professional building, nearby Heartwood Lodge with its 8-bed Hospice Care center, an urgent care center downtown, and labs and physical rehabilitation sites throughout the area.

“Our talent and services are competitive with not only lakeshore hospitals, but larger health systems in surrounding cities,” says Shelleye Yaklin, president and CEO. “Bringing communications leadership to North Ottawa enables us to tell our story at the same level and with the same intensity as our competitors.”

To support NOCHS’ focus on effective communications, a new user-friendly web site helps patients find answers to their health related questions and become leaders of their personal health care plan.

“We have to be communicating regularly with new information; it’s absolutely a critical tool in patient care,” VanSkiver says. “Hospitals are looked to as portals of information, centers of technology. The web has influenced that and patients looks at themselves as the leaders of their health care. There are more choices than ever before, so for a neighborhood hospital that was founded based on proximity, we have to evolve.

“Putting marketing and communications in the room when decisions are being made recognizes that communications is a key component of health care,” she adds.

Source: Shelleye Yaklin, Jen VanSkiver, North Ottawa Community Health System

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Manufacturers report MMTC-West increased bottom lines by $33M, created 51 jobs

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Surveys conducted in the last two quarters of 2008 revealed that 20 manufacturers assisted by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-West (MMTC) in the previous year improved their bottom lines a total of some $33 million and created 51 new jobs. In addition, the MMTC assistance helped those manufacturers retain 123 existing jobs.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology hired an outside company to conduct the surveys measuring the effectiveness of the MMTC programs.

“The mission of the MMTC is to increase the competitiveness of Michigan manufacturers,” says Brian Walquist, outreach manager of MMTC-West at Right Place Inc. “We can bring them the expertise they need to compete in this incredibly difficult market we’re in. We might have five to 15 companies that we work with each quarter.”

The programs can include customized projects to teach manufacturers how to implement lean manufacturing techniques, diversify their manufacturing, or obtain quality systems certification for ISO and other standards required for specific industries (aerospace, medical device manufacturing). Some programs help them reduce their environmental footprint and costs.

MMTC programs show manufacturers ways to increase and retain sales and create and retain jobs, Walquist adds. Specific processes can help them determine if new equipment is really needed, or if, by running the plant more efficiently, they can operate with existing equipment.

“More often than not we’re helping manufacturers compete against companies across the U.S., Mexico and even China.” says Walquist. “It benefits West Michigan because more competitive manufacturers can create new jobs that employ the people who support the economy by buying and spending here in West Michigan.”

Source: Brian Walquist, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-West at Right Place, Inc.

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

West Michigan group helps manufacturers replace harmful chemicals with green substitutes

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

The recently formed Green Materials and Chemicals Users Group is working to reduce or eliminate harmful chemicals in West Michigan manufacturing processes and products. Last year the adoption of the BIFMA  E3 Sustainability Standard for furniture manufacturing encouraged the formation of the group by identifying the chemicals most harmful to humans and the environment.

Bill Stough and Clinton Boyd of Grand Rapids-based Sustainable Research Group (SRG) led the charge on the development of the BIFMA E3. Now they’re leading the green materials users group, which is a partnership between the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC) and Right Place Inc.

“We want to move away from petroleum-based products as fast as we can,” Stough says. “Our goal is that, at the end of a product’s life, it should be able to be reused for something else because it contains no hazardous chemicals, or it can be composted and used to grow plants to produce new raw materials.”

The group is just beginning to market itself with the aim of attracting product designers, design for the environment specialists, materials purchasers, and chemists from a wide spectrum of industries.

“This group will give West Michigan a head start in the marketplace on offering environmentally safer products to their customers,” Stough says. “This whole evolving area of green chemistry affects all of us; whatever you do during a day, you’re interacting with purposefully designed chemistry—your keyboard, your phone, your office furniture. We’re sure our work will lead to innovation and new products.”

Source: Bill Stough, Sustainable Research Group; Brian Walquist, Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

Hanon McKendry's growth creates six Grand Rapids jobs, more expected

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

In the past year, Grand Rapids marketing and public relations firm Hanon McKendry merged two companies, Justice & Monroe and Mindscape, and their 16 employees into the company.

The influx of new people prompted the December appointment of the company’s first-ever human resources director. And that was recently followed by the hiring of five more people, including a programmer, web designer, copywriter and director of account services.

“We’re projecting continued growth through 2009,” says Bob Blanchard, CEO. “Part of that growth is because we have a pretty diverse portfolio of services, including design, PR, media and digital interactive.

"The other part is that we have a diverse portfolio of clients, including nonprofit and for-profit. And we service a lot of different industries, we’re not just tied to the auto industry or the furniture industry, and that helps us not be economically affected if one industry isn’t doing well.”

The company is also part of Gravity Six, an alliance of six West Michigan design, brand consulting and ad firms that collaborate on larger projects to attract a larger customer base to Michigan.

With 15 years under its belt, last year Hanon McKendry logged its highest revenue ever--nearly $10 million. With over 50 percent of its clients located outside of Michigan, the company is also responsible for regularly hosting clients who, in turn, stay at downtown hotels and are entertained at downtown restaurants and other venues.

“I think Mindscape is in a position to continue growing this year,” Blanchard adds. “Hanon McKendry could be in a position mid-year to add more staff because of adding new clients and our existing clients who are growing.”

Source: Bob Blanchard, Hanon McKendry

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

WorkLife Alliance aids in attraction, retention of Millennials and Baby Boomers

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

Employers face the challenge of retaining experienced workers who aren’t quite ready to retire, while, at the same time, running a shop that meets the needs and expectations of young college grads.

A new Grand Rapids group, West Michigan WorkLife Alliance (WMWLA), might be the first in the area to bring employers together to discover best practices aimed at keeping talent, Baby Boomers and Millennials alike.

“Millennials are coming into the workforce saying ‘I’m not sure I want to have a 60-hour workweek like my parents,’” says Alison Brown of Encompass LLC and founder of WMWLA. “That’s particularly true for employers who are faced with attracting and retaining talent in competitive sectors like technology, health care and medical research—the talent can go anywhere they want and get a job.”

A structured work/life benefits portfolio is a key component to attracting and keeping talent of all ages. The portfolio might include flexible work hours, tuition reimbursement, mentoring for individuals new to the area or an option for parents/grandparents to take time off for a child’s school or athletic event.

“An important tenet of stress management is control,” Brown says. “Employees want more control over their quality of life. Research shows that if they have some input on things like their work schedules, education, or Teleworking, employers get increased loyalty, all other things being equal.”

Knowing you need a work/life package and providing one that works are two different things. The WMWLA meets monthly and features discussions led by companies that have successfully implemented work/life options.

“At the end of a year, members will have a good overview of work/life benefits, how to provide them and where to get help setting up programs,”  Brown says.

For more information, contact Brown.

Source: Alison Brown, Encompass

Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

City of Grand Rapids named one of EPA’s top 20 ‘green’ energy purchasers nationwide

By: Deborah Johnson Wood

This week the City of Grand Rapids announced its induction into the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Leadership Club. The induction recognizes organizations that have significantly exceeded the EPA’s minimum purchase requirements of green energy.

The EPA’s requirements range from 20 percent clean energy to 60 percent, depending on the overall total kilowatt hours used. Grand Rapids qualified by purchasing 20 percent of its power from green energy sources; and that goal was reached in November 2007, one year ahead of Mayor George Heartwell’s initial goal.

Mayor Heartwell has since set a goal of obtaining 100 percent of the City’s electrical power from renewable sources by December 31, 2020.

“We’re really excited about this,” says Haris Alibasic, assistant to the city manager and a three-year member of the Mayor’s Renewable Energy Team. “Renewable energy is really huge all over Europe. I lived in Europe and I saw that [renewable energy] really creates new jobs and huge environmental savings.”

The Renewable Energy Team began in 2005 and consists of city commissioners, higher education leaders and city staff.

“We developed a renewable energy business plan which we are following very closely, with short-term, medium-term and long-term goals, and we are achieving them in a business-like manner,” says Alibasic.

The team has six focus areas: developing green power sources and purchasing that power; being fiscally responsible with those purchases; providing the City with power options; improving energy efficiencies in city-operated buildings and providing Grand Rapids homeowners with help on green energy options; legislatively advancing the agenda for green energy; and determining possible options for wind and green energy zoning.

Source: Haris Alibasic, City of Grand Rapids

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Deborah Johnson Wood is development news editor for Rapid Growth Media. She can be contacted at deborah@rapidgrowthmedia.com.

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