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Innovation + Job News

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Calling all artists! Enter your work now for a chance to show at Muskegon Museum of Art exhibition

Michigan artists who are 18 years and older now have the chance to present their work in the longest running regional art exhibition in the state — but they need to act now.

To be considered for the Muskegon Museum of Art’s 88th annual Regional Exhibition, both professional and amateur artists must submit their entries at www.callforentry.org (search “Muskegon” to find the show) before March 19, 2016. Each individual can enter up to two works for the exhibition, during which more than $5,000 in cash prizes and purchase awards will be distributed to artists.

Two- and three-dimensional works created over the past two years are eligible for submission. For the first time in the exhibition’s history, entries will be registered via the internet, and jurying will be done from digital images of the artwork. Submission fees are $35 for entries, or $20 for Muskegon Museum of Art members. Tom Lundberg, a professor of art at Colorado State University whose work has been seen in solo, group and invitational exhibitions around the world, will be the show’s juror.

Artists will be notified if they have been selected for the show via email, after which they will need to deliver their work between April 21 and April 23.

The Regional Exhibition will open on May 12 and will fill two large galleries at the museum through August 3, 2016.

The show has long been lauded, and an extensive list of well-known Michigan artists have participated in the exhibition throughout their careers. Last year, a record 725 entries were submitted by 409 artists from throughout the state.

The Muskegon Museum of Art is located at 296 W. Webster Ave. in downtown Muskegon. For information about the museum, call 231-720-2571 or visit the museum’s website.

Photos courtesy of the Muskegon Museum of Art

Have an idea to make your neighborhood, city & world a better place? Pitch it at GVSU's 5x5 night

GR Current's March 5x5 Night is rather unique. Instead of entrepreneurs pitching ideas for their own business ideas and $5,000 in funding, individuals will be pitching ideas to develop new or existing community-based initiatives that provide value to local neighborhoods, communities or the world.

Kevin McCurren, Executive Director, The Richard M. and Helen DeVos Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Ruth Stegeman, Assistant Dean and Director for Community Engagement at the College of Community and Public Service, are part of the team that is organizing this event.

Stegeman says the key component of this 5x5 Night are the connections between community partners, the owner of the idea and Grand Valley State University.
"We use a very broad description of the community partner: It could be a business, a non-profit organization, a faith-based initiative or a loose group of neighbors,” Stegeman says. “We are looking for ways to help these organizations sustain initiatives with the help of our school." 

She says the ideas can be new, or it can be about growing an existing program. These types of programs can be as diverse as funding for a research project, a development of an app that would help an organization with their mission or an after-school program. It is wide open. (You can get a sense of the range of  ideas by visiting the 5x5 Night site here and review the currently submitted ideas.)

McCurren says any GVSU faculty, staff, or student, preferably in collaboration with a community partner, can submit an idea. He also says the program is open to anyone in the community, but the goal will be to connect these individuals and community partners with GVSU resources.
"We think 5x5 is important and unique to West Michigan,” McCurren says. “For the university, it is a great way to foster community involvement."
For community partners or individuals without an existing GVSU connection, the organizing team is available to help facilitate a match.
"It is not just about the $5,000, it is about putting your idea out there and building a community of supporters and followers,” McCurren adds.

This approach to 5x5 Night is somewhat of pilot program and will be evaluated after it is over, but the goal would be to do it once every semester, McCurren says.

The program follows the same basic format as the more traditional 5x5 Nights. The top 5 ideas based on a public vote will be pitched to a panel of five judges for five minutes and with five presentation slides in efforts to win $5,000 in funding for the project. Submissions for new and existing initiatives are welcome.

If your initiative is selected as one of the top five, pitch coaching is available. The event is open to the public.

Submission deadline: Wednesday, March 16, 2016. Time of the public event: Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 5-7 pm¨Location: L.V. Eberhard Center (Room 201), 301 West Fulton Street, Grand Rapids.

Please visit www.5x5night.com in order to submit an idea, vote, or receive updates. For more information, send an email to: hello@5x5night.com.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Summer job help wanted: Must love animals, nature and people

Looking for a summer job on the wild side? John Ball Park Zoo has more than 130 job openings available, and they are filling up fast.

The positions are both part-time and full-time for the summer months. There are opportunities in the gift shop, concession stand, events and rental department, experiences (like the zipline and touchable stingrays), education department, membership, and maintenance.  For most positions, there is no experience necessary.

Nancy Johnson, interim human resources manager at John Ball Park Zoo says that, beyond the need to make some spending money, this is the ideal summer job for those pursuing a job in education, hospitality and tourism, biology, zoology, horticulture, and environmental science/conservation.
"Those looking for internships may be able to use their work experience here to fulfill those requirements,” she says. “Many of the jobs offer a good experience base for building a career." 

Johnson recommends that all job seekers attend a zoo job fair on Saturday, March 4, from 10am to 3pm. The zoo suggests responders apply online before attending the fair, where they’ll have an opportunity to speak to the hiring managers about the jobs. Applicants can easily apply for multiple jobs through the online application process.
 "It's a great place to work,” Johnson says. “You get a lot of great experience, meet wonderful people and it's a wildly fun atmosphere."

The job fair will be held in the John Ball Zoo ballroom, located on the second floor of the zoo administration office outside of the zoo gate. People can find out more by going to: www.jbzoo.org/careers. Applicants must be 16 years of age and older.

John Ball Zoo is located at 1300 W. Fulton, 1 mile west of downtown. For more information, call  (616)336-4300, email info@jbzooo.org, check out the zoo’s Facebook page, JB Zoo, or visit www.jbzoo.org.

Free week of coworking space being offered by Worklab by Custer

Worklab by Custer is having a celebration — and you are invited, but be forewarned. You are expected to work.

Worklab is celebrating coworking by hosting a free We Share Work Week at their downtown Grand Rapids location from March 14th through March 18th.

The event is open to the public and includes a free week of coworking. Mark Custer, founder, says you can create your own schedule, stay for one day, the entire week or just pop in and out at your convenience.
"This is our own event. A bit of March Madness and a good way to kick off spring,” he says.

Custer notes the trends for coworking spaces remain strong.
"We are entering the sharing economy, and there is plenty of research supporting the benefits of these 'third spaces' and spending time outside the office,” he says.
The founder says coworking spaces are great places to get work done, network, help change up the routine, and are much better than going home to work, where often times there are far too many distractions.

Besides offering the space (and all the amenities, including concierge services), there will be a series of speakers and business service partners in the space throughout the week. 

Worklab opened in June 2014 and provides a professional work environment and meeting space in the heart of downtown. Members include professionals, entrepreneurs, business owners, freelancers, consultants, mobile workers, corporate teams, and event planners.

For more information on Worklab, visit www.worklabinc.com, or to schedule a private tour, email Mark Custer at mcuster@custerworklab.com.
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Blackbird 2.0 takes flight

Blackbird is an online platform that lets anyone plan great events. It is also a testament to the entrepreneurial tenacity of its founder, Laura Vaughn.

Rapid Growth first wrote about the startup in 2014. Since then, Vaughn has methodically built the business, always listening to her customers in order to build a better product. It was also through the product development process that she received a significant boost; Vaughn was able to attract a software development firm, Collective Idea, to come along as both an investor and development team. The addition moved the technology forward and helped Vaughn get to where she is today: the launch of the new and improved Blackbird. 

"The journey has been long,” Vaughn says. “Anyone who knows me knows that I have been talking about this product for years. It takes a significant amount of time to figure out how to get customers, then more time to start learning from them. Finally, it takes time to line up the best resources to make the ideal product for them. I'd be lying if I said it's been easy."

Vaughn says the new release (Blackbird 2.0) is designed for any type of event and for anyone to use.
"If you're planning a book tour, lobster boil, conference, or anything in between, Blackbird is an easy way to make a great looking registration page that looks as impressive as your event is sure to be,” she explains.

She says the site has several great features for event planners that help through the entire planning and promotion process.
"Blackbird can help them sell tickets, offer discount codes, and send email invitations that come with built-in reminders so everyone knows when and where to show up."

Besides new features, Vaughn has redesigned the pricing model.
"Our new pricing is also exciting,” she says. “Events cost $39 to publish, whether you have five people coming or 500. If you're selling tickets to your event, publishing is free — we take a small transaction fee for each ticket sold to your event."

Vaughn and her supporters recently had a launch celebration at Start Garden.
"Continuing to see a need and desire for what we were building really drove me to keep working on it and looking for the right resources,” she says. “Now that we've reached this milestone Blackbird 2.0 release, I'm really glad we spent that time listening to our customers and gathering feedback."

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

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Caffeine City: Madcap CEO's first place prize showcases coffee's rising star in Grand Rapids

Madcap Coffee’s CEO, Trevor Corlett, took first place in the Eastern Conference Barista Competition two weeks ago. 
With the highest score in the country, Corlett is now qualified to continue on to the United States Barista Championship (USBC) semi-finals on April 14-17 in Atlanta, Ga.
Big deal, right? Well, yes, it is.
The specialty coffee industry is big business, and, arguably, it is as important to building the Grand Rapids brand as is the craft beer scene. The city now features dozens of independent specialty coffee shops where business and community intersect.
Corlett says these events are where the top 1 percent of coffee producers and processors in the country have a stage to showcase their talents and dedication to being the best of the best.
"This competition is an arena within the specialty coffee market where you find yourself at an event where everyone is very passionate about the product,” he explains.
Success in the competition says as much about the company where a barista works as it does the specific skills of the barista.  This was Corlett's ninth time in the this competition but his first time landing the top honor.
"These competitions are important for the company,” he says. “It challenges you to work on skills. We believe working in coffee can be a lifelong career. It's great exposure and makes you better at your day-to-day job."
Ryan Wojton, Madcap’s café manager, finished ninth place in the Eastern Conference and qualified to compete in the United States Brewer’s Cup Championship, which highlights the art of manual coffee brewing. Corlett says another team member also participated but did not qualify for the next stage.
Each of Corlett's drinks highlighted Amparo Botina’s coffee from the Narino Region in Southwest Colombia. Her coffee was featured in Madcap’s Colombia Tasting Series, and this is Madcap’s first year buying coffee from Amparo.
Corlett's Signature Drink: “Almost Perfect”
  • Glass smoked with cinnamon and cherry bitters
  • 1ml of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 shot of espresso made with Amparo Botina’s coffee
  • 1ml of small batch grenadine
  • Stirred well, garnished with a freeze-dried strawberry, and served in a  2.5oz coupe glass
For more information about the competition, you can visit the site here.  For more information about Madcap, you can visit their site here.
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

The Midwest Tech Mentoring Program building bridges byte by byte

It was bitter cold outside when Jonathan Jelks and Alvin Hill IV officially launched The Midwest Tech Mentoring Program at the Grand Rapids Art Museum on Feb. 11.
But, inside, it was 'en fuego.’ 
The kick-off was on fire with optimism, ideas and plans to prepare more young men and women for careers in technology.
The venue was packed. The audience was diverse: parents, students; educators; tech, business and nonprofit professionals; entrepreneurs; and representatives from local government. Young and old.  They all gathered to learn more about an initiative that promises to connect inner city youth of color to the career opportunities within the knowledge and creative economies.
Jelks introduced a variety of speakers, including Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, all of whom were enthusiastic supporters of the program.
"Our mission is to educate, engage and to expose inner city youth to the world of technology and the opportunities available in the tech industry in Grand Rapids,” he says.
Jelks envisions a program that features hands-on learning (software development, coding, program management and design) and mentorship with local tech professionals.
"We want to teach kids about about the benefits of becoming an IT professional and/or tech entrepreneur,” Jelks explains. “We also want kids and parents alike to walk away with a thorough understanding of what it will take from an education standpoint to be able to take advantage of the creative economy."
There is still much work to be done, but Jelks and Hill plan to launch the formal program in May 2016.
"We will be fundraising to get the equipment needed to run our program and to hire our staff,” Jelks says. “We are recruiting mentors from Grand Rapid's tech community. We will be going out to Silicon Valley in March to meet with different tech companies to learn about the ‘Diversity in IT’ programs that are working and receiving support."
To learn more about the program, including contact information and how to get involved, you can follow their Facebook event page here.
Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Photos by Tricia Leigh Jackson / Start Garden

Simms Electronics: Changing the world, one project at a time

Simms Electronics is a great example of a small company working on big ideas that turn into very smart products. And there is a very good chance you never of heard of them.

Simms Electronics is located at 3230 Broadmoor Ave. The firm designs and manufactures sophisticated IoT electronics that serve a wide variety of commercial products in the industrial sector.

IoT, which is the abbreviation for Internet of Things, refers to smart products that are connected to the internet.  Examples in the consumer market are home appliances and light fixtures that are connected and controlled by smart phones. In the industrial setting these products could include sensors for carbon monoxide and monitors to help control energy consumption in large commercial settings.

Matt Simms, the president of the five-person engineering firm, says the company keeps a low profile and is not able to share details about many of their projects, but he is committed to attracting and retaining software design talent to Grand Rapids. Simms says the IoT market is really growing and shows no signs of slowing down.
"We have several projects in the pipeline and will shortly be announcing new job openings,” he says.

Working with a  small company is a great opportunity for an engineer or software developer that values job variety, Simms notes.
"We are always working on different opportunities, with different products, in different markets and different industries,” he says. “You are not stuck working on one product for several years. It is great experience."

To learn more about Simms Electronics, including job opportunities, you can visit their site here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Elevator Up expands to new office, looks to add six new jobs in 2016

Peter Drucker — otherwise known as the founder of modern management — was certainly correct. The 21st century job market will be dominated by knowledge workers. 

Large companies, small business and startups are all looking for software, design and engineering talent. The challenge for these organizations is that demand for these positions continues to surge beyond supply. The opportunity for these organizations is to create a unique workplace that provides value to both clients and employees.

Grand Rapids-based Elevator Up, a  local design and development firm, is a great example of a small business that is finding success by serving clients and creating an interesting workplace.  In 2016, the firm is expected to roughly double its team with the addition of a product manager, UX designers, software developers, and project managers. The company also recently added a 1,300-square-foot office space on the fourth floor of 38 W. Fulton Street to anticipate the growth.

Tori VanDragt, studio manager credits the hiring of Marty Byle, in July 2015 for playing a big role in the firm’s growth. Byle is the first person at Elevator with a sole responsibility for business development, and his work has paid off with multiple new projects and clients.

VanDragt, says keeping up with the growth in a tight job market can be daunting, but Elevator Up continues to find ways to expand and add new staff.
"There is a lot of demand for talent in the technology industry and finding enough qualified candidates has been a challenge,” the studio manager says. “We must get creative with our hiring techniques and in the culture and benefits we offer as a company."

VanDragt says being purposeful in creating an organizational culture is key in finding the right people.  She cites the entrepreneurial and collaborative culture at  EU, where the team has opportunities to build and launch products internally and where everyone works directly with clients as two important aspects of their culture. 

She also cites the firm’s emphasis on community service and engagement as being very a shared value.
"Most of our current employees are very involved in the tech community, from giving talks at local meetups to actually starting and/or running meetups,” she says. “If there is an event that I want to attend during the workday, I don’t have to worry about getting permission, it is already encouraged. We’re given flexibility in our schedule to be a part of this community."

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

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor


Ladies and gentlemen, the stories you are about to hear are tasty. And true.

Arguably, the most interesting scene that is happening right now in West Michigan is the craft beverage and food scene.

It's not only creating a tremendous economic impact (much in the form of a slew of new openings, including micro breweries, restaurants and food trucks, as well as catering operations and artisan food products), but it maintains a constant buzz through social media channels and is at the heart of weekend plans, lunch meetings and our region’s appeal to out-of-town visitors.

At the heart of this scene are the foods and beverages being made and served.  But the soul of this scene are the stories behind these ventures. The founders, the recipes, the craftsmanship, the supply network and the work.

At least that is what photographers Steph Harding and Scott Meivogel believe.

The food loving, craft beer drinking, picture taking, story telling,  enterprising duo have teamed up to form a new business venture called Ash & Ink Media. Their goal is to provide media and brand guidance for individuals in craft industries across various marketing and communication platforms.

Ash & Ink Media offers photography, social media management, storytelling content, print materials, logo and identity design, video and website design services: Everything that is needed to tell a comprehensive story about craft  brands.

Meivogel says the storytelling genre is really "taking off.” He says brands, especially in the craft food and beverage industry, have great origin stories and are in terrific positions to engage and connect with customers with the quality of their products and the passion behind the production.
"People care about their food,” he says. “Many of us want to know how the food is made and where it came from. For example, it is not just the brewery and brewer, but it is the hop farm and malt house that makes for a great experience."

Both Harding and Meivogel have a tremendous amount of experience and passion for these industries. Harding’s professional photography has focused on the beer and restaurant scenes. She also owns MittenBrew.com, where she contributes her photography to news coverage surrounding Michigan beer, spirits and cider. (Full disclosure: Steph Harding is also a contributor Rapid Growth Media.)

Meivogel spent years photographing the breweries and restaurants in Cleveland, Ohio before moving to West Michigan with the goal of growing in that field. Together, they have 20 years of experience in professional photography.

To learn more about Ash & Ink Media, you can like their Facebook page here or visit their website here.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

GVSU computer science students develop app to keep Millennials in West Michigan

This wasn't your parents’ class project.

Thanks to a  partnership between the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Valley State University (GVSU), a team of senior students developed an app that is designed to attract and retain college graduate Millennials here in Grand Rapids.

The student team consisted of Ryan Banaszak, Brent Bouwkamp, Chris DeNeef, Trent Keusch and Cameron Lewis. Together they developed the free app, called YGR, that features a host of Grand Rapids-based companies, stores, restaurants, transportation, and entertainment options that collectively showcase the community.  The capstone project was developed under the direction of GVSU Professor David Lange, School of Computing and Information Systems.

The app provides the user with a wide range of reasons why someone should consider Grand Rapids as a place to build a career. Community assets are featured within six subsets which include: entertainment, community, jobs, living in Grand Rapids, networking, and government.  

Lange says this class project is consistent with his class assignments and his teaching philosophy, where students work on real-life projects.
"Students get a lot out of these projects,” he says. “It's a bridge between the classroom and the real world."
He notes the classroom can help refine technical skills, but that is only part of being a successful software developer.
"These projects feature real world scenarios,” he explains. “Plans always change. They need to learn how to adapt.”

This particular project began with a class initiated by former Mayor George Heartwell to present recommendations for how the City could better attract and retain college graduates — a class that followed the release of a  2013 study by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce which reported Michigan was losing a significant number of its younger residents to other states following college graduation. The students presented the City Commission with 10 recommendations, including the development of a new smartphone application.

Besides the market research and app development, the students had to complete the process to make the free YGR app, which is available in the Android Play Store and the Apple Store.

Writer: John Rumery, Jobs and Innovation Editor

UIX Blog: Competition breeds creativity in West Michigan

Several of the people and organizations UIX has covered in the past have entered and found success in different business competitions. These competitions each have different parameters and ends to promote, but they share a commonality in that the most innovative and well-planned out ideas rise to the top.
Here in Grand Rapids, 5x5 Night and Start Garden, projects of Rick DeVos, were topics when UIX launched in 2013. In December 2015 we featured 5x5 Night winner Liz Bartlett, of KNITit, and Start Garden tenant Oxx, Inc. Even ArtPrize has led to sustainable efforts covered in UIX, like Nick Rudolfski's work with the Zero Waste Zone and Water Share.
The Wege Prize, a contest focused on sustainable business models in West Michigan schools, was a feature in April 2014, and has been host to individuals featured in UIX stories, too. FusionGrow, an indoor planting project, took first place in 2014, and a local loop farm design by Western Sustainers won in 2015.
In January 2015 UIX covered Vanessa Gore and Soletics, a company that makes electrically enhanced, solar powered garments for people with certain conditions. Soletics had taken part in 11 business competitions by the time they were featured in Rapid Growth Media. Over the course of its first year, Soletics participated in six business competitions, including the Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge, the Green Light Business Model Competition, the Great Lakes Entrepreneur's Quest, and the International Business Model Competition.
In the 2014 MWest Challenge, where Soletics took second place and $10,000, RefuTea, a tea company that helps refugees, won the Social Venture award. RefuTea also won a 90-second pitch competition at Grand Valley State University, and represented the school at the TCU Richards Barrentine Values and Ventures Business Plan Competition.
That's not to say that competitions like these are the only thing driving innovation in the region. Our archives are filled with plenty of people and companies that have growth in many different ways. But, the pattern that exists is clear, and West Michigan is certainly all the better for the ideas these contests foster.

Urban Innovation Exchange highlights the people and projects transforming West Michigan through sustainable efforts. To see more UIX stories, you can check out the entire series here. Have thoughts or ideas about UIX? Contact UIX Grand Rapids Editor Matthew Russell at matthew@uixgrandrapids.com.

French auto & aerospace manufacturer taps Grand Rapids for first North American Innovation Center

As the auto industry hit a downward spiral of historic proportions about eight years ago, Hutchinson, a global automotive and aerospace innovator and manufacturer, was, like companies across the world, faced with an economy in which they were hemorrhaging major money.

Hutchinson’s Grand Rapids site, which has been operating in the city for 30 years and which was previously known as Paulstra CRC, “was in bad shape, losing millions (of dollars),” says Cedric Duclos, Hutchinson North America president and CEO.

“I was sent here to find solutions; we knew the easy way was to shut it down,” Duclos says of his arrival in Grand Rapids. “But that’s not the right choice. You have so much talent and experience here.”

Hutchinson, which employs about 300 people in Grand Rapids and operates 96 sites in 23 countries across the globe, did not leave the city — instead, it stayed, and the company is now in a far different position than the one in which it previously found itself. Last Wednesday, Hutchinson debuted its North American Innovation Center, also known as the 616 Fab House, which occupies 13,400 square feet of a renovated 100-year-old factory at 460 Fuller Ave. NE.

“We’re here eight years later and are a leader in this market,” Duclos says at the 616 Fab House’s grand opening on January 20, which was attended by more than 170 guests, including Hutchinson Global President & CEO Jacques Maigne, The Right Place Inc. President & CEO Birgit Klohs, and state and city leaders.

The space is the company’s second innovation center; its first, 507 Fab House, was designed by the legendary Gustave Eiffel and is located near Hutchinson’s Paris world headquarters. Housed in a factory that was once the Corduroy Rubber Co., which made parts for Detroit’s auto industry, the Grand Rapids venue was chosen because of “its central location to major clients and vendors” and is dedicated to “research, development and innovative thinking for all of Hutchinson’s divisions,” according to Hutchinson.

The Fuller Avenue site includes a mix of meeting rooms, videoconferencing technology, interactive showrooms with product and robotic displays, a fabrication lab and 3D printer center, a training and conference center, a board room, breakout and lounge seating, banquet facilities, and more. The interactive product display area shows all the products made by the company’s North American operations. For example, there are replicas of an airplane fuselage, a full-size automobile and military tank treads with actual Hutchinson parts inserted.

Duclos notes that about 70 local companies participated in renovating the new space, which sits on Hutchinson’s 30-acre Grand Rapids campus and which previously served as a storage facility.

“This facility is over 100 years old, so it’s full of footsteps from the past,” Duclos says. “In fact, if you look closely at some of these floors, you can still see those footprints. We felt it important to keep some of those footsteps visible, not just as a way to reflect on the past, but to also use it as a reminder that it takes the footsteps of many people to create things, to innovate, to collaborate, to create. Perhaps in another 100 years people will be standing here, reflecting on the historical changes this innovation had for our company, for our city and region, and for our state.”

The company’s decision to not only remain in Grand Rapids but open a world-class facility to drive global innovation “speaks highly for the region’s community,” says Klohs, the president and CEO of The Right Place, West Michigan’s leading economic development corporation that has assisted thousands of companies to invest more than $4 billion in capital and create more than 40,000 jobs throughout the region.

“It sends a message that says a company of this importance has chosen Grand Rapids,” Klohs says, noting that a global group like Hutchinson will draw other major companies to our area, including Boeing, Chrysler, Fiat, and many more.

“They can come to Grand Rapids and see the creativity that comes out of this company, and also this community,” Klohs continues.

Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, who was unable to attend the grand opening because she was at the Mayors’ Conference in Washington D.C., sent her congratulations via a recorded message.

“The city of Grand Rands is very proud to have a longtime business such as Hutchinson invest in our city, particularly in our manufacturing and technology sectors,” she says. “This innovation and dedication to advancing research and development is exactly what the city of Grand Rapids need to be a leader in this country.”

Photos courtesy of Hutchinson

Anna Gustafson is the managing editor at Rapid Growth. Connect with her on email (AKGustaf@gmail.com), Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Holland, Michigan-based Worksighted adds two new positions, anticipates multiple job needs in 2016

Worksighted, an IT services company based in Holland, Michigan, hired Wilhelmina Korpi as an account executive for the sales team in Southwest Grand Rapids and Jodi Owczarski as an account executive responsible for building the Worksighted client base in the Lakeshore region.

The Vice President and Director of Sales, Mike Harris, says the recent hires reflect the firm’s continued growth. Harris says the company anticipates hiring up to 30 more people in 2016. However, Harris says that attracting new talent is just one part of the firm’s strategy to serving their customer. He says Worksighted is keenly focused on retaining existing talent and creating a corporate culture that inspires creativity, innovation and customer service.
"We work hard to keep our people,” Harris says. “It's as important as keeping a customer". 

Harris cites several programs in place, including ongoing technical and managerial training, an open culture that empowers their employee to solve problems and a commitment to work-life balance.
"Our founding team are entrepreneurs and we give our employees the ability to act like entrepreneur,” he explains. We give them the ability to impact the change within our organization."

Founded in 2000, Worksighted provides responsive, innovative, and strategic IT services to businesses seeking an IT partner. Find more at worksighted.com.

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor

Room to grow: Grand Rapids to host craft beverage workshop

The Craft Beverage Education Association will bring its one-day educational workshop targeting individuals interested in learning more about the craft beverage industry to the Grand Rapids Doubletree Airport on February 12.

Craig B. Rashkis, program chair, says the workshop is geared towards helping both new craft beverage business owners and entrepreneurs considering entering the market to navigate the complexities of industry.
"This is a highly regulated industry,” he says. “Many startup issues are the same in every business, but this industry introduces a whole slew of issues that are unique to the craft beverage industry."  

Rashkis says the material covered in the workshop is applicable  for anyone considering — or in the early stages of establishing — their own craft beverage business. 

It is full-day, hands-on workshop with discussions focusing on the entire craft beverage industry.
"We are not focused on one area, instead we are covering issues for breweries, wineries, distilleries, meaderies, and cideries,” Rashkis says, noting that someone can have a great recipe and is highly skilled in making their product, but they lack the business acumen or experience to turn their interest into a successful business.
"You know how to make the product, but what about everything else?” he asks. “Once you are running a business, you realize you need to start thinking like a business person."

Speakers include representatives from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission, distributors and producers who have recently begun operations in Michigan, and groups focused on legal and insurance issues.

The Craft Beverage Education Association (CBEA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping its members from the wine, beer, spirits, cider and mead industries navigate the business of craft and artisanal beverage productionRegistration and programming information are located at www.craftbeverage.org/workshops. 

This will be second time this workshop has been held in the country. The Grand Rapids workshop is supported by Experience Grand Rapids, Promote Michigan, PR Pirates, and members of the Michigan Brewers Guild, Michigan Wine Council, Michigan Craft Distillers Association and Michigan Cider Association. 

Writer: John Rumery, Innovation and Jobs News Editor
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