| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Midtown : West Michigan In The News

270 Midtown Articles | Page: | Show All

Supporters say Grand Rapids Uptown prime for Corridor Improvement District

A Corridor Improvement District could provide the means for four Grand Rapids business districts to raise big money for beautification and infrastructure revitalization. Supporters say business leaders have done their due diligence for the region to qualify.

According to excerpts from the story:

It may have very well been a mini-stimulus package for the U.S. Postal Service. Four business associations, their members and nearby neighborhood groups have flooded City Hall with letters encouraging city commissioners to establish a Corridor Improvement Authority for the Uptown District.

And commissioners are likely to get more than an earful of the sentiments contained in those letters when they host a public hearing Feb. 17 to determine if Uptown meets the criteria to be awarded a Corridor Improvement Authority. If it does, then the business associations can apply for the city’s first Corridor Improvement District through the Uptown CIA.

“We understand that a CID will utilize a tax-increment financing mechanism which will capture a portion of the taxes on commercial properties as those values increase. These funds can then be used to effect various improvements in the district, such as beautification, marketing and infrastructure improvements,” wrote Jaye Van Lenten, president of the Eastown Business Association board of directors, of the benefits a CID would bring to the district.

Read the complete story here.


Census data shows Grand Rapids gained residents, migration south slows

The sluggish housing market and other economic woes have had a beneficial side effect for Grand Rapids: a population increase, which results in a healthier economy. A recent study points to a number of reasons for the demographic shift, indicating some changes that may be long lasting.

According to excerpts from the story:

Something happened last year in Chicago that hasn't been seen since 2001: Instead of losing residents, the Second City actually gained population.

Chicago isn't the only Midwestern city to reverse its growth trend during the period: St. Paul, Minn., Green Bay, Wis., Kansas City, Kan., Grand Rapids, Mich., and Warren, Mich., also gained residents, said William Frey, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Read the complete story here.

 


Grand Rapids named among top 66 cities nationwide for buying a home

A national study has found that Grand Rapids is one of only 66 major housing markets nationwide where purchasing a home could cost less than renting an apartment and homebuyers could build substantial equity in just 12 years.

According to excerpts from the story:

With house prices falling around the country, many renters are wondering if this is the time to jump in and score a deal.

The answer, of course, depends on where you live. In much of the U.S., you're better off buying despite falling home values, say new data compiled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Of the 100 most populous metro areas, 57 have average three-bedroom rental costs higher than the cost of a 6% loan for a typical low-priced house, including Little Rock, Ark., and Akron, Ohio.

Read the complete story here.


$20B Great Lakes cleanup lauded as economic driver by state lawmakers, researchers

Coming on the heels of the signing of the Great Lakes Compact, which safeguards Great Lakes water, state legislators, top researchers, and area business leaders advocated for a 20-year, $20 billion strategy to clean up the Great Lakes; a venture that promises to create jobs and bring billions in statewide tourism and manufacturing.

According to excerpts from the story:

Grand Haven, MI — Regional leaders want to buoy the Great Lakes environment and Michigan’s economy with a $20 billion cleanup effort.

U.S. Reps. Peter Hoekstra, R-Holland, and Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, and other leaders advocated the plan at Grand Haven’s Ferry Landing on Friday, Aug. 8, as part of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy.

“This is an issue that sells itself,” Hoekstra said. “People here and around the country recognize what an important and valuable asset we have.”

Read the complete story here.


Policy conference to give region a voice for prosperity, jobs

In mid-September, business and civic leaders from all over West Michigan, and lawmakers from all over the state, will gather in Grand Rapids to discuss and dissect economic policies that matter to the region and will set it on a course for prosperity and jobs.

According to excerpts from the story:

Western Michigan has a few ideas that could make Michigan a more prosperous place, in Peter Secchia's view. The Regional Policy Conference, to be held in Grand Rapids Sept. 18 and 19, is a chance to develop some of them.

(Peter) Secchia explained why a western Michigan conference will be undertaken and what he hopes it will accomplish for Michigan.

"We're going to ask western Michigan leadership to voice their opinions (on) what has to be done," Secchia said. "The key to this is to create an atmosphere of discussing these issues -- on education, taxing, right to work, charter schools, competition in the schools, funding of the southeast quadrant versus the western quadrant -- with various viewpoints.

Read the complete story here.


Road Rally sets up finish line in Grand Rapids, 60-plus cars expected

Auto enthusiasts can join the excitement this October as over 60 cars race into Grand Rapids, the finale of a cross-country road rally designed to raise publicity for missing children rescue. The rally also gives West Michigan an end-of-the-season economic boost.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS -- The Fireball Run Transcontinental Rally will roll through Grand Rapids this fall, bringing along a slew of exotic cars driven by cunning, strategic thrill seekers.

It remains to be seen if someone will be able to claim home field advantage.

J. Sanchez, the director and founder of the rally, made a pitstop in Grand Rapids Friday, as he continued preparation for the Oct. 3-4 local stop.

The nine-day rally, which begins in Baton Rogue, La., on Sept. 26, and concludes in Grand Rapids, is expected to attract more than 60 cars, featuring drivers from across the nation.

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids CVB names new leader

Grand Rapids’ growing reputation as a convention destination brings tens of thousands of people and millions of dollars into the local economy, and with that growth in mind, the Convention and Visitors Bureau has selected a new leader with a proven track record to continue the momentum.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS — The Convention and Visitors Bureau has hired Douglas Small as its new president.

Small, with 26 years of experience in the hospitality industry, comes to Grand Rapids from Denver where he is senior vice president of that city's Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, which has an annual budget of $16 million and 63 full-time employees.

Read the complete story here.


Housing bill may save Michigan homeowners from foreclosure

As the West Michigan faces the foreclosure crisis and homeowners fight to keep their families in their homes, a new federal bill could rescue up to 15 percent of those homeowners and help to stabilize a struggling economy.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS—No legislation coming out of Washington could give Michigan what it truly needs for an economic recovery -- jobs -- but the housing bill signed by President Bush this week will throw some people a lifeline.

"We're going to be looking at the rescue option under FHA, we're going to be looking at the tax credit for home buyers, we're going to be looking at the higher FHA limits on lending," said Dan Grzywacz, president of Exchange Financial in Kentwood, citing elements that could help.

Read the complete story here.


Vote for Michigan!

Vote for Michigan!

Football season hasn’t even started, but Michigan and Virginia are head-to-head in spirited competition. The two states are competing for the best tourism Web site. Virginia and Michigan were the only states to make the finals.

So give Michigan a boost by voting here. Polls close August 8 at midnight.

 


Grand Rapids, Lakeshore rank in top 10 metro areas for fast-growth companies

A study showing that West Michigan’s fastest growing companies span all industries and employment ranges contradicts conventional thought that Michigan’s future lies in targeted industries or in pulling in new, untested entrepreneurs.

According to excerpts from the story:

The Grand Rapids-Lakeshore area ranks among the top 10 metro areas in the country for fast-growing companies, a new study shows.

Yet Michigan as a whole ranks 44th among the states for its proportion of such employers, in the report issued by the Office of Advocacy of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Of the 376,604 "high-impact" companies identified by researchers nationwide, 11,006 are in Michigan. That's 2.07 percent of Michigan's firms, putting it far behind No. 1 Alaska with 2.76 percent.

Read the complete story here.


Backers say Grand Rapids streetcar could bring $400M in development

A recent feasibility study of the proposed streetcar system for downtown Grand Rapids says the streetcar could spur $400 million in development by way of restaurants, stores and more—which means more jobs for the region. The challenge is finding the initial $79 million to construct the first phase.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS -- The vision is this: Sleek, electric streetcars running up and down Monroe Avenue NW, stopping every 10 minutes at canopy-covered stations.

It also includes a new wave of downtown development: nearly $400 million in restaurants, shops, offices, condos and apartments within blocks of the tracks.

The question, however, is who would pay for it.

Read the complete story here.


Michigan’s population growth of young adults outpaces nationwide average

It’s time to dispel the brain drain myth: stories of Michigan’s young people hitting the road after graduation and never looking back may have some merit. But a recent study says that during the same time state officials were worried about the loss the population of young adults was on the rise, outpacing the rest of the country.

According to excerpts from the story:

Michigan's population growth has slowed significantly from the period of 2000-06, but ironically the population of young adults increased during that time period even as officials worry about the loss of young people to other states, according to a report issued Monday by the Land Policy Institute at Michigan State University.

In fact, the growth of younger adults in Michigan from 2000 to 2006 outpaced the average growth nationwide, the report said.

Read the complete story here.


GVSU to offer Chinese studies major, doctoral of nursing practice

China continues to grow as a worldwide force and demand for healthcare management professionals continues to rise in West Michigan. So one West Michigan university recently responded by establishing the region’s first degree program in Chinese language and culture, and a separate doctorate program in nursing practice.

According to excerpts from the story:

At its meeting today, the GVSU board was expected to approve two programs to attract and retain students.

A Chinese studies major focusing on the country's culture, language, and history would be implemented this fall, admitting 37 students.

A new doctorate of nursing practice would educate nurses on management, quality health care delivery and illness prevention. It would seek accreditation this year and start in fall 2009.

Read the complete story here.


Manufacturers’ demands for skilled workers outnumber college grads

Michigan manufacturing is in the midst of a conundrum: the number of jobs is decreasing while manufacturing output is increasing. The solution could be engineers with high-level tech and manufacturing skills. Universities are producing them as fast as they can, but business leaders say it’s not fast enough.

According to excerpts from the story:

Manufacturing engineering students almost walk off the graduation stage into $50,000 to $60,000 a year jobs. Programs such as those at Western Michigan University, Grand Valley State University and Ferris State University can't produce grads fast enough to meet demand, directors say.

That's a paradox for an industry that analysts project will continue to lose workers. From 2004 to 2014, manufacturing employment in Michigan is expected to drop by 6.3 percent, or more than 44,000 jobs, according to the state Department of Labor and Economic Growth.

Even with placement rates at or near 100 percent, manufacturing engineering programs in western Michigan have trouble recruiting students.

Read the complete story here.


Perrigo plans to add 400 new jobs, keeps $10M plant expansion in Michigan

After a courtship by New York and New Jersey to develop a $10 million expansion and create 400 high-pay jobs in one of those states, one fast-growing pharmaceutical company has opted to stay in Michigan and create the jobs here. Some estimates predict direct and indirect jobs could total over 1,000.

According to excerpts from the story:

Perrigo Co. plans to invest $10.5 million in its Allegan headquarters and production campus in an expansion that's projected to generate 99 new jobs within a year and 400 over five years.

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority this morning was expected to approve a tax credit valued at $8.4 million over 12 years for a project that would include a 30,000-square-foot headquarters expansion and a 20,000-square-foot expansion at two production facilities.

Perrigo, which presently employees 2,569 people in Michigan, expects to complete the project by 2010, according to a MEGA briefing memo. The jobs directly created will pay an average weekly wage of $881.

Read the complete story here.


Pure Michigan sells Great Lakes tourism to international market

The push to bring out-of-state travelers and their wallets to Michigan reached beyond U.S. borders this week when a state tourism official played host and tour guide to a cadre of European travel agents in hopes of encouraging overseas travel to the state.

According to excerpts from the story:

The drive to bring more visitors to Michigan has gone international.

This weekend travel agents from England and Germany stopped at Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids to check out Pure Michigan.

Their guide was a state tourism official who took them more than 1400 miles around Michigan in about four days.

Read the complete story here.


Wheelchair-bound vets soon to have access to century-old veterans’ park

Amid a city-wide push to upgrade parks and enhance the quality of place for all residents, one century-old veterans park that many residents haven’t even heard of is getting a major facelift thanks to some private organizations. That facelift includes wheelchair accessibility for the very people the park honors, Grand Rapids veterans.

According to excerpts from the story:

Grand Rapids has a Veterans Park that that veterans can't even get to.

That is about to change thanks to the help of our generous city. It's been around for almost a hundred years, on the grounds of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

"They have about 718 vets here and they figure about 80% of them are in wheelchairs," says Fritz Wahlfield Jr. Fritz Wahlfield Const. Co.

Read the complete story here.


Michigan signs Great Lakes compact

As states across the nation experience water shortages, the eight Great Lakes states and two Canadian provinces are enacting new policies to sustain the region's robust supplies. Governor Granholm signed the historic Great Lakes Compact and two additional water bills last week

According to excerpts from the story:

Michigan has become the last of the eight Great Lakes states to join a compact designed to protect the region’s water.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed legislation approving the compact during a ceremony Wednesday at Oval Beach in the Lake Michigan town of Saugatuck. A day earlier, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell announced he had signed a ratification bill.
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed one in May.

The agreement outlaws diversions of Great Lakes water from their natural drainage basin with rare exceptions, while requiring the states to regulate their own large-scale water use.

Read the complete story here.


Ford International Airport adds non-stop international flights

As West Michigan continues to attract professionals from other countries to work in its healthcare and life sciences industries, the availability of international travel options is key to keeping those talented workers mobile and connected. A new partnership with an established international airline helps the airport fulfill some of that need.

According to excerpts from the story:

Gerald R. Ford International Airport welcomes new Air Canada nonstop service from GFIA to Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport beginning Monday, July 14.

The addition of this new service will bring to 16 the number of nonstop destinations available at GFIA, and will mark the return of international service to the airport.

Read the complete story here.


Governor signs Centers for Energy Excellence bill, Holland biofuel project could benefit

In response to the push from business and legislative leaders to develop an alternative energy agenda for Michigan, state leaders are creating a new program that will target specific areas of the state for an influx of federal, state, and local funding for alternative energy research and development.

According to excerpts from the story:

Holland, MI — Gov. Jennifer Granholm Tuesday, July 8, signed legislation creating a Centers for Energy Excellence program, a way to spur economic development through alternative energy research and development.


A project that could be impacted by the new act would combine carbon dioxide from the James De Young power plant in Holland with wastewater to grow algae that could be turned into biofuels or any number of other products.


Read the complete story here.


Handful of Grand Rapids developments could spur investments of $146.5M over next five years

Grand Rapids redevelopment has leveraged billions of dollars of investment in the past two decades, and another $146.5 million is on the drawing board if just six proposed projects come through. The projects, along with others already underway, promise to make Grand Rapids one of the hottest economic and entertainment scenes in the state.

According to excerpts from the story:

Imagine walking down the street in downtown Grand Rapids and stumbling upon $146.5 million.

Bet you’re feeling pretty lucky …

Well, your lucky day may be only a few short years away. A handful of intriguing development projects currently on the table promise to inject millions of dollars of investment into the heart of the city — and an immeasurable amount of energy into city life.

Read the complete story here.


New energy policy hits Gov. Granholm's desk

With proposals on the table from several companies who want to bring billions of dollars of wind, solar, and biofuel energy projects to the state, lawmakers sent a number of bills to the governor for consideration, bills that would provide the financial incentives to lure those businesses, the jobs, and the money to Michigan.

According to excerpts from the story:

LANSING -- With a barrel of oil trading above $140, Michigan's elected officials are betting millions that the state's combination of geography, manufacturing skill and university research will provide economic dividends in alternative energy.

On Saturday around 2 a.m., state lawmakers adjourned for the summer and sent to Gov. Jennifer Granholm bills designed to lure solar energy, wind energy and biofuel projects.

Read the complete story here.


Pure Michigan campaign drives record numbers of travelers to web site

Experts say that 65 percent of people who visit Michigan’s tourism web site visit the state, spend money, and provide a vital boost to the economy, and that’s promising after the state tourism site logged two record-breaking days of traffic.

According to excerpts from the story:

On the heels of announcing a new record for traffic to the Michigan tourism Web site, michigan.org, the record is broken again. Two days after Monday's record volume of 57,432 user sessions, Wednesday's traffic to the site was up 24 percent over Monday's levels. Wednesday, June 25 set a new record for volume on the site with 69,573 visits and 39,777 click-throughs to Michigan tourism industry Web sites, the biggest single day in the site's history.

"Obviously, our Pure Michigan marketing effort is rapidly building momentum and is driving a record number of potential visitors to michigan.org," said George Zimmermann, VP of Travel Michigan, a business unit of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Read the complete story here.


Michigan nears agreement on Great Lakes Compact

After years of debating new laws to promote sustainable water withdrawals, Michigan lawmakers reached agreement on a deal this week, which will move the matter to the governor’s desk for signing.

According to excerpts from the story:

Key lawmakers reached a deal Monday to strengthen the state's regulation of large-scale water withdrawals, paving the way for Michigan to approve a regional agreement preventing Great Lakes water from being sent elsewhere.

The legislation may reach Gov. Jennifer Granholm's desk by the end of the week, with votes coming as early as Tuesday.

Five states have ratified the Great Lakes Basin Compact, and Ohio's governor will sign it soon. Then Michigan and Pennsylvania would be the only states that have not approved it. Congress also must sign off.

Read the complete story here.


Milwaukee paper says West Michigan stands out on Lake Michigan Circle Tour

Over two decades have passed since the creation of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, a driving tour route directing travelers along the scenic shoreline ringing Lake Michigan, and one Milwaukee travel writer suggests a ferry ride to Muskegon’s sights and then a short inland trip to Grand Rapids’ art galleries, museums and eateries makes the trip well worth the time.

According to excerpts from the story:

After arriving in Muskegon, pull out of the ferry dock and turn right and head out to the city beaches. These are beaches that are rare on our Wisconsin shore but are common along the western Michigan coast. The pure sand beaches stretch for hundreds of yards from the water back to the small dunes. Go south along the shore and you can find lots of motels, hotels and cottages tucked away in the dunes.

Or drive about 45 minutes inland from Muskegon to Grand Rapids, Michigan's second largest city and the home to such attractions as the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, where a fascinating horticulture exhibit runs through Aug. 31.

Read the complete story here.

 


$9.3B healthcare industry responsible for 147,000 West Michigan jobs

Opportunities for workers in the healthcare field abound in West Michigan as the industry boasts an economic impact some $1 billion greater than just two years ago. While a lot of the healthcare growth can be seen in the new construction along Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile, there’s even more growth driving Kent and Kalamazoo Counties’ economies, and experts don’t see an end to it.

According to excerpts from the story:

Health care in Kent County has an economic impact today that's nearly $1 billion more than just two years ago.

In Kalamazoo County, the sector has generated more than 1,300 jobs since 2006, going from a payroll of $790 million to $955 million.

The growth in each county reflects the growing role of health care as a major economic driver in Michigan as manufacturing jobs decline.

It's an economic force that Alliance for Health President Lody Zwarensteyn believes many people don't fully comprehend, even as they see visual signs in Grand Rapids of a massive clinical and research buildup.

Read the complete story here.


Film industry incentives pump $233M into state economy

In the midst of criticism of state legislators for creating costly tax incentives to lure filmmakers to the state, one state representative and a filmmaker encourage residents to let the story play out, citing some $233 million already brought into the state—some of that in West Michigan—as well as new jobs. And they say there’s more on the way.

According to excerpts from the story:

The movies are coming to Michigan.

That’s the message Michigan Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, and Holland native Scott Brooks of TicTock Studios, 479 Columbia Ave., delivered to a group gathered Thursday evening, June 19, at New Holland Brewing Co., 66 E. Eighth St. in Holland.

The filmmaker and the legislator spoke about the film industry incentives package passed recently by the state legislature, the center piece of which rebates filmmakers up to 42 percent of production costs incurred within Michigan.

The initiative has been criticized by the house fiscal agency and others as costing the state more than it will bring in. Huizenga said such vision is shortsighted.

Read the complete story here.


Small West Michigan businesses ready to cash in on film industry incentives

As the debate over the wisdom of creating the most aggressive incentives in the country to entice Hollywood’s film industry to bring their millions to Michigan heats up, film industry small businesses are gearing up to cash in on filmmakers’ needs for crews, facilities, and logistics that work. And all of that could mean lots of new jobs for West Michigan workers.

According to excerpts from the story:

When Gov. Jennifer Granholm early this year signed into law an incentive program for film production, the West Michigan Film Video Alliance hailed it as "the most progressive legislation in the nation designed to kick start the film industry."

The legislation aims to help grow the film industry and, in the process, grow Michigan's economy and create jobs, the governor said. The alliance saw it as the most aggressive film incentive program in the country.

Read the complete story here.


Cascade Engineering names first distributor of residential wind turbines

An innovative new residential wind turbine could revolutionize how wind energy is harvested in the U.S. and the product is ready to enter the market via its first distributorship, a West Michigan company. The launch is the first step to establishing several distribution points per state in an effort to make the turbine available across the country.

According to excerpts from the story:

A small Wayland company is finalizing its dealer/installer rights for residential applications in Michigan of Cascade Engineering's Swift wind turbine. Bauer Power Inc. is the first in what Cascade Engineering sees as two to five distributorships per state or province.

Unlike most turbines that use wind energy to make electricity, the Swift version mounts on a building, not a free-standing pole or tower. It's small -- the building-sized turbine is only seven feet in diameter, Cascade spokeswoman Jessica Lehti said.

Read the complete story here.


University of Minnesota presents study findings on E. coli in Lake Superior fish

E. coli created by goose and gull droppings and human wastewater may be the cause of E. coli in fish in Minnesota’s Superior Harbor, but researchers say the fish are safe to eat.

According to excerpts from the story:

UMD biology professor Randall Hicks says their research determines that E. coli in wild fish are not a new source of contamination for the Duluth-Superior harbor.

“It appears that most of the species the E. coli that we were able to identify are coming from other sources. Those sources were primarily E. coli that are found in sediments or E. coli that have been found in fecal material from Canadian geese or gulls, and, in a few cases, human wastewater.”

Read the complete story here.


Gas travel incentives include waterfront destinations with sun and fun

With fuel costs rising, many Michiganders are opting for vacations close to home and one organization aims to help that idea along by offering some enticing incentives that help defray gas expenses and keep more money in travelers’ pockets.

According to excerpts from the story:

It's no secret the price of gas is deflating travelers' wallets. So to help plump your purses, West Michigan Tourist Association has rounded up a listing of gas travel incentives and discounts in Michigan. For more information, go to www.wmta.org or call (800) 442-2084 to order the 2008-09 West Michigan Carefree Travel Guide.Take a look:

Read the complete story here.


Ohio joins Great Lakes Compact to sustain robust regional water supplies

As southern and west coast states slowly run out of water, many fear the Great Lakes’ seemingly unlimited quantities loom large on their radar. So, state by state, Great Lakes legislators have said no to diverting this precious resource. But Michigan, which has yet to approve the compact, is swimming two strokes behind.

According to excerpts from the story:

Sorry, California. Too bad, Arizona. Quit watering your lawns, Nevada.

One by one, Great Lakes states are signing onto a deal that will put a lockdown on future plans to divert water from Lakes Erie, Superior, Michigan, Huron, or Ontario or the St. Lawrence River.

After nearly eight years of negotiation and discussion, the Ohio Senate voted 33-0 in favor of joining the Great Lakes Compact on Tuesday, June 10. The bill now goes to Gov. Ted Strickland, who is expected to sign it.

Read the complete story here.


Battle Creek editorial calls for action on Great Lakes restoration plan

$20 billion is a lot of money, but, according to one study, an investment of that amount to clean up the Great Lakes could generate nearly three times that amount in jobs and economic investment. After Great Lakes leaders agreed to a cleanup plan in 2005, federal legislators have taken no action to support it, and one Great Lakes editor agrees that it’s time for businesses, organizations and state government to move ahead on their own.

According to excerpts from the story:

We have voiced support on numerous occasions for the Great Lakes restoration plan unveiled in 2005 by a coalition of federal, state, local and tribal agencies.

The ambitious long-range strategy would protect and upgrade the Great Lakes' ecosystem at an estimated cost of $20 billion. But it would generate at least $50 billion in long-term economic benefits for the region, according to an analysis released last year by the Brookings Institution.

Read the complete story here.


NY group launches boat tour to encourage Obama, McCain to restore Great Lakes

The United States’ largest freshwater resource, the Great Lakes, is threatened by pollution, invasive species, loss of wildlife and fish habitat and other dangers. Now one forward thinking New York coalition has launched a boat tour to Great Lakes ports in the hopes of garnering national attention and a promise of action from presidential candidates.

According to excerpts from the story:

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition has launched a 13-city boat tour in Buffalo, N.Y., to highlight the need to restore the Great Lakes and to urge the U.S. Congress and presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama to act to restore the lakes.

"The boat tour underscores the importance of the Great Lakes to millions of people and the urgent need to restore them," said Jeff Skelding, national campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, the boat tour's sponsor. "To those seeking the presidency, we ask: 'Will you use your leadership as president to fund the restoration of the largest freshwater resource in North America?"

Read the complete story here.


In Utah, notice of Meijer Gardens

Grand Rapids continues to bring the works of world famous artists to its local galleries, and those exhibits are drawing national attention to the city’s love of creative endeavors. That, in turn, encourages art lovers from outside the region to spend time and money seeing the sights. 

According to excerpts from the story:

The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Mich., will host "Degas in Bronze: The Complete Sculptures" through Aug. 31. The exhibits offer visitors a chance to view the complete set of acclaimed A.A. Hebrard bronze castings - 73 sculptures in all - which is one of only four complete sets in the world.

Read the complete story here.


West MI primed for wind, solar energy innovations, experts say

As Michigan’s political leaders drag their feet on creating a workable policy that spurs development and jobs around alternative energy one West Michigan business leader says emerging energy technologies and Michigan’s geography are a perfect match—including a possible wind farm in Lake Michigan—and a recent energy symposium in Holland launched a new conversation.

According to excerpts from the story:

On June 5, the Ottawa County Planning and Grants Dept held an Alternative Energy Symposium. . Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus sat down with one of the speakers. His name is Steve Hamstra. He’s with GMB Architects and Engineers in Holland.

Read the complete story here.

 


Growth in staffing companies suggests growth in West Michigan businesses

Unemployment took another jump this week, but the West Michigan job news scene isn’t all bad with current trends showing that staffing agencies are placing more and more employees in positions that range from highly-skilled trades jobs to research positions, and that means that there are manufacturing and knowledge jobs to be had.

According to excerpts from the story:

EmploymentGroup just reported a record quarter -- 32 percent growth in sales for the first quarter of this year, attributed to 35 new clients that produced $3.45 million in new sales.

A growing employment agency suggests a growing demand for workers. Small and medium-sized businesses -- the majority of EmploymentGroup's clients -- are hiring in those markets, if not full-time staffers, at least full-time temporary workers.

In Holland, Manpower Inc. Great Lakes also has seen an increase in demand for workers, president Rebecca Dernberger said.

Read the complete story here.


GVSU communications students launch PR business on-campus

A new college student -founded and -led PR firm based on a college campus helps students learn the joys and pitfalls—things they can’t learn in the classroom—firsthand, and since they’ve already landed clients, maybe they’ll be encouraged and stick around to start businesses here after graduation.

According to excerpts from the story:

What started as working with fellow students to plan events on campus has turned into a student-run business venture at Grand Valley State University.

The fledgling public relations firm Grand PR presently consists of 10 GVSU communications students who set up the business and have so far landed four clients.

Read the complete story here.


Michigan advocates say push ahead with Great Lakes protection efforts

The forthcoming federal money for cleaning up, stopping the spread of invasive species, and remediating toxic hot spots or wildlife habitat in the Great Lakes region falls woefully short of what's need to accomplish goals established way back in 2005, and Michigan’s top brass says it time to stop waiting to take action. Is anyone listening?

According to excerpts from the story:

Michigan should push ahead with Great Lakes protection efforts despite a shortage of financial support from the federal government, state officials and conservation advocates said Thursday.

Lt. Gov. John Cherry said state agencies and nonprofit organizations would look for ways to implement portions of a Great Lakes restoration plan that supporters say has languished because of inadequate funding.

"It's pretty clear that we in Michigan need to move forward on our own ... with hope that when we elect a new president the federal interest will re-emerge," Cherry said in a phone interview. He announced the initiative in Lansing with representatives of the state Office of the Great Lakes and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.

Read the complete story here.


Hertz taps Grand Rapids firm to design China locations

Just as design leaders across West Michigan are gathering to form the first national initiative for design as an industry, one local design firm lands a groundbreaking design contract to create the model retail location for an international rental car firm’s venture into China.

According to excerpts from the story:

A company based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has been awarded the contract to design Hertz Rent-A-Car’s new hire outlet in Shanghai, China. The new retail location will also likely serve as a model in terms of its design for Hertz outlets to be built in the near future, not only in China, but rather in other parts of the world as well.

Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, a major engineering firm in Michigan, was awarded the contract and according to media reports, the company is planning on meeting with both Hertz representatives, as well as contractors in China, to jumpstart the project.

Read the complete story here.


Michigan residents give Grand Rapids high marks compared to southeast side of state

Closing the gap of perceptions between residents on the east and west sides of the state is an important step in unifying opinions, politics, and economic strategies. A recent survey compiled some interesting results about how each side of the state feels about the other.

According to excerpts from the story:

It’s hardly news that Southeast Michigan’s neighbors across the state favor West Michigan for business-labor relations, work ethic, raising a family, philanthropy and volunteerism, and even fostering entrepreneurship.

More surprising is that when they say they do better, on some issues, we agree.

Read the complete story here.


Greenville’s United Solar Ovonic to add 400 jobs

A statewide push to delve deeper into alternative energy solutions just got a jumpstart with the announcement that a leading global manufacturer of solar laminate products will hire record numbers of West Michigan workers.

According to excerpts from the story:

GREENVILLE, Mich., June 2 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- United Solar Ovonic LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. and the leading global manufacturer of thin-film flexible solar laminate products for the building integrated and commercial rooftop markets, announced today that it will begin hiring to accommodate the recently announced expansion to add 120MWs nameplate capacity to its existing Greenville Campus. With this expansion the total employment at the site is planned to reach approximately 800 team members.

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids touted as ‘must do’ road trip by Indianapolis publication

Auto travel and high fuel costs don’t often mix, but this Indiana travel writer says making the drive to discover West Michigan’s vibrant art scene, bar and restaurant hotspots, and the family activities along the lakeshore is worth the time and money.

According to excerpts from the story:

As the city's Web site states, "Grand Rapids is serious about art," as confirmed by the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and six downtown museums. The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park (www.meijergardens.org) is 125 acres of landscape, which includes works by Auguste Rodin.

The city also offers a lively downtown restaurant and bar scene, a zoo, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, minor league baseball and a 16-mile biking/skating path.

Read the complete story here.


Great Lakes’ water conservation will spur waves of entrepreneurial opportunities

As potable fresh water becomes more scarce, Great Lakes states are in a unique position to meet the demand for designers, manufacturers, retailers and creators of ‘green’ water technologies; and that means opportunity, money, and jobs for the only region where 35 million people depend on Great Lakes water.

According to excerpts from the story:

How do you “brand” water? If anyone has an answer to that question, its journalist and Traverse City native, J. Carl Ganter. Ganter is the executive director of an ambitious international non-profit, Circle of Blue, addressing the dangers – and opportunities – lapping at the issue of fresh water conservation. As environmental matters go, branding is how Ganter plans to make water the next global warming. Or, at least on par with that issue in the public consciousness.

“More than half the states in this country will be facing water shortages in the next five years,” said Ganter. “One-third of the global population doesn’t have adequate access to clean drinking water. It’s not all negative, however. There are huge economic opportunities. Huge.”

Read the complete story here.


Feds could approve $2B funding to create alternative energy jobs in Michigan

Michigan has the ability to compete in the alternative energy industries, but the lack of tax incentives and funding for research is holding companies back and high prices for hybrid cars are preventing green-minded consumers from buying…until this proposed legislation goes through.

According to excerpts from the story:

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow said Thursday that federal funds and incentives pending in Congress will grow alternative energy jobs in Michigan and help consumers afford more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles.

Stabenow, a Democrat who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, said the full chamber has approved her request for $2 billion to support energy efficiency programs by cities, counties and states. It would also increase federal funding for advanced battery research from $22 million to $250 million.

The budget legislation is now in the House, but the funding level for the U.S. Department of Energy has been secured, she said.

Read the complete story here.


Middle East expansion may be on horizon for West Michigan businesses

West Michigan’s competitive edge as leading manufacturers and tradesmen will serve it well in the burgeoning Middle Eastern market, and experts are standing by, ready to help companies cash in on some of the $1.6 trillion dollars waiting to be invested in equipment, knowledge, and technology West Michigan companies can provide.

According to excerpts from the story:

A few western Michigan companies have discovered new markets in the Middle East. More could -- demand is strong and there is a lot of professional help locally to expand sales in that region.

"There are more than $1.6 trillion dollars to spend by just the six Gulf Countries on various projects where American countries can produce equipment, knowhow, technology and products," said Abdul Quader Shaikh, senior international economist for the trade information center of the federal Department of Commerce.

Saudi Arabian business people who hosted Dixie Anderson and other members of the National World Affairs Council in December repeatedly asked about plastics, Anderson said. The Kingdom, as Saudi Arabia often is called, also is in a construction boom.

"They're building five cities from scratch," said Anderson, executive director of the World Affairs Council Western Michigan in Grand Rapids.

Read the complete story here.


First-ever regional policy conference planned for West Michigan

West Michigan business and community leaders are frustrated with not being heard in Lansing, and the first-ever regional policy conference aims to set a new precedent for establishing expectations of lawmakers, creating position statements and opening a line of communication that promotes economic development and prosperity across the region.

According to excerpts from the story:

As their counterparts in metro Detroit meet this week on Mackinac Island, political and business leaders in western Michigan are proceeding with plans for their own policy conference this fall.

Organizers of the inaugural 2008 West Michigan Regional Policy Conference -- organized by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce with involvement of several others across a broad region -- see the gathering as offering a unified voice to public-policy makers in Lansing.

The event aims to "advance an agenda that's a West Michigan agenda," Grand Rapids Area Chamber President Jeanne Englehart said.

"The vision is to unite the West Michigan business community in a forum that will create common policy goals," Englehart said. "The idea is that West Michigan wants to have a voice as well."

Read the complete story here.


GrandWalk project continues steady move forward

As the sustainability movement catches on around the globe, one small industrial area in West Michigan has been the focus of decades of discussions around green business practices, green education, green restoration, and green manufacturing and now real ‘green’ is flowing with the promise of greener things to come.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS — Picture a recycling Mecca that encompasses part of Grand Rapids and Walker where recycling companies’ products and materials are used as feedstock for nearby manufacturers.

It’s a green, sustainable environment where no waste leaves the area and green collar jobs are created. It would reclaim an area that now includes some unsightly sections, including several acres of auto salvage. Hopes for the area include a mix of sustainable and green development that would be a magnet for other like-minded businesses.

Read the complete story here.


Spectrum Health daycare rises on former Bishop’s Furniture property

Quality childcare close to a parent’s employer is a key issue for attracting and retaining outstanding healthcare professionals to West Michigan, and a benefit of working for one of the area’s most prominent healthcare facilities. The company just set the bar higher after breaking ground for a brand new daycare facility designed specifically with children and their caregivers in mind.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS — The owner of a local land development company says the new, 22,000-square-foot commercial building his company will construct on the site of a long-vacant furniture manufacturing business will provide his firm the opportunity to transform a stagnant property into an attractive, useful space.

For employees at Spectrum Health, the project will simplify daily commutes to and from daycare.

Officials at Third Coast Development Partners LLC announced last month that they have received more than $200,000 in state and local funds to construct a single-story commercial building at the site of the former Bishop’s Furniture Company on Michigan Street NE in Grand Rapids. The building will be leased to Spectrum Health for a childcare and development center, allowing the hospital to merge current child development activities from two separate locations in the metro area.

Read the complete story here.


Boaters, marinas reap benefits of rising lake levels

Falling water levels have plagued Michigan lakes, leaving boaters unable to reach their docks and marinas footing the bill for dredging, but not so this year. Heavy snows and a long winter have brought about the first rise in lake levels in nearly a decade.

According to excerpts from the story:

The harsh winter should lead to a better summer for Great Lakes boaters and shipping companies.

Above-average snowfall and prolonged ice cover on lakes this past winter caused Lake Michigan's water level to rise six inches in April, about twice the average spring melt, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

For the summer, the Corps is forecasting the big lakes' water levels should be 5 to 8 inches higher than last summer.

Read the complete story here.


U.S. Farm bill funds alternative energy, farmers’ markets

A new federal farm bill could bring millions to West Michigan to fund the development of commercial biofuel plants, subsidize farmers with specialty crops, and provide discounts to senior citizens who purchase fresh food from farmers’ markets. Agriculture is the state’s second largest industry and the bill could affect one in four jobs.

According to excerpts from the story:

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House overwhelming passed a $300 billion farm bill Wednesday that would help Michigan vegetable growers, farmers' markets, low-income seniors and developers of biofuels.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill tonight or tomorrow.

President Bush, who objects to the bill's overall price tag and its subsidies to wealthy farmers, says he'll veto it.

The House passed the bill, 318 to 106, which is well within the two-thirds vote needed to override a veto.

Read the complete story here.


New GR film office targets moviemakers to boost regional economy

With one of the country’s best tax incentive programs for filmmakers now in place, Grand Rapids is gearing up for an influx of film crews who will bring out-of-state dollars to area hotels, restaurants, and other services, and will provide film crew jobs for local workers.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS -- What's the best opening scene for a movie shot in Grand Rapids?

"Sunset Avenue overlooking the entire city," said Todd Tofferi, coordinator for the city's new Office of Film, Music and Special Events.

Best street for a car chase?

Read the complete story here.


Illinois county leaders say fresh water supply an increasing concern

As freshwater resources dwindle, one Illinois county faces a double-whammy of immense proportions: 140,000 more people and not enough water to go around. The watchword? Conserve.

According to excerpts from the story:

The availability of pure, fresh water will become of increasing concern as the county continues to grow during the next two decades, according to a new report issued Wednesday by Lake County planning officials at a countywide Water Supply Forum.

"The State of Lake County's Water Supply," an 88-page report which can be reviewed in its entirety on the county's Web site (www.lakecountyil.gov/savewater) outlines the need for a coordinated planning effort on the part of state, regional, county and local governments in working as partners to avoid dire future water shortages.

Seventy percent of Lake County's current population of roughly 705,000 is using drinking water from Lake Michigan.

Read the complete story here.


337 manufacturing, R & D jobs coming to Greenville

Renaissance zone tax credits and state-funded job training grants convinced one growing manufacturer to expand in West Michigan instead of Indiana, bringing hundreds of jobs with it.

According to excerpts from the story:

GREENVILLE — There are 10 new projects in all, including a $10.2 Million investment in Greenville from the leading manufacturer of refrigerator/freezer systems.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, or MEDC, says Northland Corporation Inc. has plans to build a new 175,000 square foot manufacturing and R&D facility in Greenville. The company already employs more than 100 people in the area, but the expansion is expected to bring more jobs. 337 are expected, including 157 directly with the company.

Read the complete story here.


Teens lead new wave of West Michigan science researchers

On the leading edge of future discoveries in medicine, social science, and mental health are seven West Michigan high-school students who just wrapped up individual three-year research projects conducted under the tutelage of some of the state’s top leaders in the medical and science fields.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS -- The science research symposium Monday at Van Andel Institute had all the makings of a serious event, save the presenters in the auditorium who practiced tap-dance moves at the podium to help work off their nerves.

You had to cut them a little slack; they're still in high school.

Even so, the three-year independent research efforts of the seven Catholic Central High School students were called "groundbreaking" by David Van Andel, the institute's CEO and chairman.

"This program has become an essential part of developing the future of life sciences in West Michigan," Van Andel said. "In these days of so many distractions, these kids have decided that probing into the fundamental questions of science is worth pursuing."

Read the complete story here.


Regional transit agency is expanding commuter choices

Around the globe, mass transit has proven to be an integral piece of drawing professional talent to an area and spurring millions in economic development. With a sleek train-like bus rapid transit line and a proposed downtown streetcar on the horizon, Grand Rapids will soon be leading the industry in transit innovation.

According to excerpts from the story:

The Rapid's Public Transportation Tomorrow Taskforce was established to guide the development of our community's transportation vision for the next 25 years and beyond. Made up of business, community, and government leaders, the taskforce has been working closely with local jurisdictions, organizations and the general public on strategies to address mobility improvements, economic development, traffic congestion and environmental concerns. From their endeavors, two potential projects emerged.

The first is a bus rapid transit (BRT) system in the Division Avenue corridor. The BRT line is a rapid bus service that operates like rail, but using sleek streamlined rubber tired vehicles. Elements of the service include: 19 stations; 10 minute frequency; electronic signs announcing arrival; multiple doors for easy access; ticket vending at stations or on the Internet; high occupancy lanes in direction of peak travel; and traffic signals providing priority for the service.

Read the complete story here.

 


‘Green’ know-how makes job-seekers more attractive to employers

With the strong emphasis on clean energy that’s sweeping the globe, many manufacturing and technical skills are transferable to alternative energy production efforts. But employers are also looking for ‘green’-savvy managers to drive the corporate transition.

According to excerpts from the story:

As industry turns to green solutions, the jobs of the future may not require skills terribly different from those of today.

For instance, the interior of a wind turbine isn't much different from the interior of a washing machine -- both use mechanical and electrical components and computer controls, according to John Patten, chairman of the manufacturing engineering department at Western Michigan University. Patten erected a pole-mounted wind turbine he bought himself for WMU's Parkview campus.

Read the complete story here.


Local officials scramble to set clean energy ordinances

The need to have ordinances in place that will advance clean energy endeavors in West Michigan instead of prohibit them is on the rise and township and county officials are scrambling to create those ordinances to regulate the construction of wind farms, wind turbines, and test equipment.

According to excerpts from the story:

WALKER — Wind-generated electricity isn't exactly a gold rush in northern Kent and Ottawa counties, but there is definitely a rush on. The rushing is by city, township and county officials trying to get a handle on what will be allowed within their jurisdictions, even as they field a growing number of requests from people and companies interested in installing electricity-producing wind turbines, known as WECS: wind energy conversion systems.

A subcommittee of the Walker city council will begin the process today of developing an ordinance there, prompted by a casual inquiry in late April from television station WZZM 13 about possible installation of rooftop wind generators on its studio building on 3 Mile Road, said Walker City Planner Frank Wash. Janet Mason, WZZM 13 president and general manager, declined to comment on the station's plans.

Read the complete story here.


Seeds for wind farming planted on Fruit Ridge

As West Michigan manufacturers and alternative energy leaders slowly move the region toward production of clean energy components and equipment, a Spain-based company has already been at work for two years securing wind rights from farmers in northern Ottawa County. Seems local leaders’ vision for creating demand for renewable energy companies and the economic boost they could bring to the region is right on the mark.

According to excerpts from the story:

CHESTER TOWNSHIP — It turns out the high ground that makes the well-known Fruit Ridge area across northern Kent and Ottawa counties good for fruit-growing is also good for another kind of "farming" — commercial wind farms, where turbines on tall towers generate electricity.

Iberdrola Renewables of Spain, reportedly the world's largest wind farm developer, received permission in late April from Chester Township to start construction within 90 days of a test tower on a two-acre parcel it is leasing on 8th Avenue near Gooding Street, in northeast Ottawa County.

Read the complete story here.


Goodwill embraces WIRED’s career readiness certificate

A national work readiness training program is taking hold in West Michigan, and one company that provides assistance to persons with vocational barriers touts the program as a key component in developing skills to make workers more employable.

According to excerpts from the story:

MUSKEGON — Goodwill Industries of West Michigan (GIWM) has a vision – to be the area’s preferred provider of services assisting individuals with vocational barriers in gaining employment and independence.

To make this happen, GIWM has embraced WorkKeys/National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) for its incumbent and future employees.

The local push for WorkKeys/NCRC results from funding from the WIRED initiative administered by the West Michigan Strategic Alliance.

According to Tom Griffin, GIWM’s workforce development director, in December and January the organization tested two groups of employees with WorkKeys. These groups included habitation trainers and Goodwill retail store managers – positions Goodwill deems crucial.

Read the complete story here.

 


West Michigan must re-think old theories on design, creative services

West Michigan must re-think old theories on design, creative services

Design as a regional industry comes in many forms, including tapping existing creative firms to locate the right designer for a particular job. One local company says its time to rethink the outdated emphasis on large creative services companies and embrace a more diverse means for designers to fulfill customer needs.

According to excerpts from the story:

ZEELAND — Old-line thinking about design and creative services companies must change.

In the new knowledge economy, no longer must companies have bodies inside buildings to produce high-quality effective creative services, according to Stephanie Elhart and Jay Frankhouse of Fuel-D in Zeeland.

"One of the first questions we’re asked is, ‘How big are you?’" Elhart told MiBiz. "Well, how big do you need us to be?" The wife-and-husband duo, like many in the design or creative services industries, is taking a networking approach to the business. They don’t have a room full of employees in their office inside Lakeshore Advantage Business Garden. Instead, they prefer to tap into their contacts to match talent to a project’s needs.

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids ranked 8th on national list of growing real estate markets

The housing market may be down, but one national magazine’s research says that the Grand Rapids market is growing and yields a substantial return on investment.

According to excerpts from the story:

Yes, even amid the housing crisis, parts of the U.S. are still expected to post price gains in the coming year, according to Money Magazine. Here's where to look.

Read the complete story here.


GVSU expands programming to leverage growing medical, life sciences sector

The growing life sciences and medical sector in West Michigan will soon needs workers and one university has stepped up its a proactive approach to positioning future workers to meet the industry’s needs.

According to excerpts from the story:

To see the economic future of Grand Rapids, all one has to do is look up Michigan Street near downtown.

The construction cranes, the orange barrels and the traffic detours all reflect the massive medical and research buildup now occurring on the Medical Mile.

As the life-sciences sector emerges and grows in Grand Rapids, Thomas Haas sees his job as making sure Grand Valley State University is properly positioned to provide the workers needed now and in the future for that field.

Read the complete story here.


GR planning director advocates for increased density, less surface parking

By adopting new zoning practices that promote population density and mixed-use clusters, Grand Rapids planners have been able to focus on the way property is used, spurring revitalization in targeted areas and best use practices for lands and neighborhoods.

According to excerpts from the story:

Do you ever get the feeling when you walk by a parking lot that the cars are like rows of cadavers, the dead headlights staring back at you like the damned eyes of the departed? Does it make you feel empty and tired to know that those cars will at some point be turned on and driven back to big, spidery subdivisions, sucking up $4 per-gallon gas along the way, only to be parked again in cavernous garages?

Don’t you wish that parking lot was an apartment building filled with life, with good restaurants, bars, bookstores, coffee shops and — God — anything but rows of parked cars?

When Suzanne Shultz, the city of Grand Rapids’ planning director, talked about these things to a room of about 30 at the Central United Methodist Church in downtown Lansing Friday, the vibe was like, “Thank God she said that.”

Read the complete story here.

 


Vanpooling gets green light from MDOT

Rising fuel costs and a statewide push to reduce energy consumption have West Michigan residents searching for alternative, less costly means of getting to and from work, and, for some, vanpooling may be the solution.

According to excerpts from the story:

The Michigan Department of Transportation wants people to explore alternatives to taking the family gas-guzzler to work, including one not usually seen in West Michigan -- vanpooling.

MDOT contracts with MichiVan Commuter Vanpools to make vans available to groups of 5-15 commuters, who share the cost of the service, plus gas, and the approved driver in the group rides for free.

Read the complete story here.


GR Chamber marks 10 years of healing racism

Cultural diversity is a key factor in creating a welcoming and attractive environment that draws talented professionals from a variety of backgrounds to West Michigan, and one group is celebrating a decade of promoting cultural growth by breaking down racial barriers.

According to excerpts from the story:

Nearly 10 years ago, Bob Woodrick — the son of Roy Woodrick, who is the “W” of the D&W grocery store chain — was part of a panel that had a question. And in September 1997, the answer to that question, regarding this area’s diversity commitment, led the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce to form the Institute for Healing Racism.

The importance of cultural diversity came “through an awareness from Bob Woodrick,” said Sonya Hughes, vice president of Diversity Initiatives and Programs for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

Read the complete story here.


Nonprofits, city unite to strengthen GR neighborhoods hit by foreclosures

Area nonprofit housing developers have invested millions in revitalizing Grand Rapids residential neighborhoods and now they’re stepping up to help the city save hundreds of homes left in the wake of the recent foreclosure epidemic. Getting families who have been uprooted by foreclosure back into those homes is a key goal.

According to excerpts from the story:

In today's crowded real estate market, the house at 936 McReynolds Ave. NW doesn't show very well.

City officials and nonprofit housing developers have a rescue plan for this and about 125 other houses that have been foreclosed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"The objective is to stabilize neighborhoods," said Louis Berra, head of the local HUD office.

Read the complete story here.


Wind turbines a possibility on two Great Lakes

Amid a nationwide movement to harness wind power and reduce greenhouse gases, three Wisconsin developers have launched a feasibility study for establishing wind farms offshore in Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. With one proposal suggesting the construction of 390 wind turbines, could this be the nudge Michigan manufacturers need to launch wide-scale efforts to make mechanical components?

According to excerpts from the story:

Three developers are floating plans to erect hundreds of wind turbines in Lake Michigan as interest in the construction of wind farms surges around the country.

The Lake Michigan plans are all in the preliminary stages, and how they would be financed is unclear, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal reported earlier this week.

Although contemplated from the Michigan side of the lake, plans and studies appear to much further along from the Wisconsin side. The Grand Valley State University's Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon has begun preliminary exploration of Great Lakes wind energy.

Read the complete story here.


Influx of med students expected to boost GR economy

Housing, entertainment, banking, and retail are just some of the industries expecting to reap the benefits of some 400 medical school students who will relocate to Grand Rapids each year to attend the MSU College of Human Medicine. Clinical researchers, hundreds of new healthcare jobs, and med school instructors, many with families in tow, are expected to spur economic development far into the future.

According to excerpts from the story:

As the future home of Michigan State University's College of Human Medicine begins rising in Grand Rapids, Kelley Mattice sees a perfect match for her business.

She's the property manager for Grubb & Ellis|Paramount Commerce who represents Hopson Flats in downtown, which provides housing for college students - including, Mattice hopes, the 50 MSU medical students who begin taking classes in Grand Rapids this fall.

By 2010, up to 400 medical students will take classes annually in Grand Rapids - and each of them, as well as faculty, will need a place to live, eat, shop, entertain themselves and do their banking.

Read the complete story here.


Tourism funding increase may become longterm investment

If a recent allocation of $45 million in tourism promotion monies garners a significant return on investment, the funding boost could become the state’s proving ground that garners the tourism industry longterm funding. The industry brought over $18 billion into the state last year.

According to excerpts from the story:

A major boost in funding for tourism promotion for the next few years provides the industry another test to further prove the business case for a permanent spending increase.

If the return on investment pans out during the period and tracks favorably with data for recent years -- and she fully expects it will -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm says she'll ask lawmakers to sustain the funding increase to promote Michigan nationally as a travel destination.

Research data produced by Longwoods International for Travel Michigan shows that from 2004 to 2007, every $1 spent on tourism generated $40.29 in spending for Michigan businesses and $2.82 for the state in tax revenue.

Read the complete story here.


Med tech firm announces 3,300 new jobs in southwest MI

In the wake of one of the country’s largest pharmaceutical firms leaving the region, the dream of a thriving life sciences corridor in southwest Michigan got a major boost this week with the announcement that thousands of new research and development jobs are to be had. The reuse of vacant Pfizer buildings will contribute significantly to one city’s urban renewal.

According to excerpts from the story:

MPI Research Inc. plans a $330 million expansion in southwestern Michigan, a project expected to create 3,300 new jobs over the next five to seven years.

The privately held clinical research contractor chose to build close to its Mattawan headquarters and nearby Kalamazoo, choosing those locations over competing sites in Pennsylvania and China.

Read the complete story here.

 


Finally, the Michigan House acts to promote energy innovation

Michigan economic leaders cleared their first alternative energy hurdle last week when the House approved a package of bills establishing a renewable energy portfolio standard, touted as the key factor in attracting clean energy manufacturing, investment, and jobs.

According to excerpts from the story:

It might not have been a rolling blackout, but it certainly caught everyone's attention Thursday when the lights went out on a gaggle of lobbyists outside of the Michigan House chambers at the same time lawmakers were in the middle of voting on a package of bills dealing with renewable energy.

While power in the lobby was restored within minutes, the intensity of lobbying efforts throughout the day did not cease on legislation that creates a renewable portfolio standard for Michigan, requires compliance with energy efficiency programs and limits how many customers can go to alternative suppliers for their electricity needs.

After working on the legislation for over a year, the House sent the Senate HB 5524 (78-30), HB 5525 (81-18), HB 5548 (86-21) and HB 5549 (84-21).

Read the complete story here.

 


State film incentives bring stars, economic boost to a city near you

Earlier this month Michigan established a tax incentive package to entice filmmakers to bring what lawmakers hope will be multi-millions of dollars to the state’s economy and create new local jobs in the film industry. Already, one filmmaker is one his way to Grand Rapids.

According to excerpts from the story:

For Michigan's new movie tax incentive, the first taker likely will be "The Fifth."

A gangster drama starring Joe Mantegna dubbed "The Fifth Mafia" is to begin shooting in Grand Rapids this summer, the first to take advantage of a new state bill, signed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm this month, offering a 42 percent refundable business tax credit for movie production costs incurred in Michigan.

Janet Lockwood, head of the Michigan Film Office, confirmed the eventual arrival of "The Fifth Mafia" to Michigan. And it might be the tip of the iceberg -- Lockwood said she has 84 scripts on her desk to be reviewed for potential tax breaks.

Read the complete story here.


High percentage of GVSU grads land Michigan jobs

The horror stories about Michigan’s mass exodus of college grads might leave one wondering if there are any young people left in the state. But GVSU’s record says an amazing 79 percent of its grads are finding jobs right here in West Michigan.

According to excerpts from the story:

Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas recently uttered some words of comfort for government officials, economic developers, employers and anyone else concerned about the much-touted brain drain that reportedly is costing Michigan its youngest and most promising talent.

Haas recently told city commissioners that a university report revealed that 97 percent of recent GVSU graduates are employed or in graduate school. Now for the capper: Of the grads who are employed, 88 percent work in Michigan, 79 percent in West Michigan.

Read the complete story here.


MichBio Funding Workshop demystifies funding options for biotech companies

A workshop at the upcoming MichBio conference will walk biotech companies through the maze of government, quasi-government, and private funding options so technology leaders can generate needed capital and keep their companies’ growth on track.

According to excerpts from the story:

MichBio, the state’s life sciences trade association, will be hosting a workshop on April 22 to look at how biotechnology companies can select the best funding sources. The workshop is scheduled in the afternoon just before the MichBio annual meeting.

The workshop is called Capital Formation: Lost in Translation. Industry experts will demystify the benefits, processes and lingo involved in raising money from non-dilutive funding like SBIR and STTR programs, debt sources such as the Michigan Economic Development Corp., and equity sources such as venture capital and corporate investment.

Read the complete story here.


EPA awards $800K to clean up West Michigan brownfields

The federal government has released $74 million to 43 states for cleaning up contaminated and obsolete sites, and for the first time in history Michigan receives a portion of the funding. Recognized as a leader in brownfield redevelopment, West Michigan’s commitment to sustainable principles helped earn the funding for three metropolitan areas.

According to excerpts from the story:

Three West Michigan cities have been awarded $800,000 in brownfield grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – the first time any such funding has come to the region.

Part of a $74 million release of grant funds to communities in 43 states, the money will be used to fund brownfield site assessments in targeted redevelopment areas within Grand Rapids, Wyoming and Kentwood.

Read the complete story here.

 


New York Times prints Michigan's good news

Good, hopeful, uplifting events are happening all around us in Michigan, and one resident, during a trip to New York, says the national opinion of the state isn’t informed by the good stuff because it’s just not getting enough press.

According to excerpts from the story:

The easy litany of things gone wrong in Michigan gets more of a forum than what’s gone right.

Among those young musicians of Michigan at Carnegie Hall, I felt the way supporters say they do at a Barack Obama event — that maybe we are worthy of our better dreams. A symphony orchestra is an exercise in collaboration, in bringing diverse tools and talents to bear on a common purpose.

The worst of times might give way to the best, the winter will at last give way to spring, that out of all the noise and nonsense, blather and racket we might make song and poetry and music.

Read the complete story here.

 


Aquinas’s sustainability degree goes post-grad

The sustainable business degree at Aquinas is doing more than just attracting students from across the nation to its small campus in the middle of Grand Rapids, it’s generating excitement for the concepts and creating the desire in students to stay involved all the way through a Master’s program.

According to excerpts from the story:

More than four years after forming a degree program in sustainable business, Aquinas College is seeking to expand its capacity and adding a graduate program.

As the small but growing undergraduate sustainability program evolves, Aquinas professor Matt Tueth sees an emerging demand for a master's degree targeted at working professionals.

"With the undergraduate program on really firm footing, it's a natural," said Tueth, chairman of the Aquinas Department of Sustainable Business. "That's in our future. We set the precedent with the undergraduate program here, let's continue on."

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids mayor declares aggressive clean energy goals

While lawmakers in Lansing stall over the state's future in green energy technologies and consider allowing the utility companies to create more coal-generated plants, one Grand Rapids leader is determined to pursue what could be the most aggressive renewable energy plan in the U.S.

According to excerpts from the story:

Michigan's own Henry Ford generated amazing wealth innovating and mass marketing the automobile.

But his fortune was an anthill compared to the mountain of money John D. Rockefeller made in the oil business.

And therein lies the story of why Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell is staking out what just might be the most aggressive alternative energy platform of any public official in the United States.

Probably the biggest economic opportunity facing Michigan these days is energy innovation.

Read the complete story here.


Michigan's energy leaders call for incentives and a renewable portfolio standard

Green energy proponents say Michigan is ripe for generating serious jobs, investment, and profit in the alternative energy industry, but lawmakers must first modernize the state's energy agenda to position Michigan as a viable competitor in the market. So far, there's been a lot of talk.

According to excerpts from the story:

With recent arguments between the governor and attorney general played out in the media, it seems renewable and alternative energy already is generating a lot of wind.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm has spent months campaigning to change state policy to further the emerging industry that she says would generate thousands of jobs for the state. Meanwhile, Attorney General Michael Cox argues it will hike electric rates and bring minimal employment gain.

But momentum is growing, with numerous alternative energy events happening across Michigan and multiple bills moving through the state Legislature aimed at incentivizing this diverse industry.

Read the complete story here.


West Michigan companies named to 101 Best and Brightest

This year's list of West Michigan companies who rank high on the list of innovative human resources strategies join an elite group of the region's top places to work, and are key to the region for attracting and retaining professional talent in industries ranging from construction to communications.

According to excerpts from the story:

WARREN, Mich., March 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Only a select few businesses will be named "West Michigan's 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For," an honor that is highly sought after by companies throughout the region. These companies will be honored by the Michigan Business and Professional Association (MBPA) on Thurs., May 1 at the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville, Mich.

"Companies that capitalize on their greatest resource-their employees-know what strategies to implement in order to attract and retain their top talent. The companies that we are recognizing this year are an example of exceptional human resource practices and represent high standards in today's economic climate," said Jennifer Kluge, MBPA chief operating officer and a veteran human resources manager.

Read the complete story here.


Steelcase goes to TX for wind power

Amid a clamor in Michigan for the development of the renewable energy industry, one West Michigan furniture manufacturer is determined to offset some 20 percent of its energy consumption with wind energy—even if it means building its own wind farm out of state.

According to excerpts from the story:

Steelcase Inc., a global office furniture company, has become the first REC buyer to sponsor a commercial-scale wind farm by making the first known long-term purchase of all the RECs during a wind farm project’s financing stage.

The power expected to be generated by the wind farm on an annual basis represents approximately 20 percent of the power Steelcase facilities require in the US, and equals more than three times the energy necessary to fully power the Steelcase global headquarters building in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Read the complete story here.


New Kent County animal shelter just one of many changes on campus

Years of operating from a too-small, outdated facility will come to an end when an expanded, modern animal shelter is completed next fall. The new building is just one of several changes that will help beautify the face of the Kent County services campus.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS -- Kent County expects to break ground next month on a $6.7 million animal shelter officials say will be a friendly environment for animals and humans.

The 23,000-square-foot shelter will be nearly three times the size of the existing one, which dates to the 1950s. Program Supervisor Veronica Constantine said chief among the new shelter's amenities are separate drop-off and pick-up areas along with a new air filtration system expected to keep animals healthier.

Read the complete story here.


Meijer Gardens breaks ground on $7.6M in improvements

After 13 years of expanding its programs, art offerings, sculpture gardens, and botanical gardens, this West Michigan staple needs a major facelift—and that means the installation architectural works of art and upgrades to visitor amenities.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS -- Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park breaks ground Tuesday on more than $7.6 million worth of improvements.

Gardens and Sculpture Park will be expanded with money from the capitol campaign.

A remodeled main entrance, an expanded cafe and a new and permanent tram station are among the improvements scheduled to take place.

Read the complete story here.


Lieutenant Governors Association adopts Great Lakes Compact

Amid the debate over exporting Great Lakes water to drought-stricken states around the country, the National Lieutenant Governors Association is urging all Great Lakes states to adopt a joint resolution protecting the water and requiring the next president to outline a plan of protection.

According to excerpts from the story:

LANSING - The National Lieutenant Governors Association, in a resolution adopted Thursday, called on all of the Great Lakes states to adopt the Great Lakes Compact. The lieutenant governors also called on the three remaining presidential candidates to lay out their proposals for preserving the lakes.

The resolution, sponsored by Lt. Governor John Cherry, Wisconsin Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton, and Minnesota Lt. Governor Carol Molnau, was adopted unanimously by the association.

Read the complete story here.

 


State tourism could get $40M boost to market winter getaways

For the first time ever, the state tourism industry is poised to promote Michigan as a winter getaway wonderland, and lawmakers are supporting the move with by adding $40 million to the tourism budget. Over that last three years, tourism has garnered nearly $3 for every advertising dollar spent.

According to excerpts from the story:

Most of us are tired of winter in Michigan, but Steve Yencich wants to see a lot more of it.

Yencich, president of the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association, told the House Tourism, Outdoor Recreation and Natural Resources Committee that the state should add a record $40 million to its tourism budget and, for the first time, promote winter recreation.

And he wasn't alone.

On two days' notice, 53 people from the tourism industry appeared to show their support before the committee, he said.

Read the complete story here.


Hollywood's coming to town—and bringing jobs with it

After 18 months of working to push through a film industry tax incentive that could create thousands of Michigan jobs, Lansing has answered with a definitive Yes. The incentives will make the state the most financially attractive state for filmmakers, and the calls are rolling in.

According to excerpts from the story:

Michigan lawmakers took the state one step closer to becoming the most attractive movie-making state in the country.

Bills passed Wednesday in both the state House and Senate give movie studios a 40 percent tax rebate or credit on production costs, the highest in the nation.

"My phone's been ringing off the hook today," DePree said. "I've been getting calls from producers in L.A., New York, Chicago. ... I just got off the phone with 20th Century Fox. ... Disney's been watching the real-time webcasts of the Michigan Legislature. They're just waiting at the sidelines."

Read the complete story here.

 


Grand Rapids joins the mobile banking movement

Mobile banking has hit a new high and continues to climb, motivating area banks to gear up their technology for customers on the move.

According to excerpts from the story:

Mobile-device use is up 58 percent from where it was six years ago, and in 2007 Wachovia, Citibank and Bank of America moved into mobile banking. Wells Fargo - which closed its version in 2002 - got back in.

United Bank of Michigan in Grand Rapids launched its mobile service last November, and other banks there are looking at late 2008 or early 2009 launches of their own.

United was the first community bank in Michigan to offer mobile banking, according to Gwyn Harnish, United Bank's vice president for marketing. Four months' operation is too soon to measure any competitive edge it may deliver.

Read the complete story here.


Eight Michigan health systems form coalition to improve services, costs

As healthcare continues to thrive as an industry in Michigan, the importance of working within communities to enhance quality of life and attract medical talent has come to the fore. With a focus of bringing value to their communities and the state, eight Michigan healthcare organizations are working together to break down competitive barriers.


According to excerpts from the story:

Spectrum Health and Bronson Healthcare Group of Kalamazoo are two of eight Michigan health systems to create a new coalition aimed at improving the value of health care.

“Our main thrust is value in terms of best service at the best price. So we’ll go a little deeper than we typically do and share data, and take a look at where we’re going to make strides and improvements.”

Sue Reinoehl, vice president of strategy and communications at Bronson, said she’s looking forward to the new organization’s first steps, which she expects will focus on community health initiatives.

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids IT company aggressively hiring web designers

With the continued growth of web-based companies and Web 2.0-type applications, web designers today face greater technology challenges than they did a few years ago. One major technology employer in West Michigan aims to make web development easier for clients by creating a specialty division.

According to excerpts from the story:

NuSoft Solutions Inc. last week announced a new line of business and said it moved 20 of its employees to the division.

The soft launch, almost a test run, to hear Brian Anderson tell it, showed more market interest than the company expected. As a result Kinetic IG is "aggressively hiring," to add to those 20 people already assigned to the new division.

Anderson didn't estimate how many jobs would be added this year. NuSoft employs 160 people in Grand Rapids and at corporate headquarters in

Read the complete story here.


$7M Hyatt hotel planned for Grand Rapids' Health Hill

Medical research, treatments, and clinical trials are bringing more and more people to Grand Rapids, and one developer plans to put a 149-room hotel in the midst of the "medical mile" to accommodate those visitors.

According to excerpts from the story:

Gone are the times when Michigan Street NE near downtown Grand Rapids sported tired-looking buildings.

The rise of the Medical Mile has spurred mixed-use developments, including the Mid Towne Village with condos, retail, offices and now a new Hyatt Place Hotel.

Third Coast Development Principal Brad Rosely, whose company is developing Mid Towne Village, said several hotel chains were interested in the development, but Hyatt was the most desirable.

Read the complete story here.

 


Michigan works to connect investors with inventors, build the knowledge economy

As Michigan struggles to attract knowledge economy workers, drive innovation, and find new relevance for the manufacturing skill and capability across the state, a number of groups are moving forward on what they say is a strategy to attract jobs and workers. Some say manufacturing is on its way out; others say it's here to stay and needs to change.

According to excerpts from the story:

As a broader debate unfolds on how to pursue a better economic future for the state, the latest initiative in western Michigan reflects a course already set down.

The basic premise behind InnovationWorks is to connect inventors with people who can take their ideas to market, ultimately creating new jobs for the region.

In a broader sense, the backers of InnovationWorks are embracing western Michigan's manufacturing heritage and acumen while at the same time pursuing the coveted so-called knowledge workers and industries of tomorrow -- a strategy some advocate should become the sole thrust of economic development.

Read the complete story here.


College Avenue bridge over I-196 to be replaced beginning this fall

As part of a larger $20 million project to replace bridges, restructure underpasses, and widen the I-196 highway that parallels Health Hill, the replacement of the College Avenue bridge has been moved up three years. The work will bring new construction jobs to West Michigan.

According to excerpts from the story:

Tearing down and rebuilding the College Avenue NE bridge over Int. 196 in Grand Rapids is among the $150 million in accelerated road projects that should add 2,100 construction and engineering jobs with about a year, according to Gov. Jennifer Granholm's office.

The $5.4 million bridge replacement has been moved up.

The state will begin preliminary work on the bridge this fall and start replacing it in spring 2009, said state Department of Transporation spokeswoman Dawn Garner. The project originally was scheduled for 2012.

Read the complete story here.

 


Granholm urges lawmakers to pass energy package

Strong state policy to promote energy innovation is a proven strategy to generate jobs, attract new investment, and boost Michigan's competitiveness in the global economy. But a number of lawmakers in Lansing still believe the costs of change are simply too high.

According to excerpts from the story:

Michigan is losing jobs every day that it fails to pass a law requiring that some of the state's electricity come from wind and renewable sources, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Tuesday.

"We need to get this done and get it done now," the Democratic governor told reporters. "The urgency of this cannot be overstated."

Granholm wants the Legislature to pass bills in March requiring that 10 percent of electricity be from renewable resources by 2016. She said at least two dozen other states have such a standard and are attracting the jobs Michigan needs.

Read the complete story here.

 


Literacy Center's success draws national spotlight

In Grand Rapids, 20 percent of residents are illiterate, and the methods of one organization to use grants and community volunteers to cut illiteracy in half in the next decade is changing the social landscape and attracting national attention.

According to excerpts from the story:

In Grand Rapids, community participation is the key. In a recent training session, a group of 50 volunteers trained to become tutors to help those who have difficulty reading and writing.

So far nearly 300 residents have volunteered their time to teach, and the program has helped more than 1,000 people in the last four years.

Read the complete story and view the video reports here.

 


State's natural resources worth $1.6B annually study says

Efforts to undertake the enormous, and somewhat intangible, task of assessing the state's green infrastructure, its monetary worth, and its value as a quality of life amenity that appeals to talented professionals are detailed in a recent study that values Michigan's environmental attributes at $1.6 billion annually.

According to excerpts from the story:

West Michigan's abundant natural resources -- forests, sand dunes, wetlands and water -- provide a variety of benefits that are worth at least $1.6 billion annually, according to a new study.

Putting a dollar figure on nature, also known as green infrastructure, is a tricky business, technically and philosophically. But the study, by the West Michigan Strategic Alliance, sought to demonstrate that nature is valuable and that damaging it comes at a price.

Read the complete story here.


Partnership leads to online resource for West Michigan Tech Jobs listings

West Michigan businesses continue to face the challenge of finding qualified high-tech professionals to fill job openings and lead development teams. But that could change after two influential online technology resources have combined forces to establish a comprehensive jobs list connecting employers with the talent they seek.

According to excerpts from the story:

If you're looking to find a tech job in the Great Lakes region, or you're an employer looking to find the right technology professional, MITechNews.Com has the solution for you. We've just launched our new Tech Job section with partner CareerBuilder.

“We’re excited to offer this service to our technology audience particularly in these tough economic times,” said Editor & Publisher Mike Brennan. “There are a lot of tech jobs begging to be filled in the state and I know there are a lot of IT pros looking for better positions.

Read the complete story here.

 


Aquinas recruits star athlete to spearhead sports center campaign

Aquinas College wants to add a sports and fitness center to the campus, and they've brought home one of Grand Rapids' most famous athletes to lead the capital campaign and increase the college's endowment fund. It doesn't hurt that he's also an experienced director of planned giving for one of the state's largest universities.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS -- After setting two world and 10 national road-racing records, and helping the University of Michigan raise more than $125 million, Grand Rapids native and marathon runner Greg Meyer has shown he's the kind of guy who gets things done.

Aquinas College administrators are hoping Meyer's experience and skills will come in handy as he leads the college's upcoming $11 million capital campaign for a proposed sports and fitness center. He is to begin March 1.

As the new associate vice president for institutional advancement, Meyer also will be in charge of increasing Aquinas' $28 million endowment — among the lowest of comparable colleges in the area.

Read the complete story here.


Entrepreneurship 101 a growing trend, colleges say

As Michigan's need for creative, innovative thinkers continues to grow, a majority of the state's colleges and universities are transforming their curriculum programs to focus on entrepreneurism, from retraining factory workers to helping small businesses grow. A recent report shows that some schools are working to foster an entrepreneurial mindset beginning in elementary school.

According to excerpts from the story:

LANSING - The old ways of educating students to get them ready to be good worker bees in factories and offices is rapidly changing in Michigan, a new report shows. Some 82 percent of postsecondary institutions in the state are now offering courses to train the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The Michigan Entrepreneurship Education Benchmarking Report was issued by the Small Business Foundation of Michigan’s Michigan Entrepreneurship Education Network.

Read the complete story here.

 


Economic leaders target talent growth

West Michigan's business leaders find it increasingly difficult to find the talent they need to spur business growth and fuel Michigan's economic recovery, but a new coalition of economic development corporations has a plan to change all that.

According to excerpts from the story:

Economic development organizations and chambers of commerce realize attracting and retaining talent is critical, and they aim to help businesses in West Michigan do something about it.

The Right Place is joining forces with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Grand Rapids, the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Lakeshore Advantage, the Holland Area Chamber of Commerce, Southwest Michigan First and The Employers Association to attack the problem, promote the area and bring in and keep those coveted workers.

Read the complete story here.

 


Cascade manufacturer evolves into wind energy

As Michigan sits on the cusp of what researchers and business leaders say is a new energy economy, one West Michigan manufacturer is ahead of the curve and already ramping up for production.

According to excerpts from the story:

Cascade Engineering believes it knows which way the wind is blowing — toward a growing market for products that help conserve energy or generate it from sustainable, clean sources such as wind and solar.

Early this summer, probably in June, the plastic products manufacturing company will begin production of blades and rotors for the Swift Rooftop Wind Energy System, which has been produced in Scotland for almost five years. Other components of the Swift electrical generator turbine will be shipped to Cascade Engineering, which will assemble the complete turbine and serve as exclusive distributor of it throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Read the complete story here.


Manufacturing in West Michigan rides tide of change

Manufacturing ain't what it used to be in Michigan, but business leaders and economic experts say that, with the right talent and a new way of doing business, manufacturing is still a viable leader in the knowledge economy. One West Michigan company has set out to prove it by attracting new talent, changing old paradigms, and bringing in out-of-state business.

According to excerpts from the story:

HOLLAND -- Dick DeVos may have been soundly thumped in his bid to unseat Gov. Jennifer Granholm 15 months ago, but he still believes he has some answers for what ails Michigan's economy.

"This culture," he said, waving an arm across the floor of his Windquest Cos. factory in Holland last week, "this fast, flexible, teamwork culture, is the future of manufacturing."

Read the complete story here.


Michigan's tourism industry gets $60M boost from state

Tourism proponents say that getting travelers to Michigan is key in bringing money to the state and jobs to tourist regions, and the governor's recent proposal to allocate $60 million to the tourism industry for advertising will go a long way toward making that happen.

According to excerpts from the story:

Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposal to pump $60 million over two years into tourism and business promotion is a sign the state is finally taking the industry seriously, travel promoters say.

Part of a $1.8 billion economic-stimulus package included in the governor's 2009 budget proposal, the money would temporarily give the tourism industry what it has long wanted -- a substantial increase from the state in promotional funding.

Read the complete story here.

 


Michigan House streamlines driver's license rules to grow foreign talent

Citing the need to attract global talent to Michigan as a means to spur a rise in the number and quality of knowledge economy workers and, thereby, ramp up economic revitalization, the state House passed legislation saying that individuals do not need to meet federal Real ID criteria to qualify for a driver's license. The Senate says otherwise.

According to excerpts from the story:

Individuals who can establish a legal presence in Michigan, regardless of how long they plan on staying here, could receive a state identification card or driver's license under legislation overwhelmingly approved by the House Thursday – which goes counter to what the Senate approved Wednesday and bucks the requirements of the federal Real ID Act, which goes into effect in May.

Allowing people like college faculty and business executives from foreign countries to receive a driver's license in light of a recent attorney general's opinion and Department of State rule change.

Read the complete story here.


Economist says better days ahead for MI manufacturing

Michigan remained in a recession in the last quarter of 2007, but one economist says the state's manufacturing sector is going to pull the state out of it's economic slump and make it a leader in many emerging global markets.

According to excerpts from the story:

JP Morgan Chase & Co.'s senior economist sees opportunities rising for Michigan manufacturers out of the economic pain of this decade.

A more favorable dollar and growing foreign markets bode well for the industrial Midwest in the global economy, said Jim Glassman, managing director and senior economist with JP Morgan Chase.

Midwest manufacturers will find themselves on the "leading edge" of serving emerging global markets, just as it was the first to feel the pain early this decade when the economy changed, he said.

Read the complete story here.


Michigan entrepreneurs ready to change state's image

When the automotive industry first took hold, Michigan became the most entrepreneurial state in the union, and business leaders aim to make it number one again with the help of some enterprising economic development corporations who are leading the charge.

According to excerpts from the story:

Michigan once changed the world. It was the entrepreneurial hot spot of the industrial revolution, leading technological advances in manufacturing for much of the 20th century.

But while Michigan was leading, the state's culture evolved into a risk-averse society that shied away from new ventures. Now it's the world that's changing, and Michigan needs to respond.

For venture capitalist and longtime entrepreneur Dick Beedon, it begins by getting people to understand that starting a business is a "cool" thing.

Read the complete story here.


Swedish tech company finds home in Grand Rapids

A Swedish technology firm that moved to Grand Rapids is slowly taking the furniture design world by storm, allowing furniture designers to spend less time learning the software and more time creating designs that fuel the local furniture industry.

According to excerpts from the story:

Try this: memorize 35 million part numbers, draw a 3-D office furniture layout and provide a price quote down to the last screw.

Quickly.

In a nutshell, that's the power of a Swedish software company making inroads in West Michigan.

With just 17 Grand Rapids-based programmers, Configura Inc. develops vast, graphic-rich software systems that promise to free office furniture designers to work on the creative side of design.

The company opened its local office in 2005 and connected with Haworth Inc. two years ago, developing the office furniture company's Canvas design and ordering system.

In 2006, Canvas and Configura won a silver award for technology at NeoCon, an annual global office furniture industry convention.

This spring, Configura will create its CET Designer system with Steelcase Inc.

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids' $29 million Rapid Bus leads Michigan's mass transit movement

With a $29 million boost from the feds, Grand Rapids' sleek train-like Bus Rapid Transit line will bring riders to the central city in style, increasing mass transit options and further accelerating the revitalization of Michigan's second largest urban area.

According to excerpts from the story:

Greater Grand Rapids has just gotten a $29 million dollar pledge from the federal government to beef up it’s public transit system. The goal is not just to buy the most environmentally friendly buses but to liven up downtown. And judging from what the city has done so far, public transit is a good economic development tool.

The Bus Rapid Transit system will include 10 hybrid electric buses on a 10 mile route downtown. 19 new bus stations will have message boards showing the next bus will arrive in 10 minutes or less. It’s supposed to feel permanent and powerful, like a train.

Read the complete story here.

 


Grand Rapids High Schools to get renewed facilities and purpose

After successfully completing the renovation and new construction of nearly a dozen elementary and middle schools, the Grand Rapids Public Schools is ready to tackle the renovation of several high schools and the creation of several specialized learning programs. The outstanding question: how and where to get the money?

According to excerpts from the story:

Grand Rapids Public Schools would drop two of its four traditional high schools and replace them with small, specialized programs to address declining enrollment and new classroom trends under a $216 million plan being considered by city educators.

Creston and Central high schools would be recast as homes for themed programs. Union and Ottawa Hills would continue as comprehensive schools, but with beefed-up buildings and sports teams that will merge with Creston and Central.

A $200 million plan would cost the owner of a $150,000 home an additional $135 a year in taxes.

Read the complete story here.


Granholm urges state to invest in change

A commitment to diversifying the economy, strengthening education, and healthcare for every family topped Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm's list of investments necessary to accelerate the state's economic transition.

According to excerpts from the story:

Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Tuesday painted a vision of a state where alternative energy companies employ tens of thousands of workers, low-income students attend new high schools that prepare them for college and residents laid off from manufacturing jobs find bright new futures in health care.

The Democratic governor said those are the ways Michigan will grow out of its protracted economic crisis, which has saddled it with the nation's highest unemployment rate and caused people to leave the state for better opportunities elsewhere.

Read the complete story here.


More tax credits, historic districts, and condos coming to Grand Rapids

The development boom in Grand Rapids shows no sign of slowing down and, as developers pursue tax incentives to keep costs down on new downtown projects, whole neighborhoods are pursuing historic status to keep certain types of development at bay.

According to excerpts from the story:

Tax credits for developments and designating neighborhoods as historic were on the agenda at Tuesday's City Commission meeting.

The glut of condominiums was a topic at the City Commission meeting. Tax credits for a combination condo-apartment complex for an area south of downtown was debated, and some commissioners expressed concerns over the saturations of condos in the area.

But city economic officials say market studies of the area, which include expanding St. Mary's Hospital, will support the project.

Read the complete story here.


Muskegon residents support sustainable water use laws

Historic droughts around the US, water bottling plants tapping Michigan's underground water, and a push to clean up the Great Lakes Basin have all focused attention on the state's water wonderland. Muskegon residents recently voiced their opinion about where their water goes and how it's used. 

According to excerpts from the story:

About one hundred Muskegon area residents told a trio of state lawmakers Thursday night that they support strong measures this year to protect Lake Michigan shoreline communities against the threat of large-scale water withdrawals that could impact local rivers and the area's tourist economy.

The comments came at a Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Great Lakes, Great Michigan coalition as Lansing lawmakers debate competing bills that will likely shape the future of Michigan's water use.

Read the complete story here.


Green infrastructure gets new leadership in West Michigan

A variety of green infrastructure projects and initiatives in West Michigan will continue under new leadership as an interim project manager for the West Michigan Strategic Alliance takes the helm. Objectives in 2008 include safeguarding critical areas of biodiversity, protecting shoreline, promoting regional trails and greenways, and more.

According to excerpts from the story:

The West Michigan Strategic Alliance has appointed Ken Freestone as interim Green Infrastructure Project Manager, replacing Katie Kahl, who stepped down to complete a Ph.D. in Fisheries and Wildlife Management at Michigan State University.

Freestone has worked with the WMSA in the past, contributing to the "Common Framework" publication and serving on the Green Infrastructure Task Force.

Read the complete story here.


MI Senate calls for 10 percent renewable energy by 2015

With dozens of manufacturers across the state chomping at the bit to jump into the alternative energy business, the Michigan Senate is considering a package of bills that would require Michigan to obtain 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2015. A secondary goal is to shield ratepayers from the costs of research, development, and construction.

According to excerpts from the story:

Trying to stay on par with the Michigan House, the Senate on Thursday discharged to the floor five bills to help boost the state's development and use of alternative energy.

Sen. Patricia Birkholz (R-Saugatuck) said both on the Senate floor and in a press conference on Senate GOP priorities (see related story) that the legislation will actually help build a market for alterative energy without forcing ratepayers to pay for the development of alternative sources.

Read the complete story here.

 


MDOT rebuilding, eventually widening, I-196 through downtown GR

The Michigan Department of Transportation continues to move forward with a major reconstruction and expansion of the I-196 highway through downtown Grand Rapids. Last week the agency sponsored a session to solicit citizen ideas for how the new roadway and bridges should look, feel, and function. Wider sidewalks and bike lanes, period-style lighting, and native landscaping were common themes. 

According to excerpts from the story:

MDOT plans to rebuild a busy portion of I-196 in Grand Rapids in 2010 and area residents and users of the highway attended a public meeting this afternoon.

Dozens of community stakeholders attended the meeting this afternoon, including many residents. Angel Gonzalez who lives in the Belknap neighborhood just north of I-196 felt the community brainstorming session was positive. "I don't think it's just for show, I hope that they are really going to take our input and the ideas that we come up with and implement them in the ultimate design. That's important."

Read the complete story here.


Design industry key to growing West Michigan's knowledge economy

Design as a viable industry and driving economic force in West Michigan may be becoming a feasible, marketable product, and regional leaders are proposing plans for a Design Thinking Institute, a program to recognize good design publicly, and a plan to create a design-based curriculum for elementary school students.

According to excerpts from the story:

Design West Michigan is fine tuning and will soon launch some key initiatives intended to make design more of a driving force in the West Michigan economy.

DWM spokesman John Berry said the group will meet in late January to develop plans for a “Design Thinking Institute” and “Design Swat Teams” to help West Michigan businesses or organizations in critical situations where design can play a pivotal role.

DWM descended from the design council organized about a year ago by the Zeeland economic development organization Lakeshore Advantage as one of the 12 Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development grant projects.

Read the complete story here.


New alliance aims to promote diversity in construction industry

The construction boom in downtown Grand Rapids employs countless workers, and one group's goal is to bring ethnic and gender diversity into that workforce through skills training and by creating a pool of workers who are job ready. Organizers didn't rest until they had the major players at the table.

According to excerpts from the story:

There is millions of dollars worth of construction going on in downtown Grand Rapids. But few minority and women construction workers are involved in those projects, according to some community leaders.

A new memorandum of understanding aims to change that by increasing the availability of minorities and women in construction through recruitment, skills training and placement.

The memo, developed by an informal group calling itself the Kent County Black Elected Officials, attempts to establish the process of workforce development and placement of construction workers in West Michigan, particularly Kent County. The agreement is the result of several meetings held with local minority contractors, West Michigan Minority Contractors, Associated Builders and Contractors-Western Michigan Chapter, building trade unions and other representatives.

Read the complete story here.


Massachusetts company buys leading Grand Rapids foam plastic manufacturer

As West Michigan struggles to regain its footing as a key player in the automotive manufacturing sector, out-of-state investors are taking interest in the region's manufacturing capabilities and skilled workers. One East Coast company recently put up millions to acquire one of the region's leading manufacturers.

According to excerpts from the story:

UFP Technologies, Inc., a manufacturer of packaging and specialty component products, today announced the acquisition of Stephenson & Lawyer, Inc., located in Grand Rapids, MI. S&L is a full service designer, converter, and distributor of foam plastic products, specializing in technical polyurethane foams. S&L sales in 2007 were approximately $13 million.

Read the complete story here.

 


Metro Health Development could mean thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue

Banks, hotels, medical offices of every shape and size, a new YMCA, educational facilities, restaurants, and more are springing up, or about to spring up, in and around the new medical complex that spurred all the development, ultimately bringing thousands of jobs to Michigan’s fastest growing township. And the transformation has only just begun.

According to excerpts from the story:

Once a cornfield, the 170-acre Metro Health Village development at M-6 and Byron Center Avenue SW today comprises a hospital, medical offices, several health care businesses, a park and several retail outlets. According to online minutes, Wyoming planning commissioners in 2007 approved site plans for a cancer treatment center, a dentist's office, a Macatawa Bank branch, an ITT Educational Services building, and a 113-room, five-story, 66,000-square-foot Hyatt Place hotel.

In the talking stage — but not yet in the commission's approval process — are a second hotel, another medical office building and a food store, said Tim Cochran, principal planner for Wyoming.

Read the complete story here.


Four new hotels could grace the downtown Grand Rapids' skyline

Hotel operators are betting the medical and convention booms hitting Grand Rapids are going to draw tourists, business owners, and families downtown. That bet prompted developers to create plans for four new downtown hotels.

According to excerpts from the story:

A fourth new downtown-area hotel project is in the works to capitalize on the city's medical boom.

An out-of-state hotel operator is working with the developers of MidTowne Village, Brad Rosely and Dave Levitt, on a deal that would bring a five-story, 149-room hotel on a site along Dudley Avenue NE, between Int. 196 and Michigan Street.

Read the complete story here.


Outside investors sink $150M in West Michigan properties

West Michigan's commercial properties are catching the eye of out-of-state investors and last year's estimated $150 million in property investment is the proof. One company, alone, has seen its way clear to sink some $40 million into the region's economy.

According to excerpts from the story:

It's a record year in western Michigan for out-of-state investment, which likely surpassed $150 million, estimated Colin Kraay, investment adviser at Grubb & Ellis|Paramount Commerce in Grand Rapids.

In the last days of 2007, the firm negotiated the sale of 17 industrial buildings for $35 million to $40 million to California-based Core Realty Holdings - a return buyer in the region. Core in 2005 purchased several industrial buildings in Kent County and the lakeshore.

Read the complete story here.


One-third of West Michigan companies surveyed plan to hire IT staff in 2008

Although many West Michigan businesses have reduced their workforce in the past year, a recent survey reveals that 52 percent of companies with under 50 employees plan to add technology staff in 2008. That's good news for a region working to attract knowledge workers and spur economic development.

According to excerpts from the story:

Looking for a job in information technology? Want to move to West Michigan? You could be in luck according to the latest staffing survey done by Paragon Recruiting.

The survey shows 36 percent of companies that responded plan to increase their IT staff next year.

Read the complete story here.

 


Grand Rapids tortilla chip company fuels expansion of Detroit food producer

The opportunity to expand to West Michigan clinched the deal for a Detroit-area food producer looking to expand its brand and increase its capacity.

According to excerpts from the story:

Ferndale-based Garden Fresh Gourmet has acquired Grand Rapids-based El Matador Tortilla Chip Co.

The deal was completed on Dec. 5 for an undisclosed price.

Read the complete story here.


Diversification keeps local autoworkers employed making medical devices

The demand for specialty medical devices is growing and West Michigan's workforce is uniquely skilled to meet the challenge. In just one short year, one local auto parts maker has launched a new medical device manufacturing center using the skills and equipment already in place.

According to excerpts from the story:

One West Michigan company is using the downsizing of the auto industry as a way to launch a new type of manufacturing in Kentwood.

Autocam has been manufacturing fuel injectors and power steering units for nearly 25 years. Right now employees are pumping out nearly a million parts a day. From diesel parts, to power steering, to brake components, it takes highly skilled laborers to keep up with that type of production.

Now those same employees will be making joint replacements and specially designed surgical equipment.

Read the complete story here.

 


Holiday shoppers buy local and benefit neighborhood businesses

Recent holiday shopping events around West Michigan indicate that, as organizations like Local First and area business associations tout the economic advantages of shopping at locally owned businesses, shoppers are listening and taking the information to heart. Studies show that a whopping 73 percent of every dollar recirculates in the community, boosting the local economy and creating jobs.

According to excerpts from the story:

Mary Lynn Rickman stopped in at YT Galleria on her way home from work Thursday to look for some final Christmas gifts.

"They have such nice things for gifts that you wouldn't find anywhere else," said Rickman, a 59-year-old Grand Rapids resident.

While she loves the wares offered at the gift shop at 959 Cherry St. SE in Grand Rapids, Rickman also is a believer in supporting local businesses.

Read the complete story here.

 


Cultural diversity is key to West Michigan's economic development strategy

If West Michigan is to compete successfully in the global marketplace, the community must welcome and embrace people from different cultural backgrounds, races, and genders. A local report on diversity provides guidelines for attracting and keeping a diverse array of workers to the region.

According to excerpts from the story:

West Michigan businesses are looking to ways to diversify the region.

A group of Chambers of Commerce released a report today called "strategies for a culturally competent region."

The business leaders say to compete in a global economy, the community has to be able to attract talented people from all races, cultures and genders.

Read the complete story here.


Streetcar proposal rides on study and community input

Investing in modern mass transit is no longer an experiment. Several cities have proven, for example, that spending to build modern streetcar systems can spur economic development that far exceeds the costs of the new infrastructure. Grand Rapids leaders understand that, but they are still conducting a study of the idea before laying the first track. Potential private investment, ridership, development potential, utility impacts, and route destinations are a few of the factors under consideration.

According to excerpts from the story:

The Public Transportation Tomorrow Taskforce and consultants DMJM Harris have been analyzing ridership potential, development potential, possible alignments and destinations for a streetcar system, and have been looking at various factors including alternative corridors, utility impacts, vehicle design and other issues.

The task force has selected a 1.6-mile streetcar alignment that runs along Monroe Avenue from the Sixth Street Bridge south to where Monroe turns into Market Avenue and continuing to south of the U.S. 131 overpass. It turns off at Bartlett Street.

Read the complete story here.


$100K needed for study of Greater Kent County transit needs

As cities across North America invest billions in public transit infrastructure to boost their economy and quality of life, residents in suburban and rural Kent County continue to ask for more transportation options. The regional transit agency has pledged $100,000 for a needs study. But the study will cost twice that amount. The challenge is getting county leaders on board. 

According to excerpts from the story:

Since the creation of The Rapid, the transit authority has contracted with Alpine, Byron, Gaines and Cascade townships for both route and para-transit service, and with Ada Township for para-transit service only.

There's also rudimentary transit service in some of the other townships either through the Hope Network-run North Kent Transit Service or The Rapid's County Connection service.

However, there continue to be requests for bus services from people in outlying areas, Varga said. The Grand Valley Metropolitan Council called a meeting last month with representatives from several area townships to discuss the possibility of expanding Rapid bus service into suburban and rural Kent County.

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids metro ranks as one of nation's most affordable housing markets

Although the housing market across the country is in a recession, the Grand Rapids-Wyoming metro area ranks as one of the most affordable housing markets in the US.

According to excerpts from the story:

Indianapolis retained its standing as the most affordable major U.S. housing market for a ninth consecutive quarter in the latest NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI).

"The third-quarter HOI reading indicates that 42% of all new and existing homes that were sold during the third quarter were affordable to families earning the national median income of $59,000," said NAHB President Brian Catalde. "This reflects a slight improvement in affordability from a year ago, when only 40.4% of homes were within reach of median income-earners."

Read the complete story here.


NY Times touts GVSU classical CD as one of the year's best

After a year of work and study, GVSU's New Music Ensemble launched a landmark CD in October, showcasing one American composer's work. Pre-release gigs in New York and a post-release performance in Manhattan garnered the acclaim of classical musical lovers and critics alike.

According to excerpts from the story:

The talk of doom and gloom for the classical recording industry, or at least its CD wing, proceeds apace. Yet recordings continue to stream out from new sources as well as from major labels in retrenchment or recovery.

The music of Steve Reich has been eminently well served by his own ensemble and, partly as a result, largely dependent on it. For any who may have wondered whether future generations could uphold the standard, this magnificent student performance, hailed by Mr. Reich himself, should provide reassurance.

Read the complete story here.

 


Advocates move Michigan's financial literacy curriculum forward

Businesses reap the benefits of employees who are financially savvy. To that end, advocates of the State Board of Education's mandate that require high schools to teach financial literacy are working to move the concept to include instruction at the elementary school level.

According to excerpts from the story:

Advocates of making personal finance education a requirement in Michigan's public schools are working behind the scenes to advance the effort.

The State Board of Education on Oct. 1 agreed to amend the High School Social Studies Content Expectations.

High schools will have to teach financial literacy but will have flexibility in how to offer it, said David Dieterle, president of the Michigan Council on Economic Education.

Such programs can have tangible benefits to businesses, many of which offer their own financial literacy programs, Dieterle said.

"They've seen the correlation between people who are economically and financially literate," he said. "They make better workers, they make for smarter consumers."

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids demands more renewable energy

Keeping with a vision to attain 20 percent of its power from renewable energy sources, the City of Grand Rapids has become the biggest player in Consumers Energy's Green Generation program. The electricity from renewable sources is more costly. But the transition is more than offset by energy conservation and reduced costs in other areas.

According to excerpts from the story:

The City of Grand Rapids has authorized the largest single purchase of Michigan-based renewable energy by enrolling as the largest participant in Consumers Energy's Green Generation program.

The Grand Rapids City Commission yesterday approved a resolution to enroll in the program. Through this action, Grand Rapids has attained its goal of receiving 20 percent of its electric supply from Michigan-based renewable sources by the end of 2008.

Read the complete story here.

 


Grand Rapids debates green energy purchase plan

The City of Grand Rapids stands at the forefront of the campaign to promote energy innovation and renewable fuels in America. Now the city leaders are considering a proposal to become the largest purchaser of green power from Consumers Energy. Ultimately, the move could help promote new jobs, modern businesses, and environmental protection in Michigan.  

According to excerpts from the story:

City commissioners can prove they were not blowing smoke two years ago when they set a goal to buy 20 percent of the city government's electricity from "green" energy sources by the end of 2008.

Commissioners today will consider a plan that will make Grand Rapids' water and sewer utilities the largest customer of Consumers Energy's 2-year-old "Green Generation" program.

If adopted, the city's water and sewer system will spend an extra $166,212 a year for electricity generated by Michigan-based renewable energy sources.

Read the complete story here.


Mayor announces retirement of Grand Rapids City Clerk

After nearly 35 years of dedicated service, one city employee will retire, leaving some mighty big shoes to fill. A statewide search for a replacement is planned.

According to excerpts from the story:

Mayor George Heartwell announced this morning that long-time Grand Rapids City Clerk Terri Hegarty will retire in February 2008.

Hegarty started working for the city of Grand Rapids in August of 1973 and has worked in several different city departments. She was appointed City Clerk in February of 1995. In 2007, she was named Clerk of the Year by the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks.

Read the complete story here.


400 African American actors, artists, and Christian leaders collaborate on audio series

After three years of work, a Grand Rapids-based bible publisher has launched an audio series of the complete Bible as performed by famous African American actors—including Denzel Washington, Alfre Woodard, and Forest Whitaker—backed up by sound effects and original scores.

According to excerpts from the story:

An epic project of literally biblical proportion hits stores nationwide this week.

Featuring an A-Level cast of professional performers and more than 90 hours of story mixed with theatrical-style sound effects and an original orchestral score, Inspired By ... The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible brings both the Old and New Testaments of God's Word to life.

The audio product includes the voices of nearly 400 world-renowned African American actors, artists, and Christian leaders, including Forest Whitaker, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Denzel and Pauletta Washington, Common, Nick Cannon, Angela Bassett, Alfre Woodard and Bishop T.D. Jakes.

Read the complete story here.

 


Michigan lawmakers reject President's veto of bill to enhance Great Lakes

In an unusual display of solidarity, Michigan democrats and republicans voted to support a bill providing billions of dollars for water pollution cleanup, sewage control to prevent the contamination of Great Lakes beaches, shoreline protection for the Detroit River, and more.

According to excerpts from the story:

Michigan lawmakers on Tuesday swiftly rejected President Bush's veto of a bill authorizing millions of dollars for water projects in the Great Lakes region.

The House voted 361-54 in support of the first override of a Bush veto, backing a $23.2 billion water resources bill that contains dozens of water and sewer projects. All nine of the

Republicans in Michigan's delegation joined with the six Democrats in a rare break with the president.

Read the complete story here.

 


Calvin lands grant to teach engineering students entrepreneurship

Competent entrepreneurship will propel West Michigan's economic future by generating jobs and investment opportunities, and one local college is retooling its engineering curriculum to teach students how to turn an engineering idea into a business opportunity.

According to excerpts from the story:

Calvin College is planning to teach engineering students entrepreneurship skills, using a $50,000, two-year grant from the Kern Family Foundation.

“What we’re trying to do in coursework is provide more opportunities for students to think not just about the theory of engineering, but how to take an idea that has engineering aspects to it and run with that idea, whether in big companies or independent.”

Read the complete story here.


Oklahoma travel writer touts Grand Rapids' sights and sound

In a recent visit to Grand Rapids, one journalist found that the city's cultural attractions, tasty eateries, and horse-drawn carriages made a trip well worth taking. A day at the lakeshore also introduced this traveler to Michigan's natural beauty and Dutch hospitality.

According to excerpts from the story:

Just a few steps from the Ford Museum is the Van Andel Museum Center of the Public Museum of Grand Rapids — a cumbersome name for a really interesting museum. You can find a little of everything here but, unlike too many museums with varied collections, the holdings here are attractively organized and artifacts carefully chosen for quality — avoiding that grandma’s attic ambiance.

There are wonderful restaurants to be found downtown. I can personally attest to the deliciousness of the salmon and corn chowder at Leo’s while the tapas at San Chez left all of us full as ticks.

Read the complete story here.


Medical Device Consortium opens doors for new members

With a charter and membership criteria in place, a new West Michigan medical device consortium aims to leverage the members' collective expertise, attract other businesses, and market the region as a destination for medical device design, development and production.

According to excerpts from the story:

Three months after its initial formation, a consortium of medical device companies in Grand Rapids is opening the door to new members and planning to cast a wider net.

Founding members of the West Michigan Medical Device Consortium have worked since summer to draft a charter and membership criteria and are now positioned to bring other manufacturers aboard to drive momentum.

Since the consortium began coming together last summer, the WMSTI has received about 30 inquiries for other companies involved in medical devices that are interested in joining.

Read the complete story here.


Streetcar investment could accelerate Grand Rapids' revival

For about the same money it cost to build the Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids could develop a streetcar system that would return billions of dollars to the local economy, just like the streetcar system in places like Portland, OR has brought some $3 billion to that city in less than a decade. A feasibility study is underway and the results should be ready by summer 2008.

According to excerpts from the story:

The city of San Francisco has them, so does Portland, Oregon, but how about Grand Rapids?
We're talking about streetcars and thanks to the Rapid, it's becoming a real possibility to have them here in West Michigan.

Right now, It's just an idea, but one that is becoming more and more realistic. The Rapid has hired a company to look at how it would benefit the city.

Read the complete story here.


Seattle streetcar ready to roll in December

It cost $51 million to build and will be tested over the next eight weeks, but all indications are that Seattle's new commuter train is on track for it's first run in mid-December.

According to excerpts from the story:

A new South Lake Union Streetcar train rolls down Seattle's Westlake Avenue North in its first low-speed test, at 5 to 10 mph.

In the background is the image of former Sonics forward Detlef Shrempf, painted on the vacant Athletic Supply building. "Everything's working," said Steve Friend, a city engineer.

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids launches study of rebuilding urban streetcar system

With an eye toward spurring economic development in downtown Grand Rapids, The Rapid transit board approved an eight-month feasibility study for establishing a streetcar line downtown. The streetcar would not only connect key destination in the city's core, but would also connect areas south of the city with downtown.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS -- The streetcars some desire for downtown are inching toward the tracks after The Rapid transit board unanimously approved spending nearly $360,000 in federal and state funds for a consultant's study.

The board is asking DMJM Harris, a transportation consultant, to determine whether streetcars would work in Grand Rapids and help spur development.

The streetcar idea has caught the imagination of some local leaders.

Read the complete story here.

 


80 US cities studying, building, or expanding streetcar systems

Cities across the country are looking to cash in on the same kind of dramatic commercial and housing development experienced by Portland, OR after its streetcar system was introduced a few years ago. Billions of dollars of development and thousands of jobs are waiting to be had, so cities hungry to accelerate their revitalizations are hopping aboard the national streetcar movement.

According to excerpts from the story:

In Portland, Ore., and nearly a dozen other American cities, the whine of electric streetcar motors is fast becoming a symbol of a thriving city center.

Dallas opened a 2.8-mile line in 1989, and since then eight cities have built new streetcar lines, including Memphis, Little Rock, San Francisco and Tampa, all serving growing numbers of riders using restored cars or replicas.

Miami, Columbus, Cincinnati, Phoenix, Missoula, Grand Rapids and some 70 other American cities are studying the feasibility of opening lines, according to Reconnecting America, a national nonprofit transit research group in Oakland, Calif.

Read the complete story here.


Scottsdale studies streetcar to expand transportation choices

Light rail in Scottsdale could be one method of providing residents with broader transit options for transportation to work, shopping, and cultural destinations, and could spur development and interurban connections. A similar light rail line in nearby Phoenix is already under construction and will open in 2008.

According to excerpts from the story:

A light rail or streetcar system along Scottsdale Road is not needed to relieve congestion through the southern part of the city, but should be further studied and would fulfill the general plan by giving residents a choice on how to travel.

Hales said while Scottsdale’s transit-dependent population is small, people will ride high-capacity transit if it’s high quality. He said it’s been shown elsewhere that workers will ride bus-rapid transit to work and rail transit to places other than work. It could also lead to more development and connections to other cities.

Read the complete story here.


Young professionals will gravitate to Cincinnati streetcar

Artistic vision and design are key economic drivers for the future of West Michigan, and creative young professionals, like those in Cincinnati, are looking for more than a community of kindred spirits—they want the transit options offered in forward thinking that attract young professionals who stay, create, and build the economy.

According to excerpts from the story:

I am by definition a young professional, part of the creative class, and I am enrolled at the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning.

As a creative person, it can be difficult to make it work here over a place like Chicago, New York or Atlanta, but it seems as though people are afraid to even try at times. We need to continue to prioritize the arts and place new emphasis on things like mass transit.

Read the complete story here.


Streetcar back on track in New Orleans

A vital piece of New Orleans' transportation history is back on track for the first time since Hurricane Katrina.

According to excerpts from the story:

The St. Charles Avenue streetcar will begin operating again for the first time since Katrina.

The line will officially reopen on November 10 - it will run from Canal Street to Napolean Avenue until the rest of the line can be repaired.

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids company returns from bankruptcy, possibly with dozens of jobs

In an era when many economists say West Michigan's industrial age is over, one Grand Rapids entrepreneur has proven them wrong by resurrecting a bankrupt company, landing a Chrysler contract, and employing 30 people—and he says that's just the beginning.

According to excerpts from the story:

Art Bott Sr. is putting his money where his mouth is — and where his heart was before he retired.

“We have a wonderful workforce in western Michigan. It’s very talented, it’s under-utilized … These people need jobs,” said Bott, the owner — again — of Grand Rapids Plastics.

Bott, 73, thought he had retired in 2001 when he sold Grand Rapids Plastics. A year and a half later, the injection molding company on Roger B. Chaffee Boulevard in Wyoming was bankrupt and ceased production.

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids Public Schools propose innovative effort to drive a future-oriented economy

In response to recent budget woes and other challenges the Grand Rapids Public School system has faced in recent years, school leaders have proposed public/private partnerships that will create innovative schools and prepare students to lead the city's economic growth. One group of community and business leaders has already submitted their idea for a new middle school that could begin as early as fall 2008.

According to excerpts from the story:

Grand Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor knows the importance his district plays in driving the local economy.

He's hoping others in the community do as well and will come forward to help create specialized schools, known as "centers of innovation."

The new schools could include an arts academy, a college preparatory high school or single-gender schools.

The centers of innovation could differ from traditional schools in their focus, requirements for teachers, hours of operation and length of school year. The new schools will also feature smaller class sizes and be more independent than the district's other schools.

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids poised to put Michigan on transit map

Detroit's civic leaders are watching Grand Rapids closely as the West Michigan city seeks federal funding for a new Bus Rapid Transit system that could revolutionize the state's transit system. If that funding is approved, civic leaders across the state say it could create the leverage needed to overhaul the state's archaic public transportation policy and spending.

According to excerpts from the story:

ROYAL OAK—Sandra Nelson is shaping big plans to literally get metro Detroit back on track with a modern, regional public transportation system.

But, as crucial as that is to helping southeastern Michigan attract young workers, lure new economy companies, and compete in the 21st century, Ms. Nelson, the energetic director of special projects for Wayne County’s Department of Public Services, is also paying close attention to what is happening 160 miles to the west, in the Grand Rapids region.

Read the complete story here.

 


Saipan welcomes WWII photos from West Michigan family

Rare photos of Saipan may corroborate the theory that Amelia Earhart spent her last days on the island in the hands of the Japanese, and the West Michigan family who owns the photos is donating them for further research. The images, taken by a WWII soldier, may help filmmakers who are attempting to document Earhart's last flight.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan, USA--Recently discovered rare Kodachrome slides taken on a remote Pacific Island during World War II will lead Gregg Hagley of Grand Rapids and his two sons on a historic journey.

Staff Sergeant Raymond H. Hagley of the 73rd Bombardment Wing of the 20th Air Force took the slide photos while stationed at Isley Field on Saipan in 1944/1945. Before Hagley passed away in January 1991, he gave the slides to his son, Gregg Hagley. “I knew they were special, just how special I wasn't sure until recently,” Hagley said.

Read the complete story here.


Streetcar sought to solve Cincinnati budget crunch

Citing an estimated $1.4 billion economic return to the city, leaders in Cincinnati recently proposed spending $102 million on a streetcar line to dig the city out of ia $29 million budget deficity, its largest ever. The potential economic impact was revealed by a study of major metro areas around the country that have reaped billions in benefits by investing in streetcar lines.

According to excerpts from the story:

Cincinnati should spend $102 million to build a streetcar line even though the city faces a $29 million deficit in 2008, officials urged Tuesday.

City Manager Milton Dohoney and City Architect Michael Moore pitched the project to City Council's Economic Development Committee, saying the investment would pay dividends in years to come as a result of increased economic development from new businesses and residents along the rail line's route.

The project would cost $88 million in 2007 dollars, the report concluded. In 2010, the price would jump to $102 million because of inflation, and have a projected $1.4 billion economic impact on the region, David Vozzolo, an HDR vice president, said in May, when he made a presentation to some council members.

Read the complete story here.


Mayweather wants GR kids to train like Dancing with the Stars

They may float gracefully across the stage, but all the stars in one of TV's hottest dance competitions say the training is grueling—and slimming—and, Floyd Mayweather, one of this season's stars, hopes to bring that physical training to the kids in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

According to excerpts from the story:

Even world champion boxer Floyd Mayweather is showing changes from dancing. His weight hasn't changed, but his manager, Leonard Ellerbe, says he's noticed changes in Mayweather's posture. "He's standing up straighter, I have noticed that," says Ellerbe.

Ellerbe says that Mayweather has been so impressed by the dancing workouts — and the effect the show has had on his fans — that he's thinking about opening up a dance studio for kids in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Read the complete story here.


GR Chamber recognizes top minority-owned businesses

Two minority-owned design and construction firms have garnered top honors at the upcoming Minority Business Celebration and, as minority-owned businesses in those sectors continue to grow in number, a diversity of firms working together is key to maintaining the momentum.

According to excerpts from the story:

Isaac V. Norris & Associates PC has been named Minority Business of the Year and the West Michigan Minority Contractors Association was named Advocate of the Year as part of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2007 Minority Business Celebration. The architectural firm and association will be honored during an evening event at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Oct. 23.

In bid documents Spectrum and VAI recommend that about 15 percent of any contractors hired for projects be minority-owned.

The mandates send a message to general contractors.

"General contactors make the effort to make sure that it happens," Ortega said.

Read the complete story here.


West Michigan seeks - and scores - top young science talent

A recent study of West and Southwest Michigan's life sciences industry finds that a growing cluster of firms will create an attraction for young scientists and researchers looking to move to, or back to, the area. Other draws include quality of life, access to natural assets like Lake Michigan, and alternate career opportunities. 

According to excerpts from the story:

As Perrigo seeks a far greater role in the global market for generic drugs, as well as active pharmaceutical ingredients, it's reaching out for talent "to a much greater degree than ever before," said Jaclyn Ahearne, the company's director of talent acquisition.

And right now, as Van Andel Institute senior scientific investigator Art Alberts puts it, the region "is not seen as a center of research" and "not on the radar" of the scientific community, at least not to the degree of Boston, San Francisco and North Carolina.

But that is changing, and Bee and others say the growing cluster of life-sciences companies can ultimately create its own allure.

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids ready to compete for tourism

With all the growth and development taking place in Grand Rapids, the city has a lot to be proud of, and with a new hotel in its midst it's geared up to compete globally for convention and tourism business. Add to that the Van Andel Arena and the new Grand Rapids Art Museum, the city has something to offer everyone.

According to excerpts from the article:

GRAND RAPIDS -- In 1976, Peter Secchia and his beloved hometown of Grand Rapids faced national embarrassment.

Secret Service agents had swept through downtown, scoping through the sea of abandoned buildings that marred the potential presidential parade route city fathers chose to honor its favorite son, Gerald Ford.

It was election eve and Ford -- who ended up losing to Jimmy Carter -- was to make a stop in his hometown.

"They took one look at the boarded up buildings and empty storefronts and wanted to end our plans," says Secchia.

Read the complete story here.


Metro Health's eco-design saves energy while hospital pampers patients

Metro Health is vying for more than its current 12 percent of the local healthcare market, and appealing to patients through its earth-friendly design is part of the package. Another part is pleasing the patient with amenities such as private rooms and being able to order food at any time of day or night.

According to excerpts from the story:

Can a hospital win customers with environmentally friendly practices, newly released movies and a full menu of meals patients can order whenever they want?

The 208-bed, $170-million hospital that Metro Health is opening today in the southwest Grand Rapids suburbs is positioned to be so ecological and patient-pleasing that it will capture market share from the area's other health care providers.

With only 12% of the Grand Rapids market currently, Metro Health is going after some of the turf dominated by Spectrum Health and St. Mary's Health Care, part of Novi-based Trinity Health, the two giants of health care in western Michigan.

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids employs more than most of state

Grand Rapids had the one of the highest employment rates in the state in August, and that holds true for much of West Michigan, posting strong growth in payroll jobs that anywhere in the state.

According to excerpts from the story:

LANSING -- In August, the four-county Grand Rapids region held its own with a 5.9 percent unemployment rate.

That is just a hair above August 2006, when the rate was 5.8 percent.

For Holland-Grand Haven, or Ottawa County, the rate rose to 5.3 percent from 5 percent last year.

The results are good news next to the state pace of 7.4 percent unemployment last month, according to the state Bureau of Labor Market Information & Strategic Initiatives.

Read the complete story here.


Making medical devices brings opportunities to area manufacturers

With West Michigan's strong ties to manufacturing, many companies are looking to diversify into medical device manufacturing, and the prospects are encouraging. Creating components, lean manufacturing, and taking your solution to the problem are all key ingredients for keeping the lines running and the factory in the black.

According to excerpts from the story:

Breaking into the medical device business isn't easy, though it is a way for manufacturers to diversify and can occur if you offer a niche, local industry players say.

Carving out a role in the industry doesn't mean you have to design and develop your own medical device, speakers said during a panel discussion last week in Grand Rapids.

Possessing a niche expertise in a specific stop along the manufacturing chain can get you started, speakers said at the IGNITE Great Lakes show put on by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers

A manufacturer can carve out a role in the industry as a component or service provider via engineering, prototyping, machining, fabricating, injection molding, assembly or subassembly.

Read the complete story here.


Largest residential builder expands to GR

Despite marked downturns in the housing market, one Portage builder has become the top residential construction firm in the Grand Rapids area. With an expansive showroom where customers can touch and see their home building finishes, the company plans to grab a larger share of the market.

According to excerpts from the story:

Allen Edwin -- Kalamazoo's largest homebuilder for some time -- quietly became the largest homebuilder in Grand Rapids this year and plans to continue that trend, moving one of the company's partners there permanently.

The Portage-based homebuilder, despite a sharp decline in the residential market in the region, continues to increase the number of homes built and sold every month, President Gregory DeHaan said.

Read the complete story here.


Eco-friendliness begins at the table

Farm fresh foods and garden fresh veggies prepared by a local chef and eaten by local folks at a local restaurant are just part of the eco-friendly aspects of a fundraiser for two nonprofits whose mission is to make people aware of how eco-friendly practices can start at the dinner table.

According to excerpts from the story:

Lisa Rose Starner is having 350 people over for dinner Oct. 4. She believes a plate of deliciousness can change your life.

The fundraising meal at The B.O.B. will favor local ingredients: heirloom tomatoes, butternut squash, organic apples, smoked whitefish, late-harvest vegetables, hand-crafted cheeses, maple syrup and lamb.

"It's time to have the conversation about how everything got on your dinner plate," said Starner, executive director of Blandford Nature Center and Mixed Greens.

Read the complete story here.


Two area HMOs awarded top honors for quality heath care

As West Michigan's healthcare community continues to attract new doctors, nurses, and other professionals to the region, many of the healthcare providers and HMOs lead the state in quality care practices. Two of those organizations garnered top honors for Best Practices.

According to excerpts from the story:

PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Sept. 18, the Michigan Association of Health Plans held its 7th annual Pinnacle Awards for Best Practices award reception at which eight Michigan HMOs received the MAHP Pinnacle Award for Best Practices.

"Organizations such as these are leading the way in serving participants efficiently and effectively," Representative Pam Byrnes, Pinnacle judge, said.

Representative Alma Wheeler-Smith, a Pinnacle judge, observed: "Identifying and celebrating innovative programs is an exciting way to drive creative practices in the rest of the industry.

Read the complete story here.


WIRED on the move

After months of conceptualization and research centered around boosting West Michigan's competitiveness, WIRED is ready to launch it's second phase: execution of ideas on generating jobs thorough innovation, manufacturing, healthcare and design.

According to excerpts from the story:

Now 18 months and $4.3 million into West Michigan's Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development Initiative, administrators of the $15 million, federally funded program are anticipating significant activity in the coming months as Phase II gets underway.

Last month, the West Michigan Strategic Alliance presented the results of 12 separate programs, known in WIRED as "innovations," to its advisory board. Eight of those were approved for second-stage funding. Two other innovations — both research projects — have been successfully completed. Of the two remaining, one project is in stasis and one has been terminated.

Read the complete story here.


Alternative Energy manufacturing could bring big bucks to W MI

In a effort to assess how and if the manufacturing capabilities of West Michigan can be redirected to advance energy innovation, two local organizations have launched a seven-county study. The result could be the launch pad for thousands of new jobs in the state.

According to excerpts from the story:

Tuesday September 4, 2007 - MiBiz

WEST MICHIGAN — The West Michigan Strategic Alliance and The Right Place Inc. are conducting an Alternative Energy Cluster analysis for the region.

The West Michigan Alternative Energy Cluster Technical Team led by William Stough, Sustainable Research Group CEO, is looking for the region’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of the alternative energy industry, as well as West Michigan’s potential for using the industry as a source of regional economic development.

Read the complete story here.


Great Lakes key economic competitiveness, according to D.C. think tank

As Congress sits on a proposal to spend $26 billion to clean up the Great Lakes, a new report confirms that the health of the Great Lakes is the driving force behind the region's economy and a cleanup could bring $50 billion of direct economic benefit. And that remarkable figure doesn't even include what a restoration could do for our quality of life.

According to excerpts from the story:

A cost-benefit analysis showing a large potential economic gain lays out the case for funding the cleanup of the Great Lakes.

As a proposal sits in Congress to fund the estimated $26 billion cost, the Brookings Institution study projects a $50 billion direct economic benefit across a 12-state region from restoring the Great Lakes.

The report makes a "compelling case" for action on the restoration proposal offered two years ago, said Robert Litan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Read the complete story here.


West Michigan Sports Commission off to a running start

Sports tourism could infuse the West Michigan economy with millions of dollars over the next ten years, as well as bring top-notch sports entertainment to the region. If the sold-out first annual meeting at Grand Rapids' new JW Marriott is any indication, supporters are ready to rally.

According to excerpts from the story:

The West Michigan Sports Commission is leading off with a grand slam — or maybe it’s tipping off with a slam dunk, in respect to the organization’s guest.

The group’s first annual meeting, a luncheon to be held in the new JW Marriott Hotel’s International Ballroom on Sept. 26, is sold out. Roughly 900 have bought tickets to the event that features MSU head basketball coach, Tom Izzo, as the commission’s opening speaker.

Read the complete story here.


Hispanic heritage honored at local colleges

Colleges around Grand Rapids are planning events this month to honor the independence of several Latin American countries, but one presentation at Grand Valley State University aims to spur individuals to take action regarding the country's ongoing immigration debate.

According to excerpts from the story:

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP -- As the immigration debate continues across the country, it is important for people to be aware of what is going on and how they can help.

That's the message behind a coming presentation at Grand Valley State University, as part of a series of events observing Hispanic Heritage Month.

The event, called Daughters of Juarez: A True Story of Serial Murders South of the Border, will be Sept. 17 on the Allendale campus and feature a discussion with Univision correspondent Teresa Rodriguez.

Read the complete story here.

 


'Green' philanthropist puts GR in international spotlight

One of Grand Rapids' most prominent visionaries with a passion for saving the environment has donated multiple millions for environmental research and LEED-certified public buildings. This interview explores his passion and the groundbreaking path he's taken to bring environmental causes into the public eye.

According to excerpts from the story:

Civic visionary, environmental hero, and something of a rebel, Peter M. Wege supported causes long before they were embraced by other business leaders or the public.

I got my wake-up call when I tried to land a plane in Pittsburgh on a sunny day during World War II [when he was a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps] and couldn’t see the airport through the industrial smoke. At first, I thought that I was going to have to bail out. They had to turn on the airport and runway lights for me. That was 1944.

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids own Gerald Ford commemorated on US postage stamp

Last Friday, 80 million commemorative stamps honoring former president Gerald R. Ford went on sale, the same day simultaneous ceremonies for the unveiling took place in Ford's hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan and near his home in Palm Desert, California.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Gerald R. Ford left his stamp on the nation. Now it can travel on letters worldwide.

The 41-cent first-class stamp features a painting of Ford and memorializes his life of public service. He was 93 when he died Dec. 26 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

"We just feel like it's a wonderful stamp," said son Michael Ford, whose voice frequently cracked with emotion during the ceremony at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids. The late president's brother, Richard Ford, also was there.

Read the complete story here.


Proposed bill increases funding for state's tourism industry

As Michigan business leaders look to create jobs and replace losses in manufacturing, the tourism industry could be a big part of the solution.  A new senate bill proposes to infuse the industry with $30 million allocated from the state's six percent sales tax.

According to excerpts from the story:

A bill introduced by Sen. Jason Allen, Republican of Traverse City, would earmark a portion of revenue from the state's six percent sales tax to pay for tourism promotion.

Backers of the idea say it's long overdue, particularly as several other Great Lakes states have increased promotional budgets while Michigan's -- except for a current one-time appropriation -- has generally remained stagnant amid its ongoing fiscal problems.

Read the complete story here.


Farmland prices rise as ethanol production takes off

As West Michigan takes the first steps to becoming a major player in the production of alternative fuels, such as, corn-based ethanol, farmers are enjoying a jump in commodity prices and land values. As increased demand pushed corn prices to record highs, Michigan farmers hoping to cash in planted 15 percent more land than in 2006.

According to excerpts from the story:

While drought conditions have somewhat dampened optimism this season, growing interest in ethanol and other next-generation agricultural products and rising commodity prices are driving investment in farmland locally and across the Midwest.

“Ethanol has made corn king in our area,” said Thomas Stewart, a farmer in Barry County six miles north of U.S. Bio Woodbury, the U.S. BioEnergy ethanol plant in Lake Odessa. “We’ve seen land triple and quadruple. The attitudes have changed; everyone wants to get bigger and not necessarily better.”

Read the complete story here.


10,000 enroll in renewable energy program for homes and businesses

A number of renewable energy projects, including harnessing landfill gases for fuel, wind turbines-generated electricity, and others, are underway since Consumers Energy launched an alternative fuel option program for customers. In just one year, enrollment in the program has jumped 75 percent.

According to excerpts from the story:

JACKSON, Mich., Aug. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Customer enrollment in Consumers Energy's Green Generation renewable energy program is growing faster than a corn field in August and has reached 10,000. That's up from 2,500 customer enrollments a little more than a year ago.

"We're delighted to see an increase in the number of customers volunteering to support the development of Michigan-based renewable energy," said Green Generation Program Manager Steve Stubleski.

Since the launch of the Green Generation Program in September 2005 following MPSC approval, several new Michigan-based renewable energy projects have started operations.

Read the complete story here.

 


President of The Right Place wins ATHENA award

For the 18th year, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is honoring women community leaders with awards that recognize their contributions to business, the community, and to helping other women overcome obstacles and achieve goals. This year twenty-one women were nominated.

According to excerpts from the story:

Birgit Klohs, president of The Right Place Inc., has been named the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce 2007 ATHENA Award recipient. The ATHENA Award honors an individual who has demonstrated leadership, mentored and opened doors of opportunities for women, and contributed time and talent to the community.

Another component of the ATHENA Award celebration is the awarding of scholarships to four women over the age of 30 who are pursuing a higher education. Grand Rapids is the first ATHENA program in the country to establish a scholarship program.

Read the complete story here.


Life science study says $1B investment could bring $5B and 1,100 jobs

A recent study of the life sciences industry in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo says the key to moving the industry into the international spotlight is generating intellectual property, and that will lure the talent and capital needed to sustain momentum. That also means private and public investment of up to $1 billion to generate the jobs and revenue.

According to excerpts from the story:

A new report lays the foundation to lift western Michigan's life-sciences industry to its full potential and back to global prominence.

Doing so would require additional private and public investment of some $1 billion, resulting in a "reasonable" return on investment of $5 billion within a decade and directly generating 1,100 jobs, according to modeling done by consultant Ed Bee, president of Taimerica Management Co.

Piecemealed or poorly funded efforts will fail, Bee wrote in the report, and publicly driven initiatives often make investments that are too small to yield desired results.

Read the complete story here.


Housing and auto markets predicted to improve in 2008

After suffering through the worst housing slump in decades and losses of jobs and manufacturers because of declining auto sales, economic experts at the University of Michigan predict things will turn around in early 2008. Sales of existing homes will continual to fall slightly, but housing starts will be up.

According to excerpts from the story:

University of Michigan economists are calling for weak growth through the end of the year, but a rebound in housing and car markets during 2008.
The annual summer forecast of the US economy says the downturn in residential construction should hit bottom in early 2008, then consumer spending should improve as vehicle sales "make a gradual recovery," according to Saul Hymans, Joan Crary and Janet Wolfe.

Read the complete story here.


GR named one of National Geographic's Top 50 Adventure Towns

Grand Rapids ranked among the top waterfront towns across the US in National Geographic Adventure's first-ever article highlighting the Top 50 Adventure Towns state-by-state—a ranking that puts this West Michigan city in the same spotlight as Waimea, Hawaii and Mystic, Connecticut.

According to excerpts from the story:

For our September 2007 issue, contributing editor Dan Koeppel spent months tracking down and compiling a list of this year's top adventure towns. With an ideal mix of terrain, activity, and opportunity, each of the action hubs he found could inspire a complete and total life change.

Top Waterfront Towns
Waimea, Hawaii - Hot Spot
Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Newport, Rhode Island
Rockland, Maine
Mystic, Connecticut
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Annapolis, Maryland
Beaufort, South Carolina
Lewiston, Idaho

Read the complete story here.

 


Pure Michigan campaign lures tourists to Great Lakes State

The numbers are impressive: 55,000 hits a day on the Michigan.org tourism web site, nearly two million web hits in July, and a number one ranking in the US for most visits to a tourism web site. So are the tourists visiting in person, or just online? Tourism officials say yes.

According to excerpts from the story:

LANSING — Michigan's tourism Web site set a new record for traffic in July, with 1.7 million visits for the month, or an average of 55,000 visits daily. Since April, the michigan.org Web site has also ranked first among all state tourism Web sites for the most traffic, which the Michigan Economic Development Corp. attributes to the launch of the Pure Michigan advertising campaign this spring.

Read the complete story here.


Downtown GR condos draw empty nesters and young professionals

The urban renaissance seems to have a firm foothold in downtown Grand Rapids as new condo dwellers of all ages welcome a radical change in living and lifestyle. The downtown housing market offers buyers plenty of options in amenities and time-savers—like not having to mow the lawn.

According to excerpts from the story:

John and Jean Nieuwenhuis' seventh-floor downtown condominium offers breathtaking views of Grand Rapids' city center.

And the couple is just a short elevator ride to the rooftop deck at Cityview Condominiums, 60 Monroe Center NW, where the tops of skyscrapers are at eye level.

It's a different world from the suburban Rockford home where the Nieuwenhuises raised their two daughters -- now in their 20s and living in their own downtown condos.

And that's why they like it.

Read the complete story here.

 


Diversity and racism hot topics for KISD conference

Students with diverse cultures, ethnicities, and languages fill the classrooms of Kent Intermediate School District schools, and teachers and administrators will lead the way to understanding teh differences with new initiatives and goals to be presented at the KISD's annual diversity conference. This year, students, teachers, and administrators will receive diversity training in six cross-cultural competencies.

According to excerpts from the story:

Knowledge of teaching and learning in a diverse society is essential today, say area administrators.

And everyone in the Kent Intermediate School District –students, teachers and administrators—will receive training in the areas of diversity and racism this year.

Kent Intermediate School District is bringing together area school leaders to speak about new initiatives and countywide goals in diversity for the annual Diversity Kick Off Aug. 16 from 8 to 10:30 a.m. at East Grand Rapids High School in the Performing Arts Center.

Read the complete story here.


GR schools wrap up construction

Students of two Grand Rapids schools will begin their academic year in brand new accommodations, part of a $165 million tax increase approved in 2004. Although modern buildings replaced several outdated schools, historic preservation was high on the "To Do" list for construction crews.

According to excerpts from the story:

The two towers that prompt children to nickname Harrison Park as the "Harry Potter school" remain, but construction crews inside are working their own magic.

While exterior walls of the 90-year-old building were left standing, the insides have been gutted and replaced to create a modern school.
Harrison is one of two new -- or virtually new -- schools expected to be ready by the time students head back to class Sept. 4.

Read the complete story here.


Private firm still seeks GR parking lots

A local developer says although its initial offer of $45 million for 14 Grand Rapids' parking properties was shot down by city commissioners, another offer may be put on the table. The developer says purchasing the properties isn't the only option, and they are looking at other West Michigan cities who seem more willing to put their parking real estate on the market.  

According to excerpts from the story:

Second Ward Commissioner Rick Tormala has made it clear that he thinks the city should take a long, hard look at leasing the public parking system to a private operator.

Tormala argued two weeks ago that under the existing set-up, parking revenue to the city only pays for parking operations. But if the system was leased and in private hands, he said the yearly lease payment could help cover what he considered were more vital services than parking, such as police and fire protection.

And Third Coast Development Partners couldn’t agree more.

Read the complete story here.


Local bridges are safe, but some need repair

Michigan road builders say that even though the 700-plus bridges in MDOT's Grand Region are safe, the state needs to find the money to fix problems noted in the inspections before those problems become worse. A tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis called bridge safety across the nation into the spotlight this week.

According to excerpts from the story:

The fatal bridge collapse in Minneapolis raises the question: Are local bridges safe?

According to inspections based on federal standards, 30 of the Michigan Department of Transportation Grand Region's 736 bridges have been labeled "structurally deficient," including 22 in Kent County and three in Ottawa County.

But state officials and local road designers and builders say the spans are safe.

Read the complete story here.


GR manufacturer invests, diversifies, and succeeds

A Grand Rapids manufacturer invests $1.8 million in one new machine that will launch the company on a diversification quest that includes new industries, new markets, and new profits.

According to excerpts from the story:

Fred Mellema started working in his dad's coating business when he was 10 years old. The plant Mellema's own 10-year-old son began working in a couple weeks ago is a very different place.

The company, founded in 1964, just invested $1.8 million in a sizable new machine, made by Thiereca Inc. in Grand Rapids, that will allow the coater to complete a substantial project for Caterpillar, launching it into industries beyond automotive, says Victor Stacey, sales and marketing manager.

Read the complete story here.


GR city commissioners amend Ren Zone policy to encourage job growth

Recent amendments to GR’s 1997 Renaissance Zone Extension Policy are meant to generate new jobs, which would mean more tax dollars in city coffers to offset other tax losses.

According to excerpts from the story:

City commissioners recently amended the Renaissance Zone Extension Policy for properties that were included in the original 1997 zone.

Back then, many of those properties were industrial sites. But since then, quite a few have been converted into other uses.

And it’s the residential use of these Ren Zone properties that last month led commissioners to alter the policy they had approved last fall.

City and state income taxes are exempted for residents who live in the zone, but not for those who work in one. Extending the designation for a residential project wouldn’t bring any immediate or new tax revenue to the city. But granting an extension to a property that adds new jobs would.

Read the complete story here.


Mayoral hopefuls field questions on live call-in show

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell and three challengers took on questions from callers this week on live television during the first public gathering of mayoral candidates. While the questions weren't surprising, some of the answers were.

According to excerpts from the story:

In a live call-in show on public-access television, Mayor George Heartwell defended his record, saying he deserved a second term leading one of two Michigan cities to see job growth in recent years.

Challengers Rick Tormala, a two-term city commissioner, and James Rinck, a 14-year Grand Rapids Public Schools board member, talked up their political resumes. Political newcomer Jackie Miller offered few specifics, saying she would rely on common sense if elected.

Rinck took a shot at Tormala, who unsuccessfully tried to privatize the city's downtown parking system this spring.

"Where do these crazy ideas come from?" Rinck asked.

Read the complete story here.

 


Plan for historic Brikyaat district adopted into GR Master Plan

After three years of research, applying for grants, collaborating with a professional planner, and more, the City of Grand Rapids unanimously voted to add the Brikyaat Plan to the city's Master Plan. Key goals include advancing residential and business activity in the Brikyaat.

According to excerpts from the story:

The Brikyaat is in.

City commissioners made the Brikyaat Plan the first "grassroots" effort to be admitted into the city's Master Plan last week.

Brikyaat is in the Midtown neighborhood, and residents there took it upon themselves to develop a plan to advance residential and business activity in the area. They devoted three years to the process, raised over $70,000 in grants from a handful of foundations to fund it, hired a professional planner to guide them through it, and got their plan officially recognized by the city in March.

"We really hope this will be an economic driver in this neighborhood," said Kelly Otto. "We're hoping to incorporate a seasonal market and restaurant."

Read the complete story here.


Great Lakes stewardship key to competitiveness, mayors say

The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative asked its members to reduce water consumption by 15 percent, and this week 28 cities pledged their commitment to the goal. The cities also requested immediate action by Canadian and US governments to pass invasive species and water ballast legislation.

According to excerpts from the story:

At its fourth annual meeting held in Grand Rapids, Michigan, members of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative today announced significant progress with its Water Conservation Challenge. After only one year, twenty-eight cities have committed to a goal of 15% reduction in water consumption by 2015.

The mayors attending the Cities Initiative's annual conference also called on the Canadian and U.S. Governments to pass comprehensive invasive species and ballast water control legislation immediately, with mandatory measures for ships carrying ballast water and those with no ballast on board.

Read the complete story here.


Visitors bureau closes in on 300 DeVos Place bookings

This year promises to be the best year yet for conventions and tradeshows at DeVos Place, and the Convention and Visitors Bureau is boosting that success with plans to attract more African-American organizations to the facility. At the same time, an expanded marketing push aimed at boosting the economy through tourism may be the catalyst needed to entice tourists to bring their vacation dollars to Michigan's Third Coast.

According to excerpts from the story:

The Convention and Visitors Bureau is getting close to having booked 300 conventions and trade shows at DeVos Place, the city’s convention center.

Bureau Vice President of Sales George Helmstead recently announced that his staff had just closed on the 295th meeting since the building opened. He said he hopes to hit 300 soon, as the bureau is making pitches to five groups this summer.

But the CVB isn’t putting all of its efforts into the convention and trade show business, as the bureau also hopes to expand its marketing efforts to bring more tourists to the area.

Read the complete story here.

 


GR Medical device makers unite

With an eye to servicing customers through a greater breadth of expertise and keeping product research local, the new West Michigan Medical Device Consortium is rocking the industry with its collaborative approach. Members say that by clustering their companies, they will bring momentum to the marketplace.

According to excerpts from the story:

Seven medical-device manufacturers in Grand Rapids hope to leverage their core capabilities through formation of a new consortium that aims to promote their collective expertise.

Participants in the West Michigan Medical Device Consortium will work to assist each other in product development, business collaboration, developing and sharing best practices, marketing, advancing lean manufacturing techniques, and training.

The companies formed the consortium through the West Michigan Science & Technology Initiative.

Read the complete story here.


City pools draw swimmers galore

Excitement and anticipation ruled the "waves" as thousands of kids and their parents visited city pools this week to celebrate the opening of all six pools for the first time in two years. Nearly 2,500 people showed up to swim on Monday.

According to excerpts from the story:

Thousands of residents are expected to weather this week's heat and humidity the same way hundreds of kids and their parents did Monday -- by making a splash at the city's public pools.

The city opened all six of its park pools for the first time in two years, including the refurbished facilities at Campau, Highland and Lincoln parks. Only Richmond, Martin Luther King Jr. and Briggs parks offered swimming last year because of budget woes.

"All six pools were at capacity at one time or another during the day," Aquatics Coordinator Sara Godwin said today.

Read the complete story here.


Businesses benefit from green design

The fact that West Michigan has 78 percent of the LEED certified buildings in the state and 64 percent of the proposed new buildings indicates green building is going mainstream. And as the number of LEED buildings grows, the benefit to the environment, the workforce, and the community at large increases.

According to excerpts from the story:

The concept of sustainability and the principles of green design are allowing many business owners to increase efficiencies, lower operating costs and improve their profitability.

More executives in West Michigan are taking a closer look at sustainable practices, particularly the U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Based on a nationally accepted rating system for the design, construction, and operation of sustainable green buildings, achieving LEED certification on a facility provides a variety of advantages, from water and energy efficiencies to tax breaks for earning and maintaining the certification.

Read the complete story here.


Recycling made easier in Kent County?

Kent County leaders are exploring new ways of recycling that could mean creating nearly hassle-free opportunities for residents to recycle household waste. The result could be double the materials currently recycled, and a new facility to handle the load.

According to excerpts from the story:

You know those 96-gallon trash bins folks fill with garbage each week and haul to the curb?

What if instead those were packed with recyclables you didn't have to sort and you only needed a 30-gallon tub for trash?

A team of Kent County public works leaders were in North Carolina on Friday touring the kinds of state-of-the-art recycling facilities they hope to soon build here. Next week, they head to Minnesota for more of the same.

If they succeed in getting approval by year's end for the estimated $5 million to $10 million project, the new building would make the process hassle-free for homeowners and double the nearly 14,000 tons of materials the county recycles each year.

Read the complete story here.

 


W MI business professionals stick around

Communities around the country are scrambling to attract and retain talented professionals, cultivate new energy and ideas, and fuel the knowledge economy. Those professionals can locate anywhere, and Grand Rapids is the location of choice for some.

According to excerpts from the story:

Laura Bergells could be a poster child for the new economic development model. When she graduated from Michigan State University, she didn't look at Lansing or East Lansing for a career site.

But after she finished her master's degree at Grand Valley State University, she went to work in Grand Rapids. She stayed -- even after her first employer folded and her second employer was acquired and downsized into a small corporate division.

Read the complete story here.


Real estate companies join forces to expand

Three West Michigan real estate firms have formed an alliance to increase business and job growth. A top priority is expanding outside Michigan.

According to excerpts from the story:

A commercial real-estate leader in West Michigan is aligning with two other firms in an effort to expand out of state while redoubling efforts in the local market.

S.J. Wisinski & Co. will team with Walker-based Retail Development Group and Cascade Township-based Edmark Development Co.

"We're going to grow," said Stanley J. Wisinski III, who founded his firm in 1986 and now will act as chairman and owner for all Michigan brokerage activities.

"We're going to grow within Michigan, and we're going to expand beyond Michigan."

Read the complete story here.

 


Spartan Stores buys 20 Felpausch supermarkets

Spartan stores has signed the dotted line on the purchase of 20 Felpausch stores, including two gas stations. Sales are expected to increase by $200 million a year.

According to excerpts from the story:

Spartan Stores, Inc., today announced that it has completed the previously announced acquisition of 20 retail grocery stores, two fuel centers and three convenience stores from G&R Felpausch Company, a privately held Hastings, Michigan-based retail grocery operator and current distribution customer. The transaction is expected to increase the Company's annual retail segment sales by approximately $200 million.

Read the complete story here.

 


Top talent key to turn state's economic turnaround

While many blame Michigan's economic decline on the downfall of the state's automakers, at least one analyst says that's not the real culprit. The good news is that the tide can turn.

According to excerpts from the story:

Conventional wisdom places the blame for Michigan's economic woes on the downward spiral of the Big Three automakers.

Wrong, says Lou Glazer, lead author of "A New Agenda for a New Michigan," a comprehensive challenge that is being embraced by leaders throughout the state.

In the last 15 years, Michigan's industrial job loss is only slightly worse than the nation's as a whole, Glazer said.

Read the complete story here.

 


Local jobs forecast leads state

A recent survey of Grand Rapids business reveals that 17 percent plan to add jobs. Help wanted advertising is also on the rise.

According to excerpts from the story:

The third-quarter job forecast for the Grand Rapids area is just above the state average.

"We've been outperforming the state for eight quarters," analyst Joe Ross of Manpower Inc. said. "What goes up must come down. It's economic gravity."

For this summer, the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey shows a 14 point difference between the percentage of Grand Rapids area employers expecting to hire and the percentage expecting cuts. Statewide, that number is 13.

Although 80 percent of Grand Rapids-area employers in the survey expect no job changes through September, 17 percent forecast adding jobs, and 3 percent said they would be cutting them.

Read the complete story here:

 


Pure Michigan promotes the state’s best, tourists respond

Last year, Michigan tourism accounted for 193,000 jobs and $17.5 billion in tourists’ spending. Building on that success, 30 partners from 75 tourist destinations have pooled resources and are advertising the state’s allure to target markets in the Great Lakes States.

According to excerpts from the story:

With its beach towns and award-winning sandy shores, championship golf courses and world-renowned wineries, exciting downtowns featuring diverse restaurants and first-class museums, West Michigan plays a major role in the state’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry. While the region’s beauty is no secret to those of us who live in Michigan, we have ramped up our efforts to tout West Michigan and the entire state as the perfect vacation spot to a national audience.

Thirty partnerships, representing 75 Michigan destinations, have committed a total of more than $1 million, which Travel Michigan matches dollar for dollar for an overall budget of more than $2 million.

Read the complete story here.

 


President Ford honored on US stamp

Grand Rapids’ favorite son will be honored in August with a commemorative stamp issued by the US Postal Service. Dedication ceremonies will be held at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

According to excerpts from the story:

WASHINGTON (June 11) - President Gerald R. Ford, who died in December, will be honored on a new postage stamp to be issued Aug. 31, the Postal Service announced Monday.

The design of the 41-cent stamp was unveiled at the annual dinner of the Ford Foundation.

Read the complete story here.

 


Buy Michigan First is state offices’ mantra

The State of Michigan wants to do business with Michigan vendors and business owners, and the opportunity arises every time the state needs essential goods and services. Business owners who make the connection could expand their customer base and boost sales.

According to excerpts from the story:

The state's budget crunch has limited spending on just about everything. But essential items are, well, essential, and state policy is to buy from Michigan suppliers whenever possible.

This policy creates opportunity for small-business owners to expand their customer base, according to Lisa Webb-Sharp, director of the state Office of Management and Budget.


Read the complete story here.


GR commissioners vote against own pay hikes

With city employees facing a possible 6.4 percent pay cut, Grand Rapids City Commissioners rejected recommendations by the Local Officers Compensation Commission to increase their own pay rates and that of Mayor George Heartwell.

According to excerpts from the story:

City commissioners rejected raises for themselves and Mayor George Heartwell on Tuesday but let stand a $3,000 hike for City Comptroller Stan Milanowski.

The action followed a decision by the Local Officers Compensation Commission, a residents' group that meets biannually to set salaries for city elected officials. LOCC decisions stand unless the City Commission overturns them.

City commissioners, who are considering a budget that asks city employees to take a 6.4 percent cut in their compensation package, rejected the raises with little debate, thereby freezing their pay for another two years.

Read the complete story here.

 


Michigan employees have health insurance partner

Employees can't afford to buy their own health insurance and Michigan employers can no longer shoulder the burden of the costs and remain competitive. A new partnership has been created to help both parties, and teach employees how to shop for insurance armed with information.

According to excerpts from the story:

Humana Inc. has launched a new health insurance program called SmartResults. It features a three-year partnered approach among Humana, insurance brokers, employers and their employees that a company representative said should result in effective management and control of health care costs.

Denise Christy, president of Humana-Michigan, told MiBiz that this type of approach is especially needed in Michigan as the state goes through an economic and cultural transition.

The Humana SmartResults program is not about simply shifting the burden of cost from the back of the employer to the back of the employee. It is an effort to help the employee become better customers of healthcare, according to Christy.

Read the complete story here.

Harvard grad argues for W MI furniture design center

A Grand Rapids native who is graduating from Harvard this summer with masters degrees in architecture and urban planning, has plans to create an organized research and design center in West Michigan focused on promoting the area's furniture industry and expanding it as an economic driver. The three areas of focus will be office furniture, education furniture, and hospital furniture.

According to excerpts from the story:

West Michigan is the undisputed hub of the office furniture manufacturing world, with three of the industry's largest firms and most of its production right here.

So where's the collaboration that could turn the community into a research and design hub for the industry as well?

That's what Rick Broene is asking.

Read the complete story here.

 



Rust Belt cities ripe for growth

A Washington DC institute says states are not using the appeal of older cities to help them draw residential development, commercial enterprise, and tourism to those urban centers. A study by the Brookings Institution says states need to help with tax financing, revitalization, and neighborhood improvements.

According to excerpts from the article:

Pennsylvania and other states are coming up short in help to their struggling cities, according to a new report which suggests urban areas are ripe to take advantage of any aid.

The study released today by The Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C., research center that often focuses on urban policy, said Rust Belt states are failing to take advantage of their older cities' potential to draw residential and economic development.

Such Northeast-Midwest cities usually have the kind of waterfronts, public transit, walkable streets, historic architecture and educational, medical and cultural centers increasingly desired by both young and old residents, the report noted.

Read the complete story here.

Related Articles
Living for the City

 


The Rapid “yes” vote to make a difference next year

Expanded weekend and weeknight services, more bus routes, increased regional connections, and new buses will be the benefits of the millage increase approved by voters last week. But the progress is slow and many of the changes won’t take place until after the millage hike goes into effect next summer.

According to excerpts from the story:

Voters in the six core cities in Kent County gave their support last Tuesday to a millage renewal plus a .17 mill enhancement to improve and expand services to meet an increasing ridership demand for The Rapid.

The measure passed with 18,690 in support to 13,561 who voted against the request.

The new millage will help create a new northwest Grand Rapids route. It will also expand weeknight and weekend service and reduce wait times. But the biggest perk is increased regional connectivity, which will allow riders to travel from Wyoming to Kentwood, for example, without a stop in Grand Rapids to transfer buses.

Read the complete story here.

 


GR Internet advertising agency doubles employee base, posts record earnings

A Grand Rapids based internet advertising agency has doubled its employee base since the beginning of 2007. They are now set to launch a team assembled to handle direct response marketing campaigns.

According to excerpts from the story:

Staff Count Increases 50% Since Start of 2007
Adtegrity.com, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company specializing in Internet advertising networks and services, today announced a new organizational structure created in response to recent accelerating sales growth.

The announcement follows one of Adtegrity's strongest financial quarters in its history.

Read the complete story here:

$120M GR airport project moves forward

The bidding process for the largest infrastructure development project in the Gerald R. Ford International Airport’s history has begun. The project will bring 4,900 parking spaces under one roof, and create pedestrian skywalks between buildings.

According to excerpts from the story:

The largest single infrastructure development project in the history of Gerald R. Ford International Airport is moving forward. The Kent County Aeronautics Board has voted to proceed with the bid-letting phase of the $120 million Terminal Area and Parking Improvement Program (TAPIP).

The centerpiece of the project will be a four-story, 4,900-space parking ramp that will be located immediately across from the passenger terminal building. The ramp will house short- and long-term parking, as well as the airport’s rental car operations.

Read the complete story here.

 


$5 million start-up fund aids technology companies

Technology start-ups in the homeland security arena can tap investments up to $250,000 and in-kind services donations to get their companies rolling. The funding and services the backbone of a new fund established to get these businesses ready for outside investment.

According to excerpts from the story:

A Grand Rapids investment banker will help run a fund directed at homeland-security technology start-ups.

Dale Grogan was tapped by the Michigan Homeland Security Consortium to run its MIHSC Resource Fund..

The fund was originally conceived by Grand Rapids software executive Keith Brophy of NuSoft Solutions as a $1 million fund composed mostly of donated business services such as legal and accounting help. It has morphed into a bona fide pre-seed capital fund, targeted at between $2 million and $5 million, Grogan said.

Read the complete story here.


West Mchigan job base growing

Despite a streak of job losses, West Michigan’s job base is growing at about 1,000 jobs per year. Competition, innovation, and cutting edge services will help the state continue, and grow, the momentum.

According to excerpts from the story:

ConAgra, Hart & Cooley, Electrolux, Baker Furniture, Yamaha, Bosch, Brunswick .... We all see the headlines. We all know the challenges. These are unique times indeed. Or are they really?

The west Michigan story, however, is unique within Michigan. Our job base is growing. That bears repeating -- our job base is growing.

Read the complete story here.


Voters approve most spending increases on Tuesday’s ballot

Last Tuesday’s election proved fruitful for most of the proposals, including a vote for increased millage for the proposed expansion of The Rapid.

According to excerpts from the story:

Voters in West Michigan shaded in black boxes and donned "I Voted" stickers Tuesday, ultimately tallying more "yeas" than "nays."

As a result, more dollars will go to The Rapid buses that serve Grand Rapids and five suburbs.

Read the complete story here.


Ten West Michigan companies receive highest honors in ‘Best and Brightest’ competition

Ten West Michigan companies were honored with the coveted Elite Winners award, part of the annual 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For awards competition. The companies ran the gamut of industries from health care to rental cars.

According to excerpts from the story:

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich., May 7 /PRNewswire/ -- Only a small number of companies in West Michigan are named Elite Winners in the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For annual awards competition. These companies excel in their dedication and commitment to their employees.

The 10 categories in the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For are: Communication, Community Initiatives, Compensation and Benefits, Diversity and Multiculturalism, Employee Education and Development, Employee Engagement and Commitment, Recognition and Retention, Recruitment and Selection, Work-Life Balance and the "Best of the Best" Award.

Read the complete story here.

 


All city pools will be open this summer

Fundraising efforts have amassed $250,000 toward the $300,000 needed to re-open all six of Grand Rapids’ city pools this summer. But fundraisers aren’t stopping there; they plan to raise the remaining $50,000, plus enough to keep the pools open for the next three years.

According to excerpts from the story:

When Roosevelt Tillman was a boy, he learned to swim in the pool at what is now known as Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Grand Rapids.

"I'm a product of the inner-city pools," Tillman said. "That's where I learned how to swim and dive. It was good clean fun."

And when Tillman learned the city of Grand Rapids was closing down all but three of its largest pools again this summer to save money, he decided to take action.

Read the complete story here.

 

 


W MI volunteers honored with 2007 Governor’s Service Awards

Several West Michigan residents will be honored next month for their exemplary leadership in volunteerism when they are awarded the state’s highest honors for volunteers. The awards will be presented by Governor Jennifer Granholm and musical artists and performers will be on hand to honor the award recipients.

According to excerpts from the story:

LANSING, Mich., May 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- First Gentleman Daniel G. Mulhern today announced the finalists for the 2007 Governor's Service Awards who will be honored next month during ceremonies at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. The 40 finalists have been selected from nearly 180 individuals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations from across the state who were nominated for their commitment to volunteer service.

Read the complete story here.


Kent County Sports Commission moving forward

One hundred applicants for executive director of the Kent County Sports Commission have been narrowed to three. Thirty-six of the 40-member commission have been appointed for one-, two-, and three-year terms.

According to excerpts from the story:

Kent County Commission Vice Chairman Richard Vander Molen said the next step is to hire an executive director to lead the fledgling West Michigan Sports Commission, now that 25 of the remaining 29 board appointments were confirmed last week.

Vander Molen, who chairs the sports commission, said a national search for the panel’s top spot resulted in 30 applications. Of those 30, seven were interviewed, and three remain in the running for the post.

“It’s a critical, critical position. We hope to have someone here by early summer,” he said.

Read the complete story here.


Growing electronics engineering firm finds niche in aerospace industry

The FAA, FDA, Stryker, and X-Rite all know what a local company can accomplish with embedded safety-critical electronics components and systems: save lives. National expansion is on the horizon for this enterprising firm.

According to excerpts from the story:

Despite doubling its staff in each of the past four years, local electronics engineering firm DornerWorks Ltd. is still in the enviable position of having more work than it can take on.

The 28-employee firm designs embedded electronics components and systems, with a particular specialty in safety-critical systems. While it works in a variety of fields, its largest market is currently aerospace systems, a highly regulated expertise the company hopes to expand nationally.

"As one client told us, 'If a plane goes down, you may lose 200 people. If a medical device goes down, you lose one,'" said Tim Walker, the firm's director of business development. "That's what makes Dorner special. We're able to work in these safety-critical markets."

Read the complete story here.


Planned resource center for entrepreneurs will focus on women- and minority-owned businesses

Women and minorities are responsible for most of the small business start-ups across the country, but West Michigan is missing the boat. A planned entrepreneurial center will combat stereotypes to give these business owners a fair chance to succeed.

According to excerpts from the story:

It is time for Grand Rapids and all of West Michigan to tap into a new gold mine of entrepreneurs – women and minorities.

That is why Goei, along with the GRACC and other West Michigan community, civic and business leaders are moving forward with a new plan to build a resource center for entrepreneurs in Grand Rapids. They want to create a center where creative, new entrepreneurial visions can grow and flourish, with a focus on businesses operated by women and minorities.

“This goes right along with the New Agenda for Michigan in that we are addressing a future that is going to be very different from today,” said Goei.

Read the complete story here.

 


W MI businesses cash in on international market

Global sales have strengthened many area companies, resulting in more profits and higher stock prices. The situation appears to be a win/win.

According to excerpts from the story:

Many people were smiling after they peeked at their 401(k) accounts online this weekend.

Record highs on the stock market last week were propelled by a series of happy surprises as corporations unwrapped their quarterly earnings.

Many West Michigan companies -- even the smokestack kind -- joined the party.

With surging sales and profits, they demonstrated what is true nationwide -- companies are competing and winning on the international playing field.

All these companies had one thing in common: Overseas sales fueled much of their growth.


Read the complete story here.

 


GR's first hybrid bus hits the road

Regenerative braking and an engine that runs on both diesel fuel and electricity aren't the only cost saving and environmentally friendly aspects of The Rapid's two new hybrid buses. They also get twice the mileage, the interiors cool faster, and they reduce some emissions by 90 percent.

According to excerpts from the story:

Bus No. 248, with its distinctive green top, pulled up Monday to its first-ever stop -- the downtown campus of Grand Valley State University.

But there was no room for GVSU President Thomas J. Haas, who was forced to wait for the next "green" Rapid transit bus.

Two hybrid buses, distinguished by their green roofs, will run on routes 1 and 50, both of which serve Grand Valley students.

Read the complete story here.


SBA lender turns focus on West Michigan

Five to ten percent of the SBA 504 loans generated by a Lansing company assists businesses in West Michigan to the tune of $47.5 million last year – that's double the previous year. The company president has plans to increase the volume of loans to 15 to 25 percent and open a West Michigan office.

According to excerpts from the story:

Seeing the potential for further growth, a Lansing company that coordinates U.S. Small Business Administration lending is planning a much larger presence in western Michigan.

The Michigan Certified Development Corp. is hiring a commercial lender to focus solely on western Michigan and plans to eventually open an office in the market.

The MCDC has grown steadily in recent years, last year writing 87 valued at $47.5 million -- more than twice that of two years earlier.

Read the complete story here:


Sense of community key to urban revival

Building unique places that attract people, and stimulate interest, activity, and a sense of community in central cities, is key to solving suburban sprawl, according to Grand Rapids Press Columnist Ben Beversluis.

According to excerpts from the story:

Over two decades, downtown Holland has revitalized itself, much as places such as Cutlerville, Plainfield, Grandville Avenue, Comstock Park and Standale want to do.

They want to recreate community.

We can bemoan the scourge of suburbanization. But the antidote to suburban anonymity is creating community.

Read the complete story here.


Optimism surrounds W MI occupancy rates

Two new reports indicate that occupancy Michigan's commercial buildings is keeping pace with new construction, and has increased in buildings overall. Even lower vacancy rates are noted in medical buildings; not just in the "Medical Hill" mile, but in other parts of the region, as well.

According to excerpts from the story:

Michigan businesses are finding keys to growth in the Grand Rapids community, and the evidence is not only in speculation and increased calls of curiosity, but in the numbers. Two reports this week provide continued optimism for West Michigan.

The 2007 Building Owners and Managers Association of West Michigan annual report is indicative of current and anticipated regional growth. Even with 20 new buildings and almost 400,000 square feet of new space available in the last year, occupancy has not only met the expectations of the new construction, but increased in buildings overall.

Read the complete story here.


GR wins United Nations University sustainability award

Only thirty cities in the world have won the UNU sustainability award. Grand Rapids is now one of them, and the only one in the US to be so honored.

According to excerpts from the story:

Department of Environmental Quality Director Steven E. Chester today congratulated the city of Grand Rapids for their Community Sustainability Partnership efforts that recently earned them a sustainability award from the United Nations University.

Grand Rapids has established goals to raise the use of renewable energy sources in the city, develop programs to harness landfill gas, and capture wind power to produce energy for

Read the complete story here.

 


Renaissance on the other side of "The Hill"

According to excerpts from the story:

Standing outside Kent Novelty Co., Nancy Connell's half-century-old business on Michigan Street NE, you can't see any cranes.

This is the east side -- the "other side" -- of Michigan Hill, the Medical Mile, Pill Hill or whatever the new media and PR flacks are calling it these days. It excites Connell, but also weighs on her.

"I'm kind of hoping somebody offers me big money for the property," she said as she stamped 50-cent price tags on dozens of paddle ball sets.

Read the complete story here.




Fulton Street Farmer's Market improvements on drawing board

According to excerpts from the story:

Many of the homes in the 10-block area of Midtown Grand Rapids, known as the Brikyaat, were built as temporary housing for Dutch immigrants. Today, more than a century later, most of the homes are still standing.

A plan developed by the Midtown Neighborhood Association, aims to transform and modernize the Brikyaat while maintaining it's rich historical character and guiding future development.

Brikyaat Project Director Christine Helms-Maletic said at the center of the Brikyaat plan is the expansion of the Fulton Street Farmer's Market.

Read the complete story here.


Developer pursues purchase of city's parking lots, DASH

According to excerpts from the story:

A local developer is offering to buy most of the city's publicly owned downtown parking ramps and its DASH lots and shuttle service.

Bradley Rosely and David Levitt say their company, Third Coast Development Partners, can pay the city handsomely for the facilities, make a profit for themselves and generate new tax revenue for the city's cash-strapped budget.

City commissioners Rick Tormala and James White are sold on the idea.

Read the complete story here.


Colleges, universities seek to increase foreign student enrollment

According to excerpts from the story:

Colleges and universities are leveraging technology and taking other measures to enroll foreign students, aiming to boost tuition revenue and add diversity.

Western Michigan University this year hired a specialist in visa and immigration matters, and many institutions find a place for foreign students in online courses, allowing them to earn credits and even graduate without setting foot in the United States.

Read the complete story here.


EPA says Grand Rapids air quality warrants redesignation

According to excerpts from the story:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today it is proposing to move forward with final actions on requests to redesignate 18 areas in Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia as meeting the national outdoor air quality standard for ground-level ozone.

EPA said ozone air quality in these areas has improved enough to meet the standard, and the states have requested redesignation.

The Michigan areas are Flint, Benton Harbor, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo- Battle Creek, Lansing-East Lansing, Muskegon, Benzie County, Huron County, Mason County and Cass County.

Read the complete story here.


$8M in Funding Available to Michigan Downtowns for Improvement Projects in 2007

According to excerpts from the story:

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today announced that approximately $8 million in federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) funding is available to Michigan downtowns throughout the state.

The funding, made available through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and administered by MSHDA's CATeam, will be used for downtown improvement projects designed to finanacially assist communities that have targeted key downtown properties in need of exterior improvements. 

Read the complete story here.

 

 


GR's future: what do urban developers say?

According to excerpts from the story:

The future of any city center is more than sidewalks and lofts. Mass transit, retail, density, and jobs are all part of the picture.

Commercial real estate professionals took part in Business Review's first roundtable of the year to discuss issues facing their industry.

Read the complete story here.


Lower property tax bill approved by House

According to excerpts from the story:

To buy or not to buy, that is the question.

The purchase being considered? A house, and when to buy might be of particular concern because Michigan lawmakers are mulling legislation that could save new homeowners thousands over time in lower property tax bills.

Allowing purchasers over the next 18 months to inherit the lower, constitutionally capped property tax bills paid by the sellers could be approved by the Democrat-controlled House as early as today. The House Commerce Committee approved it Tuesday.

Read the complete story here.


 


GR Parks study says makeovers due

According to excerpts from the story:

The city parks need help -- on that much Mayor George Heartwell's Blue Ribbon Commission on Parks and Recreation can agree.

How that help should come is another matter, the 21-member commission concluded after six months of study.

Read the complete story here.

 


GR Brikyaat neighborhood envisions redevelopment

According to excerpts from the story:

Located between the Fulton Street Farmers Market and Fulton Street Cemetery, many of the houses in the Brikyaat have seen better days.

Named by Dutch immigrants who worked at nearby brickyards, its inexpensive homes were built in the late 1800s. Some of its streets are too narrow for two vehicles to pass.

When the Midtown Neighborhood Association asked a planning consultant to look at future development for the 10-block area five years ago, the verdict was grim.

Read the complete story here.

 


Great Lakes cleanup gets boost from congressman

According to excerpts from the story:

WASHINGTON -- Congressman Vernon J. Ehlers Wednesday introduced major legislation that would promote the cleanup and protection of the Great Lakes over the next five years, following the recommendations developed through a collaborative effort of federal, state and local officials.

The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration focused their attention on addressing the most critical threats to the Great Lakes. The 1,500 participants developed recommendations for eight key areas: aquatic invasive species, habitat protection, coastal health, Areas of Concern and contaminated sediment, non-point source pollution, toxic pollutants, scientific research and monitoring, and sustainable development.


Read the complete story here.


Business project survey puts GR in top 5 nationally

According to excerpts from the story:

Grand Rapids ranks among the nation's top metropolitan areas its size in business projects.

According to Site Selection magazine's March issue, Grand Rapids was second overall in its tier -- those with a population of 200,000 to 1 million -- with 32 business projects in 2006.

Grand Rapids was just behind Greensboro-High Point, N.C., which had 33.

Read the complete story here.


Internet sites tout GR as hip, cutting edge

According to excerpts from the story:

Eclectic music, transparent government and a good hotdog. That’s a glimpse of Grand Rapids found on the Internet.

In the 1990s, reality TV provided a vehicle for brash personalities to act out their 15 minutes of fame. In the new millennium, cyberspace offers a platform for real people to share real perspectives: news and photos and video clips and commentary about their hometowns. This democratization of media means the viewpoints in circulation on this or any city are not limited to official representatives and professional commentators. The people have the power — and they’re using it.

Read the complete story here.

 


5/3's new logo means business to local signmaker

According to excerpts from the story:

PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP -- The back of Valley City Sign's plant and warehouse is like a graveyard for Fifth Third Bancorp.'s old identity.

Dozens of red, white and dark blue signs sit in a corner like stacked tombstones -- never to adorn a bank or beckon a customer.

And that's just fine with Randy Czubko, president of the employee-owned firm.

Read the complete story here.


Redevelopment Renaissance Zones Fuel Growth in Jackson, Grand Rapids

According to excerpts from the story:

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today announced that Redevelopment Renaissance Zones have been approved for industrial sites owned by Eaton Corporation in Jackson and MBtech Autodie in Grand Rapids. The tax-free designations will assist the companies in revitalizing existing manufacturing facilities.

“These Renaissance Zones keep good-paying jobs in Jackson and Grand Rapids while helping bring new economic development opportunities to these communities,” Granholm said. “Strengthening and upgrading our existing industrial enterprises is a critical step in our plan to grow Michigan’s economy.”

Read the complete story here.


Governor's program will help college grads buy first home

According to excerpts from the story:

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority today announced that the Graduate Purchase Assistance program is at work helping new college graduates purchase their first home. This program is designed to encourage young people to locate in eight of Michigan's largest urban cities.

"Creating vibrant cities is a key part of my comprehensive economic plan," said Granholm. "In addition to encouraging young people to stay in the state, the G.P.A. program will help stimulate the economy, revitalize communities and attract businesses to these areas."

Read the complete story here.


Amtrak popularity surges

According to excerpts from the story:

Despite frequent delays that cause trains to run behind schedule, Amtrak is seeing its popularity surge in Michigan -- including the route between Grand Rapids and Chicago.

The nation's only rail passenger carrier has seen ridership in the state rise 47 percent since 2002 and hit a record last year of almost 665,000 passengers. Nationwide, the rate of increase was 12 percent.

Read the complete story here.

 


53 Midwest buildings receive Energy Star Status

According to excerpts from the story:

Last year, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded Energy Star status to 53 office buildings, schools, hospitals, public buildings and college dormitories in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

"These buildings are among the nation's top energy savers," said Regional Administrator Mary A. Gade. "They use about one-third less energy than average buildings which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves money."

Read the complete story here.


Mass transit takes a new route

According to excerpts from the story:

The possibility of streetcars in Grand Rapids has gotten a lot of buzz and someday may track well here. But the far better bet is the one that has been quietly moving ahead for several years: a new system of pseudo light-rail buses.

The local transit system -- the Interurban Transit Partnership -- plans to submit a proposal in June to federal authorities for a grant to fund a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. The ITP Board and Director Peter Varga have been studying light rail and other mass transit options for the past few years. A system of buses with light rail features is where they have landed. BRT includes a number of features designed to make a bus service operate with the comfort and reliability of rail transit but without the high cost.

Read the complete story here.


Homes for all in GR and beyond

According to excerpts from the story:

It may be the largest nonprofit property manager in West Michigan, but The Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids Inc. doesn’t step on the toes of the area’s for-profit developers.

The Dwelling Place CEO Denny Sturtevant said his organization takes a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to acquiring buildings that are ripe for revitalization.
 
“However, if a building sits there and sits there, then it’s vital that we look at those buildings very seriously,” Sturtevant told MiBiz.

Read the complete story here.

 


Amtrak logs 62 percent increase in ridership in past decade

Modern trains make travel and commuting between urban centers easy, and riders on the Amtrak line between Grand Rapids and Chicago are taking advantage of the convenience. Early 2008 ridership numbers are up, and that bodes well for the upcoming of the year.

According to excerpts from the story:

Gas prices remain high and the weather remains bad in West Michigan.

So what are travelers doing to cope with those issues?

Some are turning to Amtrak's Pere Marquette train line between Grand Rapids and Chicago, according to Mark Magliari, a spokesman for the railroad.

The number of passengers from October 2007 to January 2008 increased by 5.3 percent compared to the same period from 2006 to 2007, according to the latest statistics.

Read the complete story here.

 


West Michigan economy is best in state

According to excerpts from the story:

The fact that the western Michigan economy is doing better than the rest of the state should come as no surprise to anyone. Nevertheless, I think it is still useful to separate the western portion of the state from the whole to understand some of its strengths as well as its challenges.

I am defining western Michigan as the six metropolitan areas of Battle Creek, Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Holland-Grand Haven, Kalamazoo-Portage, Muskegon-Norton Shores and Niles-Benton Harbor.

Read the complete story here.


Mayors endorse 15% renewable energy for municipalities by 2015

According to excerpts from the story:

On January 10, 2007, the Urban Core Mayors adopted an aggressive, but realistic, "15 by 15" Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for renewable energy.

Following the lead of Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje and Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, the group decided the fiscal and economic incentives to adopt an RPS for State and municipal operations warranted immediate action.

Read the complete story here.


US Mayors unite and go ‘green’

According to excerpts from the story:

As the USA comes off its warmest year on record, cities are changing ordinances to encourage construction of environmentally sustainable homes and offices, buying hybrid vehicles for their fleets and giving fast approval to green projects. Many require that all public buildings comply with environmental design standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council, a coalition of building industry groups.

In Grand Rapids, capital of leading furniture-makers, companies such as Herman Miller and Steelcase are producing eco-friendly furniture from desks to chairs and cabinets. They're reducing the use of hardwoods from forests that are poorly managed and even designing furniture that can be easily taken apart and recycled.

Read the complete story here.


New AIA map highlights 52 West Michigan buildings

According to excerpts from the story:

Recognizing ultimate superiority in any tightly competitive field is rarely easy, but if you thought you experienced brow-furrowing deliberation over your mock ballot at a friend's Oscar party, Ted Lott has something for you to consider: architecture.
Over the past year and a half, members of the American Institute of Architects Grand Valley Chapter debated their picks for the best buildings in the region.

Read the complete story here.

Sports commission board named for Kent County

According to excerpts from the story:

Kent County Board Chairman Roger Morgan today provided the board of commissioners with an update on the governance structure and financial commitments for the West Michigan Sports Commission.

Morgan announced the first 11 appointments to the West Michigan Sports Commission Board.

Read the complete story here.

 


City reacts to Proposal 2, establishes Disadvantaged Business Enterprise

According to excerpts from the story:

In the post-Proposal 2 world, where city contracts no longer can favor minorities and women, there is now the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise.

That's the designation replacing minority-owned and women-owned businesses in the city's new policy for granting construction contracts more than $10,000.

Read the complete story here.


Companies hope to entice future work force to stay in Michigan

According to excerpts from the story:

After years of expressing concern about the future of the high-tech manufacturing work force in Michigan, several companies have announced scholarships and internships to try to keep students in the region.

Viking Group Inc. in Grand Rapids established three scholarships for children of employees at the fire-protection product manufacturer, which has sites in Holland, Grand Rapids and Hastings. The scholarships include:

Read the complete story here.


GR black professionals unite

According to excerpts from the story:

A fledgling network for Grand Rapids-area black professionals is hoped to become a community recruiting and retention feature, organizers say, though another attempt at forming such a group foundered several years ago.

"It's just that level of comfort, once you walk out the door and feel that there are other people out there like you," says Kimberly Richardson, a labor-law specialist with Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt & Howlett.

Richardson envisions a Black Professionals and Executives Network that would empower African-Americans to develop professionally, socially and personally in this predominantly white community.

It could serve as a platform to help employers recruit and retain blacks and highlight the area's racial diversity, she says.

Read the complete story here.


HBA names new president

According to excerpts from the story:

Sparta Township builder Jerry Mullen has taken over as president of the Home & Building Association of Greater Grand Rapids.

Mullen, 68, has been building homes since 1972, specializing in starter and move-up housing. He is the sole employee of his business.

Read the complete story here.

 


DTE Energy proposes renewable energy program

According to excerpts from the story:

DTE Energy has developed a plan that will give its 2.2 million electric customers the option of choosing renewable energy for all or part of their electricity needs.

The proposal, which was filed today with the Michigan Public Service Commission, has been under development for more than a year. It is intended to encourage new renewable energy projects in Michigan, improve the environment in the state and help create a diverse energy portfolio to meet the growing demand for electricity.

Read the complete story here.


Lobbyist hired to advocate for GR in Washington

According to excerpts from the story:

Grand Rapids will pay nearly $6,000 a month to a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

The Grand Rapids City Commission last week approved a one-year contract with the Dykema Gossett law firm to provide federal government consulting to the city.

Under the contract, Dykema Gossett, which has offices in Grand Rapids, will lobby Congress to secure additional federal funding for Grand Rapids.

First Ward Commissioner James Jendrasiak and 2nd Ward Commissioner Rick Tormala voted against hiring the law firm.

"I think this is a waste of expenditure by this commission," Jendrasiak said.

Read the complete story here.


Franchise merger creates state’s largest ReMax company

According to excerpts from the story:

Two Grand Rapids-area ReMax franchises are joining forces to become part of the largest ReMax company in the state.

ReMax Success owners John Hilton and Sue Kazma-Hilton are merging with Daniel Slot and Robert Plesscher of ReMax Real Estate Professionals.

The resulting entity will be a network of three offices in the Grand Rapids area and four in the Lansing area with 135 agents.

"This makes us the largest ReMax company in Michigan," said Kazma-Hilton.

Read the complete story here.

 


Meijer announces prescription drug give away

According to excerpts from the story:

Meijer, a privately held U.S. retailer, said on Monday it would give away certain prescription drugs, especially antibiotics that are most often taken for childhood ailments such as strep throat.

The plan covers amoxicillin, cephalexin, SMZ-TMP, ciprofloxacin, penicillin VK, ampicillin and erythromycin, the company said.

Meijer's plan comes one month after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) started offering certain generic prescription drugs for $4, including most of the drugs on Meijer's list.

Read the complete story here.


City schools attracting more suburban students

According to excerpts from the story:

Countywide, 1,175 students were accepted to change schools -- the most ever in the program's 10 years -- despite decisions in some key districts to take in fewer children.

"It's very, very encouraging that people are starting to realize how good we are, and that there are programs here that are great for their children," Board of Education President Amy McGlynn said.

McGlynn credited three new schools opening in the fall, popular schools within schools at the high schools and specialized programs in elementary schools for the influx of outsiders.

Read the complete story here.


Metro Council conference highlights partnerships

According to excerpts from the story:

Two keynote speakers and nine sessions that cover a wide range of cooperative efforts will mark this year’s version of the 14th Annual Growing Communities Conference put on by the Grand Valley Metro Council.

The event takes place from 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Thursday in the Grand Valley State University Eberhard Center at 301 W. Fulton St.

“This year, we’re going to be looking at partnerships that have come from the conferences,” said Andy Bowman, director of the Council’s land-use planning section.

Read the complete story here.


Grand Rapids Approves $15 Million Road, Sewer Investment

Grand Rapids city commissioners recently approved spending $15 million on four separate construction projects. The work involves modernizing sewer lines, resurfacing major roadways, and other repairs.

 

According to excerpts from the story:

 

Over the past month, city commissioners have agreed to spend almost $15 million on four construction engineering projects scattered throughout the city.

 

The most expensive of the four, worth nearly $7.66 million, will upgrade sewers on the city’s southeast side. The work is a sewer separation project along Logan Street, Century Avenue and Buckley Street.

 

Click here to read the complete story.


Women’s Center Breaks Ground on Health Hill

The Women’s Healthcare Center of West Michigan recently broke ground Health Hill. The new center, which is part of the Midtowne Village development project, specializes is expected to open in fall 2007.

According to excerpt from the story:

The Center is said to be designed by women for women, with female doctors working with consultants. The idea is to create a one-stop healthcare center focusing on women's healthcare issues, in an effort to make things more comfortable and convenient for patients. For instance, a woman will be able to get lab work, a mammogram, and a bone density scan all done in one place.

Click here to read the complete story.


Education, innovation key to West Michigan’s economic success

Speaking to an audience at Grand Valley State University, Right Place President Birgit Klohs said education, innovation, and technology is key to West Michigan’s 21st Century prosperity.

 

According to excerpts from the story:

Innovation and technology in both manufacturing and life sciences are at the heart of a strong economy in West Michigan, Birgit Klohs told the audience at the Seidman College of Business Alumni Association breakfast series.

 

“It’s not just about China,” The Right Place Inc. president said of blaming manufacturing problems on outsourcing. “It’s really about us.”

 

The companies that are doing well in West Michigan are the innovators and those who have carved a niche for themselves and their product, Klohs said. A few of those companies are the four honored at the event: HexArmor, Highland Group, Holwerda Homes, and Primera Plastics.

 

Read the complete story here.


Major airline will connect GR Ford to Denver, world’s 11th busiest terminal

On September 6, 2006 United Airlines will launch service from Grand Rapids to Denver. The route is expected to be a major pathway connecting Grand Rapids to the western United States.

 

According to excerpts from the story:

 

This fall, United Airlines will open a major portal between West Michigan and the western United States.

 

On Tuesday, it announced plans to begin daily direct service between Grand Rapids and its hub in Denver on Sept. 6.

 

"There are a handful of markets that we consider key to enhance the air service options available at the airport, and Denver is one of those markets we have been focused on for the past few years," said Bruce Schedlbauer, a spokesman for GR Ford International Airport.

 

Read the full story here.


Major wireless carrier boosting investment in GR

Cingular Wireless announced a $100 million plan to improve its network across Michigan, including a substantial investment in metro Grand Rapids. The company has already invested over $60 million in Michigan since it acquired AT&T Wireless more than a year ago.

 

According to excerpts from the story:

 

Cingular Wireless, the nation's largest wireless carrier, is investing more than $100 million in its network in Michigan in 2006, bringing customers even more wireless services, call quality and coverage on the road, at the office, and in their homes.

 

"Our ongoing focus is ensuring Cingular customers have the best wireless experience possible-which includes unmatched coverage and quality of service," said Brian Ducharme, vice president & general manager, Cingular Wireless- Indiana and Michigan.

 

"This network investment will enable us to continue to bring residents of Michigan the highest quality Cingular service available ever-service that is enhanced by best-in-industry calling plan value and cutting-edge devices."

 

Read the complete story here.


Konica Minolta plans $13 million GR expansion

Governor Granholm tour of Japan landed 150 new jobs and nearly $34 million in investments for Michigan. Grand Rapids should see 80 news jobs and some $13 million in foreign investment.

 

According to excerpts from the story:

After meetings today with executives of major Japanese companies, Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm announced that Konica Minolta Holdings, Meiden America, Taichi-S and Shikoku Cable Co. plan expansions in Michigan. The four projects are expected to generate $33.9 million in private investment and create 153 new jobs. The announcements came during Granholm’s three-day investment mission in Japan with Michigan Economic Development Corp. President and CEO James C. Epolito.

"Our willingness to go anywhere and do anything to create jobs is working, and on the first day of our mission, we can already announce expansions and job creation," Granholm said. "Clearly last year’s trip continues to pay off as we build these beneficial relationships that are critical if Michigan is to thrive in the global 21st century economy."

.


Meijer, GM partner to promote alternative fuel

Two Michigan based companies – Meijer and General Motors – have chosen Grand Rapids as one of several target markets for corn- and soy-based fuel. The fuel, which is 85 percent ethanol, aims to help reduce fossil fuel dependency, eliminate harmful auto emissions, and open new markets for the agricultural industry.

 

According to excerpts from the story:


Walker-based Meijer Inc. and General Motors Corp. plan to make the fuel, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent petroleum-based gasoline, available at 19 more stores by the end of the year. That would bring the total number of E85 stations to 49 in a state that had none in January 2005.

In Michigan, the number of stations offering E85 is expected to increase from the current five to 25. Meijer and GM announced last month that they will work with CleanFuel USA, a maker of E85 fueling equipment, to decide which 20 Meijer stores will carry E85.

"The Midwest is showing the rest of the country how to go out and get things done," Bodman said.

Read the full story here.


Transit agency brings kids to books

The Ride to Read program, established in 1992, connects GRPS students with books and the library.

According to excerpts from the story:

Through a rejuvenated "Ride to Read" program, students can head to their school media centers and pick up tickets for a city bus that will take them and a parent to the downtown library. Once there, kids can get a ticket for the trip home and their next visit.

"We don't want transportation to be a barrier keeping students from experiencing the library," said Jennifer Kalczuk, spokeswoman for The Rapid. "The idea is to help kids connect with books and give them opportunities to read and improve their literacy skills."

The program is collaboration between Grand Rapids Public Library, the Student Advancement Foundation and Ryerson Library Foundation.

Full story? Click here.


GR Web firm connects films, fans

A recent survey from Spout.com, a new Grand Rapids-based internet movie retailer and film forum, reveals film enthusiasts are dissatisfied with Hollywood’s product and prefer to watch movies at home with friends.

 

According to the story:

 

Hollywood's halcyon days of big budget blockbusters and guaranteed theater turnouts are feeling the pain of a new consumer driven media world. As is the case with television, advertising and music, the consumer is now in control thanks to new media, new devices and the evolving Internet experience.

 

In fact, a new consumer survey from Spout -- an online community for people who love film that creates a better way to find film -- revealed that 47 percent of theater goers were disappointed with more than half of the movies they saw last year, with 75 percent choosing to enjoy the movie experience at home.

 

Read the full story here.


Red Thread project to connect GR residents

A unique collaboration between Artworks and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art will literally get Grand Rapids all tied up. The unique interactive art production involves a series of events designed to celebrate human relations.

According to excerpts from the story:

Flowers are blooming and temperatures are rising outdoors, but the folks at Art Works and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts have knitted hats on their minds. And some pretty high-profile people, including the city's commissioners, will have hats on their heads in May as part of these organizations' Red Thread Project.

This unusual collaborative project celebrates the interconnectedness of human beings by engaging the community in the creation of 400 knitted hats and then connecting them with a red cord in a large-scale public performance at the end of June.

Full story here.


Tourism likely to thrive despite gas prices

Despite rising gas prices, West Michigan leaders expect a productive tourism season. And Grand Rapids looks to be a prime destination with a variety of exhibitions and entertainment events scheduled.

According to excerpts from the story:

Gas prices may be soaring, but those in the state’s second largest business—tourism—are feeling pretty positive about the upcoming summer season.

The Grand Rapids/Kent County CVB has focused on business travel, which has significantly increased in the region, according to President Steve Wilson, who also works with the Michigan’s West Coast ad campaign.

Wilson said the Grand Rapids area has also been able to capitalize on some major events such as the walking sculpture exhibition featuring the work of Tom Otterness and several state and national conventions including the Handweavers Guild of America Inc.’s Convergence convention in June.

Full story here.


Bliss brings energy, diversity, and ideas to City Commission

Rosalynn Bliss took office this year as the youngest female elected in Grand Rapid’s history. Now she is bringing youthful energy and new ideas to the Second Ward commission post.

According to excerpts from the story:

At a young 30 years old, Bliss very well may also be the city's busiest and most energetic commissioner as she finds time to volunteer, do the city's business and serve as director of prevention services for the Child and Family Resource Council — a nonprofit organization that works to prevent child abuse and neglect in the county.

"I'm a huge advocate of the neighborhoods,” Bliss said. “The city has some amazing neighborhoods, and I really want to see them supported and strengthened and for them to feel like the city supports them and is making their lives easier and not harder."

Click here for the entire story.


GR property values continue to rise

Grand Rapids property values rose by an average 5.6% over the past year, according to State Equalized Values. Residential property jumped significantly, increasing 6.3 percent.

According to excerpts from the story:

The equalized value of real property, which includes agricultural, commercial, industrial and residential holdings, totaled $21.53 billion. Personal property was $1.81 billion. Those figures came from the 2006 equalization report that was filed last week with the county’s Finance and Physical Resources Committee.

“This year has just been phenomenal,” said Kent County Equalization Director David Jager. “There has been a lot of new construction.”

Of the real property SEV total, residential was valued at $15.1 billion. Commercial was listed at $4.1 billion, industrial at nearly $1.9 billion, and farms and orchards were valued at $298.4 million.

More on the story here.

270 Midtown Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts