CEO Spotlight With Scott Korpak, Superintendent At Northview Public Schools

Scott Korpak, superintendent of Northview Public Schools is the subject of this weeks Corp! Magazine CEO Spotlight on West Michigan LIVE!

Oakland County executive says he will complete current term despite cancer

One of Michigan’s most financially successful counties will see new leadership in 2020 following an announcement that its longtime leader, L. Brooks Patterson, will not seek re-election for an eighth term in office because of a cancer diagnosis.

On Tuesday, Patterson and his family told the media and the public that he has Stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The 80-year-old county executive said he will receive treatment for the disease from the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and complete his current term.

However, Patterson will not run for Oakland County’s top post in light of his health. Patterson did tell his supporters and people attending the press conference that he plans to fight his cancer. He received the official diagnosis on March 15.

“I’m fighting this cancer to be among the 10 percent who survive it,” Patterson said in a statement. “I will continue to do my job as Oakland County executive alongside the members of my administration who comprise the best team anywhere in government.”

Local officials said they were saddened by Patterson’s announcement and wish him well with the remainder of his term and his treatment.

“I am saddened by the news today. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Patterson family,” said Republican Caucus Chairman Michael J. Gingell in a statement. “I have known Brooks for many years and know that he is a fighter and a great leader. I am confident he will continue to lead Oakland County in an exemplary manner and I am committed to working through this situation with him and his leadership team.”

Patterson, arguably one of the most successful county executives in Michigan history, also is one of the most controversial given some of his statements in the past about people such as the late Detroit Mayor Coleman Young and the city of Detroit as a whole. As such, social media provided mixed reactions to Tuesday’s announcement – but all noting a hopefulness that Patterson can overcome his illness.

Seated in a wheelchair during his press conference, Patterson is more than halfway through an unprecedented seventh term as county executive. He took office on Jan. 1, 1993. In addition, he served as Oakland County prosecutor from Jan. 1, 1973 – Dec. 31, 1988.

If a vacancy were to occur in the county executive office, Chief Deputy County Executive Gerald D. Poisson would take the constitutional oath of office and serve as county executive until the Oakland County Board of Commissioners appoints a successor or until a special election is held as provided by law (see Public Act 139 of 1973, Section 45.559a).

If the board of commissioners elects to appoint a successor, the appointment would be made no later than 30 days from the date of the vacancy. A county executive appointed by the board of commissioners serves until the next general election. If the board of commissioners does not make an appointment within 30 days, a special election would be held at the earliest possible date allowed by the law.

Detroit Talent to Moderate Houston ISM2019 Conference

INforum executive member Jan Griffiths, President & Founder of Gravitas Detroit will moderate the executive session at the Institute of Supply Management Conference in April. Griffiths will share the stage with Former Hewlett Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina, and former Federal Reserve Chair, Janet Yellen.

H.W. Kaufman Group creates new executive role

H.W. Kaufman Group announced Kori Johanson will join its executive team as Chief Compliance Officer, a newly created role. She will oversee the company’s compliance team and be responsible for corporate and regulatory compliance, government affairs and state insurance taxation.



Breakfast of Champions: Game on Cancer Kicks Off 2019 Campaign

Game on Cancer – a partnership among Henry Ford Health System, The Detroit Lions and The Detroit Pistons that provides assistance to cancer patients and critical cancer research funding – will host a corporate kick off breakfast event, featuring legend players from the Lions and Pistons, March 26 in the Hall of Legends at Ford Field.

Now kicking off its fifth year, Game on Cancer has raised more than $4 million over the program’s lifetime, thanks to the support of donors and fundraiser participants. Game on Cancer directs 100 percent of funds raised to the program’s mission, which is to provide a platform for funding groundbreaking research, enhancing patient care by alleviating barriers or burdens, and by supporting clinical programs that allow for best-in-class cancer care.

While the funds raised over the past four years have been tremendously beneficial for both patients and research, the need is still great and Game on Cancer hopes to make 2019 its most impactful year yet.

“We are so thankful for our donors and fundraisers, who make a difference in the lives of cancer patients every day through their support of Game on Cancer,” Mary Jane Vogt, senior vice president and chief development officer, Henry Ford Health System, said in a statement. “The fight against cancer is a team effort, and support from our neighbors in the community is vitally important.”

Getting involved
One such neighbor who has done a wonderful job of helping those in need is Ellyn Davidson, president of Brogan & Partners Convergence Marketing Agency. Davidson was 36, the mother of a toddler, a kindergartner and second-grader, and account director at Brogan & Partners when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now an 11.5-year survivor, she now leads a Game on Cancer fundraising team at Brogan & Partners.

“Breast cancer is never easy, but my battle was made easier by the amazing support of my friends and family. I realize not everyone has a solid support system when they are diagnosed, and that’s one of the reasons why programs like Game on Cancer are so important,” Davidson said. “At Brogan & Partners, we host a wine-tasting fundraiser each year, with virtually everyone from the agency helping in one way or another. Since we began that in 2017, we’ve raised more than $20,000 to support Game on Cancer.”

Brogan & Partners’ fundraising event is one of countless ways fundraising teams can get creative and have fun, all while helping those in need. In addition to her successful annual fundraiser, Davidson routinely offers her guidance and support to newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients and has spoken with more than 100 over the past 11 years.

Teams needed
Game on Cancer still needs fundraising teams, like the one Ellyn leads at Brogan. To register, reach out to Christina Johnson at [email protected] or (248) 515-8963. She would be more than happy to help with setting up fundraising teams and answering any questions they may have.

The Game On Cancer campaign launches April 15 when its website opens. Teams from across the state representing companies, patients/survivors and families, community groups and more register for this peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, which culminates in November with a dynamic, on-field event with the Detroit Lions at Ford Field.

Corporate teams receive an in-person kick-off to explain the mission and campaign to their staff in an exciting way, often accompanied by a Detroit Lions Alumni Legend. All team members receive their own personal webpage to use for their fundraising and social media along with personalized and customized ideas for their team to maximize their fundraising. Contests and incentives are planned for all participants throughout the campaign. All of the funds raised support Game on Cancer’s mission and are used immediately to fund non-medical patient needs (housing, transportation, groceries, utilities, medication), supportive oncology programs (acupuncture, art therapy and more) and research.

MichBusiness receives the WOMEN BUSINESS ENTERPRISE – DIVERSE SUPPLIER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

MichBusiness has received the WOMEN BUSINESS ENTERPRISE – DIVERSE SUPPLIER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

“The award is presented to a woman business enterprise that provides outstanding customer service; keeps the Blues informed of industry trends and developments; brings forth cost savings ideas; and aligns to Blue Cross’ goals and objectives,” said Amy Frenzel, vice president of service operations at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Blue Cross held its annual supplier diversity achievement awards on March 13, 2019, at the Whitmer Auditorium in Detroit.

While MichBusiness and BCBSM have had a decades long collaborative partnership, the benefits to members escalated last year as the organization was certified as a Women Owned Business. Together, Blue Cross and MichBusiness created and successfully launched a Woman Business Enterprise health insurance program that provides an added benefit to their corporate members who report diversity spend to their customers.

“Their innovation and focus on helping our members succeed has made them stand out in our industry,” added Frenzel.

“We are honored to receive this award from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan,” said MichBusiness President and CEO Jennifer Kluge. “In today’s rapidly changing world of health insurance, we’ve had to stay nimble in order to serve our membership” added Kluge, “and this award validates our strategic direction.”   

Kluge is CEO of Corp! magazine, a sister organization to MichBusiness.

From left: Amy Frenzel, Vice President Service Operations, BCBSM; Jennifer Kluge, President and CEO, MichBusiness; Erica White, Director of Diversity Relations, MichBusiness; Jennifer Werner, Senior Vice President Insurance Operations, MichBusiness; and LeCathy Burston, Director of Membership & Corporate Development at Great Lakes Women’s Business Council.

Greenleaf Trust announces new hire

Beverly Whaley joins Greenleaf Trust as a Team Service Coordinator. She is responsible for providing comprehensive administrative support, day-to-day servicing of account needs, and driving the efforts of the client-centric team.

Top Business Litigation Law Firm Rebrands as Altior Law

Birmingham, Mich.-based business law firm Neuman Anderson Grieco McKenney, P.C. has rebranded to Altior Law as the firm reinforces its commitment to setting the standard in the practice of business law.

HubWorX360 offers creative office space, hosts ribbon-cutting

When Bob and Stephanie Hover went looking for a more creative office space for their design, graphics and marketing business, they found more than they bargained for.

Now they’re offering parts of their space – an office building three times the size they were looking for – to others who just need some space.

They launched HubWorX360 in Troy back in January. The building is focused on collaborative work space. According to the Hovers, the building “celebrates historic buildings in Detroit,” so each work space is themed. Open rooms and semi- and private-work spaces are available.

We’re creative, so we were trying to find more creative space, rather than ‘serious’ office space,” Bob Hover said. “We ended up with an industrial building that was probably three times the size we needed, so we decided to bring in other entrepreneurs.”

Working with the Troy Chamber of Commerce, HubWorX360 hosts a ribbon-cutting ceremony 4-5:30 p.m., Thursday, March 28, at the new location, 360 W. Maple (between Livernois and Rochester roads), Suite A, in Troy.

Grand Rapids company wins Outstanding Growth Award

The Association for Corporate Growth Western Michigan announced Grand Rapids-based Profile Films as the recipient of the 2019 Outstanding Growth Award. The annual award recognizes a local company that demonstrates sustained growth in sales, profitability, employment and community involvement.

Leadership promotions at Star Truck Rentals

Star Truck Rentals recently advanced Jim Kennedy as director of maintenance, leading teams of diesel technicians to repair thousands of commercial vehicles annually. Kennedy has been employed with Star Truck since 1977. Dave Donbrock, John Teunis and Ken Herman advance as regional managers.

Michigan Celebrates Announces 2019 Awardees

Small business owners and supporters will come from all across the state to show their support for Michigan’s growing companies at the state’s premier awards program for small business. The 15th Annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business (MCSB) awards gala will be on Wednesday, May 8, 2019.

Over 80 businesses will be recognized for their role in growing Michigan’s economy and creating jobs. The “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch” will be recognized at the celebration.

“Michigan Celebrates embraces companies that have a significant effect on job creation, innovation and moving the state’s economy forward. These companies, their leadership and employees embody perseverance and inspiration. They are genuinely ‘made’ in Michigan,” stated Brian Calley, President of Michigan Association of Small Businesses and an MCSB board member. 

The 2019 Michigan 50 Companies to Watch have made a substantial economic impact, responsible for $394.7 million in total annual revenue during 2018, a 26.5 percent increase in total revenue compared to 2017. Together they provide 1,710 full-time equivalent employees, 1,589 within the state of Michigan, and are projected to create over 424 new jobs in 2019.

Companies nominated for the “Michigan 50 Companies to Watch” list must be second-stage companies, defined as having 6 to 99 full-time-equivalent employees and generating $750,000 to $50 million in annual revenue or working capital from investors or grants. In addition, the companies must be privately held and headquartered in Michigan.

Judges from the economic and entrepreneurship development organizations selected the winners. The judges evaluated the nominees’ demonstration of intent and capacity to grow based on the following:

  • Employee or sales growth
  • Exceptional entrepreneurial leadership
  • Sustainable competitive advantage
  • Other notable factors that showcase the company’s success

“We received 575 nominations for the Michigan 50 Companies to Watch award, which surpassed last year’s record of 425 nominations,” stated Jennifer Deamud, Associate State Director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center and MCSB Board Chair. “In addition to a competitive landscape for this award, the businesses who are selected by the judges go through a rigorous due diligence process prior to the final decision.”

Other small business awards are presented at the gala. The Small Business Association of Michigan presents two Michigan 50 Companies alumni awards: Most Engaged Workplace and Strategically Focused. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) presents the SmartZone Best Small Business of the Year and the PTAC Best Small Business of the Year awards. The Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC) presents the SBDC Best Small Business of the Year award. The Michigan District office of the U.S. Small Business Administration presents a number of small business awards, including the SBA Small Business Person of the Year.

MCSB awardees, guests and small business supporters will gather on May 8 to highlight the importance of small businesses in Michigan and to acknowledge the companies that are creating jobs and growing. The awards gala will be held at the Breslin Center in Lansing, MI during National Small Business Week, May 5-11, drawing extra attention to Michigan’s role in stimulating the national and global economy.

A list of the 2019 MCSB awardees can be found on the MCSB website at

Tickets are available for $145 per person and table discounts are available. Information about MCSB can be found at

Corp! is a media partner for the event.

About Michigan Celebrates Small Business
Michigan Celebrates Small Business (MCSB) is a collaboration of trusted statewide founding organizations who offer resources for small businesses. Since 2005, Michigan Celebrates Small Business awards gala has celebrated how small businesses positively impact our communities and state. The MCSB 501(c)(3) organization is focused on supporting, connecting and celebrating small businesses in Michigan.  The Michigan Small Business Development Center is the managing partner of Michigan Celebrates Small Business in 2019. Michigan Celebrates Small Business was founded by the Michigan Small Business Development Center, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, U.S. Small Business Administration – Michigan, Edward Lowe Foundation, Michigan Business Network, and the Small Business Association of Michigan.

Detroit’s Eastern Market sees new investments, expansions

One of Detroit’s greatest assets as it emerges from a decades-long recovery is its real estate, giving investors a chance to purchase historic buildings and commercial space within a growing and vibrant municipality.

That is why FIRM Real Estate is investing in one of the city’s best-known shopping and entrepreneurial hubs: Eastern Market. It is one of the most exciting areas within Detroit to work with and has unlimited potential, said Sanford Nelson, president, FIRM Real Estate.

Sanford Nelson

FIRM Real Estate has acquired four locations in Eastern Market, totaling 35,000 square feet, with plans to refurbish and modernize them for the safety and benefit of new and existing tenants.

The locations include:
• 1468 Adelaide Street – 22,000 square feet – The building will undergo a full renovation and be brought up to current building codes, including brand new mechanical, electrical, plumbing, security and fire safety, new windows, new roof and repairs to the facade.
• 2510 Market Street – 3,000 square feet – The building is currently unoccupied and will be renovated for commercial usage.
• 2504 Market Street – 5,000 square feet – The building is currently unoccupied and will be renovated for commercial usage on the first floor. The second floor will either be creative office space or artist studio space at an affordable rate.
• 1473 Winder Street – 5,000 square feet – The building has been vacant many years and the last occupant is not known. It will be fully renovated.

With the deal, growing manufacturer and retailer, Well Done Goods by Cyberoptix will expand from its location nearby on Gratiot Avenue to 1473 Winder Street for an upgraded location. The manufacturing facility and retail store hopes to add a café for events and community gatherings, said Bethany Shorb, founder and creative director, Well Done Goods by Cyberoptix.

Bethany Shorb

Nelson said he always enjoys Eastern Market because it is a great food and arts district that has grown to have a well-deserved reputation among city residents and suburbanites. He hopes to spur further growth with these acquisitions, especially because they will be rehabbed to meet city code and other safety regulations.

As Detroit grows, buildings that were neglected by absentee landlords or owners who were unable to keep up with code changes are now becoming empty, giving way to new owners who can move in, spending the time and money to bring everything up to date. Nelson said he is happy to be a part of that.

Nelson also acknowledged that change can be difficult and that some local residents and community members were upset to find out that longtime Eastern Market business owners – a husband and wife team who ran the Farmers restaurant – wanted to sell these four properties and retire.

However, Nelson hopes that people will see the attention and care he hopes to put into these buildings and finding new tenants like Cyberoptix and others who have Detroit’s best interests in mind. Nelson himself was a frequent diner at the Farmers restaurant, and he said he too wishes the couple had stayed on to keep it open. However, they wanted to step down and enjoy retirement, he said.

“Nothing I could have done could have made them want to stay,” Nelson said.

FIRM Real Estate is a privately held business that focuses on acquiring and rehabilitating properties that increase residential, retail, culinary and arts and culture offerings to the greater Detroit community, Nelson said.

What Nelson likes most about Eastern Market is its density, walkability and historic nature. He is looking forward to being a part of this district and its growth.

“Our company cares deeply about Eastern market – its past, present and future,” Nelson said.

Growing sunglass maker ready to go mobile

A few years ago, John Richter paid $125 for a pair of sunglasses in preparation for a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, not considering how much money that was and feeling like he deserved to treat himself.

But when, just a couple of days into the trip, those expensive sunglasses took a dive off of his head into the Sea of Cortez, never to been seen again, Richter asked himself a natural question.

“What was I thinking?”

“Why did I pay so much for those sunglasses,” said Richter, owner of Greater Lakes, a sunglasses retailer. “They were just plastic, they weren’t any different than any other pair I’d ever bought.”

Richter set out to answer his own question, researching sunglass brands, manufacturing details and other issues, bought the industry report of the company he says controls most brands, and started making phone calls.

“It turns out you’re paying for the brand, not for any reasons you should be choosing a pair of sunglasses – quality or fit,” Richter said. “I started looking into making my own.”

That’s how Greater Lakes was born, with a soft launch in May 2017, selling largely to family, friends and friends of friends. But when the folks at Beards Brewery in Petoskey saw them, a co-branding was formed and Beards began selling the sunglasses.

“They have a patio with a beautiful view, but they realized the sun was in customers’ eyes when it went down,” Richter recalled. “(Beards) reached out to us, and it took off from there.”

Until now, Greater Lakes has been available only online. That changes this spring, when the company starts selling its sunglasses at locations and festivals around the state.  Greater Lakes, LLC is a Michigan-based sunglasses company located in Lake Orion. Frames are largely made of sturdy woods and plastic, and all cost under $30 per pair. All of the frame-names, Richter pointed out, are Michigan/Great Lakes-themed, and designed for an active lifestyle (strong spring construction, etc.).

“If you’re climbing, hiking, surfing or boating, you shouldn’t be  worried about your glasses,” Richter said. “Stuff happens … Glasses get lost,  sat on, stolen, ran over, you name it.”

The first “real world” chance for buyers to get the sunglasses comes at the Orion Art Center’s Dragon on the Lake festival that takes place August 22-25, 2019 in Lake Orion.

“We’ve been growing … we’ve got enough stock in place that we’re starting to sell at festivals like Dragon on the Lake,” Richter said.

More information is available on Greater Lakes Sunglasses website—​.

Municipalities are adding recycling of textiles to their programs, thanks to Ohio firm

Simple Recycling partners with 160 municipalities across the U.S., including 29 in Michigan, to collect unwanted textiles. (Photo by Kalea Hall, CNS).

A five-year-old Ohio company is helping more than two dozen Michigan communities reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and make a little money in the process.

Simple Recycling, based in Solon, Ohio, has contracted with 29 municipalities – from Harrison in Clare County to Canton Township in Wayne County – to collect used textiles and thus keeping them out of landfills.

“The idea is to help the municipality become a better place to live by diverting more material,” said Sonny Wilkins, Simply Recycling’s vice president of municipal relations.

Here’s how the program works: Residents in municipalities that partner with Simple Recycling can get a bag by requesting one on the company’s website. Once they fill the bag and put it out on the scheduled recycling day, a driver leaves a replacement bag after the pickup.

Simple Recycling is a for-profit company, so it makes money by diverting material from landfills at no cost to its municipal partners.

That’s the attractive part of the equation for Canton Township Supervisor Pat Williams, whose municipality signed a four-year agreement to have Simple Recycling collect its soft recyclables that began in September 2016.

“Every ounce of material that doesn’t go into the landfill is a win for the Canton community,” Williams said.

Municipalities can actually reap some financial benefit – granted it’s not a ton of money — from the contract. For every pound of textiles Simple Recycling picks up, the municipality gets a penny.

In East Lansing, for instance, Simple Recycling collects some 4,000 to 5,000 pounds a month, bringing in $40 to $50. That money helps pay for educational materials related to recycling.

More importantly, some officials point out, it’s a way to keep communities clean.

“It was an opportunity we saw to help with contamination,” said Cathy DeShambo, East Lansing’s environmental services administrator. “It’s just such a convenient service.”

The most recent estimate by the Environmental Protection Agency tells another part of the story: of 16 million tons of textiles generated in 2015, 10.5 million tons went to landfills, 3 million tons were incinerated, and about 2.5 million tons – or about 15 percent – were recycled.

In Michigan alone, textiles made up 2 percent of the recycling stream in 2014, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

Textiles could become a valuable market for Michigan if the volume of material that is recycled or donated increased. As recently as 2016, the state, in its 2016 Economic Impact Potential and Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste in Michigan estimated the potential value of discarded textiles to be close to $25 million.

Lansing partnered with Simple Recycling after receiving questions from residents about how to donate textiles.

“It’s a question we get all the time, and it’s just one of those things that we don’t take on a weekly basis in our recycling program,” Lansing environmental specialist Lori Welch said. “It gave residents a really easy and convenient way to properly dispose of that stuff or donate it.”

On average, about 15,000 pounds of textiles are collected monthly in Lansing, bringing the city an average of $150, funds that go toward projects involving recycling and beautification.

“Our biggest challenge is really letting people know that the program exists,” Welch said. “I think if more people knew, we would certainly be collecting a lot more material.”

About 25 percent of the material stays in the U.S., while 50 percent is sold overseas and 15 to 20 percent is sold to companies that break down the textiles. The rest goes to landfills because it’s not usable.

Wilkins said the company collects several million pounds of textiles every year that he “absolutely” believes would otherwise be sent to the landfill.

“Charities aren’t able to handle all this material, or else they would be getting it,” he said. “There’s a lot more going to the landfill now than there was ever.”

Kalea Hall of Capital News Service contributed to this report. Read the CNS story at

West Michigan economy grows beyond furniture, auto manufacturing

If West Michigan ran a Help Wanted ad, it would need some space.

Wanted: Robot operators. Tool and die workers. Welders. Nurses. Lab technicians. Engineers. Researchers. Physician assistants. Machine operators. Computer programmers. Artificial intelligence experts. Cybersecurity pros.

Would it be easier to list who in West Michigan isn’t hiring?


“That’s not a thing,” Birgit Klohs says with a laugh from her office at The Right Place Inc., a Grand Rapids economic development agency.

Update your resume and c’mon over.

If you think of furniture and auto manufacturing when you think of leading industries in West Michigan, you’re not wrong.

You’re just not totally right.

West Michigan’s big business strength has always been manufacturing, says Klohs, president and CEO of The Right Place since 1987. It still accounts for 15 percent of the region’s jobs, she says, with 2,500 manufacturing companies in 13 counties.

But West Michigan manufacturing has transformed.

“It’s not just auto suppliers and office furniture anymore,” Klohs says. “It’s electronics. Aerospace. Defense. Medical devices.

“There’s been great diversification,” she says. “Now there are lots of different kinds of businesses in the manufacturing arena.”

And lots of different businesses, period.

Take a look.

Health and life sciences
Spectrum Health is now the largest employer in West Michigan, Klohs says, employing 30,000 people.

“Every region wants to diversify their business space,” she says. “But you need an impetus — that first kernel that gets it all started.”

In West Michigan, that kernel was the Van Andel Institute, a biomedical research and science education organization that supports the work of more than 400 scientists, educators and staff.

“It was the beginning of something transformative,” she says.

When the institute opened in 1996 on the now-booming stretch of downtown Grand Rapids called The Medical Mile, “it gave a burst of energy to that part of the city,” Klohs says. “People from 20 different countries are working there.”

The medical presence is huge now, including Michigan State University’s medical school and research center.

“What’s happening on that hill represents billions of dollars in new development,” Klohs says. “It gave us a totally new industry.

“From a business perspective, that growth in health and life sciences is nothing short of miraculous,” Klohs says. “I drive that street every day to and from my home. It still stuns me when I drive by.”

“There isn’t anybody in West Michigan who doesn’t know somebody working in health care,” notes Paul Isely, an economist and associate dean in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University.
And that doesn’t just mean doctors and nurses.

“People hear health care and think, ‘Well, I’m not a nurse, so there’s no job for me,’” says Cindy Brown, former executive director of Hello West Michigan, a talent attraction and retention organization in Grand Rapids. Brown was named vice president, talent initiatives at The Right Place on Jan. 1, 2019. “Health care also means jobs in human resources, accounting, finance. There are lots of jobs. And not just what you think.”

Medical technology
All that health care spawned huge growth in a related area — medical technology.

There are 130 medical device companies in West Michigan, Klohs says. As one of the fastest growing medical clusters in the Midwest, the region boasts a concentration of medical device manufacturers 150 percent above the national average.

Birgit Klohs of The Right Place, Inc., says the organization she leads has helped oversee massive growth in the West Michigan area.

The industry is so robust that The Right Place formed MiDevice, an organization dedicated to medical device design, development, manufacturing and distribution. The consortium of more than 25 members speeds the growth and development of medical devices by encouraging collaboration among members.

“Now we’re seeing interest from other life science companies who may want to come here from the West Coast and the East Coast,” Klohs says.

It means a steady influx of brain power.

“The talent here working on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, from all over the world, is amazing,” she says. “It’s an incredible magnet for talent.”

Information technology
“Ten years ago, when we needed a new website for The Right Place, we had to go to Denver for a web developer,” Klohs says. “A few years ago, when we had to re-do the site, we found a place right around the corner.

“Information technology is a really, really key industry here,” Klohs says. “We’re seeing growth in both homegrown companies and companies coming here from other places. Employment costs are less here, which attracts companies.”

Many corporations have their own in-house IT departments, too.

“It’s not just about creating websites,” Klohs says. “It’s artificial intelligence. It’s about helping plants run more efficiently.”

In short, it’s about powering everything.

Nevada-based Switch has opened a regional data center in Gaines Township — the largest, most advanced data center campus in the eastern United States. The powerhouse specializes in storing and managing cloud data for large clients such as eBay, Sony, Google, Amazon, Time Warner and Fox Broadcasting.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in food processing,” Klohs says. “So much food is grown here, from fruit to hops, and of course it has to be processed.”

While global companies like Nestlé and Kellogg have chosen West Michigan, there are food hot spots all over the region.

Jim Robey, director of regional economic planning services for the W.E Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, considers West Michigan something of a food hot spot in the state.

“While Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo are very urban, it doesn’t take long before you’re out in the country,” says Jim Robey, director of regional economic planning services for the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo. “They’re growing everything from cherries to blueberries and apples, grains and soybeans.”

If you listen carefully, you can hear the chickens.

Saranac-based Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, with more than 800 employees and 8.5 million laying hens, recently launched a $16.3 million expansion.

“It’s a big deal,” Isely says.

Tucked in Coldwater, on the southern border of Michigan, Clemens Food Group employs more than 800 people at its new pork processing plant.

“If people could find housing, they’d set up a second shift,” Robey says.

While the aerospace industry grew at 6.5 percent nationwide from 2013 to 2017, it grew at 15.3 percent in Michigan, The Right Place reports.

“If you look around West Michigan, you’ll see a lot of aerospace firms,” says Isely of GVSU. Gentex in Zeeland makes interactive windows for commercial and business aircraft. GE Aviation in Grand Rapids is a leading global provider of electrical power systems, avionics, landing gear and propeller systems for fighter planes, helicopters and business jets. Arconic Engines in Whitehall is a world-class producer of aero engine and industrial gas turbine components.

“A whole pile of corporations are doing that kind of work,” Isely says. “It’s been an interesting change.”

“All these different sectors have given us a diversification that really makes this a robust region,” Klohs says. “We’re never depending on one industry. We continue to diversify. That wasn’t true 10 years ago.

“There are one-company towns where if that company sneezes, everybody gets sick,” she says. “That’s not us.”

West Michigan’s diverse industries offer important protection, says Isely of GVSU.

“As we look forward, we have good bones,” Isely says. “A good workforce. Good infrastructure. A diversified workforce in health care, manufacturing, agriculture.

“We also have industries that are cyclical in different manners,” he says. “The cycles for auto and furniture are not the same. Aerospace is on a different cycle. Medical has no business cycle. Different industries perform well at different times.”

While Isely believes there will be a recession in late 2019 or 2020, he says he’s not too worried about West Michigan.

Paul Isely. associate dean for undergraduate programs at Grand Valley State University, says the West Michigan area is noted for having a diversified workforce.

“We’ll do pretty well,” Isely says. “We have a lot of young people, and that helps keep housing from falling through the bottom. Our manufacturing is diversified, so we’re touching many different types of production.

“We’ve set ourselves up to resist the standard type of recession.”

The talent search
Unemployment in much of West Michigan is below the already-low national average, Robey says.

Kent County is at 2.7 percent. Kalamazoo County is 3.2 percent.

“That means some challenges for businesses,” Robey says. “They continue to struggle to find workers. That will push the cost of wages up some.

“A lot of companies are doing internal innovation,” he says. “You’ll see an increase in automation because they can’t get workers.”

Craving a Wendy’s Frosty? You’ll soon be able to order it from an automated kiosk, not a person, whether you’re in West Michigan or West Virginia. Grand Rapids-based Meritage Hospitality Group, one of the nation’s largest Wendy’s franchisees, owns and operates more than 300 different restaurants in Michigan and 16 other states.

“They just bought 2,000 kiosks and are adding them as they renovate restaurants across the country,” Robey says.

Housing cost and availability is another obstacle, GVSU’s Isely says.

“Our income hasn’t kept up with housing costs in West Michigan,” he says. “That’s an issue in how fast we can get people to come here.”

Ottawa County is the fastest growing county in the state, Klohs says, followed by Kent County at number two.

“There’s been a tremendous increase in 25 to 35-year-olds in Kent County,” Isely says. “There are more of them in this area than people over 65.

“That creates a young energy, a more entrepreneurial type of vibe going on here,” Isely says. “It’s resulted in a magnet for migration.”

In the early 2000s, West Michigan’s young people were leaving for Denver, Atlanta and Austin, he says.

Cindy Brown, who recently transitioned to oversee talent initiatives at The Right Place, points to a diversity of health care jobs that are available.

“A few years ago, we started to see the reverse,” Isely says. “More people are coming here than leaving.

“We have a dynamic culture, great availability of natural resources — and we have jobs.”

Only two areas of the state have seen strong positive job growth since 2000, Isely says.

One is the Grand Rapids area, with 7.5 percent growth.

The other is the Ann Arbor area, with less than 1 percent growth.

“Michigan was in a recession from 2001 to 2011 — except for the Grand Rapids area,” Isely says, “where employment continued to grow.”

Kalamazoo is bustling, too, Robey says.

“You’d be surprised, if you came to downtown Kalamazoo, the amount of housing and mixed-use buildings going up in downtown,” he says. “Every available footprint is either in development or planned development. The market for corporate real estate is really tight.”

Klohs talks about Muskegon’s renewed energy, as its downtown is buzzing with more than $50 million in construction activity, from apartments to a Muskegon Community College downtown center to a new world headquarters for KL Outdoor/GSC, the world’s largest manufacturer of kayaks.

“Muskegon County is on the cusp,” Klohs says. “There’s some really great stuff going on. Redevelopment. Downtown business growth. They’ve turned the corner.”

Sure, people come to West Michigan for jobs, but life is about more than work.

“This has become a really cool place to live, work and play,” Klohs says. “We have everything from golf to opera.

I came back downtown the other night and every parking ramp in Grand Rapids was full. You couldn’t get a room at the JW Marriott even if you paid double.

“We’re in a really great place right now.”

“People underestimate the complexity of Grand Rapids and all it has to offer,” says Upjohn’s Robey.

He did.

Just three years ago Robey lived in Cleveland. Then one day he traveled to Grand Rapids for a concert.

“I saw the hotel price was at a national price point. I said, ‘That’s a lot for this place, isn’t it?’”

Then he looked around.

“It’s a truly urban downtown,” he says.

“West Michigan is a good location,” Robey says. “There are lots of amenities in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, from entertainment to food to beer, wine and distilled spirits. There are walkable downtowns all over West Michigan. Retail is good. Grand Rapids has a very nice airport with lots of good connections.”

Making the transition from Hello West Michigan to focusing on talent initiatives at The Right Place, Cindy Brown has to be smiling. Robey’s sort of doing her job for her. But he forgot to mention the beaches, the snow sports, the professional ballet company, two symphonies 45 minutes from each other.

“People here are very humble,” Brown says. “We don’t toot our own horn. People don’t realize all we have going on here.”

“Most folks east of Grand Rapids see it as a great place to raise a family, but where they roll up the sidewalks at night,” Klohs says.

“We don’t.”

Lightweighting-related employment reached new heights in 2018

Emily DeRocco knows continuing to strengthen the country’s manufacturing base means both economic security through job creation and national security.

And statistics show that kind of growth – particularly in lightweighting-related occupations – has been happening in record numbers.

Photo courtesy LIFT.

Advanced manufacturing employment reached new heights in 2018, with more than 730,000 Michigan workers employed in lightweighting-related occupations. That’s the highest level since 2005 and the ninth straight year of growth, according to a new report from Detroit-based LIFT (Lightweight Innovations For Tomorrow), a national advanced manufacturing innovation institute.

“Nine straight years of growth is fantastic,” said DeRocco, LIFT’s education and workforce vice president. “I think we are seeing that not only because we are rebounding from the Great Recession, but also, as a country, we are realizing the importance of manufacturing products here in the United States.”

Along with rising employment levels in 2018, the LIFT report showed employer demand for workers in lightweighting-related occupations grew by some 19 percent from the fourth quarter of 2017 through the fourth quarter of 2018, with more than 66,500 jobs posted in the year’s final quarter.

Photo courtesy LIFT.

The report, highlighting employment trends, top jobs and required skills in advanced manufacturing for 2018, was completed with research and analysis from the Workforce Intelligence Network of Southeast Michigan (WIN) and covers Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, a region that’s home to more than 50 percent of the metalworking jobs in the country.

“It is tremendously positive to see the trend in employment growth in Michigan for the ninth consecutive year,” DeRocco said. “As demand for advanced manufacturing jobs continues to climb, it remains incumbent upon industry and educators to partner together to ensure the pipeline of people with the talent, skills and abilities to work in advanced manufacturing is robust to support the needs of the manufacturing base going forward.”

Photo courtesy LIFT.

While the LIFT report focused on lightweighting-related jobs, DeRocco pointed out there’s been growth “in a wide range of manufacturing occupations.” The potential problem? The national prediction is of a need to fill more than 3.5 million jobs over the next several years and two million going unfilled because there aren’t the skilled workers to fill them, she said.

“The issue now is a skills gap facing our manufacturers,” DeRocco said. “Most significantly, there is a tremendous need for highly skilled technicians who can work in a variety of capacities on a wide range of machines on the manufacturing floor. Our focus at LIFT is to ensure the pipeline of talent ready for these positions is filled.”

DeRocco is obviously delighted with the growth, but knows there’s more to do.

LIFT hosts its Manufacturing Day at LIFT/IACMI Manufacturing Innovation Facility in Detroit, Mich. Friday, Oct. 06, 2017. © Gary Malerba

“The good news from our reports is that the industrial manufacturing base is on more solid ground,” she said. “However, there is still much work to be done to narrow the skills gap to make sure industry has the people with the right knowledge, skills and abilities to work with the new technologies – like those being developed at LIFT – in the future.

“So while the manufacturing industry is healthier than it has been in some time,” she added, “we have to produce the educated and skilled workforce to make sure manufacturing in America continues to grow for decades to come.”

The full Michigan report can be viewed at:

Bringing back domestic clothing manufacturing one t-shirt at a time

Manufacturing. It’s the lifeblood of Michigan. But ask anyone who is native to our great state and they’ll tell you manufacturing has its ups and downs, often in response to the economy’s ebb and flow. That’s been particularly true with U.S. garment manufacturing, which has been largely offshored for 40-plus years.

The American Apparel & Footwear Association’s data analysis through 2017 reveals 98 percent of shoes and 97 percent of clothes sold in the United States were imported. But there is reason to believe domestic manufacturing is coming back. The AAFA says manufacturing of apparel and footwear rose for the seventh consecutive year, increasing by more than 66 percent compared to 2009.

Count GETTEES, a garment manufacturing company born in Michigan this decade, as part of the resurgence. Founded by then 21-year-old Mathew Hunt, GETTEES opened a factory in Michigan in 2014, where former automotive sewers were trained to become garment seamstresses. Being born and raised in metro Detroit, Hunt had seen firsthand what the loss of manufacturing jobs could do to a region.

But it was while attending Michigan State University that Hunt got an education about the garment industry, when he was assigned a case study. Much of it focused on how companies gain back consumer trust after tragic events like the 2013 Savar building collapse in Bangladesh. According to the company’s fact sheet: “It was then that Mathew saw just how broken the garment industry truly is. Inspired by his father, an entrepreneur, Mathew decided to take action into his own hands and developed the concept of GETTEES.”

It’s probably no surprise that Hunt’s company takes inspiration from manufacturing legend Henry Ford. According to company
materials, “GETTEES aim is to make high quality, American-made clothing that’s affordable. By controlling the manufacturing and cutting out layers of unnecessary markups, that becomes possible.”

With another nod to Ford, the Model Tee is the foundation of GETTEES, marketed as having “the attention to detail and the engineering” that makes the Motor City famous. The Model Tee and other products are made with a supima cotton interlock fabric, have a tailored body, tagless label, fitted collar, side seam tape, single crush stitch and hemmed sleeves.

For men, the Model Tee Pinstripe SS (short sleeve) sells for $24 and Lincoln long sleeve retails at $39. Heavyweight men’s shirts are $19. Women’s heavyweight tees range from $19 to $24. A variety of colors are available and some versions feature “Detroit” proudly across the chest. Sweatshirts for men and women were recently introduced ($49 – $60), with jogger pants planned for a future release.

Shop and learn more at

Preeminent 3D printing and additive manufacturing conference scheduled for Detroit

This year, RAPID + TCT returns to its birthplace to host a major event bringing household brand names to a city Michigan knows well: Detroit.

Not only is the area home to the highest concentration of engineering talent in the United States, but the city is enjoying huge startup growth and has experienced more than $13 billion in new investments across more than 200 projects since 2006, officials said.

SME, an association of professionals, educators and students committed to promoting and supporting the manufacturing industry, will host its RAPID + TCT event from May 20-23 at Cobo Center in Detroit.

RAPID + TCT is North America’s preeminent event for discovery, innovation and networking for additive manufacturing, bringing together the best new ideas from the biggest and most innovative names in the industry. With more than 125 presentations, eight workshops and three keynote presentations, the event is both a global conference and tradeshow that features more than 375 exhibitors and three networking receptions.

The three keynote presentations from some of the nation’s most creative minds, will include:
• Bill Taylor, Entrepreneur, Author and Co-founder of Fast Company
• Naomi Murray, Ph.D., Director of Advanced Operations and Additive Technology Solutions at Stryker
• Dominik Rietzel, Dr.-Ing., Head of Additive Manufacturing (Non-Metals) at BMW Group

Sandra Bouckley

“At SME, we pride ourselves on providing opportunities for industry professionals to connect, learn and advance their businesses. For nearly 30 years, RAPID + TCT has served as a springboard for high-level decisionmakers to invest in technologies driving manufacturing into the future,” SME CEO and Executive Director Sandra Bouckley said in a statement. “We are thrilled to welcome 7,000 such leaders from around the world to our home in Detroit.”

With a focus on 3D printing, RAPID + TCT is a high-energy experience that puts the capabilities of additive manufacturing technology on display and explores the applications throughout affected industries, including aerospace, automotive, medicine and more. These technologies are challenging the status quo, from best practices throughout the business landscape to public policy.

Each year, hundreds of leading technology and manufacturing companies debut exciting new products and innovations at RAPID + TCT. These exhibits draw many of the world’s most prestigious brands—ranging from Google and Amazon to Nike, Microsoft, NASA, Target and more—to conduct industry research on the ground at the event.

For over 25 years, RAPID + TCT has defined the crucial role of additive manufacturing and empowered the establishment of an industry that continues to conceive, test, improve and manufacture new products at a faster, more cost-efficient pace. The two industry leaders in 3D technology events, SME and The TCT Group, have teamed up to produce the annual RAPID + TCT event. For users and suppliers alike, the event is the top destination for those who provide technology and for those who need to understand, explore and adopt 3D printing, additive manufacturing, 3D scanning, CAD/CAE, metrology and inspection technologies.

SME connects manufacturing professionals, academia and communities, sharing knowledge and resources to build inspired, educated and prosperous manufacturers and enterprises. With more than 85 years of experience and expertise in events, media, membership, training and development, and also through an education foundation, SME is committed to promoting manufacturing technology, developing a skilled workforce and attracting future generations to advance manufacturing.

Established in 1992, Rapid News Publications Ltd, the owner of the TCT Group, has been a leading authority in additive manufacturing, 3D printing, design and engineering technology for over 25 years. The group’s events and media products now deliver business-critical insights, intelligence and inspiration across Europe, North America and Asia on 3D printing, additive manufacturing, CAD/CAM/CAE, metrology, inspection and materials as well as highlighting the latest developments in conventional manufacturing processes such as moulding, casting and CNC machining.

National Black MBA Association Detroit Chapter elects Howard to Presidency

Bryan L. Howard Sr., program facilitator at Winning Futures, was recently elected by the National Black M.B.A. Association (NBMBAA) Detroit chapter to serve as president. The NBMBAA assists in the creation of intellectual and economic wealth within the African-American community.

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