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Two companies announce expansions in Kalamazoo County

Alamo and Pavilion townships will see business growth and new jobs in coming months. 

Of the two business expansion projects, the greatest number of jobs will go to Alamo Township.  Local manufacturer Quality Precast, Inc. will construct a new 25,000-square-foot production facility and corporate headquarters in Alamo Towship. It plans to add 20 new jobs. 

The company is a precast manufacturer specializing in manholes, large block retaining walls and more. It will invest more than $1.35 million in the expansion. The company received a $3,000 grant approved by the Kalamazoo County Brownfield Authority to conduct Phase I environmental site assessment. And Alamo Township is also supporting the project with a 12-year tax abatement.

Quality Precast was started in 2004 and has grown to be a leader in the Great Lakes region. It is a Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) certified supplier. Its expansion will allow the company to move all production inside the building and run 365 days per year.

“The 20 jobs created by this expansion will make a great impact on the local community in Alamo Township,”  says Ron Kitchens, senior partner and chief executive officer of Southwest Michigan First. 

In Pavilion Township, custom corrugated packaging specialist Green Bay Packaging has broken ground on a 107,000-square-foot expansion. It plans to add three new jobs.

Founded in 1933, Green Bay Packaging manufactures high-quality products for a variety of retail packaging and labeling applications. It has 31 locations across the U.S. and Mexico. Its expansion in Kalamazoo County will be completed through an investment of $10.8 million and has been supported by a 12 year tax abatement approved by Pavilion Township.

Green Bay Packaging says it is positioning itself for a successful future, using its added square footage to house a new corrugating line.

“The expansion of Green Bay Packaging is a testament to the company’s strong presence in Southwest Michigan,” says Kitchens, senior partner and chief executive officer of Southwest Michigan First.  

Southwest Michigan First is an organization of privately funded economic development advisors who act as the catalyst for economic growth in Southwest Michigan.

Source: Southwest Michigan First

New baby giraffe drops in at Binder Park Zoo

Earlier this year, people across the globe were waiting, some with more patience than others, for the birth of a baby giraffe at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, N.Y. While people constantly checked in with April's giraffe cam online, baby giraffes were being born without a lot of fanfare.

One report says that while the world waited four little giraffes were born: Dobby at the Denver Zoo on Feb. 28, and on April 3 giraffes were born at the Chester Zoo in Cheshire England, the Memphis Zoo, and the Toledo Zoo. And one more came into the world at the Paignton Zoo on April 19. (There are probably more but those are the ones Google knows about.)

So, this is definitely the year of the giraffe. And Binder Park Zoo is part of the trend. A baby reticulated giraffe on May 23. The female calf was 6 feet tall and weighed 190 pounds at birth. Zookeepers have named her Kijana. Her mother is the 17-year-old Makena. It is the tenth calf to be born at Binder Park Zoo.

The zoo says that updates on Kijana's debut on the savanna will be announced on its Facebook page

“Mom and baby are both doing well,” says Brett Linsley, Manager of Wildlife, Conservation, and Education at Binder Park Zoo. “This is a significant birth because there are so few reticulated giraffes remaining in the wild and because the conservation status of this subspecies has yet to be classified.”

The gestation period for giraffes is 14 to 15 months and calves can be up to 6 feet tall at birth. Giraffe babies start off their lives with a 6-foot drop into the world as their mothers give birth standing up. The giraffe is the tallest land animal and the reticulated giraffe is the most well-known of the giraffe subspecies. 
Today there are only a few small areas where giraffes remain in the wild, the zoo reports. Giraffe populations have diminished to 90,000— down from 140,000 in 1999.  According to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, giraffe populations have declined by 35 percent over the last two decades, much of which is due to habitat loss and poaching. 
Binder Park Zoo has participated in giraffe conservation since the opening of Wild Africa in 1999. Ten years later, in 2009 the first baby giraffe in zoo history was born.  Binder Park Zoo’s herd has six reticulated giraffes.  

If current trends persist, the reticulated giraffe could be gone from the wild by 2020. In the last 15 years, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation has noted a decline in reticulated giraffe populations from 31,000 in the wild to an estimated 8,000 today. Conservationists are pushing to get all species of giraffe listed on the IUCN Red Lists, which will help to elevate their protection.

Binder Park Zoo is a 433-acre wildlife preserve located outside of Battle Creek. The zoo is home to a vast array of threatened and endangered exotic and native wildlife and is heavily involved in conservation on five continents. More than 8,000,000 people have visited Binder Park Zoo and an additional 500,000 have been served through outreach programs since the zoo was established in 1975. The zoo’s educational programs are at the heart of its mission and are intended to inspire today’s youth to be tomorrow’s conservation leaders. 

Source: Binder Park Zoo

Kalamazoo Humane Society kicks off fundraiser for new facility to provide critical care for animals

Construction on a new center where animals can receive crucial care and services such as spaying and neutering is expected to begin by spring 2018.

The Kalamazoo Humane Society has announced that it has raised $3 million of the $4.75 million that it needs to build the new center.

The new building will be located in Comstock Township at River Street and the I-94 Business Loop. It will replace the Humane Society’s current home, a converted bridal shop. 

Executive Director of KHS Aaron Winters says the new center will allow the Kalamazoo Humane Society to expand its low-cost spay and neuter services that reduce unwanted litters. The new facility also will increase access to its emergency pet food bank and other services for pet owners in crisis. It will provide a place to  offer humane education activities to promote responsible treatment of animals.

Operation Fix-It, the Humane Society's spay and neuter program, has exceeded 60,000 procedures since 2002, which correlates to dramatic reductions in the number of animals housed in the shelter operated by Kalamazoo County Animal Services & Enforcement. Reportedly, in 2015 no dogs were euthanized for lack of space — a result attributed to Operation Fix-It. The new animal care and resource center will increase the scope of Operation Fix-It, Winters says.

“When complete, our new home will allow us to grow programs that reduce the number of shelter animals through education and access to medical services and assistance,” Winters says.

The Humane Society kicked off the public portion of its capital campaign at a news conference in downtown Kalamazoo, surrounded by supporters, local dignitaries, and a few pets. It asked for the community's support in funding the remaining $1.75 million needed to get the facility built. 

“The amazingly generous response we’ve seen in the early part of our capital campaign shows what I’ve always known, that this community loves, cares for and wants to protect its animals,” says Winters.

Robert Cinabro and Colleen Killen-Roberts, co-chairs of the Compassion/Prevention/Results Campaign, shared Winters’ enthusiasm. The campaign started with the goal of funding an animal care and resource center that would tackle increased demand for access to services that help not only reduce the number of unwanted pets in shelters and on the streets but also help keep pets safe and in their own homes, Cinabro says. “Thanks to the vision and commitment of 140 donors to date, we’ve made outstanding progress toward that goal.”

 Killen-Roberts says the Kalamazoo Humane Society has remained committed to protecting the vulnerable since 1897. "This new animal care and resource center, which expands the Humane Society’s crucial medical, education and support services, is the next step in advancing our identity as a compassionate community. Now we’re asking the rest of the community to take us over the finish line in this important campaign.”

How to contribute
The Kalamazoo Humane Society is a 601(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Gifts to it are tax-deductible. Individuals and groups wishing to support the Compassion/Prevention/Results Campaign may do so in any of the following ways:

• A one-time cash gift

• A multi-year pledge commitment that can be paid over three years

• A gift of appreciated assets, such as stocks

• A donation of an asset that can be converted to cash, such as property, a car, collectibles, etc.

• An estate gift

More information about the Kalamazoo Humane Society and the animal care and resource center, including an informational video, is available online here

Sources: Rick Chambers, Rick Chambers and Associates, Kalamazoo Humane Society

Three architectural and planning professionals join WAI

The Architecture Studio at Wightman & Associates, Inc. recently welcomed to its team of service providers three professionals, all based in the company’s Benton Harbor office.
Carl Baxmeyer comes to WAI from Chicago-based Fanning Howey where he was Project Executive. As a community planner, Baxmeyer has completed numerous demographic studies and strategic development plans. He has led projects involving the development of master plans, feasibility studies, park and recreation planning, industrial site plans, environmental impact studies and audits, transportation planning, and grant acquisition/management. Among his past clients are the City of Chicago, City of Louisville, Kentucky, District of Columbia Public Schools - Washington D.C., and University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. He is a Recognized Educational Facility Planner and a Certified Planner through the American Institute of Certified Planners. He holds a Master of Science degree, Hydrology and Natural Resource Management from Colorado State University, and a Bachelor of Science degree, Environmental Science and Regional Planning from Grand Valley State University.
J. Vincent Rigg comes to WAI from the Chicago and Detroit-based architecture firm Ghafari where he was Senior Project Architect. He has 25 years of design experience in multiple disciplines, programs, and scale working for various firms in Chicago and California. Among the projects on which he has worked are the BMW Headquarters in Mexico, the 40-story McCormick Center hotel, Mennica Tower in Warsaw, Poland, the United States Coast Guard headquarters office building in Washington D.C., multiple projects for Harley-Davidson, and a number of personal residences in the Chicago and Harbor Country areas. Rigg is the recipient of multiple American Institute of Architects awards. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Andrews University and is LEED certified.
Mark R. Smith joins WAI with nearly 40 years of experience in the construction industry as co-owner and president of Smith Lumber Company in Hartford, as a design-build general contractor, and most recently as a CADD manager with Nehil-Sival Structural Engineers in Kalamazoo. Smith earned a Master of Architecture degree and a Bachelor of Architecture degree, both from Andrews University. He also holds an Associate in Business degree from Lake Michigan College. Smith is a licensed State of Michigan building contractor and a LEED Green Associate.

Wightman & Associates, Inc. is a civil engineering, architectural, and survey firm that has been serving Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana since 1946 with offices in Benton Harbor, Portage, and Allegan.

Source: Wightman & Associates, Inc.

Zoetis plans $64.5 million investment in Kalamazoo and Portage

Zoetis, the global animal health company is expanding in the Kalamazoo area and plans to renovate its global manufacturing and supply facilities and add production capacity in the cities of Kalamazoo and Portage.

The company recently announced it plans a $64.5 million investment that is expected to create 45 jobs over the next three years and an additional 15 more jobs in year four and five. 

 As a result, the company has been awarded a $500,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant with support from the Michigan Strategic Fund, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation says.

Michigan was chosen over competing sites in other locations. Southwest Michigan First has offered staff time and resources in support of the project. 

"Kalamazoo is home to one of the largest and most important manufacturing sites in Zoetis’ Global Manufacturing and Supply network,” says Matthew Everhart, Vice President, Pharmaceutical and Aseptic Operations, Global Manufacturing and Supply at Zoetis. “Locating manufacturing here gives us continued access to a highly skilled and diverse workforce which is essential to managing a global animal health company. Our people provide our veterinarian and livestock farmer customers with a reliable supply of high-quality medicines for their animals and are an integral part of the community here.” 

Steve Arwood, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the state’s chief marketing and business attraction arm that administers programs and performs due diligence on behalf of the MSF says, “Zoetis’ decision to bolster its production of medicines here rather than in other locations demonstrates that our business climate and our state’s world-class talent make Michigan a top destination for biotech companies to locate, expand and grow new jobs.”

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Nine questions about Dr. Edward B. Montgomery, WMU's ninth president

The search for a replacement for the retiring Western Michigan University President John Dunn has been completed. Dr. Edward B. Montgomery will become the university's ninth president.

When does Montgomery take office?
Montgomery will officially take office on Aug. 1. He was selected was selected by unanimous vote of the WMU trustees during a special meeting of the WMU board convened April 12.

What is his educational background?
Montgomery has more than 35 years experience in academics. He earned a bachelor's degree from Pennsylvania State University and both master's and doctoral degrees in economics from Harvard University. He currently is dean and professor of economics at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy. 

Montgomery has held faculty positions at Carnegie Mellon and Michigan State universities as well as the University of Maryland. He has won teaching awards five times over the years.  

He has been at Georgetown since 2010. He began his academic career in 1981 with the position at Carnegie Mellon, where he was a faculty member for five years. He then spent a year as a visiting scholar with the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System before becoming a member of the Michigan State University faculty for four years. He joined the University of Maryland faculty in 1990, remaining there until his 2010 move to Georgetown. He also has been a visiting scholar at the Urban Institute.

What is his research emphasis?
As a researcher, Montgomery has focused on state and local economic growth, wage and pension determination, savings behavior, productivity and economic dynamics, social insurance programs, and unions. He has worked on research efforts with Kalamazoo's W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research since the 1980s and has visited the Kalamazoo community a number of times.

For more than 20 years, he has been a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. Since 2006, he has been a fellow of Stanford University's Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality. Since 2011, he has served on the Comptroller General's Educators Advisory Committee in Washington's General Accountability Office. In 2011, he was elected a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.

How much will he be paid?
His five-year contract calls for him to have an annual salary of $450,000. A deferred compensation/retirement package will provide an additional $50,000 per year. 

What can you tell me about his family?
Montgomery and his wife, Kari, a Michigan native, have three grown children — Lindsay, Elizabeth and Edward.

He used to work for the Clinton and Obama administrations? 
Montgomery is a nationally known labor economist. During President Bill Clinton's administration, Montgomery served as chief economist, then counselor and assistant secretary for the Department of Labor before being named deputy secretary of labor. In the latter role, the department's second-highest position, he oversaw operations of a $33 billion department.

During President Barack Obama's administration, Montgomery was a member of the president's auto task force and led the inter-agency White House Council for Auto Communities and Workers. That position put him in a role national media dubbed "the Auto Czar" and affirmed his view of the synergistic role universities can play in regional economic development. He says the potential impact of a high-quality university is enormous and is a key reason the WMU presidency was so attractive to him.

Why did he want to come to Kalamazoo?
"I was drawn to the opportunity to lead an up-and-coming student-centric comprehensive university with deep ties to the local and regional economy and community. Its strengths in the traditional arts and sciences, coupled with strong programs in such areas as aviation, engineering, business, medicine and others make it an institution with enormous potential" Dr. Montgomery says.

What will he tackle first?
"Job No. 1 for me is getting to know the faculty, staff, students and alumni communities. Working together, I know we can build on the strong foundation laid by President Dunn and make WMU the institution of choice for students from the state and region," Dr. Montgomery says.

What does the Presidential Search Committee of the WMU board of trustees say about the selection?
"Edward Montgomery's personal demeanor, commitment to transformational change and extensive academic background resonated with all of us involved in the search and spoke directly to the themes that emerged from our numerous listening sessions with university stakeholders,” says WMU Trustee William Johnston, who led the 22-member Presidential Search Advisory Committee.

Montgomery’s selection follows a national search to find a successor to Dr. John M. Dunn who had announced a June 30 retirement date but will now continue through July 31.

Source: Cheryl Roland, Western Michigan University

Miller-Davis Company announces next chief financial officer

Miller-Davis Company has a new chief financial officer. Dan Coffman, CPA, has accepted the position as long-time Chief Financial Officer Tom Georgoff transitions to retirement.

The company says Coffman has been integral to the Miller-Davis team since joining the company as corporate controller in 2014. He has worked closely with Georgoff who will be retiring later in April after 30 years of service to Miller-Davis Company.  
In Coffman’s new position, he is responsible for all financial and risk management functions at Miller-Davis Company. He will also serve as an officer of the company.

Coffman is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and holds a bachelor’s degree in business and a Master of Science in Accountancy, both from Western Michigan University. He is involved in the community of greater-Kalamazoo and serves on the board of Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services (KNHS).

“We are grateful for Tom’s dedication and leadership over the past three decades at Miller-Davis,” says Rex Bell, Miller-Davis Company president. “He has left a lasting mark on the company and I’m confident Dan will continue the great work as he moves into this position.”

During his time at Miller-Davis, Georgoff has been involved in many community and professional organizations. He serves on the boards of Southwest Michigan First and the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. 

Miller-Davis Company is a full-service construction company providing general contracting, construction management, design-build and construction consulting services. Miller-Davis was founded in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1909 and maintains its headquarters in Kalamazoo and an additional office in South Bend, Ind. 
Source: Miller-Davis Company

Land Conservancy invites community to learn about Portman Nature Preserve near Mattawan

 Do you have a vision for the Portman Nature Preserve in Almena and Antwerp townships?

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC) invites residents to a meeting where they can learn about the forthcoming Portman Nature Preserve and share ideas about the property. 

The meeting takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 11 at Mattawan Middle School.

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy purchased the property earlier this year, but there still is a lot to do before it can be opened for the public, says Pete Ter Louw, SWMLC President and Executive Director. 
“This initial public meeting is an opportunity for the community to tell us about some of the ways they envision the Portman Nature Preserve becoming part of their community, and help us to plan for its future use,” Ter Louw says.
With assistance from a U.S. Forest Service grant, the Portman Nature Preserve will also be designated a “community forest” in which significant natural resources are protected. The designation also provides public access and recreational benefits to the community. There will be learning opportunities based in the forest and it will serve as a model for effective and sustainable forest stewardship.
As part of creating the community forest, SWMLC is reaching out to the community for feedback on the draft community forest plan. The plan will be available for review at the meeting. The meeting also will be a chance for the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy to learn the ways in which the Portman Nature Preserve can add to the quality of life for people in the region and how it can help to create healthier and more livable neighborhoods.
SWMLC is working to create spaces for the public to enjoy in the forest without adversely impacting the natural area's rarest and most threatened species. SWMLC aims to provide access for outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, bird-watching, snowshoeing, trail-running, plein air painting, and more at the preserve.

So far, the nature preserve has not been to the public, but SWMLC has begun working with the Mattawan Schools to develop the preserve as an outdoor classroom for Mattawan’s K-12 students. Former Mattawan Middle School Principal Bill McNulty has been very involved in helping to introduce teachers and students to the preserve, and to show them the many possibilities for student enrichment in subjects such as science, art, math, and language arts.
“We are so excited to share this amazing natural area with the public, and we look forward to talking with folks about their hopes and dreams for the property,” says SWMLC Conservation and Stewardship Director Nate Fuller. “We want to create a nature preserve that not only protects the incredible biodiversity and natural features of this property, but also serves as an outdoor classroom for local students, and a natural space for the community to connect with nature and each other.”
On Saturday, May 20 SWMLC will have a Saturday “Sneak Peek” event for the public to visit the new Portman Nature Preserve for the first time, and to learn more about the property’s rare biodiversity, water resources, and how SWMLC will care for the property and help restore it.

The project came about through a massive collaboration of local, state, and federal organizations. It was made possible by Gerald and Julie Portman, The Conservation Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Enbridge Energy Limited Partnership, the U.S. Forest Service, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and The Carls Foundation. Further,  200 individual donors and friends of SWMLC met The Carls Foundation’s $75,000 matching grant challenge issued in late autumn of 2016, to raise $150,000 to go toward the project.
SWMLC identified the 188-acre property as a high priority site for conservation almost a decade ago. The Portman Nature Preserve part of a critical headwater region in the Paw Paw River Watershed and also helps provide clean and abundant water to the region, and ultimately to Lake Michigan. It is also home to an incredible diversity of plants and animals.
If SWMLC is able raises the final $75,000 it needs to complete the public access infrastructure to build a safe parking area and entry trail system, SWMLC hopes that the preserve will open to the public in early fall.
To learn more about the Portman Nature Preserve and how you can help the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy complete this project, please visit

Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy saves land for turtles, loons, plants, and people, too

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy has been experiencing successes from the east side of the region to the west -- on lands at the headwaters of southern Barry County's Augusta Creek and the headwaters of region in the Paw Paw River Watershed.

In Van Buren County, the Land Conservancy has raised 98 percent, all but $75,000, of $2.2 million needed to acquire, maintain, and open to the public a 188-acre property known as the Portman Nature Preserve. The new nature preserve in Almena and Antwerp townships in eastern Van Buren County purchased in January is the Land Conservancy's  most ambitious conservation project to date, says SWMLC’s Conservation and Stewardship Director Nate Fuller. (Watch a video of the project here.)

The property is one of the most ecologically significant natural areas in southwest Michigan. The Portman Nature Preserve is home to every species of turtle found in southern Michigan, Fuller says. Two federally endangered species and many plants that state has listed as endangered also live there. 

"The Portman Nature Preserve is an amazing mix of woods, meadows, and wetlands with frontage on three lakes, a creek, and hundreds of springs," says Fuller. 

The project came about through a massive collaboration of local, state, and federal organizations. It was made possible by Gerald and Julie Portman, The Conservation Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Enbridge Energy Limited Partnership, the U.S. Forest Service, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and The Carls Foundation. Further,  200 individual donors and friends of SWMLC met The Carls Foundation’s $75,000 matching grant challenge issued in late autumn of 2016, to raise $150,000 to go toward the project.
SWMLC identified the 188-acre property as a high priority site for conservation almost a decade ago. The Portman Nature Preserve part of a critical headwater region in the Paw Paw River Watershed and also helps provide clean and abundant water to the region, and ultimately to Lake Michigan. It is also home to an incredible diversity of plants and animals.

"Our vision is to create a nature preserve that not only conserves this outstanding property's natural features, but also serves as an outdoor classroom for local students, and a natural space for the community to explore, learn, exercise, gather, and connect with nature and each other," says SWMLC President and Executive Director Pete Ter Louw.

Bill McNulty, retired educator and former principal at Mattawan Middle School, is an enthusiastic supporter of the project. He says he is particularly excited about the opportunity to engage students in a natural setting to enhance development and learning across multiple subjects. 

"After just a few minutes at the Portman Nature Preserve I could see the potential opportunities for our community’s children," says McNulty. "I am so excited that our schools have been welcomed to be a part of this from the beginning. This outdoor classroom provides an extraordinary natural setting for our children to learn about science, art, writing, and so much more."

If SWMLC is able to raise the final $75,000 needed to complete a safe parking area and entry trail system, it will schedule a Saturday "Sneak Peek" event in late spring for the public to visit the new Portman Nature Preserve.

In Barry County

On the region's east side, at the headwaters of southern Barry County’s Augusta Creek, lies Fair Lake. Only a few houses dot the five miles of Fair Lake’s shoreline, which has kept the lake healthy. When a large natural tract of land on the lake recently went up for sale, Noel and Larry Hayward, decided to purchase the property and donate it to the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC) so that it would be conserved forever.

The new 66-acre Fair Lake Preserve has more than 1,500 feet of frontage on the north side of Fair Lake and is home to plant species found only in the highest quality wetlands in Southwest Michigan, such as Pitcher plants and Grass-pink orchids that line the banks of the lake. Fair Lake also has southernmost nesting pair of common loons in the continental United States. The loons have chosen, year after year, to make their nest on a platform at the north end of Fair Lake. And that's why the Haywards decided to purchase the property and donate it to the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. 

"My parents bought land on Fair Lake in 1938," says donor Noel Hayward. "Even back then, an older neighbor of theirs said the loons had been here for years, so they’ve been here for at least 90 years and probably much longer. The loons are so special to us and we would like to do whatever we can to help them continue to make their home here on the lake."

The Fair Lake Preserve is SWMLC’s sixth nature preserve in Barry County. It is critical for wetland and water conservation, says SWMLC Conservation Projects Manager Emily Wilke. "During the past few years SWMLC has been focused on conserving land within the Augusta Creek watershed and conserving land on Fair Lake has been one of our highest priorities," Wilke says.

Overall, the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy has protected more than 4,700 acres of land in Barry County, especially wetlands, streams and watersheds, such as the Augusta Creek which flows south into the Kalamazoo River. SWMLC is also focused on expanding wildlife habitat within and adjacent to the Barry State Game Area.

This spring, SWMLC plans to lead a birding hike through this new preserve. Look for details at the SWMLC website or at SWMLC’s Facebook page.       

Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Gun Lake Casino ready to hire more than 100 employees in job fairs

With a 73,000 square-foot expansion under way, Gun Lake Casino plans to hire more than 100 new employees.

The casino has scheduled three upcoming job fair to fill out the staff when the expansion is completed. Some are entry-level positions for which there will be on-the-job training. Other positions require experience. Cooks, servers, security officers and table games dealers all will be needed.

The job fairs are set for:
  • 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., March 6 - Crossroads Conference Center, 6569 Clay Ave SW, Grand Rapids.
  • 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., March 9 - Radisson Banquet Room, 100 W Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo. 
  • 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., March 11 - Tribal Government Complex across from Gun Lake Casino, 1123 129th Avenue, Wayland.
Candidates are encouraged to apply online prior to job fairs, and bring a resume to the event. On-site interviews will be offered to qualified candidates. 

Candidates offered employment will be required to pass a drug screen and background check, in order to obtain a gaming license needed for employment. 

Candidates must be 18 years or older for a variety of positions. Other positions require candidates to be 21 years or older. For a complete list of positions offered and to apply, visit here.

“We’re excited to offer new amenities for our guests and are equally as excited to offer so many new jobs for our community,” says Brent Arena, vice president & general manager for Gun Lake Casino. “We pride ourselves in being an employer of choice in West Michigan, offering our full-time team members a highly competitive benefits package, including health insurance, paid vacation, personal days, free shift meals, and more.”

Source: Gun Lake Casino

Miller-Davis Company hires Chad Stahl as new project manager

Miller-Davis Company has named Chad Stahl as a project manager and newest member of the Miller-Davis team in Kalamazoo.

Stahl oversees and provides project management duties to construction projects and serves as the primary office contact for those projects. He is responsible for all aspects of construction, from pre-construction to post-construction. Stahl’s current assignments with Miller-Davis are the Dansville Schools 2016 bond program and Phase 4 of Eastern Michigan University’s Wise Hall renovation.

“I’m excited about this opportunity and look forward to contributing to the Miller-Davis team with exceptional service to our clients,” says Stahl.

Prior to joining Miller-Davis Company, Stahl worked as a project manager with Walbridge and as a development manager with Lend Lease Public and Private Partnerships. He earned bachelor’s degree in business from the State University of New York at Oswego and a master of business administration degree from the University of Phoenix.

Miller-Davis Company is a full-service construction company providing general contracting, construction management, design-build and construction consulting services. Miller-Davis was founded in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1909 and maintains its headquarters in Kalamazoo and an additional office in South Bend, Indiana. Learn more here.

Source: Miller-Davis Company

Urban Democracy Feast offers opportunity for social justice organizations

When you think of feasts you may think of holiday meals or extended family gathers. The Urban Democracy Feast is a place where the community can come together to exchange information about shared problems, common obstacles and ways to overcome them.

The next Urban Democracy Feast is 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25 at First Congregational Church located at 345 W. Michigan Avenue, off Bronson Park. 

To date, there have been three Urban Democracy Feasts and the community has raised $3,000 which was then divided among four social justice groups applying for funding. They make a five-minute presentation during the evening to explain their project.

Organizers say their goal is to kick start projects that might otherwise not get funded, or help them make a qualitative leap in their work. Their applications show that they are addressing a shared need, have the support of other groups in the neighborhood and that the project demonstrates direct democracy.

They say the types of projects they look forward to considering, include: child care services for single parents who work the second and third shift; urban farms that sell to local restaurants; worker owned co-operatives; independent community media, or scholarship requests to study abroad and return to implement the research results in Kalamazoo.

Urban Democracy Feast occurs two times each year, in the fall and then again in late winter or spring. For future events, applications in English and Spanish are available at the Feast website. Hard copy versions are available at the Arcus Social Justice Center, Bilal Mosque, Eastside Neighborhood Association, Eastwood Library Branch, the Hispanic American Council, Kalamazoo Peace Center, People’s Food Co-op, Powell Street Library Branch, Vine Neighborhood Association, and the Washington Square Library Branch. 

At the next feast, childcare for toddlers and pre-school children will be available in separate rooms. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door or at the Feast website. Each attendee will be given a voting ballot with each ticket. The doors will open at 4 p.m. The event gets underway at 4:30 p.m. 

While the attendees get a plate for food, those waiting can post suggestions for the projects on a white board, sign up to bring a dish for the next feast, ask questions of the applicants before voting, and participate in a silent auction. The silent auction is used to raise funds for the operational cost of the feasts. The date and place of the next Feast will then be announced together with the voting results. Projects are awarded based on the percentage of votes received. Applicants who do not receive an award can apply again in the future.

Source: Urban Democracy Feast

Five professionals join Wightman & Associates

Wightman & Associates, Inc. recently added five professionals to its team of service providers. 
Bennie Boyd of Stevensville has joined WAI as a survey crew member in the company’s Benton Harbor location. He is a graduate of Lakeshore High School and earned an Associates Degree from Southwestern Michigan College.
Griffin Dekker of Holland has been hired as a part-time and summer survey crew member based in the WAI Allegan office. He is working on his Bachelor of Science degree in Survey Engineering at Ferris State University. He has been a survey crew intern the past two summers with other firms in the Holland/Grand Rapids area.
Laura Fredrickson of Kalamazoo joins WAI’s team as a landscape architect based out of the company’s Benton Harbor and Portage offices. With nine years of landscape design and architecture experience in the Midwest, she has a thorough knowledge of plant species for urban settings, conceptual design, and project management. Fredrickson earned a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree from Iowa State University.
Melanie Stanage of Fishers, Ind., has been hired as a civil engineer to serve clients out of the WAI Benton Harbor office. Her background is in transportation engineering including roadway design and modeling, hydraulic design and analysis, and roundabout design. Stanage is a graduate of the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering.
David Ulrey of Charlotte joins the survey team in the WAI Benton Harbor office as a survey drafter. He has more than 20 years of survey experience with organizations including the State of Michigan, the U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. Ulrey earned a bachelor’s degree in Surveying from Michigan Technical University. He is a licensed professional Surveyor in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois.

Source: Wightman & Associates, Inc. 

New Cradle Kalamazoo connects families to crucial health services with hotline

With a single phone call, pregnant and newborn families in Kalamazoo County can connect to crucial services and resources to bolster health and reduce infant mortality, reports Cradle Kalamazoo.

The new community phone number, 269-888-KIDS, was launched Feb. 15 by Cradle Kalamazoo, a multi-agency community initiative led by the YWCA Kalamazoo.
“Based on the needs of the community, we know that pregnant women of color and low-income women are falling through the cracks. 888-KIDS can help close this gap," says  Grace Lubwama, CEO of YWCA Kalamazoo. 
“Whether you’re pregnant or you’re the best friend, family member or coworker of someone who is pregnant, you can call 888-KIDS to help them get connected to services and resources,” Lubwama says. “We can support the health of our babies by making sure their families have access to the resources they need.”
Cradle Kalamazoo will serve as a hub that will coordinate care, track data, and provide feedback with the goal of improving birth and maternal and infant outcomes – especially for Black babies and their families in Kalamazoo. It consists of interested parties from the community and 30 partner organizations. United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, Gryphon Place and Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine (WMed) are partnering together to provide 269-888-KIDS to the community.
When community members call 269-888-KIDS, they will be connected to a Family Support Specialist at Gryphon Place. The Family Support Specialist will help connect community members to resources and Cradle Kalamazoo partners. Cradle Kalamazoo partners have programs that support families both inside and outside the home.
”Partnership drives community change, and that’s why United Way is proud to be part of this collaboration,” says Alyssa Stewart, Director of Strategy & Engagement for United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region. “The new hotline will improve equitable access to services and support, and most importantly, assure better health for more babies and families in Kalamazoo County.”

The partners working with Cradle Kalamazoo can be found here.
Source: Cradle Kalamazoo

Cindy Kole becomes Chief Operating Officer, Senior Vice President of First National Bank of Michigan

First National Bank of Michigan has announced that Cindy Kole has been appointed Chief Operating Officer, Senior Vice President. The bank says she is a proven financial services leader who will take on core functions -- marketing, human resources, treasury management and deposit operations -- critical to the continued growth of First National Bank of Michigan.

Kole has more than 30 years of experience in banking, wealth management, public affairs and corporate sales development. She had a long and successful career with PNC Bank and its predecessors, First National, First of America, and National City.  She most recently served as Director of Advancement at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

“Cindy has the depth of experience in community banking to lead us forward,” says Dan Bitzer, President and CEO. “Her experience as a bank executive and her active involvement in the communities we serve will be invaluable to us. She’s been ingrained in financial services for nearly her entire career, and her unique insights and experience will provide leadership and focus in a range of strategic functions and initiatives designed to accelerate our commitment to the communities in which we live and work.”

Outside of her banking career, Kole remains actively engaged in the community. Currently, she serves as President of the Board for The Gilmore and is a board member of the YMCA.

“I am honored,” Kole says,"to join First National Bank of Michigan, a bank that epitomizes the importance of community banking in West Michigan. I look forward to working with the entire team here."

Source: First National Bank of Michigan
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