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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

New owners expand Anytime Fitness in St. Joseph

Five years ago, Nick LaFond decided to take over his health and wellness. He joined the Anytime Fitness in Kalamazoo and from that point forward, fitness evolved from just a routine to a passion. 

He started consistently training and says it transformed his life. He became more focused, determined, and in control of his life. 

In Spring 2015, LaFond competed in and won the Kalamazoo Bodybuilding Championship. His new direction in life was set. He knew he wanted to focus his life’s work on helping other people to feel good about themselves through health and fitness. 

A few months after that when the then-owner of Anytime Fitness in St. Joseph put the gym up for sale. LaFond knew this was the opportunity he was looking for. LaFond had been going to this gym for a couple of years and loved the facility.

The St. Joseph Anytime Fitness opened in 2006, the second Anytime to open in Michigan. Over the next 11 years, it would be was expanded three times by the previous owner. 

Nick and Jess LaFond took over the location on Oct.14, 2016. Since that time, Nick  LaFond has expanded the gym once again. He added a functional fitness section with various functional fitness training equipment, a new TV, and equipment for outdoor activities. He says these changes are just the beginning of what he expects to be an ever-changing facility.

LaFond says when he took over they gym he saw this as a window of opportunity to turn the facility into more of a community for its members. He invited the challenge of reviving the gym and making it into a place its members would love coming to.

For LaFond, Anytime Fitness represents many things: Bettering yourself. Achieving something. Continuously moving forward. 
"Going to the gym is about more than just fitness--it’s therapy," LaFond says. "It’s a place where you can go and focus and work on you."

LaFond's philosophy is that every single person should feel welcome at his gym. "Everyone who walks through that front door earns respect for taking the steps to do something to better themselves. And I guarantee you will leave with a sense of accomplishment and that means something."

Source: Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce

It's not too early to be thinking about summer interns

There may be snow on the ground, but it's time to start planning for summer interns.

Businesses with 500 or fewer employees that need Western Michigan University students to work in science, technology, engineering, and math--STEM--disciplines can apply for funding to help them hire interns. 

The Small Company Internship Award Program will provide up to $3,500 in matching funds for a company to hire an intern for summer 2016. WMU has $35,000 to disperse this year, Garcia says, enough to support about 12 to 14 internships at the recommended rate of at least $12 per hour. Funding applications for this summer are due Friday, March 11.

Companies may apply for funding for up to two interns from either one or two schools in the Michigan Corporate Relations Network. However, the maximum award for a company is $3,500 from each school providing an intern. The matching money is being provided through the Michigan Corporate Relations Network. WMU and five other Michigan schools are members of the network, which connects industry to critical university talent in ways that will help the state's economy grow and prosper.

The program is targeted towards companies in Allegan, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties that would like to hire a WMU intern. Preference will be given to small companies that focus on innovative work in the STEM fields, provide an internship where STEM skills are employed and have yet to receive an award through the program.

To apply for funding, download the 2016 application here and email the completed form by March 11 to Lisa Garcia at For more information about the Small Company Internship Award Program, contact Garcia at or call (269) 387-6004.

Source: Western Michigan University

Eight new employees now working for TowerPinkster

Eight new employees have joined TowerPinkster, an architecture and engineering firm that specializes in education, healthcare, commercial, and governmental building design.

Scott Harmon, a 20 year veteran of the field, comes to TowerPinkster as an architectural project coordinator. His experience ranges from construction management and software expertise to architectural design and detailing. He has worked in education, corporate office space, airports, and healthcare facilities. Harmon’s experience is directly applicable to many of the major projects that TowerPinkster currently has in design and construction. Harmon earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University with a focus in Building Construction Management.

Don Glennie has arrived at TowerPinkster as a seasoned mechanical designer with experience from Michigan to Minnesota and Texas. Glennie has more than 30 years of system design experience in the architecture and engineering field. He attended Alpena Community College and studied plumbing system design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When he is not in the office, he is on the field as a youth soccer coach, a role he has enjoyed for 25 years.

Hudsonville native Matt Van Duinen has returned to West Michigan from Fond du Lac, Wisc. There he became experienced in the industrial market as a mechanical designer. Van Duinen has brought this expertise to TowerPinkster’s Kalamazoo office as he works on designs for various processing plants. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Technology and Engineering Management from Ferris State University. An avid outdoorsman, he is eager to settle in the Kalamazoo area with his wife.

One of the state’s biggest Star Wars fans, Andrew Queenan, AIA, recently joined TowerPinkster as project architect. Queenan, who owns an almost functional “lightsaber,” has more than five years of experience in design. Hailing from Toledo, Ohio, he earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Architecture from Lawrence Technological University and is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). He earned his architecture license in January 2015.

Rina Sahay joins TowerPinkster as a BIM specialist. She has over 14 years of experience using and teaching Computer Aided Drawing and Design Technology, to include REVIT Architecture, AutoCAD, and 3-D Computer Modeling and Animation, Computer Visualization and Adobe products. Sahay earned her Master of Architecture from the University of Michigan and has experience teaching Architectural Construction and Technology at Baker College, Davenport University, and Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne. Sahay is very proud of her 95-pound German Shepard that picks up his own toys.

LEED Green Associate Kevin Tempelman is an architectural designer joining TowerPinkster. He brings a full range of design skills including higher education, recreation, civic, master planning and commercial experience. He earned his Master of Architecture from Ball State University and spent two years gaining experience at a firm located across the street from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Allyson Andrews and Marissa Dotson have joined the TowerPinkster as interns. Andrews is an Architectural Intern from Grand Rapids Community College where she is earning her Associate of Arts. She recently earned her Engineering Technology Computer-Aided Drafting and Design certificate from Kent Career Technical Center. Dotson is a senior studying Interior Design at Western Michigan University.

“At the rate the building industry is growing it can be difficult to find new employees who are able to jump right in and hit the ground running,” says Architectural Department Manager Rob Courter. “We have been really lucky to fill our open positions with talented people who are ready to immerse themselves.”

TowerPinkster is looking to fill more open positions. For more information, please go to 

Escape room games are now in downtown Kalamazoo

In December Second Wave reported the escape room phenomenon has come to Kalamazoo. hat story focused on Escapology in Portage, one of 27 escape rooms now found across Michigan.

Now we're taking a closer look at The Final Clue in downtown Kalamazoo. Owner Joel Fluty, owner says that every room is an adventure. When you visit escape rooms you get to work as a team with friends or family to solve puzzles and clues in order to escape before time runs out. 

Fluty says every game at The Final Clue offers an original theme and storyline that will  provide you with an in-depth immersive experience. "Each room is professionally designed, from the schematics to the props. Great care was taken to ensure each player has an opportunity to contribute to their team.”

The decision to open The Final Clue grew out of Fluty's and his wife's fascination with the escapes they had been on. "My wife and I enjoyed visiting both EpIQ Escapes in Jackson and Escapeology in Portage, and after that, we were hooked. I felt that downtown Kalamazoo would be a great location to open my own escape room business.”

The Final Clue opened Dec. 2. It's within walking distance of Kalamazoo’s popular downtown breweries and businesses. As Fluty says: "As you drive up Kalamazoo Avenue, you can’t help but notice the beautiful Kalamazoo sign and fountains that welcomes you to downtown Kalamazoo. Turn your head to the right and you can’t help but notice Kalamazoo’s newest entertainment business, The Final Clue.

All college students and retired or active military receive 30 percent off the regular price of $25 per person. "We will also occasionally run promotions and will work individually with businesses to provide for their team building goals.”

A cross-promotion with many of local businesses is in the works and will be available by Feb. 1, Fluty says. The way the promotion will work is that patrons will be able to obtain and use a punch card. Spend $5 or more at each participating business and when the card is full, your booking for four or more players is $25 off (so one gamer plays for free). 

The Rooms

The Firestarter. An unknown serial arsonist is targeting colleges and now he has his sights set on Kalamazoo. You are on campus when lockdown procedures are initiated. With only 60 minutes, you must disrupt his plan, master his riddles and solve the final clue to escape. Kalamazoo’s very own Mayor Bobby Hopewell is featured delivering a message from the mayor's office in this room. 

Widget Wars. This game is designed for head-to-head competition between two teams. Your ACME Development Team created the new super widget, which is certain to revolutionize the industry. The widget and patent have been stolen. Can you get it back in time to save the future of your company and your team?  This game is also transportable – we bring this game to your business for team building, parties and any fun event (it can accommodate up to 60 players).

The Playroom. The evil troll has invaded the playroom and stolen your childhood imagination. Will you be able to solve the puzzles and clues in time to get it back? This room is currently under construction.

Royal Blood. The castle holds many mysteries; one of them is the royal bloodline. A pious sect is attempting to lay claim to the throne. Can you unveil the secrets of the Royal Blood before they unrightfully seize power? This room is coming soon.

"We are excited to be one Kalamazoo’s newest businesses," Fluty says, "and we hope you will come try your luck. Do you think you can solve The Final Clue?”

Source: Joel Fluty, The Final Clue

Local groups are part of National Day of Healing

"Stories that Unite Us” is the theme of a community event planned as a part of the National Day of Healing Tuesday, Jan. 17, inspired by W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Initiative (TRHT).

"This will be a day to heal the wounds created by racial, ethnic and religious bias," says ISAAC Executive Director Charlae Davis. "We hope this day helps us build an equitable and just society so all children can thrive. TRHT provides a collective commitment and long-term determination to embrace a new narrative for the nation--and individual communities--in a belief in our common humanity."
The "Stories that Unite Us” event is free and open to the public and will be from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Epic Center, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall. (RSVP at or by calling Lanna Lewis at 269-381-4416.)

There will be a review of the recommendations put forth at the TRHT summit hosted by W.K. Kellogg Foundation in December, which resulted in the National Day of Healing, as well as opportunities to get involved locally. The evening also includes heavy appetizers, an introduction to Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Initiative and previews of the documentary series “America Divided,” along with opportunities to interact and reflect.  

The documentary features narratives around inequality in education, housing, criminal justice and political systems, as well as stories on immigration, labor, and the Flint water crisis.
“We’ll be showing segments in a film festival format, with opportunities to interact, discuss, and reflect, as well as build relationships with community members,” says Lewis, community investment manager at Kalamazoo Community Foundation.
Area partners planning this event include ISAAC (Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy & Action in the Community), SHARE (Society for History and Racial Equity), Fair Housing Center of Southwest Michigan, Black Arts & Cultural Center, ERACCE (Eliminating Racism & Creating/Celebrating Equity), Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College, Michigan Immigrant Rights Center/Welcoming Michigan and Kalamazoo Community Foundation.
More than 130 organizations nationwide are involved in TRHT.
W.K. Kellogg Foundation President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron, “As a nation, we must come to terms with the deep divides in our communities. Our nation is crying out for healing, which can only come with a shared understanding of our collective past and a sustained effort to dismantle the structures, policies, practices, and systems that divide us, and perpetuate conscious and unconscious bias.”
Learn more about “American Divided” at its website.

Source: Kalamazoo Community Foundation

AVB adds five new employees

AVB has recently added five people to its team including a business development associate, two new commercial construction project engineers, a residential construction framer, and a residential estimating intern.

Daniel Burns has been hired as a commercial construction project engineer. He will coordinate all necessary documents and communications for all commercial projects. As a full-time member of the AVB team, Burns will carry out communication processes for all AVB commercial projects and will use his experience in construction to ensure that project coordination on all commercial projects are accomplished. 

Burns recently graduated from Western Michigan University with his bachelor’s degree in construction engineering and a general business and mathematics double minor in December 2016. He previously gained experience in the construction industry as an intern at Black & Veatch as well as Louis Padnos Iron and Metal Company.  

AVB also recently hired Ben Lawson as a commercial construction project engineer and assistant superintendent. His role with AVB includes coordinating all necessary documents and communications for all commercial projects and handling the on-site management of projects. Lawson will carry out communication processes for all AVB commercial projects and will use his experience in construction to ensure that project coordination on all commercial projects are accomplished.

Lawson is a recent graduate from Western Michigan University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial and entrepreneurial engineering in December,  2016. Formerly, Lawson was a United States Marine and first joined the AVB team as a Monroe Brown intern. Now a full time employee with AVB, he will be working on various projects, including the on-going projects at the Corner@Drake development.

Blake Krum as been hired by as a business development associate. His role with AVB includes assisting with the contract coordination, marketing and prospecting of AVB land developments.

Krum is currently pursuing a master’s in business administration at Western Michigan University. He graduated cum laude from Olivet College with a bachelor of arts degree in Business Management. He has experience in the business management field as a business analyst for Cole-Krum Chevrolet. As a full time member of the AVB Team, Blake will carry out tenant and land prospecting responsibilities and use his experience to maintain and market all AVB properties. 

Charles Ludlow was recently hired as a residential construction framer and Stephen Timmer as a residential estimating Intern. 

Ludlow has a bachelor of business administration with a focus in sales and business marketing from Western Michigan University. His experience in residential real estate and residential contracting has given him an in-depth knowledge of home construction. At AVB, Ludlow will be working with the residential team to build custom homes throughout the community. 

Timmer is currently pursuing a bachelor of science with a focus in civil engineering from Western Michigan University. At AVB, he will be working closely with senior residential estimator Dave Timmer and assisting him with the issuance of purchase orders, helping compile job estimates and managing job files. 

AVB currently employs several interns, like Timmer, from a number of universities including Western Michigan University, Ferris State University, and Kalamazoo College. AVB has had the opportunity to provide training and real world experience, along with meaningful responsibility, to more than 25 interns hired over the past several years.

AVB has been building southwest Michigan since 1981. The company's commercial division focuses on construction management in the healthcare, education, office and retail markets.  AVB’s custom residential building division specializes in single-family homes, condominiums and neighborhoods.  AVB’s development group focuses on property development for commercial, residential, and mixed uses.

Source: AVB

Musicians and artists will be popping up in Battle Creek

The Herbalists  are a Battle Creek "collective of three people trying to make something out of nothing," the hip-hop trio's manager Nick Gast says. If there's nothing there, then it's up to local artists to DIY, Gast says he believes.
"This is a common theme in Battle Creek, where they feel that there's nothing to do for the youth, the city is dead, it's the most boring place, whatever. We realize that it's the people who make the city. We're trying to make a culture where people have something to do, have a great time and make people feel empowered by their creativity." 

The Herbalists -- Devon Wilson, Manny Sevastopoulos, Shade Cassidy -- are teaming up with clothing designers of Battle Creature and OLD (Out Living Death) for pop-up shop/concert The Festival of Lit, Dec. 17. It will be at an old 1910 brick storefront at 60 Calhoun St.

They hope to be "revising a whole culture of music that was kind of lost in Battle Creek," Gast says. "We're trying to bring back a culture of people respecting music, respecting local talent, dancing, listening to music to heal themselves.... Bring about the positive light of recreation."

This will be their first event in this venue. Gast hopes to do regular events once a season, winter, spring, summer and fall, but they haven't settled on a location.

Justin Andert's Battle Creature and Jarred Strohm's OLD, along with other local designers, will be selling clothing at the pop-up shop, along with art, Gast says. It all fits with The Herbalists' mission, "to make people feel empowered."

Writer: Mark Wedel, Second Wave Media
Source: Nick Gast, The Herbalists 


Mophie provides the juice for jobs in Southwest Michigan

An expansion in Texas Township by battery case manufacturer, mophie, is expected to ultimately bring 65 new jobs to the area. Mophie's main products are portable charging accessories, particularly phone cases with secondary batteries inside them.

The consumer electronics accessory company says it will invest $685,000 to retrofit and furnish its 10,000-square-foot location in the Groves Business Park in Texas Township, off I-94 at Ninth Street. The business is located in the former site of the Dana Corp. 

The company which initially plans to add 20 jobs and over time add up to 65 new positions at its call center received $375,000 from the Michigan Business Development Program as a result of its decision to locate in the state rather than in Utah, says  Doug Plachcinski, Zoning Administrator for Texas Township.

Mophie, which grew from its original roots in Paw Paw, was acquired in Feb. 2016 by consumer electronics accessories retailer Zagg for $100 million. The Utah-based retailer moved to expand the Michigan operation with support from the state's incentive program that assists businesses that commit to creating jobs and a financial investment. 

“As a global brand with a location in Southwest Michigan, mophie exemplifies the diversity of job opportunities available in our region through its expansion," says Ron Kitchens, president and chief executive officer of Southwest Michigan First. “Our region is proud to list mophie’s commitment to innovative design-based technology among its product offerings.”

Sources: Southwest Michigan First and Texas Township

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