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Miller-Davis Company welcomes new staff

Miller-Davis Company has hired several new staff members in the past few months. Rachael Jennings, Kevin Frye, Troy Geister, Amjed Al-Qudah and Allison Warner have all joined the Miller-Davis team in its Kalamazoo office.

Rachael Jennings has been hired as talent and culture coordinator based at Miller-Davis’ headquarters in Kalamazoo. In this role, a new position for the company, she is responsible for finding and retaining talent and supporting programs that promote Miller-Davis Company’s culture. Jennings previously served as a human resources generalist at Dimplex Thermal Solutions in Kalamazoo. She earned a bachelor’s degree in management from Hope College.

Kevin Frye has been hired as a project manager based in Kalamazoo. In this role, he oversees and leads construction projects and serves as the primary office contact for those projects. He is responsible for all aspects of construction, from the design phase through warranty. He previously served as a field manager for Elzinga & Volkers in Holland, and as a senior commercial project superintendent for AVB Construction. Frye is a LEED Green Associate.

Troy Geister is a new project superintendent and is working on Dansville Schools’ 2016 Bond Program. In this role, Geister provides overall onsite management of construction projects and serves as the primary field contact for projects. He has several years of experience working as a superintendent, carpenter foreman, and construction supervisor with both Gerace Construction Company and Granger Construction.

Amjed Al-Qudah and Allison Warner have been hired as project engineers based in Kalamazoo. They provide support for project management, estimating and field supervisory staff with responsibility for all aspects of the construction process. Al-Qudah served as an intern through the Monroe-Brown Internship Program with Miller-Davis before being hired as a project engineer. He earned a master’s degree in civil engineering from Western Michigan University and a bachelor’s degree in structural engineering from Jordan University of Science and Technology. Warner previously served as a civil engineer at Commonwealth Associates in Jackson, Michigan. She earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Western Michigan University.

“People are at the foundation of what we do and the services we provide. Our new staff are vital to our success and we’re happy to have them as part of our team,” says Rex Bell, Miller-Davis Company president.

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

Source: Miller-Davis Company

Communities across Southwest Michigan are ready for redevelopment, says MEDC

When it comes to redevelopment the City of Kalamazoo is ready, says the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

Kalamazoo is now one of 15 communities in Michigan that the state has designated as "thoroughly prepared" when it comes to best practices for zoning, planning, and other considerations that increase competitiveness and encourage development.

The program measures and then certifies communities if their programs are transparent, predictable and efficient. The RRC certification is a formal recognition that a community has a vision for the future and the fundamental practices in place to get there. 

The City of Kalamazoo has been awarded Redevelopment Ready Communities (RRC) certification, recognizing efforts made to remove barriers and promote opportunities for prospective investors in the city. The MEDC will formally present the award at the City Commission meeting at  Dec. 4.

As part of the program, the MEDC gave the city a comprehensive assessment, comparing the City’s current practices with RRC best practice standards. The RRC program also considered transparency, predictability, and efficiency as they relate to economic development.
"RRC certification sends a positive message to the development community that we are a team dedicated to success," says Rebekah Kik, Director of Community Planning & Development.We want to show that our staff is resourceful, proactive, and have a strategic advantage when it comes to working with the state on various incentives and opportunities,” 
As part of the RRC certification process, the City of Kalamazoo created a formalized Public Participation Policy and a Marketing and Branding Strategy for promoting Economic Development. These were crafted in conjunction with Imagine Kalamazoo 2025.
Kalamazoo joins Allegan, Boyne City, Eastpointe, Escanaba, Ferndale, Lansing, Lathrup Village, Manistee, Marshall, Middleville, Muskegon, Roseville, Southfield and Ypsilanti as certified Redevelopment Ready Communities.

Meanwhile, six Berrien County municipalities have made the first steps in the MEDC's Redevelopment Ready Communities initiative. The multi-stage RRC program is voluntary and encourages communities to adopt and implement redevelopment strategies through a set of best practices. Benton Harbor, Niles, St. Joseph and Watervliet, and the villages of Baroda and Stevensville all are participating.

Redevelopment Ready Communities certified cities and villages have a community-supported vision and attract investments that create places where people want to live, work and play.

“We are in a very competitive economy, developers and businesses can invest anywhere,” says Greg Vaughn, Chief Operating Officer and VP, Business Development for Cornerstone Alliance. “These Berrien County communities are committing to eventually become a Certified Redevelopment Ready Community, a significant component in successful economic development.”

MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney has said: "It’s an important resource that helps communities review their practices to foster vibrant places where businesses and talent want to be. Without strong communities, we can’t attract talent."

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corporation

KATS: Will plan stay on the shelf or lead to future bike and pedestrian routes on the ground?

The Kalamazoo Area Transportation Study's KATS Moves Plan was completed in September and revealed in November. A year-long series of public meetings worked to identify the best routes for bicycle and pedestrians through Kalamazoo County and parts of Van Buren, from long greenway corridors and bike lanes to bike boulevards through neighborhoods. 

The plan promises to increase total bicycle facility miles from 250 to 525.

Bike routes should connect to 90 percent of Kalamazoo Transit stops compared to 33 percent now.

Problem areas for safety were identified, with improvements proposed, in detail.

Maps show future non-motorized paths stretching to Mattawan, Vicksburg, Augusta; around Gull Lake and north towards Grand Rapids.

There have been many grand plans for non-motorized transportation facilities that have either gone nowhere or sat on the shelf for decades before being implemented. An example would be a plan for a bike route through downtown Kalamazoo, first put on paper in 1998. It opened 19 years later with a mayoral ribbon-cutting in November. 

Marc Irwin, Kalamazoo bike commuter, was invited to join KATS citizens' advisory committee a couple of years ago. Going into the planning stages, "your immediate thoughts are, is this another long-term notion that you'll never see come to fruition? That'll end up as a sketchy idea on a government shelf somewhere?" he says.

"But what they've produced is a pretty comprehensive document, and a pretty comprehensive plan that is workable and accessible for all the jurisdictions involved. It's really quite impressive," he says, laughing, "pretty overwhelming when you look at it in detail." 

The details cover the 42 pages of the final draft.

"When you look at the entire thing, you think, oh my god, they're going to redo all the streets in the city. That's not the case. This is a long-term plan, a blueprint that cities are going to be able to refer to whenever they're resurfacing or improving any particular area," Irwin says. "It's going to be parceled out in pieces as different jurisdictions work on their areas." 

Also making this a serious plan is the fact that KATS is able to approve federal grants, he points out. "It has that teeth to it."

First, the low-hanging fruit

"I think the plan did a great job of identifying the low hanging fruit," Steve Stepek, KATS senior planner, says. "Those relatively easy to implement, less costly elements to get people access to transit. I'm hopeful some of those elements will be easy to implement in the short term."

Irwin's recommendations at the meetings were "more bike lanes, more road diets. Bike boulevards, in particular, are something we don't have in this town, and we should have them in a number of different areas." 

Lanes and road diets are quicker and cheaper to implement than protected lanes and pathways, and can be put in place during roadwork such as resurfacing. Bike boulevards, which route bikes through quiet neighborhoods on low-traffic roads, require a smaller investment.

But there are more-pricey items in the plan, demanded by public input. There was "overwhelming support for protected bike lanes in the first public survey," Stepek says. 

Safety was a large public concern, with 90 percent saying they were "very comfortable" on protected lanes, "more than even off-road trails, which was surprising," Stepek says.

Irwin says the plan should lead to "more safety on the roads for both motorists and cyclists. You give people safer places to ride, and more people will ride." 

Stepek points out that "infrastructure takes time and money. Especially when we're talking protected facilities, that the public survey showed overwhelming support for."

KATS looked at public demand, safety, transit connections, population densities, cost and other variables to determine the priority of projects. 

In the plan, on-street connections between Kalamazoo neighborhoods, downtown, and Western Michigan University, along with parts of Paw Paw and Galesburg, were labeled high priority. Greenways and paths connecting Kalamazoo, Portage and Vicksburg, Kalamazoo to the western edge of Oshtemo Township, Richland to Ross Township, and Galesburg to Augusta were also high-priority.

"I think the plan will allow local units of government to coordinate the development of their non-motorized networks to provide greater access to the transit system available in the Kalamazoo area, while providing a means for prioritizing the limited resources those agencies have," Stepek says.

The plan outlines short-term projects of one to six years, mid-term ones of seven to 15, and long-term ones of 16 to 25 years.

It sounds like something the next generation will be able to bike/walk on, but Irwin thinks we'll see major results in the next decade. 

"It might be surprising how quickly it'll go, with this type of plan in place," he says. "No longer will it be a matter of each little road improvement or each bike lane put in place will need to be the result of endless discussions and conversations because those discussions and conversations have been made." 

Mark Wedel has been a freelance journalist in the southwest Michigan area since 1992. He's been an avid pedaler of bikes since 2011. See more at

Access to 27-acre lakeshore preserve is possible in part by grant from Entergy-Palisades

This coming spring there will be dawn to dusk public access to the 27-acre Pilgrim Haven Natural Area in South Haven.

Improvements there will include an electric gate at the preserve’s entrance, new fencing, pit toilets, additional parking lot improvements, and other facilities that will support the Great Lakes Water Trail.

Pilgrim Haven Natural Area features woodlands, hiking trails and a beach on Lake Michigan. Steps being taken to make public access easier are being accomplished, in part, as a result of a $70,000 grant made by Entergy Corporation–Palisades to the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy (SWMLC).
SWMLC will use the grant funds to match funding from a Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) grant awarded earlier this year to the South Haven Area Recreation Authority (SHARA). 

"The generous grant from Entergy-Palisades will assist Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy and South Haven Area Recreation Authority in moving forward with a new phase of improvements to the Pilgrim Haven Natural Area," says Peter Ter Louw, SWMLC President and Executive Director. "These improvements will allow us to safely open this extremely unique nature preserve on Lake Michigan for South Haven area residents and visitors."

With the contribution from Entergy-Palisades,  Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy and South Haven Area Recreation Authority will be able to continue the work to create public access and offer community uses of the property. The land includes a stretch of Dyckman Creek and almost 800 feet of beach along Lake Michigan.
Located just north of Van Buren State Park, Pilgrim Haven Natural Area was donated to SWMLC in December 2011 through a bequest from the estate of Suzanne Upjohn Delano Parish.

She wanted to see the former campground remain as open space and opened to the public. In the fall of 2016, SWMLC entered into an agreement with the South Haven Area Recreation Authority for the management of the preserve. SHARA is a partnership of the City of South Haven, South Haven Charter Township, and South Haven Public Schools.

Under the agreement, SHARA is responsible for the general maintenance and management of the nature preserve, as well as implementation of current public access improvements. SWMLC will continue to own the property and care for the natural areas and wildlife habitats on site through the work of employees and volunteers.
"Our support is about stewardship and being a good neighbor not only today, but tomorrow and years to come," says Palisades Site Vice President Charlie Arnone. "Future generations will be able to enjoy Pilgrim Haven thanks to the work of the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. The organization provides an incredible service to this region and we are so proud to partner with SWMLC on this important project."

South Haven Township Supervisor and Chair of SHARA Ross Stein says,  "Visitors can enjoy time on the beach, swimming in Lake Michigan, walking along a creek, or hiking through the woods," "For over 100 years, the property that is now the Pilgrim Haven Natural Area has been a beloved place for people to come to enjoy the Lake Michigan shoreline, and we’re thrilled that we can be a part of continuing that legacy."
SHARA is pleased to partner with SWMLC in managing Pilgrim Haven -  it is a remarkable open space and a wonderful gift to the community," says Stein. "And the generous grant from Entergy is helping to ensure Pilgrim Haven is open to all."

Souce: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Funding deadline looms for Bates Alley project

There are less than two weeks left till the Nov. 29 deadline to raise $50,000 that would change Bates Alley from a plain city alley behind the buildings that front East Michigan Avenue to something more inviting.

So far 22 people have pledged $22,500 toward the project on the crowdfunding platform Patronicity

Upon completion of the project, Bates Alley would become a pedestrian promenade, complete with outdoor seating for the six bars and restaurants along the block, festive bistro lighting, trees, benches and other streetscape elements.

The project has received major commitments and in-kind support from the City of Kalamazoo, the Jim Gilmore Jr. Foundation, and nearby property owners.

But it will take $100,000 to bring make the project happen. If Kalamazoo can raise half of that total, that $50,000 will be matched by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Downtown supporters say refurbishing the alley will provide “a reclaimed space to host events, display public art, safely connect between downtown districts, and to come together for food, drink, and fellowship under the sun and stars.”

The project plans calls for:

• Repairing and repaving the roadway

• Installation of overhead bistro string lights

• Replacing unsightly parking lot fencing with ornamental trees and landscaping

• Decorative fencing

• Installation of removable bollards at either end, to limit vehicular access

• Bike racks, waste receptacles and other streetscape items to be included

• Decorative signage; and

• Lighting along the cornices of the  buildings that line the length of the alley

The plan is to turn Bates Alley into a vibrant, activated public space for outdoor dining, events, and connecting with friends and neighbors. If the full $50,000 is not raised the project’s organizers will still be able to collect the $22,000 that has been pledged to the alley upgrades.

Source: Patronicity

Building dedication named for him surprises community leader Moses Walker

It's not easy keeping a secret when the secret is giant letters on a building.  

Moses Walker thought he was going out for a quiet dinner with his family in late October. Instead, he was met by 200 people who showed up for a ceremony renaming the Paterson Street clinic of the Family Health Center the Moses L. Walker Building. It turned out to be a surprise as intended. 

Walker arrived at the Paterson campus with his family, who insisted he wear a blindfold. He removed it to see 200 people cheering outside the clinic. 

Moments later, workers on the roof released a tarp to reveal the new, LED-lighted sign with his name. He also received commendations from Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell and Congressman Fred Upton.

Keeping the renaming a secret was a real challenge, says Denise Crawford, Family Health Center’s President and CEO. 

Walker lives nearby and is an active board member. He visited the Paterson facility twice in the days before the ceremony -- days during which workers installed the building’s new sign. With a tarp and staff leading Walker to another door the surprise stayed a secret. Another time, a friend of Walker’s saw the new sign and promptly headed off to tell him. Fortunately, Crawford caught the friend in time.

“Mr. Walker has worked endlessly on behalf of Family Health Center so that our community could be stronger,”  Crawford, said at the unveiling. “We stand here today bigger and better than ever before, able to serve more, give more and impact more because of Mr. Walker and his 47 years of commitment and dedication."

The Moses L. Walker Building stands on the original site of Family Health Center. In 2012, it expanded from a 23,000-square-foot clinic to its current two-story, 75,000 square feet of 104 examination rooms, offices, pharmacy and support space. Walker, then board chair, was instrumental in raising $10.3 million to support that expansion.

Today, Family Health Center operates six clinics plus two mobile units, providing medical and dental care to underserved populations in Kalamazoo County.

Walker, a long-time member of the Family Health Center Board of Directors, helped spearhead the creation of Family Health Center in 1971—at the time a simple trailer at the current Paterson Street location. 

The rechristened Moses L. Walker Building is a state-of-the-art healthcare facility providing care to thousands of underserved patients.

During the dedication ceremony, many attendees said they felt like Walker’s adopted children, crediting him with wise counsel that influenced their lives. Crawford picked up on that theme in her remarks: “As witnessed tonight, Mr. Walker has many adopted children. But he has also adopted a community and a county. He has many times fed and clothed our children and attended to our ailing parents. He has truly walked the walk.”

Walker, a prominent community leader and champion of social justice, was visibly moved as Family Health Center surprised him Friday with a ceremony renaming its Paterson Street clinic the Moses L. Walker Building.

“To say that I’m overwhelmed would be an understatement,” Walker said. “It does bring tears to my eyes. I really appreciate the honor.

“Family Health Center has been a labor of love. It’s still a labor of love,” he added. 

Source: Rick Chambers, Rick Chambers and Associates

Final Design moves to storefront in St. Joseph

Not that long ago, Erin Bennett operated a custom kitchen and bathroom design business out of her home.

But her longtime dream was to have a showroom where prospective clients could see the cabinetry, countertops, window treatments, and other accessories available for custom kitchens and baths.

With the opening of Final Design at 1601 Lakeshore Drive in St. Joseph this summer that dream was realized. She recently celebrated the new location with a grand opening and ribbon cutting.

Bennett started her design firm while still living in the metro Detroit area. As a result of the recession in 2008, she decided to close the business. Several years later, Bennett and her family moved to St. Joseph and she opened her design firm again, operating it from home.

Bennett has a B.S. in Interior Architecture from Lawrence Technological University and has been a full-time kitchen and bath designer since.

Bennett is a graduate of the POWER program at the Women's Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance. It's an 11-week interactive program for female entrepreneurs who want to launch a business or as in Bennett's case, who owned a business and was ready to take it to the next level.The program teaches the tools and resources to move from a home-based business to a store-front with a showroom

"The Women's Business Center has encouraged, supported and inspired my vision to invest in myself again," says Bennett. "Their optimism about my abilities has given me the perseverance to find a way to grow my kitchen and bath design business." 

Final Design is open from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.

 For more information on Final Design, call (269) 985-3610, or visit their website.

Source: Cornerstone Alliance

BTR Park gets a new partner in water quality and research engineering firm

Drummond Carpenter, an engineering and sciences firm focused on sustainable water resource management is the newest company in Western Michigan University's Business, Technology, and Research Park.

The company is in the WMU Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine Innovation Center in the BTR Park. It is led by the company's Vice President of water resources Dr. Donald D. Carpenter

The Michigan's office work will revolve around best practices in stormwater management, hydrogeological modeling and design, sustainability, green infrastructure and community engagement. The company's Florida office is focused on water assessment and remediation, treating groundwater and surface water for such contaminants as PCBs, petroleum hydrocarbons, metal, and radionuclides.

Carpenter also serves as the director of the Great Lakes Storm Water Management Institute at Lawrence Technological University, where he taught civil engineering from 2001 to 2016. Earlier this year, he was named the 2017 Educational Professional of the Year by the Michigan Water Environment Association.

The Drummond Carpenter leadership plans to recruit WMU students as interns in the coming months--taking advantage of their new office's proximity to the WMU College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. They also hope, Carpenter says, to mentor students through the college's Senior Design Projects, a capstone engineering effort in which seniors work with industry sponsors to find solutions to real-world problems.

"We use our expertise to provide quality places for people to live, work and play," Carpenter says. "Human health and well being are dependent on the type of environment we're building."

WMU's Business Technology and Research Park shares the university's 265-acre Parkview Campus with the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Launched in late 1999, the BTR Park is home to nearly 50 private-sector companies focused on the life sciences, advanced engineering and information technology. The businesses in the park directly employ more than 850 people. 

Source: Western Michigan University


75 elementary schools will be part of reading improvement initiative

With the help of a $12 million grant to Western Michigan University, elementary schools in 20 West Michigan counties will be part of an initiative that aims to improve student reading levels. School districts to work together to build a school leadership model based on the practices school district superintendents have seen in use at high-performing schools as part of the program.  

Schools in Allegan, Berrien, Calhoun, Cass, and Kalamazoo counties are among 190 schools that will be part of the initiative.

The $12 million grant award, one of the largest single grants ever awarded to WMU, comes from the U.S. Department of Education. It will fund the High-Impact Leadership for School Renewal Project, led by Dr. Patricia Reeves, associate professor, and Dr. Jianping Shen, the John E. Sandberg Professor of Education and the Gwen Frostic Endowed Chair, in WMU's Department of Educational Leadership, Research and Technology.

The initiative began among a group of West Michigan school superintendents. "Initiatives that build from the ground up, like this one, are so precious," says Reeves. "They can ultimately lead to real change, and our job is to provide the support necessary to make this enormously ambitious project work and keep a complex range of moving parts in sync."

The project's goals are to develop a strong pool of practicing school leaders and improve student achievement.

The project will support teams of school principals and teacher leaders. It will:

• provide intense professional development and support, and money for renewal projects for teams of leaders in 75 schools that are implementing a set of new literacy essentials;

• place a trained team of school renewal coaches in each project school;

• provide a lower level of professional development support and funding for leaders in an additional 75 schools, and; 

• apply a set of proven school leadership practices for school renewal and sustainable implementation.

Each of the 75 high-need schools selected will receive professional development for the principal and a team of three teachers who may be future principals. The school team will be assigned a team of coaches who will work with them over a 30-month period. Each of the schools selected also will receive $20,000 over the 30-month period for school renewal efforts.

Source: Western Michigan University

$2 million grant will assist underrepresented students in Bronson School of nursing

Fostering greater diversity in the nursing profession is vital, says Dr. Mary Ann Stark, professor of nursing. Bronson School of Nursing has received the resources to do just that with a four-year project to recruit, retain and graduate more underrepresented students into the nursing profession.

The project started with a $5,000 internal grant that went on to receive nearly $2 million in federal funds. The Nursing Workforce Diversity Grant, through the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, will fund the Empowering Nursing Students for Success project. The program has been ongoing and the new funding will allow it to expand. 

Funding will be used to recruit students from underrepresented groups and those who are educationally and financially disadvantaged. Once enrolled, they will be paired with faculty mentors and student navigators to help guide them through the Bronson School of Nursing program.

Problems underrepresented students face make it much harder to make the transition to college and are mirrored in the state's nursing demographics, Stark says. Financial problems, having graduated from underperforming K-12 schools, and coming from different social and educational backgrounds than white students are among the problems before students.

Of the 14 scholars initially included in the program, all have been successful academically. Armed with the new grant funding, the program is poised for wider success. Almost half of the grant money goes directly to the scholar for scholarships or stipends. The rest goes to pay for mentoring and to hire student navigators.

Stark says it's important for the medical profession to mirror society as a whole in its ethnic makeup. There are large differences between ethnic groups in terms of mortality and morbidity, diseases that are more or less common and different cultural traditions and ways of communicating. In addition, a more diverse nursing population enriches the profession with different talents and outlooks. 

As of 2017, 83.2 percent of Michigan's nurses were white. The state population overall is 75.4 percent white, Stark says. Only 6.3 percent of nurses are black, compared with 14.2 percent in the general population.

The Latino nursing and general populations are even more skewed, Stark says. Latinos make up only 1.6 percent of nurses compared to 5 percent Latinos in the general population.

"We have a real mismatch between the racial and ethnic backgrounds of nurses compared to the people we serve in our state," Stark says. The program they have developed has been successful in addressing that.

Source: Western Michigan University

Two entrepreneurs start new fitness based partnership in downtown Kalamazoo

Lean Body Studio and bent9 Hot Yoga are now partners. 

Nicole Rzeznik, the head trainer for Lean Body Studio Kalamazoo, had operated an in-home studio for the past two years. Now Lean Body Studio will operate from the bent9 Hot Yoga location on the corner of North Burdick and Eleanor streets. Kelli Rapaski owns of the Lean Body Studio, based in Birmingham, Mich.

"Kelli and I are so excited for this next chapter in our businesses," says Tatiana Otto, the owner of bent9. “bent9 has been occupying this space for over two years and has had great success with yoga. So this partnership could not be more perfect to help grow the clientele for both studios and expand beyond the scope to have yoga and cardio plus strength classes under  one roof.”

Though they share a space at 309 N. Burdick Street, #101, LBS Kalamazoo and bent9 Hot Yoga will continue as individual entities regarding class pricing and packages. 

Client package pricing and details are available on the Mind Body app by selecting the bent9 hot yoga studio (under pricing). LBS of Kalamazoo is also on the Mind Body App  within the bent9 Hot Yoga Class Schedule.

"With a recent partnership with bent9 for a few classes, the success grew tons of buzz which has now created our current partnership between the two studios,” says Rapaski. 

Source: bent9 Hot Yoga and LBS Kalamazoo 

Portman Nature Preserve opens Oct. 21 with grand opening celebration

The Portman Nature Preserve will open to the public beginning Oct. 21.  The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy has planned a grand opening from 1 to 4 p.m. 

Land Conservancy officials say that "with a combination of state and federal grants, foundation grants, and donations from local individuals and corporations, SWMLC has successfully completed the $2.2 million fundraising campaign to protect, steward, and create public access for the Portman Nature Preserve in Mattawan."

In addition to acquiring the property, these funds will also:  create public access to the preserve, including a driveway and parking area, trailhead, signage and trails; enable immediate invasive species removal and habitat improvement projects; and ensure long-term stewardship of the property.

“The creation of this special protected natural area is the result of an epic collaboration of many partners all working hand-in-hand to ensure the project’s success,” says SWMLC President and Executive Director Pete Ter Louw. “We are honored by the participation of so many people in creating the Portman Nature Preserve, and humbled by the generosity the conservation and local community have shown.”

 The grand opening celebration will include: 
  • 1-1:45pm – Storybook Hike – SWMLC will offer a storybook hike, where children will have the opportunity to read the book “Meet Us on the Trail,” written by Andrew F. Johnson and illustrated by Jennifer Johnson Haywood, who will also lead the hike, helping children explore the tracks, scat and other signs of North American animals on-site at the Portman Nature Preserve. (Please RSVP to or by phone to 269-324-1600. Due to limited space, RSVP’s are required.)
  • 2-2:30pm – Acknowledgements and Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony – SWMLC will formally thank and recognize all those who have been instrumental in bringing the Portman Nature Preserve to fruition. This recognition will culminate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
  • 3:00-4:00pm – Guided Nature Hike – SWMLC will offer a nature hike of the preserve guided by one of SWMLC’s eminent stewardship staff. This hike offers the opportunity to learn about some of the incredibly diverse species and habitats present on this 189-acre preserve.
  • All Day – Hike the more than 2 miles of trails at Portman Nature Preserve and enjoy the other family-friendly activities that will be offered throughout the day. 

The Little Adventurers’ Club will host a “Make a Nature Journal Craft,” and SWMLC will also offer a nature scavenger hunt, as well as “Hike Our Preserves” (HOP!) Portman medallions for all those participating in the HOP! Program.

SWMLC has already begun working with Mattawan and Paw Paw Schools to incorporate the Portman Nature Preserve as an outdoor classroom into the K-12 curriculum. Classes have begun visiting the preserve this fall, and SWMLC will be working with other school districts as well once the preserve is officially open. The Portman Nature Preserve also offers a natural laboratory for local researchers, and a natural space for the community to explore, learn, exercise, gather, and connect with nature and with each other.
Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Wightman & Associates, Inc. begins renovation work on new Kalamazoo office

 Wightman & Associates, Inc. (WAI) will relocate from its current location in Portage to 433 E. Ransom in Kalamazoo. 

The project will involve the complete renovation of the former One-Way Products building. When completed Wightman & Associates, Inc. will be able to continue the recent expansion of its staff. It also will be able to expand the range of services it provides to businesses and municipalities in the region.

The company’s current 3,700 square-foot office location at 9835 Portage Road in Portage is no longer a fit for the staff of over 30 engineering, architecture, GIS and survey professionals based there. It also lacks client meeting space and adequate storage for equipment and work vehicles.
“We outgrew our office some time ago, so the entire team is glad to see this project underway,” says Alan Smaka, director of WAI’s Portage office. “Not only will our new location create a welcoming and comfortable environment for our staff and clients, it gives us the ability to hire additional team members and expand our service offerings in the Kalamazoo region.”

“We are very pleased to be announcing this growth in the Kalamazoo region," says WAI President Matt Davis. "Our team of professional is really looking forward to having a presence in downtown Kalamazoo. This larger location is a critical component of Wightman & Associates’ strategic commitment to the Kalamazoo region. By investing in our facilities and providing our employees with an environment where they can do their best work, they, in turn, can focus their talents and problem-solving skills on helping our clients achieve their goals.” 

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.

City of Kalamazoo is seeking applicants for Foundation for Excellence Board

The City of Kalamazoo is accepting applications for membership on the first Foundation for Excellence Board of Directors. Applications will be taken until 11:59 p.m. Nov. 1. The city says the form is very brief and should take about 10 minutes to complete.

The online application form can be found here and paper applications are available at Kalamazoo Public Library branch locations and in the City Manager’s Office on the second floor at City Hall.

Those who need a computer to access the online form will find one available at  the Kalamazoo Community Foundation located at 402 E. Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo, MI 49007.  Please call (269) 381-4416 in advance to schedule an appointment.

“It is our intention to foster a respectful board culture where every member contributes their unique voice and skills to the work ahead,” says City Manager Jim Ritsema.
Applicants will be asked their contact information, employment sector, skills and experience, and demographic information. 

Board responsibilities are addressed through policies, and in the bylaws and articles of incorporation. Their job is to "ensure the integrity of the Foundation for the good of the public and its financial contributors," the city says.

 Members will govern the Board’s operations and make recommendations to the City Commission in order to provide funding each year for aspirational projects and Shared Prosperity initiatives that are in keeping with the community vision established in the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 Strategic Vision and Master Plan. 

The Foundation for Excellence is a unique oppotunity created by the City of Kalamazoo and private donors to address systemic challenges to the prosperity of the city. The Foundation will provide $70.3 million to stabilize the city’s budget, lower its property tax rate, and for $10 million of aspirational community projects per year through 2019. During this period, a fundraising effort will be launched to create a fully endowed foundation that can sustain this funding in perpetuity.

Source: City of Kalamazoo

Palliative care fellowship receives $1 million gift

When a person has a serious illness palliative care can provide relief from symptoms and stress, improving the quality of life for both the patient and the family.

To provide palliative care takes three things: high-quality services, education for families and health care providers, and those trained in providing such care -- a workforce, says Michael Raphelson, MD, medical director of Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan and a clinical assistant professor in WMed’s Department of Family and Community Medicine.

A $1 million gift from Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan will be the seed for an endowed palliative care fellowship at the medical school.  The medical school hopes to raise $4 million to fully fund the endowment dedicated to training competent and compassionate palliative care physicians for the foreseeable future.

The fellowship would provide training for up to two physicians seeking certification in geriatric and chronic illness management care after their completion of residency.

Dr. Raphelson says the new fellowship at WMed will help fill what he said is “an extreme shortage” in the number of certified palliative care providers in the U.S. He says there now are a little more than 5,000 certified providers despite an ever-growing need and a U.S. population that is aging rapidly.

“Never before have our demographics demonstrated the need more,” Dr. Raphelson says. “Ten thousand people turn 65 every day in this country and there are more families in Michigan with a member over the age of 65 than there are with children. There are 5.1 million people in the country with Alzheimer’s and there will be 7 million by 2020, and our elderly population is going to increase to 25 percent of the population by 2030.”

Dr. Raphelson says he believes the new fellowship will also lead to increased awareness about palliative care among medical students and residents in Kalamazoo and spark interest among them and physicians in the community about broadening their skill set. “I feel this community has everything it needs to provide high-quality palliative care training." 

Source: WMed
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