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Forest River Manufacturing to bring nearly 400 jobs to White Pigeon

Manufacturing continues to be making a strong comeback in Southwest Michigan. This time it is recreational vehicle maker Forest River Manufacturing which will break ground this spring on what is expected to be a $7 million project in the Village of White Pigeon.

Forest River Manufacturing plans to launch new products and will put up three 100,000-square-foot buildings to house the three new lines of vehicles.

It is anticipated the project will create 396 jobs, making the company eligible for a $350,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. Michigan was chosen over competing sites in Indiana.

The company currently has manufacturing facilities across the Midwest and is headquartered in Elkhart, Ind. It builds travel trailers, fifth wheels, pop-up tent campers, park model trailers, destination trailers, commercial vehicles, buses, pontoons and other recreational vehicles.

White Pigeon Village President Daniel R. Czajowski says Forest River's decision to locate in White Pigeon came about as a result of a joint effort by the Village, Southwest Michigan First, St. Joseph County Economic Development Corp.and the State of Michigan.

Land available for development, complete with water and other utilities, plus tax incentives offered by the state and White Pigeon made the area attractive to the manufacturer.

Czajowski says there also is a pent up demand for jobs among Michigan workers that has not been met since the national economic downturn, and those workers are attractive to manufacturers.

The Michigan Strategic Fund awarded the Village of White Pigeon $1.6 million in Community Development Block Grant funds for the Forest River project. The funds will be used toward on-the-job training for 264 employees at the new facilities.

"In terms of the bigger picture," Czajowski says, "this is not just to the benefit of White Pigeon. All of the State of Michigan and St. Joseph County will benefit from by Forrest River locating here."

Sources: Daniel R. Czajowski, Village of White Pigeon; Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Gilden Woods Early Care and Preschool opens second Kalamazoo location

Then there were two.

To meet growing demand, a second Gilden Woods Early Care and Preschool opened Jan. 12 in the Kalamazoo area.

The new school employs 30 new teachers and caregivers, and two directors, allowing for an enrollment of up to 168 children.  

The newest Gilden Woods location, at 4620 Arboretum Parkway, part of a growing West Michigan-based family of owner-operated child care centers, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony and offered tours of the school on Jan. 22.

The open house featured  a tour the state-of-the-art facility, classrooms, and age-appropriate playgrounds, an opportunity to learn about unique features including the secure AppleCam Internet system that allows enrolled parents to “visit” their child anytime using their computer or smartphone, and a chance to meet Gilden Woods directors, teachers, and caregivers.

The school provides infant and toddler child care and full- and half-day preschool. Before- and after-school care and fun, educational spring break, winter holiday, and summer day camps, are offered for school-aged children. Transportation to and from several local schools is included in tuition fees.

Gilden Woods owners are regularly involved in school operations allowing them to evaluate and improve the curriculum and programs, build relationships with staff and families, and monitor the safety of the building and learning environment.   

“Our Kalamazoo school will provide high quality, educational child care, preschool, and before- and after-school care for children ages six weeks to 12 years old,’’ says Gilden Woods owner Julia Buckham.  

Source: Gilden Woods  Early Care and Preschool

100 Friends of Downtown Three Rivers will help boost downtown

Building relationships. Communication. Education and Awareness. Those three goals of the DDA/Mainstreet Program in Three Rivers will be the focus of the "100 Friends of Downtown Three Rivers" when it launches in February.

The campaign will raise funds that will go towards flowers and flower pots, holiday decorations, special events, and other various DDA/Main Street programs.

The fundraising effort also will help Three Rivers continue the work it has been doing to revitalize the downtown. In the past 12 months, downtown Three Rivers was officially designated as a "Select Level" Michigan Main Street community in February 2014 and has undertaken the work that comes with that designation. Three Rivers DDA/Main Street hired a full-time program director in June.

"We’re extremely thankful and very fortunate to have received the support that we have from our current group of partners," says Brian Persky, Three Rivers DDA/Main Street Executive Director. "Without these initial commitments, the Main Street program wouldn’t be where it is today. In order to sustain the momentum that we’ve been building, it’s crucial for us to build on that and continue to expand our reach into the community."

Board development work, adoption of a Vision and Mission Statement are among the steps taken so far. The program also has recorded nearly 1,000 volunteer service hours, adopted a new downtown image, expanded holiday and winter decorations, coordinated Christmas Around Town, created an internship program, and has grown its presence on social media by more than 300 percent.

All new members of the "100 Friends of Downtown Three Rivers" campaign will receive an inside look to the Main Street program, recognition on the DDA’s website, and a complimentary T-shirt. Donation levels range from $15 for Friends, $25 for Bronze donors, $50 for Silver donors, an $100 for Gold donors.

In related news, the Three Rivers DDA/Main Street Design Committee recently awarded two grants for signage improvements to both PinUp Salon and Northside Beverage.

The grants were made possible through the DDA’s rebate program. The program awards rebates to property owners and business owners who improve signage, awnings, and/or painting. The rebates cover up to 25 percent of costs, with maximum amounts of $200 per sign, $300 per awning, and $750 for painting – to the extent that funds are available.Northside Beverage was awarded a $200 grant.

PinUp Salon was awarded a grant of $259.16, which covered approximately 25 percent of signage and painting costs.

"It’s so great that there are programs out there to help small businesses like mine," said PinUp Salon owner Danielle Hinman. "We can’t wait to continue with building renovations in the future."

Source: Brian Persky, DDA/Main Street Three Rivers

Douglass Community Association to celebrate 95 years of service

Throughout its history, the Douglass Community Association has served individuals and families in Kalamazoo’s northside neighborhood--as well as the greater Kalamazoo community--as a center for social, recreational and community development activities.

It also has advocated for civil rights, racial equality, social justice, and support for at-risk and vulnerable populations.

It's origins date back to the end of World War I. More than 350,000 African Americans served on the Western Front during the war. When they returned home they met with discrimination. Fighting that discrimination was behind the founding of the Douglass Community Association.

The Douglass will celebrate its 95th anniversary from 5-7 p.m Feb. 8 at The Union, 125 South Kalamazoo Mall, in downtown Kalamazoo.  The event is open to the public.

Part of the 95th anniversary celebration will include a fundraising component. DCA will hold a silent auction of items such as paintings by local artists, autographed photos of football greats Greg Jennings and T.J. Duckett, a weekend package at the Radisson Hotel, and much more.

The Douglass offers critical community services, including:

• Frederick Douglass Recovery Center, providing behavioral health services including, outpatient treatment, case management, and peer support.

• Youth and Community Services, including substance abuse prevention through mentoring, education and recreation; after-school learning and team sports programs; and food and nutritional services, including a mobile food initiative, Educational Community Garden and the seasonal Douglass Farmers Market.

"We’re proud to celebrate this milestone and the positive impact the Douglass has had in the lives of thousands in our community," says Sherry Thomas-Cloud, DCA’s executive director.

Over the past two years, The Douglass has gone a long way toward resolving financial difficulties that threatened its existence. The Kalamazoo community stepped up to help it keeps its doors open.

"With the aid of many funders, organizations and community experts," Thomas-Cloud says, "we’ve developed a thoughtful and future-focused strategic plan; secured communication support; received consultation in fund development, organizational strategies and board leadership; received an infrastructure and facility assessment; partnered with skilled trades unions to perform needed repairs; and continued to receive generous contributions to support our services.

"At the same time, we’re not entirely out of the woods," Thomas-Cloud adds. "We’re building a sustainable model for the future, and we need support to get there."

Sources: Rick Chambers, Rick Chambers & Associates, Douglass Community Association


Historical images from the founding of the organization in 1919.

A recent youth craft activities at the Douglass Community Center on West Paterson Street.

WMed to begin next phase of renovation on campus

At Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine (WMed) the belief is that the teaching and education of research in medical school is fundamental to improving healthcare and advancing the knowledge of future practicing physicians.

The school has developed an extended research curriculum for medical students and teaches the practical development of research projects that could eventually be presented at an event organized each year to celebrate academics in research.

So it is no surprise that four months after it opened, work is already being done to develop the fourth and sixth floors of its W.E. Upjohn M.D. campus in downtown Kalamazoo for use in the expansion of its research efforts.

The WMU Board of Trustees voted Jan. 22 to allow the med school to begin the redevelopment project. Under terms of the lease before the board took action, the fourth and six floors were to remain vacant until either the University or medical school needed the space.

The cost of the renovations and equipment will be paid by the medical school.

The new medical school encourages the development and participation of faculty research mentors who will be educating and supporting medical students throughout their time dedicated to research when new or practical approaches to medicine are sought.

Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine

Cornerstone Alliance says businesses made $28 million in new investments in 2014

During 2014 businesses in the far southwest corner of Michigan invested $28 million in the region, reports Cornerstone Alliance.

The Cornerstone Alliance team says it met with more than 100 current businesses in 2014 to identify opportunities for growth. As a result, nine local businesses made a commitment to invest $28.4 million in the region, affecting 308 jobs.

Of those 308 jobs, 162 are new and the commitment to invest in the region helps retain 146 jobs.

Cornerstone Alliance’s work to attract new business investment to the community included one-on-one visits with site selectors, location advisors, business decision-makers and influencers. The meetings took place around the country and in Benton Harbor, St. Joseph and other communities in the region. 

The team visited Atlanta, Orlando, Chicago, New York City and Dallas to meet with those who might be interested in locating in Southwest Michigan.  

Further, Cornerstone Alliance’s Small Business Services and Women’s Business Center team announced the launch of 20 new start-up businesses in 2014 throughout Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties. That represents Investments of $646,000 in 2014 and 47 jobs in the tri-county area.

The economic development organization also made it easier for those making decision on where to locate their business to find out about Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties by launching a new website. It features a searchable database of commercial and industrial properties for sale or lease in Berrien County, and a wealth of information supporting business investment in the region.

Cornerstone Alliance President Vicki Pratt says, "We thought we could get 10 businesses launched in 2014. We thought that was a fairly lofty goal, but guess what? We launched 20."

As they were expecting to have $500,000 in investment in the area, the first year of their three-year strategic plan was a success, Pratt says.

Source: Cornerstone Alliance

Whirlpool opens Benton Harbor Technology Center

What once was a warehouse is now a state-of-the-art technology center in Benton Harbor. The center opened Dec. 19 and is part of Whirlpool's  $155 million investment in the area that will be realized when a series of projects is completed in 2016.

At the same time it opened the Benton Harbor Technology Center, Whirlpool announced it will break ground on phase three of its Riverview campus in 2015. This phase includes a third, three-story building alongside two current buildings. The company also announced it will move forward with a third phase of renovations at its Global Headquarters facility.

Completion of those projects will represent the $155 million investment in the community. Plans for the new Riverview campus project as well as major renovations in the company's global headquarters building were announced four years ago.

With the opening of the Benton Harbor Technology Center, the area is now home to more than 1,200 engineers and technicians. The center serves as the global technology hub for all of Whirlpool's major categories including cooking, cleaning, laundry, and refrigeration.

The facility is Whirlpool Corporation's largest refrigeration technology center and focuses on next generation processes and technologies.

"This is not just a new facility," says Jeff M. Fettig, chairman and CEO of Whirlpool Corp. "It is a testament to our values as a company, our commitment to investing where it counts--right here at home."

Source: Whirlpool Corp.

TEDx introduces salons, it's time for Startup Weekend 5, and makers at Catalyst

Now that Beer Week is over, Kalamazoo recalibrates and sets its sights on what's new in the world of startups. Starting today, Jan. 22, and wrapping up Feb. 1 entrepreneurs will be the focus.

TEDx Kalamazoo invites the public to hear three speakers talk about their experiences as entrepreneurs as the group introduces a new salon format leading up to its main event in June. Upcoming salons will be on entertainment and food and beer. 

Today, Daniel Jefferies of Happy Graph, Joe Armstrong of Sportech Labs, and Kori Jock of La Vie en Orange will share their stories and lessons learned.

TEDx organizers say they hope listening to these three speakers will encourage our community to create ideas worth starting up.

The first salon will be at 6 p.m. Jan. 22 at Western Michigan University's Starting Gate, 161 E. Michigan Ave., Suite 400B, Kalamazoo.

Next up is Catalyst University, Jan. 29, to be at Wings Stadium for the first time. The daylong session put together by Southwest Michigan First offers a day packed with leadership lessons and inspiration. 

Another first this year is a contest between five companies in what Southwest Michigan First is calling the Makers Mart. Mamaleelu Cold BrewDamn Handsome Grooming Co.Lush Gourmet FoodsPop City Popcorn, and Handmade Kalamazoo have been asking their friends, and family, fans to vote for them since Oct. 27 in hopes of walking away with the $10,000 prize announced at Catalyst U. You can see their videos explaining what they make and vote for your favorite here

Finally, the month comes to a close with Kalamazoo's fifth Startup Weekend. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30 and continuing for the next 54 hours at the MLive Hub, 306 S. Kalamazoo Mall the startup-minded participants will pitch an idea, form a team, and launch a product.
“It’s pretty incredible to think this is the 5th Startup Weekend in Kalamazoo, and the event has now spread to over 400 cities in more than 100 different countries," says organizer Ryan Goins. "It is by far the best place to take a business from idea to reality, and over the last 4 years has become a pillar of the Kalamazoo startup community.” 

Source: TEDx Kalamazoo, Catalyst U, Startup Weekend Kalamazoo

Online grocery service Door to Door Organics expands to Kalamazoo

When Door to Door Organics obtained $25.5 million from investors in its second round of financing the company was poised to expand.

Expansion in Michigan is part of the growth plan for the company founded in Pennsylvania in 1997 by David Gersenson. Door to Door Organics has been delivering organic produce from local farms in Michigan since 2009.

The company delivers fresh, organic, natural and local food directly to homes, offices, and schools throughout the West, Midwest and East Coast. Through five regional delivery facilities, it currently delivers organic groceries to 30 markets in 11 states. It has weekly and bi-weekly delivery options.

Since its re-incorporation in Colorado in 2005, Door to Door Organics has made more than 2 million deliveries and expects to have acquired more than 50,000 new customers by the end of 2015.

Kalamazoo is one of a number of local markets into which the company is expanding in the coming year. Door to Door Organics reports the online grocery industry is projected to grow from approximately $23 billion in 2014--3.5 percent of total online and offline grocery spending--to nearly $100 billion by 2019, representing 12 percent of total grocery spending.

Door to Door says its customers tell the company that supporting local farmers and artisan food producers is a key reason for choosing the online grocery shopping service. During the growing season, Kalamazoo customers will be able to choose up to 70 percent locally grown produce in their regular deliveries.

The company also will deliver handcrafted local foods, such as Ope's -- Food the World Can Live With, made in Kalamazoo. Lauren Oppenlander, owner of Ope's says, "As a local artisan food company and long-time partner of Door to Door Organics, we are excited to see them expand their service."

The Michigan team has shown great support for local food producers, and community organizations, Oppenlander says.

"Our goal is to increase access to local, natural and organic foods for busy consumers who often do not have the time to travel to several stores for the high-quality food they desire," says Chad Arnold, CEO of Door to Door Organics.

Source: Door to Door Organics

Tutu Run participants to take off Feb. 1 to raise scholarship funds

There will be women, men, children and for the first time dogs--all running in tutus in Spring Valley Park, 2600 Mt. Olivet Road, when the 2.2 mile Tutu Run takes off at 2 p.m. Feb. 1.

The run participants will be helping to raise scholarship funds for the Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run, earmarked for those who could otherwise not afford to be part of the program that teaches girls not only to move, but also is a positive youth development program for girls in third through eighth grade.

Last year, more than $175,000 was awarded in scholarships by Girls on the Run and 66 percent of the nearly 1,900 girls served by Girls on the Run requested either full or partial financial support.

Tutus are optional (but highly encouraged) and may be purchased with online registration or on the day of the event, in limited quantity. Many participants make their own tutus at home. For steo-by-step instructions search for “how to make a no sew tutu.”

Before the run gets underway there will be a tutu contest with judges considering nine categories, including best dog in a tutu for the first time. Other categories are: best overall tutu, biggest tutu, best male tutu, best female tutu, best kids tutu, best couple tutus, best group tutus, and fastest tutu. The two grand prizes, from Bissell, are worth more than $500 each. Other prizes will be awarded from Bella Patina and many other local businesses. The Tutu run is sponsored by Honor Credit Union.

“Tutu Run is what we call ‘The Happiest 2.2 Miles of the Year’! It was created three years ago to bring the people of our community together in a fun, festive way after the New Year and before partaking in any Superbowl Sunday parties!" says Melisa Ellis Beeson, Director of Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run. "It’s all about being active and having fun– exactly the things we encourage throughout our Girls on the Run program."

Registration is $25  with Tutu Run T-shirt or $15 without T-shirt). To register and for more information click here.

The 2015 Girls on the Run program begins the week of March 2  and will run through May 21 when the program culminates with the annual Girls on the Run 5k at Western Michigan’s Waldo Stadium. Nearly 5,000 total runners and walkers participated in the 2014 Girls on the Run 5k event.

For two area farms, merger means more hops to more clients

Fans of Southwest Michigan craft beer, independent agriculture and local business are happy to hear Hop Head Farms of Hickory Corners, one of the area's most prominent hop growers, announced a merger with Ceres Hops and Grain.

The collaboration adds 140 fertile acres in Berrien County, bringing Hop Head Farms current production size to 230 acres in Hickory Corners, Berrien County, and a series of contract farms spread across the state.

Formed in 2012 by Bonnie and Jeff Steinman, Hop Head farms has grown into a steady supplier of hops to breweries in 17 states and four counties.

“We're continually taking on new clients, but the merger gives us the confidence that we can supply more hops to more clients,” Bonnie Steinman says. "We want to supply more production beers to more breweries; our hops are primarily in specialty beers.

"First the concern (from breweries) was, can you give us that quality that we expect, then its volume, then consistent volume,"  Steinman continues. "Now we can put all of those together...We'll be able to do the volume and have the consistent quality.”

Hop Head Farms currently cultivates nine varieties of hops on premises and has several other types being contracted out to other farms. The addition of Ceres will allow the company to look at what hop varietals are trending, which styles breweries are asking for, and plant accordingly.

“Right now we're choosing varieties to plant in Berrien County and formulating a plan for spring and fall planting,” Steinman says. “At this point, in Hickory Corners, we've filled up that land as much as we can. It's exciting to have so much more going in.”

Ceres Farms, a subset of Ceres Partners formed in 2007 by Perry Veith, encompasses over 51,000 acres of land spread across Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia, and Ohio.

Veith, an initial investor in Hop Head Farms, approached the Steinmans with the idea of a merger.

“He was one of the investors of Hop Head farms and became interested in growing hops. He thought this was a good business to get into," says Steinman. "He's an agricultural guy and loves craft beer. Ceres put in some vines in Berrien County on one of their pieces of land, and they became one of our network growers.”

Until the merger, signing up network growers was the sole avenue by which Hop Head Farms had grown in acreage over the past three years. Network growing, which is akin to working on a freelance contract, can at times, however, be a tenuous affair. Veith proposed the merger to gain a more permanent connection to Hop Head and it's knowledge and resource base.

“He decided he didn't want to be just a network grower and wanted to join his team's resources and land to what Hop Head Farms was already doing and he made the offer to merge,” Steinman says.

The merger will, in time facilitate an expansion not just of acreage, but also of employees: an increase in hop production will require more processing facilities and equipment. But for now, Hop Head Farms will roll with its current set up, playing all future growth by ear.

“The current people that are managing the properties will continue to do that. In the future we'll need more processing facilities to cover all the acreage. We would end up with some more employees, but that's in the future, right now we're still scaled to handle what we have at this time,” Steinman says.

Once both ends of the partnership settle into the merger, plans for more land purchases will begin to take shape, though all additions to acreage will be made strictly by Hop Head Farms, as Steinman says the idea of further mergers is not even on the table.

“There are plans for more land purchases," Steinman says. "We want to continue increasing the network growers as well. In different regions of Michigan I think we can grow different variants of hops better, just depending on the soil type and micro climates."

They'll be following the model that has worked for them. "Our model has always been to have our own acreage but to bring in contracted growers,” Steinman says."We buy their hops from them to process, and to market and sell."

More information on Hop Head Farms can be found here.

Information on Ceres Farms and partners can be found here. 

Writer: Jeremy Martin, Second Wave Media
Bonnie Steinman, Hop Head Farms

Multi-million dollar renovation is underway at McCamly Plaza Hotel

When the professional bull riders and the state wrestling champions come to Battle Creek they stay at McCamly Plaza Hotel. Being attached to the Kellogg Arena makes it easy for such groups to have access to the arena and the full service hotel.

Soon they also will be able to enjoy the results of the renovations currently taking place at the hotel. Work McCamly Plaza Hotel General Manager Bob Holsten says will total "several million dollars" is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2015.

Currently underway are renovations to first floor corridors, areas where people gather before meetings, meeting areas, and the ballroom. New ceilings, lights, wall treatments, and flooring along with audio visual and sound equipment are part of the project.

The latest round of updates comes just few years after $6.5 million went into renovations to the 239 guest rooms and suites. "Hotels go through various stages of renovations at various times," says Holsten. "Rooms may be done at one time, while public areas and meetings spaces are done at another."

“Once finished, downtown Battle Creek will have a completely new hotel and conference center,” says Downtown Development Director Rob Peterson. “Few downtowns in our market have accommodations that can rival what McCamly will offer.”
During the 2013-14 fiscal year,  Kellogg Arena hosted 48 events bringing in over 77,500 visitors and generating $11.4 million in economic impact, reports the Calhoun County Visitors Bureau. In the next year the hotel will host visitors in town for the Professional Bull Riding Event, the MHSAA Wrestling state championships, MYWAY State Championship State Wrestling Championships, MVENA State Pool Tournament, School Nutrition Association of Michigan, the Order of the Eastern Star, and DECA, among others.

“Our location is ideally located to accommodate business and leisure travelers,” Holsten says. With its partnership with Calhoun County Visitors Bureau and Kellogg Arena, the facility is positioned as the premier location for conferences, social and sporting events, weddings and accommodations for the business traveler, he adds.

McCamly Plaza Hotel is owned and operated by Grand Heritage Hotel Group, which operates over a dozen independent hotels and resorts across North America and Mexico.,Since 1989, Grand Heritage has focused its efforts on hotel redevelopment.  

John Cullen, President of Grand Heritage says: “We are committed to downtown Battle Creek and excited to be a part of the continued investments.”  

Source: Bob Holsten, McCamly Plaza Hotel

At Just Move Fitness emphasis is on having fun while getting fit

As big name chain gyms spring up around them, the independent fitness center Just Move Fitness and More continues to gradually make a name for itself as a place where people find fitness is fun and that it can become a part of their everyday life.

Sara Burhans and Heather Christy are co-owners of the gym at 626 Romence Road in the Hillside Plaza across from D&W in Portage and have been building the business in the 3,000 square foot space--2,000 of which is dedicated to the main studio--since late 2012.

For those who are used to gyms where members work out on lots of heavy duty equipment -- this is not that gym. Burhans and Christy focus on group classes, where participants cheer one another on as they meet their fitness goals. It's a supportive environment where classmates get to know one another and help provide accountability and encouragement.

Their focus on teaching people the fun of movement has attracted people of all ages and fitness abilities. "Most people are in their mid-30s to 60s, and we have women in their 70s," Christy says.

There is no fee to join and classes can be paid for as students drop in, purchase a package of classes, or buy the unlimited option.

The newest class being taught at Just Move Fitness is  Shockwave, an intense rowing circuit class that has been called, "the most efficient total body workout in the world" and consists of rowing sprints and other full-body exercises in a circuit format.

The rowing machines come with a tub of water that provided resistance as the person exercising pulls. The class "rows" a certain distance and everyone in the class must continue to "row" until all of the rowers have completed their rowing distance. It leads to a lot of mild competition as rowers encourage one another to make the distance.

Shockwave classes began Jan. 10 and immediately began to fill up. "People have gotten addicted to it very quickly," Christy says. There also are cardio and strength classes, called Ripped. Dance fitness classes are some of the most popular. Just Move also offers aqua fitness classes through an agreement with Portage Central Middle School.

As the name of the fitness center suggests, there's more. Just Move Fitness hosts a lot of parties, they even have one suitable for bridal parties. They've had proms, yoga parties, and dance parties complete with disco ball.  

Running the gym has been challenging for the two women who had no background in starting their own business. "Our growth has been slow and steady," Christy says. "Everyone says it takes three to five years to become established and we have found that to be true."

What has been encouraging to them is that a number of their participants have found they liked it so well, and believed in their methods of having fun while getting fit, that they went on to become certified as fitness instructors and now teach at Just Move Fitness and More. They now have 10 to 12 instructors and 25 classes a week.

"We have something for everybody," Christy says.

Source: Heather Christy, Just Move Fitness and More

Nonprofit Leadership Alliance names WMU program best in the U.S.

The undergraduate program in nonprofit leadership at Western Michigan University--a program that allows students to actually award grants to meet community needs--is the one in the nation that exemplifies overall best practices.

The Nonprofit Leadership Alliance announced Jan. 7 that WMU's Nonprofit Leadership Program is this year's winner of the Sprint Program Excellence Award. The alliance is a national organization of more than 40 collaborating universities and nonprofit organizations.

Students studied community needs, set priorities, issued requests for proposals, and analyzed 23 proposals. They visited nonprofit sites and conducted a Nonprofit Celebration. The School of Public Affairs and Administration allocated $18,000 and the students raised an additional $2,000 to re-grant $20,000 to local nonprofits during the  2013-14 academic year.

For this year, the students have another $13,000 from the school and have raised an additional $2,000 so they can award $15,000 to community organizations in spring 2015.  

WMU's Nonprofit Leadership program is designed to prepare students for entry-level professional positions in nonprofit organizations. The minor requires 18 credit hours of course work in such areas as communication, marketing and public relations, cultural competency and diversity, financial resource development and management, leadership and advocacy, legal and ethical decision making, program development, and volunteer and human resource management.

In additional to traditional course work, this minor requires service to the university and the community.

Applications for the 2015 award were by invitation only and required creation of a video and PowerPoint as well as a live online presentation. Students in the WMU Nonprofit Leadership Student Association focused their application on recruitment, service learning, internships, the rigor of the WMU program, and involvement with the local community. Their video can be seen here.

WMU's undergraduate minor in nonprofit leadership can be taken with any major from any college. The University also offers a concentration in nonprofit leadership within the Master of Public Administration program.  

Source: Cheryl Roland, Western Michigan University

Kalamazoo Beer Week is back for fifth annual celebration of the craft

For most of us, early January is a time of reflection, and repose following the shopping, travel, logistics and overall chaos that is the holiday season.

There are, however, a few members of the greater Kalamazoo community who are now entering a time of manic activity that surpasses the whirlwind of November and December.

"We made it through Christmas and New Years, but Kalamazoo Beer Week is like way beyond that," says Brian Steele co-owner of Kalamazoo's Boatyard Brewing Company.

The eight-day festival of events, classes, beer tasting, games and general revelry, now in its 5th year, has become an annual tradition for fans of craft beer in Southwest Michigan, but it's also a time of anticipated--although welcomed--stress for brewery owners and employees.

"Having fun is the most difficult part of brewery ownership. We are exceptionally busy; I leave here; I'm dog tired; and want to go home. Any time off we have we want to spend with our families," Steele concedes.

But to support everyone who has helped make Beer Week, and the overall craft beer industry such a success, Steele, along with co-owner Dan Gilligan, will none the less make time to attend some of the more than 200 events taking place at area breweries, and bottle shops.

"It's so difficult for us to get out, but I'm going to make it a priority to at least to make one event at each of the Kalamazoo breweries," Steele says.

It's hard for Steele and company to mingle because Boatyard will be hosting 12 events, during the week, making the brewery, located at 432 E. Patterson St, one of the busiest sites of the week.

"Were really trying to spread the gospel of Boatyard Brewing to everyone in Kalamazoo," Steele says.

Steele knows that Kalamazoo brewers and beer drinkers are basically a family, so beyond just tasting events and parties, Boatyard will also be working hard to foster a community atmosphere by welcoming both the Kalamazoo Libation Organization of Brewers (KLOB) and Fermenta, an all female brewing club whose membership includes Boatyard brewer Amy Waugaman.

Fermenta, which began only a year ago is a nonprofit trade organisation for women in the craft beer, wine, and spirits industry. Its aim is to promote the work of women within the fermented beverage world, as well as allow members a fun and unique way to network and share their knowledge and experiences.

The 2015 Kalamazoo Beer week will be Fermenta's first opportunity to take part in what has become a highly anticipated event on the local and regional brewing calendar.

"I think Fermenta is really going to be a powerful organization within Michigan and I think the rise of women in the fermenting industry is going to take off. It's a grassroots organization. They’re just getting started, but Amy is a fantastic example of what women do in the fermenting arts," Steele says.

Fermenta and Boatyard will be co-hosting "We Can Brew It!" on Friday, Jan. 16. The night comes with a 1940's theme and will feature live music and dancing, and opportunities to meet some of the group's members or for potential members to get more information the group.

"It's great if someone decides they want to be a member of the group, but we've had events where people are just curious about a certain subject," says Pauline Knighton of Shorts Brewing Company and a founding member of Fermenta. "We always have men who come and are interested. For us, it's just important that we're providing educational and networking opportunities for women, people who either want to learn more, or are trying to get involved in the industry."

The educational aspect of "We Can Brew It" will feature a discussion on hop selection in Pale Ales as well as a brewing demonstration from Waugaman.

Fermenta, which boasts a membership split of both industry professionals and amateurs seeking to more knowledge is but one group of dedicated brewers who will be gathering at Boatyard, and showcasing their wares during Beer Week.  KLOB, a home brewers society, active since 1993, will be out in force as well, descending twice on the nearly one-year-old brewery.

The first event, on Jan. 12, will be the release party for an Oatmeal Stout brewed in collaboration with the home brewers and Boatyard. The second event, taking place on the final day of beer week will be a glorified, public welcome, version of KLOB's monthly meetings.

"Dan and I both have our roots in home brewing so we thought it would be cool to support these guys and work with them on a beer as a collaborative effort," Steele says.

The collaboration gave Boatyard an opportunity to gauge what was trending the world of homebrew and gave KLOB members a chance to work with commercial equipment.

"Our system has been so streamlined that I told them this was going to be a whole lot more boring than home brewing," Steele says

Though Steele jokes that the vast majority of time spent brewing is actually spent waiting and watching the equipment, the end product, delicious locally produced craft beer, is anything but boring as is being proved by this weeklong celebration that continues to grow each year.

Besides favorites such as the third annual Bell's Snow Jog, a three-hour long race and adventure challenge through downtown Kalamazoo, and the KBW pub crawl, new happenings this year include a brewery trolley, provided by Dan's Ultra Party Bus, and a trend we can all get behind--pairing beer and dessert.

Some of the combinations of carbonation and confections include: Tapestry Brewing cookie and beer pairing and Short's Ice cream and beer pairing. Of course, there will be plenty of classic beer and food pairings as well, many of which will feature complete meals.

And for those seeking a less than four-star culinary experience, Shakespeare’s Pub will be hosting the second annual Dark Horse anti-beer dinner on Jan. 14. The night will feature "Hot Pockets, Ramen Noodles, Pop Tarts, and more."

As is the case every year, Kalamazoo Beer Week is a chance to enjoy all that the greater Kalamazoo brewing community has to offer, try something new, learn a thing or two about the brewing industry and to (safely) have as much fun as you can handle.

For more information on Kalamazoo Beer week and for a complete list of events please visit here

Jeremy Martin is the craft brew writer for Southwest Michigan's Second Wave.
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