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Works of nearly 200 artists to be in juried KIA art fair June 5-6

Sometimes Mother Nature makes it hard to tell what season it is in Michigan. Luckily, there's the annual Art Fair from Kalamazoo Institute of Arts as a sign.

The annual Kalamazoo Institute of Arts Fair is set for June 5-6 in downtown Kalamazoo's Bronson Park.

This year there will be nearly 200 artists in the juried show, coming from across the country. More than 60 will be first-time participants in the kick-off to summer event.

Art created in 12 different mediums will be seen, with jewelry, painting, and ceramics the most represented. There also is a growing number of accomplished glass, fiber, leather, and wood artists, who will be showing their artwork, say KIA officials.

The fair runs 3-8 p.m. Friday, June 5, and 9 a.m.-5 p.m, Saturday, June 6. For those who like to meet their friends over a beer, there's the Bell's Beer Garden  from 4-10 p.m. Friday.

Saturday features art activities for the kids from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. (The Do Dah parade passes by the park starting at 11 am.) Youngsters can create sand art, T-shirt art, and experience face tattoos, spin art, jewelry making, and a scavenger hunt. They can say hello to mascots from local sports teams including the Slappy from the K-Wings', and Porter from the Growlers'.

That's not all. There will be musical performances by Bog Road, Cabtown Checkers, Crescendo Fiddlers, Loy Norrix String quartets, Mall City Harmonizers, Steve Kamerling Trio, and wrapping up on Saturday, Zion Lion, 3-5 p.m.

For a list of artists participating in the KIA Art Fair and more information check here.

Source: Kalamazoo Institute of Art

Cyclists say: Give us a lane

Non-motorized citizens of Kalamazoo, you're getting heard. 

What city planner Rebekah Kik says she's been hearing, is that you want protected bike lanes -- especially connecting the west and north/east legs of the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail through downtown.

Spurred by results from citizen feedback on the Imagine Kalamazoo website, as well as from public input at the many non-motorized plan meetings during Kalamazoo Bike Week May 10-17, Kik says a pilot program will happen June 18-21 along Water Street.

That week, traffic cones will create a temporary protected bike lane. Kik will contact local bike shops, bicycling clubs, and other pedal-pumpers to get bikers to try the lane and provide feedback.

"Bring out the bike armies," she says, so the city can ask, "What did you guys love? What did you hate? What needs to be changed?"

The city also hopes to have a June test of a bike lane along West Michigan Avenue, proposed by the Michigan Department of Transportation's Stadium Drive/Michigan Avenue Corridor Study, but the ultimate design for that study is still being planned. "We'll have Water Street as a popup bike lane, and the West Michigan cycle track as a popup lane, too, so you will be able to see how that connectivity will all come together," Kik says.

"I can't say when we would actually get funding to actually do a protected bike lane," she says. But a bike/pedestrian corridor through downtown, as part of the KRVT, has been in the city's non-motorized plan since 1998, as Kik discovered when she became city planner six months ago.

"When I saw that it went all the way back to 1998, I thought, 'No! I had no idea'...." She also thought, "Wow, you guys actually had money in the '90s, early 2000's. This should already be done."

People interacting with the Imagine Kalamazoo site seemed to agree. Protected bike lanes -- a lane separating bikes and motor vehicles with a curb or other barrier --  was the top choice out of 79 interactions, she says. 

Other ideas included improving pedestrian/bike connectivity between neighborhoods and downtown; more bike lanes in neighborhood streets, improving pedestrian access between WMU, Kalamazoo College and downtown; and completing the KRVT with connections to the Portage bike trail system.

Right now, the KRVT's north leg (running up to the Kalamazoo Nature Center and D Avenue) and east leg (ending at Galesburg, with plans to extend to Battle Creek) meet at Harrison Street. The west leg (running to the Kal-Haven Trail and, ultimately, South Haven) ends at North Westnedge, just north of East Kalamazoo Avenue.

There would need to be further connections between Water Street and the KRVT, but that route would lead bikes -- local riders to long-distance bike tourists -- to the many shops, restaurants, brewpubs and entertainment venues of downtown Kalamazoo, as well as Kalamazoo Valley Community College's downtown campus, the Kalamazoo Valley Museum and Arcadia Creek Festival Place. 

It's a route that leads to economic benefits, is in-demand, and makes sense in the context of Kalamazoo's over-all traffic flow. "So, now we're finally saying, let's get this solidified, and let's get everyone's input," Kik says. 

Mark Wedel is a Kalamazoo freelance writer and avid bicyclist. 

Are changes ahead for Drake Farmstead in Oshtemo?

What ideas do you have for future uses of the Drake Farmstead in Oshtemo Township?

Oshtemo Township wants to develop a plan for the property -- one that respects its history and at the same time generates income to help offset the cost of maintaining it.

To hear ideas from the community, township officials are inviting people to the Drake Farmstead, 927 N. Drake Road, between Croyden Avenue and Gordon Food Service at Maple Hill Mall. The workshop will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, May 27. This is the second meeting to talk with the community about plans for the property.

There will be sketches and alternatives drawn by a design team presented. Preliminary results of the market feasibility study also will be reviewed. Those participating are invited to explore the historic house and 26 acres.

Oshtemo Township, working with the property's owners, purchased 5.36 acres, the house, and the carriage barn in 2004, according to the Oshtemo Township Historical Society.

The Drake family settled the property in the 1830s and the first home there was built with the help of Native Americans. The farm grew to almost 500 acres straddling both Oshtemo and Kalamazoo Townships. A home built on the land in 1852 burned. It was rebuilt immediately. Change to the house added a total of four rooms, and a back stairway, making a total of 15 rooms.

In 2004, a developer was planning to demolish the Drake home and use the land for commercial development when township officials recognized the history of the property and became determined to save it for future township residents.

Oshtemo Township and the Oshtemo Historical Society work together on the care and restoration of the home. This project is co-sponsored by the Oshtemo Township Parks Committee, the Oshtemo Historical Society, and the Oshtemo Friends of the Parks.

The Township’s goal, officials say, is to create a public space that respects and preserves the farmstead’s historic character and natural features while offering income-generating uses or facilities that will help offset the cost of maintaining the property and provide a gathering place for the community to enjoy.

Source: Oshtemo Township

Beyond Basics: New salon opens in Benton Harbor

Samrosetta Hardnett has been in the beauty industry for 25 years and a licensed hair stylist for 15. Now she has a salon of her own.

Hardnett has opened Beyond Basics Salon at 88 West Main Street, Benton Harbor. She says her experience coupled with her passion for people inspired her to open her own salon. 

At Beyond Basics Salon Hardent wants her customers to “revive, renew, and relax.” To do that she will provide services that include haircuts for women, men and children; textures; perm waves; relaxers; straighteners; full head weaves; shampoo; blow dry, and condition treatments. The salon also offers hair color treatments, highlights and manicures.

She got the support she needed to open the business from Cornerstone Alliance Small Business Services and Women’s Business Center. She participated in an 11-week program that offers information and resources needed to start and sustain a small business. 

“The workshops and resources they offer are invaluable to anyone starting a business,” Hardnett says.

The new salon is open Tuesday through Saturday from 7 a.m to 7 p.m. by appointments. However, Hardnett says walk-ins are welcome. To learn more about Beyond Basics Salon, call 269-363-4555.  

Source: Cornerstone Alliance

Celebration honors committed conservationist at Bonamego Woods

In 2013, Louis Bonamego protected his 170-acre property through conservation easements with Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.

The conservation easements ensure that the Bonamego Woods and Bonamego Farms properties will remain protected in their natural or agricultural state. They will forever provide undisturbed habitat for native wildlife and a local resource for agriculture.

Protecting his property, which includes an expansive wetland complex, means that Bonamego is also helping to protect the quality of water in the Paw Paw River Watershed, its surface waters, and the groundwater that supplies local drinking water for people in the area.  

His holistic management of his farm further safeguards water quality in the region and creates quality habitat for local plants and animals.

Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy officials say crop rotation, complementary planting, and environmentally-friendly management practices are all approaches that Bonamego uses to maximize his properties’ local food output, while also contributing to the health of the landscape, and providing area residents with healthy local food to eat.

The Land Conservancy is hosting a celebration Sunday, May 31, in honor of Bonamego's commitment to conservation. The day will include a morning bird walk (optional), a dedication ceremony, local food and refreshments.

There will be a nature and foraging hike led by Wild Ones and Bonamego Farms' Chom Tok "Nabe" Bowerman, “Queen of the Weeds” as she is known to local farmers market patrons.

The celebration will take place at the Bonamego Woods property, 1 mile west of the I-94 Decatur/Dowagiac exit and 1.5 miles east of the Lawrence exit on Red Arrow Highway from 10 a.m.-noon, Sunday, May 31. The bird walk begins at 9 a.m.

Bonamego credits his knowledge of the native plants growing on his land to Tom and Nancy Small who started the Kalamazoo chapter of Wild Ones to promote the use of native plants, and to Emma Pitcher.  With their help, and that of some regional botanists, he catalogued more than 300 species on the farm, a good portion of them native to the area.

“For many years, I used to walk these lanes, right by all these so-called weeds and not give them a second look,” says Bonamego. “My appreciation for these native plants has grown tremendously now that I understand all the value they have to our local wildlife."

The SWMLC partnered with the Van Buren Conservation District to seek funds through the Paw Paw/Black River Wetland Partnership Project and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to purchase the development rights and establish the easements that now protect the Bonamego property.

Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

WMU hosts intensive program for entrepreneurs

This year, Western Michigan University became the fourth Michigan institute of higher education to offer entrepreneurs an intensive program to learn whether their project has commercial viability through the I-Corps program.

I-Corps is a National Science Foundation program created to foster entrepreneurship that will lead to the commercialization of technology. It's for early stage projects looking to assess a commercial opportunity.

NSF says the program works equally well for university researchers who are in the process of filing or have filed an invention disclosure (a confidential document written to determine whether patent protection should be sought for an invention) or companies looking to spin-out new technologies.

The I-Corps curriculum teaches what it takes to successfully transfer knowledge into products and processes that benefit society, in a real-world, hands on, immersive way.

An I-Corps team talks to industry customers and competitors and encounters "the chaos and uncertainty of creating successful innovations," says the WMU website that explains the program. "Getting out of the laboratory/university is what the effort is all about."

Team members must commit to in-depth preparation, attendance at the lectures, workshops and webex conference calls. A 15 to 20 hours per week commitment is expected in the Western Michigan University I-Corps program.

Five teams have been chosen to participate in the I-Corps session at WMU. The program kicked off May 20 and May 21. The teams will meet for the next six weeks and report their results June 22-23.

Source: Western Michigan University

Binder Park Zoo welcomes Casey and Carla, two Canada lynx

Casey and Carla are the newest additions to Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek. The Canada lynx recently arrived and are now on display in the east portion of the zoo, just beyond the American black bear exhibit.

The pair of cats are one year old, born on May 19, 2014.

The Canada lynx, found in small populations in Montana, New Hampshire, Vermont,Washington, and Colorado, is threatened in the wild.

During the 1970s and '80s they were trapped for their fur, when prices rose to $600 a pelt. Few of the cats remain in the United States. Their populations are being sustained, however, throughout Canada and Alaska.

In the wild, the lynx help keep the snowshoe hare population in balance. When there are too few lynx, there is an explosion in the hare population, which zoo officials say leads in turn to a rise in the number of lynx. When  hare populations decline the lynx are forced to eat other rodents like mice and squirrel -- a less nutritious food source; often resulting in starvation. This ongoing pattern occurs in 12- to 14-year cycles.

The addition of the lynx brings the number of big cats at the Binder Park Zoo to six. The zoo is home to a snow leopard and several cheetahs. It also is raising $500,000 to fund a lion exhibit.

The two Canada lynx were acquired as part of a Species Survival Plan administered through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Binder Park Zoo had space for the lynx when a white handed gibbon became elderly and passed away.

Binder Park Zoo is located outside of Battle Creek, on 433 acres of natural forests and wetlands. It draws at least 60,000 people annually, and offers 30 different types of formal education programs.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Kari Parker, Binder Park Zoo 

WMU grads help shape start-up ecosystem in West Michigan

Laura and Ryan Vaughn share more than their wedding vows. They share a knack for running their own startup businesses.

Laura has two companies--Blackbird RSVP and Sitting in a Tree. Ryan co-founded Varsity News Network. The couple recently appeared together at Startup Grind in Kalamazoo to talk about what it's like to be married and try to run your own businesses at the same time and to give inside insights into what is working for their companies.

As their businesses have grown the two Western Michigan University grads have experienced the growth of the region's startup ecosystem from almost nonexistent to its current under-construction stage.

The two met in a WMU dining hall. Ryan graduated with a degree in creative writing and Laura has a degree in organizational communications, and Management, which she expected to use selling pharmaceuticals.

Instead, she got an internship with the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce and became enamored of the world of startups. The idea for Sitting In a Tree grew out of her inability to find online wedding invitations that she liked. She has gone on to start a second business, Blackbird RSVP. Both make the most of her high standards for design.

Sitting in a Tree provides templates for wedding websites on which the bride and groom can communicate wedding details to guests. Blackbird RSVP is for those planning events from class reunions and baby showers to corporate events. The special events platform can be used for ticketed and free events and is aimed at mobile users. It now also writes thank you notes after it learns your handwriting.

Sitting in a Tree got early support from Start Garden, the Grand Rapids investor that incubates startups, and now Sitting in a Tree is in a cash-flow positive position. That's allowed her to work on developing Black Bird. She has a group of about 10 people she works with off and on. She found her co-founder through a "co-founder dating site."

Grad school in Georgia was on the horizon for the couple when Ryan learned his company, VNN, had been chosen to be part of the Momentum business accelerator, which came with $20,000.

"It was a 'holy shit' opportunity," Ryan says. "This was a really, really big deal. At the time Momentum was it. There was no other startup ecosystem around us."

As Momentum evolved into Start Garden, Ryan says the experiences of his company have brought about changes in how Start Garden incubates businesses it funds. As Start Garden staff witnessed problems the company was experience that they could address they said "we should fix this," he says.

For example, when the VNN's initial period in the incubator ended, he moved into the "trough of sorrow." The time in the Momentum program was up, the company participated in Pitch Day to secure financing from venture capitalists, then on to graduation from the program.

The company went from getting all kinds of media attention, to being ignored. "Nobody cared anymore. There were no investors." Hence, the "trough of sorrow."

That experience led Start Garden to make changes in the way it funded companies it is working with. Now as companies grow they can receive Start Garden funding are higher levels. VNN has now received $350,000 and mentorship from Start Garden as it continues to grow.

It also has gone on to multiple funding rounds, and has acquired investors from Michigan, Florida, New York, and the countries Israel and England.

VNN is a platform that provides a new way of covering high school athletics, replacing old-style journalism that has disappeared as the newspaper industry has contracted. Its websites are populated by user-generated, high school sports content.

There are over 660 schools now using the platform in 23 states. There are 20,000 schools in the country "and that number is not going to grow," Ryan says. So his company has had to move quickly so it would not get left behind. "We are the fastest growing player in our space," he adds.

The company 75 employees, of which about 50 are on the sales force.

Though the company once called itself the ESPN of high school sports, it now is aiming more for being the Facebook of high school sports.The goal is to create the largest network for high school sports, connecting everybody, Ryan says.

Public schools are notoriously difficult market for businesses to break into, Ryan says. But his company has found a way in. It also attends a lot of conventions.

The couple says that their business styles are very different so it would probably be difficult to be in business together. But the fact both of them have their own businesses creates a level of understanding of what each of them are experiencing that helps. They also share a whiteboard in their home, where they work out solutions to business problems together.

Ryan praises Laura's ability to network and to the find the right people for the jobs she needs done. She says that his job is the more stable, since his company is venture backed and he can draw a paycheck.

That they have gone into business for themselves is related to the fact they graduated in 2008 when there were few jobs to be found, even for new college graduates. That they stay with it has to do with where they are in life. They don't have a house or children. "This is the time in life to do this," Ryan says.

When asked about what the region needs if it is to build a startup ecosystem that can compete with others, Ryan notes that West Michigan is too modest. "We are so modest it harms us," Ryan says. He explains that he knows business owners that have made big exits, they have sold their companies for large sums, but no one talks about it and few know that such deals have taken place in the area.

Otherwise, Ryan says, "Our ideas are just as good and we have a better work ethic."

Kathy Jennings is the managing editor of Southwest Michigan's Second Wave. She is a freelance writer and editor.

Two new businesses join WMU BTR Park

The two latest companies to move into the Western Michigan University Business Technology and Research Park are a global business with headquarters in Italy and a two-employee firm based in Kalamazoo that offers businesses advice on industrial engineering.

FAiST Light Metals is establishing its North American presence by opening its sales and engineering office in the Weidenhammer Building of the BTR Park. FAiST is leasing 1,000 square feet of space in the building, with an option on additional space for the company as it grows.

The company, which opened its Kalamazoo office May 1, specializes in high quality aluminum die casting, precision machining and surface plating of components and assemblies for the telecom, automotive, electronics and industrial markets. Major customers include Ericsson, Eaton, Borg Warner and Brose.

Jeff McCain, business development manager for FAiST Light Metals North America says the company's vision is to have a staff of five to six professionals, initially, "and in three or four years, we will have a strong core group focused both on sales and engineering."

FAiST has already been recruiting locally, interviewing engineering candidates in April and meeting with WMU engineering faculty as well as students from a number of disciplines.

McCain says the company works with U.S. companies to bring client engineering teams into the development and design process for products FAiST will ultimately produce.

Applied IE

Applied IE is a three-year-old company founded and led by Managing Director Eric M. Gatmaitan, a former WMU faculty member. The company has moved into a suite in the Southwest Michigan Innovation Center, a business incubator for life science startups.

"We're happy to be in the Innovation Center, because it gives us a chance to both network and help startups launch new products and move quickly into the production of their innovations," says Gatmaitan.

Applied IE was launched in 2012 by bringing together two earlier firms. Its clients have included Dell Computers, La-Z-Boy, Stryker and Pfizer. About 60 percent of its business is in the health care industry.

The company helps organizations use industrial engineering technology to optimize their business operations, supply chain management and to apply technology to industry needs and innovations. Applied IE also designs industrial engineering training programs for companies and for community colleges.

"We are lucky that the stars aligned and we could be accommodated," Gatmaitan says. "The ability to network and the building's information technology security were critically important to us, and when the right office space became available, we moved quickly."

Source: Cheryl Roland, Western Michigan University

United Federal Credit Union adds two in IT

Greg Marvin is now Director of Information Technology Application Support and Karen White is Information Technology Application Support Manager at United Federal Credit Union in St. Joseph.

As Director, Marvin oversees the operational development, administration and support of UFCU’s enterprise-wide IT applications and will lead IT planning.

Marvin was previously a business intelligence analyst at UFCU, where he played an integral role in the creation and deployment of reporting and analytical solutions for UFCU.

He has 25 years of information technology experienc, which includes business intelligence and IT management positions in southwestern Michigan and the Washington, D.C. area.

A native of Kalamazoo, Michigan, Marvin attended Kalamazoo College and George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and will complete a bachelor of science degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix in Kalamazoo in June of 2015. He now lives resides in Portage.

White will be responsible for analyzing UFCU business application and system needs, partnering with business units in the development and support of the company’s business processes and strategies, and other areas.

She previously was senior manager of Consumer Insights and Strategy for Whirlpool Corp. in Benton Harbor.  Her prior experience includes management positions in competitive intelligence, branded innovation, and product leadership and development with Whirlpool.

A native of the area, White earned bachelor and master degrees in business administration from Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, and Indiana University in South Bend, respectively. She holds several U.S patents, and serves on the board of directors of the St. Joseph Aquatics Swim Club and is a previous board member of the Whirlpool Corporation Leaders Club. She  lives in St. Joseph.
Source: United Federal Credit Union

New downtown campus gets funding, hires staff

The $46 million KVCC Bronson Healthy Living Campus is attracting funders at the same time construction is going up and staff has been hired.

In recent weeks KVCC has announced John Korycki, the executive chef at Zazios Italian restaurant in downtown Kalamazoo, has been hired as the Director for Culinary Education, and Rachel Chadderdon Bair, currently a Program Director at the Fair Food Network in Ann Arbor, has been brought on as Director for Sustainable and Innovative Food Systems at the new campus.

The Healthy Living Campus is being developed on 13.3 acres of land donated by Bronson Healthcare. The property, near Bronson Methodist Hospital, includes 8.4 acres along Crosstown Parkway east of the City of Kalamazoo’s Crosstown Center, 3.6 acres between Walnut and Dutton Streets, and 1.3 acres north of Crosstown Parkway and south of Dutton Street.   

Three facilities are planned: One for food production and distribution, a second for nursing, allied health and culinary programs, and the third for  a new psychiatric clinic for KCMHSAS.

The culinary facilities will be housed in a new, state-of-the-art 75,000-square foot  building – part of a growing health-corridor in the community.

Plans include large production kitchens, a bakery, a teaching restaurant and cafe, technology-rich classroom spaces, a community kitchen, and a teaching brewery. Students completing degrees in culinary arts will also make extensive use of the new urban food production and distribution facility and spend time exploring career options and gaining work experience with employers in the community.

"Working with our partners and multiple community groups, our goal will be to impact the health of our communities by providing the next generation of culinary and agriculture leaders with the skills and knowledge needed to work at the intersection of health, environmental, and social concerns," Kalamazoo Valley President Marilyn Schlack said when the project was announced in 2013.

Taste of Kalamazoo, Island Fest change hands

Blame Uganda.

After being a major part of Kalamazoo's summer festival season for 29 years, Wayne Deering has sold Taste of Kalamazoo to Townsquare Media. He has also passed the Kalamazoo Island Festival to newly-created Island Festival Management, LLC.

Daughter/Taste manager Emily Deering writes from Uganda, "Everything runs its course, and the Deering family has decided that we've fulfilled our festival duty with the Taste."

She left this year to be a volunteer coordinator with Pangea Educational Development, which caused her father to make a decision he's been mulling over for a while.

Losing his daughter's help is "one of the reasons," Deering says. The other: "I'm not 35!" 

Now 63, Deering intends to focus on his main work as a commercial real estate broker. His year-round work on Taste, from booking music acts to deciding what vendors to include, "starts to take away time for your other job -- the other stuff I do.... (My) income-producing activity certainly suffers every year, as I have to take my eye off of that."

Townsquare Media owns radio, digital and live event properties in 66 US markets. They own Kalamazoo's 103.3 WKFR, 107.7 WRKR, 1360 WKMI and Kalamazoo's Country 102.5, and Battle Creek's Mix 104.9 and 95.3 WBCK. Last year the company partnered with Arc Community Advocates to produce Kalamazoo's Ribfest.

According to their press release, Townsquare is "committed to keeping the event downtown, featuring Kalamazoo's most popular food vendors, showcasing an attractive entertainment schedule, and enhancing the attendee experience for years to come."

Deering wasn't emotionally ready to give up Taste, he says. But he realized, "It's probably time for some new energy."

"I do believe they have the recourses to continue it, and have it not lose character...." The festival should continue to show off the consumables of the city's restaurants, breweries and other businesses, he says.

He started then-named "Taste of Downtown" in 1985 to showcase a few downtown restaurants, including his own, Chaps on Main. Then there was only the venerable Greek Festival in June, and a wine and harvest festival in Bronson Park in the fall. Over the next three decades, the city's summer weekends became nearly-saturated with festivals, mainly at the Arcadia Creek Festival Place.

How does one sell a festival? "There's really not much in the way of tangible assets involved," he says. "It's primarily a good-will sort of thing." 

"You don't just fence off a parking lot and have a party. It takes time to build these things."

These are events with history and name-recognition. People expect a specific sort of good time at them. "Island Fest, somewhat nationally, definitely regionally, is one of the most popular of its type," he says. Taste, "I believe, is the largest food-related event in the state of Michigan." 

Island Festival, the June celebration of Caribbean music and food, is Deering's favorite, he says. That is going to Island Festival Management, formed in part by Ambassador David Productions, bookers of reggae, island music and other genres. David Bauman of Ambassador David will be event manager, according to the event Facebook page

Island has been moved from June to Aug. 27-29, and from Arcadia Festival Place the Growlers' field at Mayors Riverfront Park. "I was real pleased with that decision," Deering, who is consulting with the new Island owners, says. "Riverfront has a lot to offer," from its own parking lot to restrooms. "I think those folks have proven that they're really good facility operators... they do plan on doing more special events, and events of this variety" 

Deering thanked and credited Paul Toth for Island's success. Toth had been behind reggae-themed events since he staged reggae nights at the eclectic music venue, The Club Soda, in the '80s. Toth had been manager of Island, and had been entertainment manager at Taste.

"I understand that change is inevitable," Toth says. "But I'm particularly sad about the Island Festival. I've been involved in that since inception, for 19 years. I was looking forward to doing a 20th event, but that's not the case," he says. Island is unique in the region, and brought in reggae fans from Chicago to Canada. "Hopefully the event will continue to go on and be very successful."

These events have a history, and that's included in what Deering's sold. Reputation, intellectual property and all the "how-to, I think is worth something," Deering says.

What was the price tag? Deering chuckles at the question.

"I don't think that's public. I don't want anybody to think that there was some kind of a windfall here in all of that," he says.

"It goes back to the original question, how do you sell something like that? It isn't the same as a business that's operating 365 days a year," he says.
“Believe me, I'm not retiring," he says, laughing. "I'm retiring (from the festivals) but I'm not retiring from working!" 

Taste of Kalamazoo will be at Arcadia Creek Festival Place July 23-25. 

Kalamazoo Island Fest will be at the Growlers' Baseball Field Aug. 27-29.

Both events' vendor and entertainment lineup has yet to be announced.

Mark Wedel is a Kalamazoo freelance writer who has covered area festivals since 1994. He has been a customer of Wayne Deering venues/festivals since he saw The Meat Puppets at The Club Soda in 1985.

Bronson purchases former Kalamazoo Gazette building

Bronson Healthcare has increased its ability to expand its administrative and support functions with the purchase of the former site of the Kalamazoo Gazette.

There are no immediate plans for redeveloping the property. Instead, the hospital will move in as specific uses are identified and as patient care areas expand in the hospital's current locations downtown.

"Bronson's strategic facility plan is continuously evolving as we strive to achieve the most efficient use of space on our hospital campuses," says Mike Way, of Bronson Healthcare. "With more patients than ever choosing Bronson for care, it is important to retain capacity within our hospital facilities to expand clinical functions, when needed." Way is senior vice president supply chain, facilities and real estate.

The Kalamazoo Gazette property at 401 S. Burdick St. is a three-story, 131,419-square-foot structure that has been vacant since 2012 when the newspaper and MLive Media Group relocated to 306 S. Kalamazoo Mall. The $2.2 million purchase includes the single-story 5,353-square-foot building at 423 S. Burdick St., formerly occupied by Business Review West Michigan, and a parking lot.

Bronson has both for-profit and not-for-profit business units. If not-for-profit services or departments are relocated to the Gazette building, the property taxes would be reduced in proportion to the amount of the facility they occupy. Till then, taxes amount to $120,000 per year.

The original structure dates back to 1925 and was designed by architect Albert Kahn, who also designed the Upjohn Company headquarters building donated to Bronson by Pfizer in 2005.

The proximity of these buildings directly across John Street from Bronson Methodist Hospital's North Pavilion, makes them an ideal addition to the hospital campus, Way says. It also connects them to the ever-growing health and sciences corridor that Bronson anchors in the South Town district.

Bronson Heathcare's reinvestment in downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods can also be seen in its partnerships, with WMU and Borgess Health in the development of the medical school and with KVCC, and Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to create a new health-focused campus are further examples of Bronson's reinvestment in downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Bronson Healthcare system now has 65 facilities with 3.1 million square feet across Kalamazoo, Calhoun and Van Buren counties, and contributes $2.4 million in local property taxes each year. It has 7,700 employees, more than 1,000 medical staff members, and nearly 800 licensed beds, making it the largest employer and healthcare system in Southwest Michigan.

"Over the coming years, redeveloping this landmark property to its highest and best use is another reflection of Bronson's longstanding commitment to the community," says Bronson Healthcare president and CEO Frank Sardone. "As the area's largest employer, we care deeply about the vitality of downtown Kalamazoo and will continue to do all we can to catalyze its growth and reinvest in its future."

Source: Bronson Healthcare

West Michigan Roofing & Construction hires branch manager

Bob Ackerman has joined West Michigan Roofing & Construction as its branch manager for its Kalamazoo office.

The branch, the third for the company, opened over the winter. The office opened in response to the growing number of jobs the company was taking in Kalamazoo. Ackerman was hired for the position because of his experience and the fact he lives in the area

“We thought it would be best to have a physical location out there after conducting so many projects in the area, and Bob lives in the Kalamazoo area and is well suited to handle all aspects of branch responsibilities," says Michael Megna, owner of West Michigan Roofing & Construction.

Ackerman will be responsible for in-home sales consulting, project and crew management, and commercial and industrial project management. He has six years of experience in the industry working as an insurance claims specialist.  He also has extensive experience in project management, and he's a licensed builder.

Ackerman is also a former Marine and is a father of three. He and his family live in the Kalamazoo area.

West Michigan Roofing & Construction has offices in Grand Rapids and Spring Lake. The company offers residential and commercial roofing, construction and repair services.

Source: West Michigan Roofing & Construction

Kalamazoo Riverfront Garden & Launch looks for crowdfunding, state matching funds

The Michigan Economic Development Corp. has a program to encourage the development of unique gathering places across the state.

The Kalamazoo River has 400 feet of accessible riverfront that has not been open to the public for decades.

The two are making a match in a new crowdfunding campaign that would create a canoe and kayak launch, a covered stage for live music, ecologically sound landscaping, an outdoor fire pit, a shuffleboard court, a disc golf putting green, an outdoor kitchen, and more.

Tim Suprise, founder and president of Arcadia Ales, made a successful application to the Public Spaces Community Places program seeking a chance to pursue crowdfunding for Riverfront Garden & Launch. The goal is $95,000 raised through crowdfunding and matching funds from the MEDC. The community has till June 5 to raise the funds to get a $95,000 matching grant from MEDC. (Whatever is raised in that time will be matched.)

Suprise would oversee development of the property as the second phase of the project that started with the construction of Arcadia Ales where M-43 and Business Loop I-94 intersect at the Kalamazoo River, in an area known as River's Edge.

Here's an excerpt of the Kalamazoo project as described on Patronicity: "Our kayak and canoe launch will provide outdoor enthusiasts direct access to Downtown Kalamazoo with a safe place to rack their equipment while they visit our many local businesses. Our stage, gaming, and kitchen areas will provide a unique space for organizations within our community to host events, meet-ups, or regular gatherings. Bring your dog, find a spot in the sunshine, and let the riverfront and garden be your office for the day. Meet up with your book club around the council fire pit. Enjoy a snack with fresh ingredients from the raised gardens maintained by local schools and community groups. End your ride on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail watching the stunning sunsets over the Kalamazoo River." 

The $95,000 goal for Kalamazoo's Riverfront Garden & Launch is the most ambitious so far in the Public Spaces Community Places initiative. Previously, the most sought through the crowdfunding platform has been a project in Ypsilanti hoping to make a $50,000 match (they raised $56,000). Other communities have used the matching funds program to fill the gaps on projects that just needed small amounts in order to reach completion. 

Public Spaces Community Places is a collaborative effort of MEDC, the Michigan Municipal League, and Michigan-based crowdfunding platform Patronicity. It is the first program of its kind in the country through which local residents can be part of the development of transformational projects in their communities and be backed with a matching grant from MEDC. Communities, nonprofits and other business entities can submit projects and apply for a crowdfunding campaign.

The program initiated in July 2014 by MEDC started with $720,000 to be given out in matching funds. It will continue to make the funds available until they are gone.

Suprise says he and others will be working to get the word out by all possible means, such as social media and through talking to other businesses. "We will engage with all our partners," Surpise says.

He also says he is excited about the project that will reclaim a part of the Kalamazoo River that has "suffered for decades." And he's proud to be a steward of the only accessible 400 feet stretching along the Kalamazoo River.

For more of the project, click here.

Sources: Tim Suprise, Arcadia Ales; Nathan Pilon, MEDC
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