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Matt Morgan is new CFO for First National Bank of Michigan

Matt Morgan has been named Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of First National Bank of Michigan.

He joined First National Bank of Michigan in 2013 and became a Vice President in 2014. He was given the added responsibilities of Treasurer and Secretary for the bank's board  and the holding company, First National Bancorp, Inc. in 2015.

Morgan will keep those responsibilities as well as those of his new role.

Morgan is a 2005 graduate of Western Michigan University with a master’s of science in accountancy. His volunteer efforts include serving as a member of the Planning Commission for the City of Parchment, as board president of the Cooper Valley Condominium Association, and as a board member for First Care Childcare Center in Kalamazoo.
First National Bank of Michigan is a locally owned bank with locations in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Portage.

"Since joining the bank, Matt has met every challenge with confidence and competence—he is an integral part of our team," says Larry Lueth, President and CEO.

Source: First National Bank of Michigan

St. Joseph gets new winery on State Street

Cousins Lauren Kniebes and Melanie Owen developed a taste for wine at a young age, fostered by their grandmother, Juanita Kniebes. She gave them sips of her homemade Concord wine that sparked their interest. And growing up next to their family's vineyards, they were also educated early on about grapes and viticulture.

As they grew older, they worked together at Contessa Wine Cellars in Coloma and became avid wine lovers. They have been working in the Lake Michigan shore wine industry for the past seven years.

The cousins decided to pursue their dream in the winter of 2015 by starting their own wine venture. With a successful Kickstarter campaign, they now are the owners of the Lazy Ballerina Winery, 315 State Street, St. Joseph. A grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting for the new business is set for Aug. 6.  

They were encouraged to establish their own winery as Southwest Michigan grew to become the heart of the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail and is now home to more than 15 local wineries.

Lazy Ballerina Winery and tasting room are open every day in downtown St. Joseph and features 12 different wine selections, including a non-alcoholic sparkling juice.

Shoppers will also find a variety of fresh food options such as cheese plates, homemade hummus, wraps, and gourmet salads. The tasting room offers a fun, decorative, and spacious setting with comfortable seating where guests can enjoy wine tasting, wine by the glass, flights, and food, the owners say.

Source: Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce

Glen Oaks welcomes director of business outreach

Paul Alvars is the new director of business outreach and services at Glen Oaks Community College.

He began in the post June 15 and will be responsible for working with businesses to create training programs.

Aivars previously was a training manager at Kellogg Community College and worked as a senior organizational development professional at MPI Research in Mattawan. He also worked as the assistant director of training and development for 18 years at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. He has worked in business services in the region for more than 30 years.

He is native of Kalamazoo and has a bachelor’s in distributive education from Western Michigan University and a master’s in organizational management from Spring Arbor University.

Aivars is a member of the American Society for Quality and the American Training and Development Association.

He and his wife live in Portage and have two grown children. In his spare time, he enjoys hunting, fishing and golf.

“With the upturn in the economy, the timing is right to work with our business partners to create customized training programs to meet their needs,” Alvars says.

Source: Glen Oaks Community College

Two businesses receive design services in Three Rivers

When a community becomes part of the Michigan Main Street project design assistance for those seeking it is part of the package.

Two projects in Three Rivers have now been awarded design assistance through the program.  

One of those is John Wolgamood, owner of 32 N. Main Street in Downtown Three Rivers. He received an on-site consultation with Michigan Main Street Design Specialist Debra Johnson, as well as a written report with proposed facade drawings, paint samples, historic photos, a maintenance schedule, and other resources that will assist in making improvements to the building.

The second is Mike and Nancy Russell, owners of Main Street Cafe, 13 N. Main St., who plan to purchase 19-21 N. Main and 23 N. Main, for their Tap House & Grille, pending purchase agreements on both properties. 

The couple plans to turn the main level into a tap house featuring 25 to 30 taps and to offer a grille with barbecue, sandwiches, burgers, and bar food. Ultimately, they hope to develop apartments on the upper level as a second phase of the project. 

Mike Russell says he and his wife have been working closely with the Three Rivers DDA, which has been instrumental in pointing them in the right direction, setting up meetings with key state agencies, and pushing them along to help meet deadlines. 

"Recently, we’ve been working with the Michigan Liquor Control Commission and the Small Business Development Center on the final touches of our business plan, and of course we appreciate the current owners Jennifer and Randy Huyck for working with us in the process of the acquisition of the buildings," Russell says.

The buildings at 19-23 N. Main are a significant part of downtown Three Rivers, both economically and physically, and have the potential to play a role in the district’s ongoing revitalization, DDA officials say. 

Both buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, and the Three Rivers Downtown Local Historic District. The proposed design service outlines improvements that will remove modern storefronts, maintain and enhance the historic integrity of the buildings, improve the buildings’ visibility and appearance, and retain and enhance Three Rivers’ identity as a historic community.

As a Select Level Main Street community, Three Rivers is eligible for design service for three projects in each of five years, with a maximum of 15 total designs.

By following these standards and using the approved Design Services provided by the Michigan Main Street Center, the Russells are also able to apply for additional funding through various incentive programs such as façade grants and federal historic tax credits.

"We’re currently in the final stages of ‘getting our ducks in a row'," Russell says with regards to the project’s timeline. "Nancy and I are very excited about the project and hope to help make Three Rivers a downtown destination."  

Regarding improvements to 32 N. Main, Wolgamood says initially he was hesitant to start the process. "My concerns were about the thought of having to do endless paperwork and on time spent on developing a plan that would be cost-prohibitive to implement for my building improvements. I have been pleasantly surprised from the initial process through receiving the end report for suggested improvements."

He says he found the Three Rivers DDA made the process relatively simple and painless. "Most of the ideas that I’ve received are intuitive and simplistic."

Wolgamood's building, 32 N. Main, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The nomination for listing states the building was built circa 1870 and describes it as a two-story Italianate block with a metal cornice.

"I have actually learned several useful things after having talked with Ms. Johnson, examining informational links that she provided, and by reading her final report," Wolgamood says. "I now have some idea how buildings were originally designed and laid out the way they were, do’s and don’ts for rehabbing, energy efficiency hints, and how to make your building stay within the overall design of the nearby buildings and the importance."

He went on to say: "I rate this experience as very positive. Our goal would be to start work on the façade within the next 90 days and have it completed sometime this fall."

Source: Brian Persky, Three Rivers DDA

Visions for Arcadia Commons West to be unveiled July 16

Development proposals will be put before the community July 16 for the Arcadia Commons West-- the roughly six acres bordered by Park Street, Westnedge Avenue, Kalamazoo Avenue, and Water Street in downtown Kalamazoo.

Four companies will present their "broad visions" for the property developed in response to a request for ideas put forward by the Arcadia Commons West Task Force. Firms with experience in urban and mixed uses developments were sought for the project.

They were asked to include key parameters such as mixed-income housing, neighborhood connections, mixed-use development, and the accommodation of multiple types of transportation when crafting their visions for the site.

The three teams being interviewed July 16 are: local development partners AVB Inc. and The Hinman Co;  the development firm Fairmont Properties out of Cleveland; and the development partners Lord Aeck Sergeant of Ann Arbor working with Ambling University Development Group based out of Valdosta, Georgia.

Their proposals will be rated by the Arcadia Commons West Task Force, which is made up of representatives from Kalamazoo's Downtown Development Authority; the City of Kalamazoo; the Kalamazoo Community Foundation; Downtown Tomorrow Inc.; and Kalamazoo County. Interviews will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum’s Mary Jane Stryker Theater.

The Task Force hopes to enter into a pre-development agreement with the selected development firm by September 2015. From there, the Task Force will work with developers and the community to create a project for the site.

Previously, the site has been used for a variety of small businesses and a car dealership and is now mostly vacant land. The parcels are owned by Downtown Tomorrow Inc., the Downtown Development Authority, and Western Michigan University.

The development is considered the second phase of the Arcadia Commons Redevelopment Project. Arcadia Commons East was completed in 1995. It became a major transformative project for the northern district of downtown Kalamazoo.  The project consisted of a collaboration of nine private and public property owners investing more than $100 million in new  and renovated construction of commercial, office, institutional, community college, public museum and public open space.

"This site is key to the future growth and success of downtown Kalamazoo," says Downtown Kalamazoo Inc. President Steve Deisler. "It’s imperative that we find a partner who will engage the community and help craft a project to address our current and future needs."

Source: Downtown Kalamazoo Inc.

AVB hires two employees, one intern

A new commercial project engineer, receptionist, and commercial construction intern are the most recent hires for local builders AVB.

Benjamin Esman is a new commercial project engineer for the company. He will be working closely with AVB's Borgess Team, providing support for ongoing Borgess projects.

Esman is a senior at Western Michigan University, working toward his degree in construction engineering in May 2016. He has previous experience as a business development and procurement specialist and can handcraft wooden kayaks.  

The company has hired Jacqueline Swan as a receptionist. She also will support the AVB accounting team. She is working toward her associate of business administration degree in December 2015. A senior at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, she is an active member of the honor society Phi Theta Kappa.

Pooja Patil is now working for AVB as a commercial construction intern. She will be working with AVB’s commercial construction project team on developments such as the new Gull Road Justice Complex. Patil has a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Pune. She is currently working toward her Master’s degree in Civil Engineering from Western Michigan University and plans to graduate in June 2016.

Source: AVB Inc.

Perrigo hires a manager and a director

Perrigo Co. has hired a new manager of finance operations and a director of sourcing for the North American procurement group.

Jay Johnson has been hired as Manager, Operations Finance to support the global procurement team. Johnson will coordinate the global materials budgeting and purchasing, as well as make recommendations on spending.

Johnson has nine years of corporate experience in food, retail, and healthcare industries. He previously served in the U.S. Navy for six years where he managed the upkeep, maintenance, and calibration of all electronic communication, detection, surface search, and navigation equipment. He was stationed in San Diego, Ca. and traveled to over 20 different countries.

Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in science finance, magna cum laude, from Governors State University. He earned his MBA in corporate finance from Ohio State University. He also attended Franklin University where he earned his master’s in marketing and communications. He is from Rocky Mount, N.C. and currently lives in Kalamazoo.

Keith Pappert has been hired as Director of Sourcing for the North American procurement group.

Pappert will provide strategic direction and oversight for Perrigo’s direct material sourcing function. This includes identification, selection, and life cycle management of a global supply base to support the Rx, OTC and nutritional business units for all domestic Perrigo sites.

He has 20 years of related experience.  For the past eight years, Pappert was the director of sourcing for a North American-based store brand personal care products provider. He previously held various procurement and supply chain positions in the consumer products and chemical distribution industries.

Pappert earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Missouri and his MBA from Southern Illinois University.  Keith is from St. Louis, Mo. and is relocating from Glen Carbon, Ill. to West Michigan for this position.

Source: Perrigo Co. PLC

Kalamazoo Community Foundation hires one, promotes two

Brittany Morton has joined the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and two others have received promotions. Morton has been hired as Scholarship Coordinator. Previously, she worked as a library aide at the Kalamazoo Public Library and as an intern with Girls on the Run.

Morton is a recent graduate of Kalamazoo College with a BA in Anthropology and Sociology with a concentration in Public Policy and Urban Affairs.

Current employees recently promoted include Elena Mireles-Hill, as Community Investment Officer and Stephanie Carrier to Human Resources and Finance Coordinator.

Mireles-Hill and has been at the Community Foundation for two years. Mireles-Hill came to the foundation after completing her masters in Social Work and Pastoral Ministry from Boston College.

Carrier has been with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation for five years respectively and she previously worked at Western Michigan University in the Department of Accountancy.

Source: Kalamazoo Community Foundation

First National Bank of Michigan names new director of marketing and community relations

Mary Early is the new Director of Marketing and Community Relations for First National Bank of Michigan.

Early is a member of the southwest Michigan chapter of the American Marketing Association and the Kalamazoo women’s leadership group PEAK.

She is a graduate of Spring Arbor University with a degree in marketing and organizational development. Early is a life-long resident of southwest Michigan and now lives in Plainwell with her husband.  

“We are pleased to welcome Mary to our team," says Larry Lueth, President & CEO, First National Bank of Michigan. "She brings extensive west Michigan experience and knowledge of marketing and advertising at an appropriate time as our bank continues to grow."

First National Bank of Michigan is a locally-owned bank with locations in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Portage. Deposits stay in these west Michigan communities to fund loans, and decisions are made locally by First National Bank of Michigan bankers.

Souce: First National Bank of Michigan

Odyssey Games creates space for table-top game lovers

This Kalamazoo store's niche is Magic -- selling Magic to customers who regularly compete in Magic battles, and who form a Magic community.

Odyssey Games' biggest-seller is Magic: The Gathering, the trading card game that's a mix of poker, chess and Dungeons and Dragons. They also sell Star Wars X-Wing, a game of dogfighting miniatures from Lucas' universe; various Warhammer-style miniatures, and a variety of boardgames.

Odyssey Games has tables and chairs taking up valuable merchandise space -- but for the store, the community that battles upon those tables is as valuable as the cards and game pieces.

This has been co-owners Johnny Blaze and Elliot Parkhurst's most successful year since the store opened in 2012. "More and more people continue to get into Magic. Most of our eggs are in that basket. It's paying off," co-owner Blaze says.

On the east side of Western Michigan University's campus, the old storefront used to be a video game store, then a cafe/performance space, and many other shops catering to students. Student clientele comes and goes with the university's schedule, "but even during the summer we do alright. A lot of our crowd is local," Blaze says.

Odyssey has grown to the point where they're shopping around for a larger location. They hope to move as soon as they've found a spot. "We're going to be spinning our wheels if we stay here forever," Blaze says.

They're filling a specific gamer niche. Table-top games are growing in popularity with Millennials, he says. But this has led to "bigger businesses encroaching on the niches... When I go to Barnes & Noble and see the stuff that they weren't selling five years ago, that I'm trying to sell, it's disheartening."

Players can also find cards and miniatures in local comic shops and on the Web, and play in their basements with friends. Blaze and Parkhurst would encourage them to buy local at Odyssey, since money spent at the store goes into a community they're trying to foster.

Odyssey holds regular tournaments of Magic and other games. For some, players have to pay admission to play for prizes, others are free with smaller winnings.

"Magic would not be the same game that it is if everybody just played at home with their friends," Blaze says. "We have a great community, we love our regulars... we're doing this as much for them as we're doing it for us."

It's the gamers who play in the store "who keep us in business," Parkhurst adds. "If you had to pinpoint what our niche is, it's running events in a brick and mortar store. The peripherals, the accessories and cards are great, but the whole point of this business is having a place where we can host events for people to come and gather and play."

Writer: Mark Wedel, Second Wave Media
Sources: Johnny Blaze, Elliot Parkhurst, Odyssey Games

Game tournaments announced here

TowerPinkster promotes director of design to principal

Jason Novotny, Director of Design for TowerPinksters, has been promoted to Senior Principal and will serve on the board of directors for the West Michigan architecture and engineering firm.

Novotny has more than 18 years experience in architectural design. He has served as TowerPinkster’s Director of Design for five years. During this time, he has built a team of 11 design professionals and provided dozens of internship opportunities for architecture and interior design students. His team has earned more than 35 awards for their design work.

Among the projects he has worked on are Catalyst Development’s Mixed Use development, Corporation Hall; Arcadia Ales New Brewery and Distribution Center; and the Kalamazoo Nature Center’s Nature’s Way Preschool. Projects currently underway that he has worked on include  Western Michigan University’s East Hall transformation into an Alumni Center and the expansion of the YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo’s Portage Facility.

"Jason’s years of experience and the work he has completed for several large clients makes him deserving of this promotion and becoming a part of our board of directors," says Arnold Mikon, TowerPinkster’s President and CEO.

TowerPinkster has offices in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Michigan. The firm specializes in specializing in education, commercial healthcare and government building design.

Source: TowerPinkster

Community forest to provide public natural area in Van Buren County

Habitat for rare and endangered species and a recreation area for people living in Kalamazoo, Mattawan, and Paw Paw soon will be the benefits of a community forest in Van Buren County.

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy has been awarded $150,000 from a U.S. Forest Service program to acquire the property for the Lime Lake Community Forest by 2017. At that point the forest will be open to the public. A parking lot and other amenities will be added at a later date.

The forest also will be managed to improve and maintain habitat for rare and endangered species, such as Mitchell’s satyr – one of the world’s rarest butterflies, found only in Michigan and Indiana.

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy is working with the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Conservation Fund, and Michigan Department of Natural Resources to acquire 189-acre community forest.

The application for funds from the U.S. Forest Service to preserve the forest was submitted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. To qualify for a grant, projects had to ensure public access to the protected lands, and the communities had to be involved in the process of developing a forest plan.

The proposed plans for the area will ensure that sustainable forest practices are implemented and long-term management goals for the forest are met, says Bill O’Neill, Michigan’s state forester.

“This project protects phenomenal resources for wildlife and will allow us to create permanent public access to nature in an underserved area of southwest Michigan and share forest stewardship and restoration information with our visitors,” says Peter Ter Louw, executive director for the land conservancy.

Sources: The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Bank to open branch in Westnedge@Kilgore development

Southern Michigan Bank and Trust (SMB&T) has broken ground on its first bank branch in Portage. The bank has 14 locations throughout the region including those in Battle Creek and Three Rivers.

The bank currently plans to open in Portage with six new full time employees, and the number of employees could rise to seven if a mortgage originator is hired.

The new bank will be a full-service branch, complete with a drive-thru, parking, an ATM, financial services, loan origination, and modern technology, such as a virtual teller machine.

It will be a LEED Certified building, with all design and construction elements, materials and processes built in accordance with the LEED standards. Orion Construction is the general contractor for the bank project that is expected to be completed in late 2015.

The bank at 531 W. Kilgore is going up at the Hinman Company retail development Westnedge@Kilgore. The development is anchored by Earth Fare. Bank officials say SMB&T chose Westnedge@Kilgore for their new branch because of its centralized location and convenient proximity to surrounding neighborhoods and the highway. The presence of Earth Fare in the shopping center was also a key factor in SMB&T’s site selection process.

"We are eager to bring Southern Michigan Bank and Trust's unique services to the Portage and Kalamazoo area. The region is enjoying significant growth and is home to a vibrant business community," says John H. Castle, CEO and Chairman of Southern Michigan Bank & Trust.

Hinman's future plans for development at Westnedge@Kilgore include an additional 15,000 square feet of retail immediately north of Earth Fare. Hinman also plans to develop the seven acres east and north of Lowe’s Home Improvement. There also is a new 3,200 square foot retail space next to Earth Fare that is currently available for lease.

“SMB&T is very well-respected in the industry and we expect the bank will have success in this market,” says Roger Hinman, CEO of Hinman Company.
Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Sources: The Hinman Company, Southern Michigan Bank and Trust 

Happy birthday to Saugatuck Brewing Company

Being someone who appreciates craft beer is akin to being a companion on Doctor Who. In this case the brewer is The Doctor and each pint you drink becomes a Tardis, stretching and bending time, simultaneously making you feel younger and older in the very same instant.

With Saugatuck Brewing Company on the verge of turning 10, how else could you possibly describe how quickly the last decade has flown by?

Or perhaps that's all just a bit too dramatic and all this really is …  a smashing reason to throw a killer party!

The latter is on the docket for Sunday, June 14 when Saugatuck Brewing will open up the Singapore Room at 2 p.m. and welcome all its fans, new and old, to an afternoon of live music, great food, amazing beer, and once in a decade deals.

The free event will feature $2 draft pours and a unique 10-for-10 special: 10 specials for just $10 apiece.

The list includes flights, beer buckets, 64 oz. pitchers, swag, brewery tours, entrees, and more.

The Brewery will also be rolling out a pair of limited edition barrel-aged beers to mark this special occasion.

Lucky Number 13 is a Belgian Strong Ale clocking in at 13 percent ABV. Barrel aged for 14 months, the beer has the consistency and strength of a barley wine but with heavy bourbon notes and a distinct oaky character. Brewed using 13 malts and 13 hops this beer was also Saugatuck's 1,300 batch.

Holly's Lust, an Imperial Porter, is a dry porter, aged for 18 months. Hoppier than your average porter, this selection none the less carries sufficient roasted malt character and pours thick and black. 11.1 percent ABV.

Both barrel aged selections will run $4.50 per 12 oz. bottle and be limited to 12 bottles per person.  

Writer: Jeremy Martin, Second Wave Media
Source: Saugatuck Brewing Company

Miller-Davis Company staff grows by three

General Contractor and Construction Manager  Miller-Davis Company, has hired three new employees: Dale Michael, project superintendent; Matt Overley, project engineer; and Kaytlin Mott, contract administrator.

Dale Michael has 31 years of experience in the construction industry and a bachelor's degree in Construction Management from Western Michigan University. As project superintendent he is responsible for planning, supervising, and monitoring construction activities at the jobsite. He is currently assigned to Central Michigan University’s Lacrosse Athletics Renovation project.

Matt Overley has 13 years of experience in the construction industry. As project engineer he will assist with construction project management and supervision. Overley has a degree in Industrial Technology from Lake Michigan College and is currently assigned to Marcellus Community Schools’ 2014 Bond Program.

Kaytlin Mott, contract administrator, will provide administrative and accounting support on all construction projects. She is currently working towards a bachelor's degree in civil and construction engineering from Western Michigan University with a minor in law. She also is currently serving as project coordinator on a $1.8 million renovation project at Clausing Industrial.

Source: Miller-Davis Company
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