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Three Rivers awarded market analysis through Main Street project

The next step in Three Rivers' downtown revitalization through the Main Street program is in place.

The city will participate in a market analysis. The Downtown Development Authority's Economic Restructuring Committee applied for the market analysis service in January and was notified in March that its participation has been approved.

Market studies through the Main Street program are typically conducted in downtown districts for a number of reasons.  Examples include: to help businesses understand their trade area to improve sales; to explore business development opportunities; and to demonstrate the economic importance of downtown.

Consultants will visit Three Rivers at the end of April for a driving tour, walking tour, and visits with businesses, They will then guide DDA representatives through a general outline of tasks, follow up dates, and deadlines. The study is expected to wrap up by the end of the calendar year.

The training and consultation service will help in the gathering of quantitative information that identifies business opportunities in the commercial district, and explain how to use this information to attract and retain business.

The market analysis service is valued at more than $20,000.

Through the Main Street Program communities work for five years on design--making the most of a downtown's assets such as historic buildings; economic restructuring--helping existing businesses and recruiting new ones; promotion--marketing a downtown's unique characteristics; and, organization--working toward a common goal of a revitalized downtown through the efforts of a volunteers guided by a paid program director.

The Main Street Program offered through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) is one of the tools helping cities revitalize their downtowns.

“The market analysis service will not only help Historic Downtown Three Rivers more effectively grow in target markets, but it will also be a tremendous asset to the City of Three Rivers and surrounding area,” says DDA/Main Street Executive Director Brian Persky.

Source: Brian Persky, 
DDA/Main Street Executive Director Three Rivers

NAI Wisinski expands in Kalamazoo

NAI Wisinski of West Michigan has celebrated the opening of its new Kalamazoo offices.

The company has been working in Kalamazoo since June 2014, and recently had its grand opening. Chamber of Commerce officials and others were on hand to celebrate the launching of the business in Kalamazoo.

Prior to its acquisition of a Kalamazoo commercial real estate firm last summer, NAI Wisinski operated in West Michigan from Grand Rapids. Since the summer of 2014 the company has added two employees, bringing the count to five in the Kalamazoo office at 1803 Whites Road.

The company provides property management, leasing, research, marketing, investment sales and more. NAI Wisinski says on its website that customers feel secure knowing that West Michigan's largest commercial real estate company is working with them.

The company has been operating in West Michigan for the past 50 years and is part of the NAI Global network for commercial real estate.

Details on the company's plans for the Kalamazoo office will be published as they become available.

Source: NAI Wisinski and Craig Clark Communications

Edible Arrangements opens in Benton Harbor

Gale Rue was ready for a change in 2014.

She had her own business before and was ready to do so again.  “I had some life decisions to make in 2014, and that included finding work that I would enjoy,” says Rue.

So the timing was right when she learned an Edible Arrangements franchise was available. “When I discovered that I could launch an Edible Arrangements in the area, I knew that this matched my skillsets,” she adds.

She decided to pursue it and turned to the Women's Business Center at Cornerstone Alliance for assistance.

There she received help in securing a microloan for a portion of her franchise funding. Rue says the Center helped her gather the necessary information for the loan application and prepared her for the next step in the process.

Edible Arrangements, a national retail franchise, specializes in creating fruit bouquets for all occasions, plus fruit smoothies, parfaits, and salads.

Rue's location is at 1972 Mall Drive in Benton Harbor. She celebrated the grand opening with a ribbon cutting Monday, March 16.

Edible Arrangements is open Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Orders for fruit bouquets can be made by calling 269.926.9300 or made online here.  More information can be found at their Facebook page here.

Source: Cornerstone Alliance

Mini Maker Faire comes to St. Joseph

Making, learning, crafting, and tinkering will take place below the bluff in downtown St. Joseph at the first Mini Maker Faire in Southwest Michigan.

Makers of all ages are encouraged to apply and exhibit their projects at the upcoming Southwest Michigan Mini Maker Faire, set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 30 at Whirlpool Centennial Park, 330 Broad Street.

Organizers describe the event as "part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors."

They say it is primarily designed to be forward-looking, showcasing makers who are exploring new forms and new technologies, but it’s not just for the novel in technical fields. It features innovation and experimentation across the spectrum of science, engineering, art, performance, and craft.

A similar event first took place in 2009 in San Mateo, Cal. Last year the ninth annual Maker Faire there drew 125,000 people. The World Maker Faire New York, which got its start three years ago, now attracts more than 500 makers and 85,000 attendees. In 2014, the event took place in Detroit and three other cities across the globe. These were featured Maker Faires, drawing more than 200 makers.

As the idea continues to spread, Mini Maker Faires, like that being planned for St. Joseph, are now taking place in 150 communities across the globe.

The local event is coming together thanks to a partnership between Maker Media, the Berrien Regional Educational Services Agency (RESA), Cornerstone Alliance, Kinexus and St. Joseph Today

Organizers say: "Maker Faire is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do."

To learn more, watch a video here

Source: Cornerstone Alliance

Landscape Forms helps create recycling receptacles for Central Park

Litter and trash receptacles designed for Central Park in New York City turned out so well they will be sold to a broader market.

"This is our first product to start as a custom job and then become a standard product," says Landscape Forms President Richard Heriford. The litter and recycling system was developed in collaboration with Landor, a design and branding firm.

The Central Park Conservancy, the nonprofit that funds maintenance and capital improvements for the nation's largest public park, hired Landor to create a program that would advance the park's environmental stewardship program and develop custom designed receptacles to go along with it.

Landor's team designed a three-unit system compete with branding and signage. They turned to Studio 431, Landscape Forms custom products division, to develop, engineer, and manufacture their design.

Technical expertise in sustainable materials came from Alcoa. The units are made of 30 percent aluminum and are 100 percent recyclable. They have a hinged top and hold a polyethylene liner that can be used with or without a plastic bag, making them easy for park workers to empty and transport.

The Central Park Conservancy receptacles are identical in size and shape, different in color and in the size of top openings: gray with blue around the aperture for cans and bottles,"conservancy" green for paper, and tan for waste.

The receptacles keep tons of recyclable material out of landfill, help to streamline the waste management process, and enhance cleanliness and convenience for 40 million annual Central Park visitors.

The Central Park Conservancy Recycling System has received multiple accolades for their design, including GOOD DESIGN and SEGD awards, the Spark Design Silver Award and the Cannes Festival of Creativity Award--a prestigious Cannes Gold Lion--in the new"Social Good" product category.  

“When you walk around the park you see how well the units compliment their setting," says Kirt Martin, vice president of design and marketing at Landscape Forms. "They are visually delightful."

Inspiration for the design came from the classic 1939 Corona Park bench (also known as the World’s Fair bench). 

The receptacles re-envisions hooped arms and seat slats for a new purpose, creating a visual prompt to encourage parks visitors to appropriately discard their waste. The tilt of the vertical slats, the spiral flow of the lid, and the placement of typography all draw the eye up to the receptacle’s opening.

"The design," says Martin, "is very strong but doesn’t overwhelm."

Source: Landscape Forms

Established and new breweries all part of Art of Beer Festival

Getting tired of singing those snowbound blues? Would you rather get out, enjoy some amazing beer, listen to great music and soak up the sun? Well you might have to wait a little longer for the sun, but the beer and music part is easy.

Saturday, March 21 marks the fifth annual Art of Beer Festival at The Mendel Center on the campus of Lake Michigan College.

The event will bring together several breweries, cider makers, restaurateurs and one lively band playing swinging gypsy surf rock.

Anchored by big names such as Arcadia Brewing Company, Saugatuck Brewing Company and Atwater Brewing, the festival will also include such up-and-coming beer makers as Arclight Brewing and Final Gravity Brewing. The event incorporates several cideries as well.

Fourteen breweries and orchards have already confirmed, with more being added to the lineup each week.

“We started the festival as an opportunity to help promote the Mendel Center and for something fun to do in the area,” says Tonya Martindale of Lake Michigan College. "More breweries have been popping up and we thought it would be something the community would be interested in coming to."

The Mendel Center, on the north end of the LMC campus normally plays host to touring music acts, theater performances, corporate conferences and private events, but also seems to lend itself well to the jovial and exciting atmosphere created by a Michigan Beer Festival.

“I don't usually get the final list until about a week before the festival since many of the brewers are still working on the beers they want to bring (but we should have) just over a 100 Michigan microbrews,” Martindale says.

And there will be plenty of locally prepared food as well.

St. Joseph's Bistro on the Boulevard and Three Oaks Pleasant House will be just a couple of the area eateries supplying food to what Martindale hopes will be around 700 attendees.

“This year I added some new food vendors,” Martindale says. "I look for restaurants that are more unique, maybe some that have a lot of beers on tap and can attract some of the festival-goers to their restaurants."

Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at the door and come with a pint glass, 12 drink tickets each good for a 2 oz. pour, and $10 worth of food tickets. A $20 designated driver ticket is also available for those wanting to attend as a DD.

Music will be provided by Slim Baggage Gypsy, a good time, roosts/reggae/swing fusion band that has shared stages with Rusted Root, Buddy Guy, and the Infamous String Dusters.

The band has recently returned from a recording trip to Nashville where it set down tracks for its upcoming record.

“They're doing well and booking up very quickly. Last year, we had them perform at the festival and as soon as the night was over I went ahead and booked them for this year,” Martindale says.

Of course, an event like this couldn't take place without a well made team of volunteers--a squad that Martindale is hoping to have finalized very soon.

“We love our volunteers. We couldn’t do this without them. We need between thirty and thirty five volunteers. There will be a volunteer at each brewery booth,” Martindale said. “They work 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and we have a few extra volunteers so they get breaks to go around, talk to the breweries, and we give them tickets so they can sample.”

It may not entice spring to show up any sooner but getting out of the house, consuming some amazing beer and food and dancing to homespun jams wouldn't hurt to shake away those winter blues.

For more information on the Art of Beer Festival, to purchase tickets. or to volunteer your time please visit here.: artofbeerfest.com

Writer: Jeremy Martin, Second Wave
Source: Tonya Martindale of Lake Michigan College

Credit union hires three, promotes one to expanded lending team

The lending team a Kellogg Community Federal Credit Union (KCFCU) is growing.

The credit union recently hired three to and promoted one to work on the team. A lending manager, a senior lending specialist and two mortgage originators are now part of the team.

Lindsey Ostrowski has been promoted to KCFCU lending manager. Ostrowski has almost 10 years of experience in the financial industry, more than five of which have been at KCFCU.

She has held roles as a teller, as a branch manager, and two years as a business development originator assisting members with loans. Ostrowskiis a graduate of Western Michigan University with a degree in Business Administration.

Melanie Martin joins the KCFCU lending team as a senior lending specialist. Martin brings more than 17 years of experience to KCFCU, including roles in management and lending. She is a graduate of the University of Lending and the University of the Lending Collections Institute.

Valerie (Val) Barnaby joins the lending team as a mortgage originator. Barnaby has more than 20 years of mortgage loan experience to the job. She has been a member of the KCFCU team for 12 years, first as a mortgage originator, then as a business development originator, only to come full circle to mortgage originator again.

Zachary Carlson has been hired as a KCFCU Mortgage Originator. Carlson will draw upon his years of experience as a Realtor, as well as his education from Western Michigan University, for his role on the mortgage lending team.

Source: 
 Kellogg Community Federal Credit Union

Jambo African Cuisine says 'hello'

Frida Boyd came to America believing she would get a job working in a hotel. Then she found out they paid $5 an hour.

She turned her sights on nursing and worked there for many years. All along, though, she knew she wanted to do something more. She wanted her own business that would make use of her educational training in management.

On Jan. 21 that became a reality when Boyd opened Jambo African Cuisine at 6541 Stadium Drive, the former location of Marta's Find Foods.

Boyd came to the United States from Tanzania in 1999. An uncle living in Kalamazoo helped her make it her new home. She tried Canada but found she didn't like it as much as Southwest Michigan. So she returned.

Now she has the only African restaurant in Kalamazoo. The dishes served at Jambo African Cuisine draw on the culinary traditions of her home country, which is influenced by a mix Arab, Middle Eastern, and Indian flavors.

"You can't compare  it with other African cuisine" because of the many influences on the East African country's dishes, Boyd says.

"I use a lot of spices, but it is not hot spicy," Boyd says. For those who do like it hot, though, she will turn up the heat as requested.

Some of the most popular foods amongst guests are the samosas, chapati (flat bread), nyama (a beef dish), chicken marsala, and the homemade hot sauce.

Since the 1,400-square-foot restaurant opened at the end of January, Boyd says she has been working to build the clientele. It seats just over 40 people and including herself, the restaurant employs three people.

Finding the right location was difficult. She thought she had one, but it went to another business. "I cried," Boyd says. "But this is better."

A silent partner from Michigan's east side, helped her open Jambo African Cuisine. After remodeling the space that had not previously been fitted for a restaurant, she was ready to open the doors. A lot of what she needed to know she learned from the Michigan Small Business Development Center, she says.

Naming the restaurant took some time, too. She considered many names that would say "Africa" to potential customers, but most of them, like Safari, were already taken. So she settled on Jamba, which means "hello."

Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m to 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Frida Boyd, Jambo African Cuisine

South Haven gets funds to create path and floating launch

South Haven’s plan to install a paved pathway and a floating launch with handrails and rollers to assist boaters with physical limitations has gotten a thumbs up from the Department of Environmental Quality of the Great Lakes.

The office says it has approved a $50,000 grant for the city, which also plans to add an accessible boat drop-off area and designated access parking space.

This site is a key access point for both the Lake Michigan Water Trail and the Bangor to South Haven Heritage Water Trail. 

And the city plans to leverage its trail system as a focal point in a tourism-centric economic development and downtown revitalization effort.

The city’s application to the program sought funding for accessibility improvements to the paddle craft launch site at Black River Park which will enhance the public access and use of the river.

The city says the total project cost is estimated at $100,000 – $50,000 of which would be funded through the Great Lakes water trails development program and another $50,000 funded through a local match.

Before the project proceeds, NOAA will conduct a review of the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to ensure there are no likely impacts to historical and endangered or threatened species. 

The grant to South Haven is part of nearly $185,000 in funds to coastal communities and organizations to create and improve water trails in the Great Lakes.

These grants fund the second phase of Great Lakes water trails development program, which focuses on increasing accessibility, promoting trails, linking local and regional recreation trail systems, and educating trail visitors about proper use.

The initial phase of the grant program provided $342,141 in federal grants to comprehensively plan for local, regional or statewide coastal water trails along the Great Lakes shoreline.

South Haven Mayor Bob Burr says the recommendation for funding of accessibility improvements at Black River Park “will reinforce the City’s efforts of accessibility in improvement projects. People of all abilities will be able to access the paddle craft launch site due to the universally-accessible elements the project incorporates.”

Source: City of South Haven and Michigan DEQ

Tri Pac puts together a string of steady growth

In 2009 the company Vikram Shah worked for was acquired and his job eliminated. That turned out to be his opportunity to find something much bigger to take on.

He had proven track record in solving customers' needs when it came to packaging. And he had a single client. That was enough for him to go into business for himself, opening Tri Pac, Inc.

He found an empty building in Vandalia and with the help of the team of business consultants at the Southwest Michigan Region of the Michigan Small Business Development Center (SBDC), his business was launched.

The company manufacturers aerosol and liquid consumer goods for industries including, household, automotive, sporting and outdoor goods, industrial, institutional, and defense.

Tri Pac Inc. is a turn-key business, offering services from research and development, to blending, filling aerosol, liquid and barrier packaging to packaging of materials provided by its customers as requested.

“We add value to the supply chain,” says Vikram Shah, President of Tri Pac, Inc. “Our services and products allow marketers to focus on building their brand value while we handle the packaging and distribution for them.”

The company has been growing at an average rate of 30 percent a year and in 2014 expanded its state of the art facility, adding two lines for aerosol products that can produce more than 16 million units each year.

And in 2014 the company also received ISO 9001:2008 certification, demonstrating it meets quality management systems now required by many companies.

TrI Pac Inc. also is a certified minority-owned business. 

Shah's success has resulted in some notice in high places. He has been invited to join the White House Business Council and Business Forward to weigh in on how Federal manufacturing policies affect businesses such as Tri Pac.

Source: SBDC Michigan

Heritage Tower plans move forward in Battle Creek

Heritage Tower has been called one of the most important examples of Art Deco architecture in the Midwest.

It was built in 1930-31 to house the Old Merchants National Bank and Trust Company, then the largest financial institution between Detroit and Chicago, reports Heritage Battle Creek. When it opened for business in May 1931, the Old Merchants National Bank and Trust Company was 70 percent occupied.  The basement level housed the mechanical plant and parking garage.  Retail stores were located on the ground floor in an arcade which ran through from Michigan Avenue to Jackson Street.

Reportedly, plans are moving again to restore the building that stands vacant.

"We are looking forward to continuing the revitalization of downtown Battle Creek by bringing the Heritage Tower project to a reality," says Derek Coppess, founder of 616 Development. "This iconic building is the kind of project where our company can display our creativity and passion in working with aged structures."

Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU) and 616 Development announced Feb. 16  that final plans are nearing completion and expected to be revealed in the next 30 to 60 days for the proposed renovation of the 19-story Heritage Tower building at 25 W. Michigan in downtown Battle Creek.

When 616 Development originally announced in 2013 that it had taken on the project of renovating the Heritage Tower it proposed returning 150,000 square feet of space to use in the building, featuring  43 hotel rooms, 62 apartments, and 55 underground parking spaces. The project was then anticipated to be completed by Spring 2015.

Now, the plan calls for 90 hotel rooms and 58 market-rate apartments along with retail and office space.

The most recent announcement comes after BCU and 616 emerged from a meeting with some plan modifications following a recent planning session, says Jim Hettinger, interim CEO of BCU.

"We are excited that we have taken another major step toward making the long-awaited project a reality," Hettinger says. "The revised plan will really help fulfill a number of development needs and bring a renewed vitality to downtown Battle Creek."

Source: Battle Creek Unlimited

Lake Michigan College pairs with vintners to create Great Lakes Wine Institute

Southwest Michigan has become one of the most prolific wine-producing regions in the country, an industry that brings in $300 million annually to the state's economy.

That's why Lake Michigan College has launched the Great Lake Wine Institute, the first commercial teaching winery in the Midwest.

Beginning in the fall of 2015, students can enroll to earn an Associate of Applied Science in  Enology and Viticulture -- the science of winemaking and the production and study of grapes. The school plans to recruit 15 students for its first class. (More information can be found here.)

Lake Michigan College has constructed a small, commercially viable teaching winery in the Mendel Center for Arts and Technology. A new facility that will have a larger production capacity and include an on-site vineyard and tasting room is in the planning stages.

Students will study chemistry and microbiology in existing science labs on campus. They also will experience hands-on winemaking experience at both the college’s winery and through participation in a second fall harvest with one of the area’s local wineries.

Students will learn about vineyard establishment, soils, plant physiology, canopy management, and vineyard diseases and insects in vineyards owned by Michigan State University, a partner in the program.

The college created the program in response to a rapidly-growing regional wine industry and a demand for skilled professionals to support it. The Round Barn is one of eight area wineries advising in the development of the college’s program.

"With over 35 years in the local wine industry we were honored to be involved with the development of the new teaching winery at Lake Michigan College," says Christian Moersch, owner and partner of Round Barn Winery, Distillery and Brewery.

"With an annual growth rate of 10 to 15 percent and the addition of several wineries over the last decade, it has become harder to find qualified candidates to fill the positions required to make great wine," Moersch continues. "The best thing about this program is that we can hire people who are familiar with the challenges our industry faces locally rather than hiring someone from out of state who is not familiar with our climate, varieties, and terroir."

Michigan has doubled its vineyard area over the past 10 years, and is now the fourth largest grape-growing state in the nation. With 107 commercial wineries, Michigan ranks 13th in wine production, using primarily Michigan-grown grapes, and the industry draws more than 2 million tourism visitors annually.

Great Lakes Wine Institute’s new Director Michael Moyer decided to move from his home in Walla Walla, Wash. to work in the new program.

Moyer previously worked with Figgins Family Wine Estates in Washington where he crafted a variety of wines for the Leonetti label as well as Doubleback, Figgins, and Toil Oregon. He also worked with the California brands, Etude and Peter Michael Winery.

He brings academic experience from Walla Walla, where he was instrumental in designing and developing its community college’s wine science program. He also holds a Master of Science in Viticulture and Enology from the University of California, Davis, a globally-influential program with a 130-year history.

"What attracted me to this region is that it has all the ingredients for serious winemaking," says Moyer. "It has a great climate, well-drained soils, a huge population base, and wineries that are already creating some fabulous wines. People in the wine industry who are living in other parts of the country don’t think about Michigan wines. But the wines made here can have the balance of fruit, structure, and alcohol much more common to the old world."

Source: Candice Elders, Lake Michigan College
 

United Federal Credit Union opens flagship branch

United Federal Credit Union has opened its new flagship branch in St. Joseph as planned.

The branch opened for business Feb. 16 at 2819 S. State Street. A grand opening celebration for the new branch is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.  March 25, The public is invited.

The 9,600-hundred-square-foot building was designed with credit union members in mide. It has an expanded drive-thru and new technology.

Teller services, auto and mortgage lending, business services and investment planning all are provided at the new branch.

The new branch was built on the site a previous branch and was built to house 25 employees at a cost of about $3 million.

UFCU’s corporate office building, which previously housed the St. Joseph branch, will be renovated to add administrative space to accommodate the credit union’s expanding
workforce.

“We are excited to open the doors and hear what our Members have to say,” says Branch Manager Emily Szymkiewicz. “We think this building will not only meet their needs, but it will allow us to exceed their expectations for financial service providers.”

United Federal Credit Union consists of more than 130,000 members worldwide, and manages assets in excess of $1.83 billion. Its corporate offices and main branch are located in St. Joseph, Mich., with additional branches in Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, and Ohio. It formed in 1949.

Source: United Federal Credit Union

Couple creates novel way to dry kids' (and grownups') gloves

The smell of winter gloves and boots that never quite get dry. That smell. The GreenGloveDryer was created to eliminate that and related problems that come with snow in Michigan.

About two years ago Karen Smoots decided to tackle an ongoing winter problem--how to dry all the way to the fingertips soaked winter gloves. Fed up with the ineffective way her electric dryer worked when it came to winter gear, Smoots and her husband put their heads together to invent a solution. 

She knew she wanted it to be something that did not plug in. When she was in highschool she lived down the street from a house that went up in flames when a portable heater was left on. She also had a room in the basement. Her mother refused her constant requests for a space heater to warm up her living space because of the danger of leaving it plugged in, so she grew up with that concern.

"We're in and out a lot and I didn't want to worry about unplugging it. I didn't want to be halfway to someplace and wonder, 'Did I unplug the glove dryer'?" Smoot says.

She sent her husband, Ryan, an engineer, to the hardware store to look for pieces they could put together that would send warm air up into the fingers of a glove. He put it together in the garage of their Portage home.

The end product is GreenGloveDryer. It has a 4-inch by 12-inch plastic base that sits over a floor register or leans against a baseboard register. It has six nozzles that are each 5.5-inches long and that have 16 holes for venting warm air into anything placed on top of them. 

It has no cords and does not use any electricity of its own. Instead, it uses the warm air from the furnace coming through the register. GreenGloveDryer takes its name from the fact that it does not need added electricity. The Smoots also have created a traveling bag for the device that is made of recycled plastic. And they are exploring types of recycled plastic for future generations of their patent pending product.

The dryers, manufactured by W-L Molding Co. in Portage, were ready for sale in Nov. 20, 2014. Just two days after the big snowstorm of fall. Then weeks went by without snow.

"My father, bless his heart, told me that in December we set the record for the least snowfall in December since 1912," Smoot says. Not the best time to be bringing out their product. 

The weather took a turn toward true winter and big snow in January, and Smoots says business has been going gangbusters since then. They have already sold 1,200 of the dyers. 

The GreenGloveDryer is now available in more than 40 stores across Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin, is for sale on Amazon, and their own website. The company also has recently hired Waypoint Sales to help it get into more retail locations. 

Smoots has been on something of a media blitz, travelling to Detroit and its suburbs for TV appearances and interviews with reporters to talk about the benefits of the GreenGloveDryer. 

"I talked with a reporter the other day and you could tell she almost wanted to come through the phone to get her own dryer," Smoots says. Some moms are that desperate for a solution to sopping wet gloves. 

A mommy blogger in the Detroit area -- Metro Detroit Mommy -- tried the GreenGloveDryer to see if it lived up to its claims and reported back that gloves she put on it were dry in 18 minutes. 

Smoots also runs two other businesses, including Lakeside Parlor, an ice cream store she and her sister share. With the newest business taking off, Smoots hopes GreenGloveDryer will become her sole business focus. 

Within two years, she says she hopes to be employing others in the business. Stay-at-home moms who want to get out of the house for a short time are likely to be the first she hires. 

"It has been a great family adventure," she says. Her boys, Collin, 11, and Nolan, 8, love it and have been involved, showing up in a promotional video for the glove dryer. They also are learning organization from having the invention in the house, Smoots says. "They know exactly where their wet things go to dry."

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Karen Smoots, GreenGloveDryer

Allegan County students can now earn free associate's degree

It's called Early College and it's a new way that students who attend school in Allegan County can get an associate's degree without paying tuition.

Through a partnership between the Allegan Area Educational Service Agency and Lake Michigan College students will have an opportunity to graduate high school with an Associate's Degree.

The program is scheduled to start in the fall of 2015 with approximately 50 students.

Classes for Early College of Allegan County, or ECAC, will be offered at the Tech Center in Allegan.

To get a degree, students take a mix of high school courses and college courses over three years--in 11th grade, 12th grade and in the following year, or "13th" grade.

There is no fee for classes, books, or transportation to the Tech Center for college courses.

Further, Early College students can participate in high school sports and extra-curricular activities during their junior and senior years as their schedules permit. During the 13th year, they are eligible for college intramural sports teams and clubs.

To be accepted in the ECAC program, students must apply. Selection is based on GPA, test scores and recommendations. Applicants and their families will be interviewed by the ECAC advisory team.

The 50 students who are enrolled in the program will come from across Allegan's seven school districts--Allegan, Fennville, Hopkins, Martin, Otsego, Plainwell, and Wayland.

Students can obtain more information at their high school guidance offices. For more information about ECAC, go here for more information about Early College Services at Lake Michigan College, please click here.

Lake Michigan College currently provides early college services in 52 area school districts. “We’ve had a lot of success so far," says LMC President Dr. Robert Harrison, "and we’re expanding and improving the program each year. We’re excited to extend this exceptional opportunity to students and families in Allegan County."

Source: 
Candice Elders, Lake Michigan College
 
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