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2013 a good year for economic development in Battle Creek

It was a good year for economic development in Battle Creek in 2013 and Site Selection Magazine took notice.

The publication that calls itself the magazine of corporate real estate strategy and area economic development ranks Battle Creek No. 6 nationally for economic development projects in communities with a population of less than 200,000.

For 2013, Battle Creek had seven projects announced, totaling $345.1 million in capital investment, and the creation of 1,353 new jobs.

The projects include Bleistahl North America, Post Foods, 269 Lofts at the Heritage, TRMI, Inc., Systex Products Corporation, Cosma Casting Michigan, and DENSO Manufacturing Michigan.

Cosma Casting Michigan led the way with 572 jobs and an investment of about $162 million to open an automotive casting components and systems facility.

Denso is investing about $105 million and will add 266 jobs at its manufacturing facility in Battle Creek. The includes 46 professional and skilled trade jobs and 220 manufacturing jobs. It will produce advanced thermal components, including new lines for radiator and condenser products, at the plant in Fort Custer Industrial Park.

Post Foods said it would spend $30 million to consolidate its manufacturing headquarters in Battle Creek., creating 92 jobs, and relocating more than 15 leadership positions there.

Bleistahl North America, which makes valve drive components, is investing $11.5 million to create 58 new jobs in the Fort Custer Industrial Park.

Systex Products Corp., a Denso Corp., told of plans to create 12 jobs.

This is the second straight year Battle Creek has ranked in Site Selection Magazine's Top 10 nationally. In 2012, Battle Creek shared second place for metro populations of less than 200,000. It had 13 projects with $103.7 million in capital investment and 688 new jobs created.

"Battle Creek’s attractive business climate, moderate cost of doing business, workforce and training resources, coupled with a strong community relationship with employers are consistently listed as positive attributes by companies investing in Battle Creek,” says states Karl Dehn, President and CEO of Battle Creek Unlimited.

Source: Alyssa Jones, Battle Creek Unlimited

Bio-Kleen adds screen cleaner to its product line

The last time Second Wave checked in with Bio-Kleen it has just introduced a pair of cleaning product for boats, one that restored fiberglass and another used to buff the fiberglass and apply layers of UV protection.

Now the company that has developed more than 200 biodegradable cleaning products sold under the Bio-Kleen label has added a new one,  Bio-Kleen Screen Kleen. The technological device cleaner joins its line of cleaning products for boats,  RV's, and automobiles.

Screen Kleen cleans expensive marine and RV technology, such as fish finders and GPS navigation units.

Professional bass angler Jonathan VanDam, a native of Southwest Michigan, successfully tested the Screen Kleen throughout the 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series.

It also been awarded the “Best New Item” in 2014 from Northern Wholesale Supply.

Screen Kleen works on all types technological devices, sensitive screens, glass and electronics, including cameras, cellphones, sunglasses, eyeglasses, tablets, laptops, HDTVs, LVD, LED, plasma displays, and other electronics.

The cleaner removes fingerprints, water spots, dust and build-up. It creates an anti-static surface without using ammonia or alcohol.

It's non-toxic, biodegradable and made in the USA of products from American ingredients. Screen Kleen is sold in a 4 ounce pump sprayer bottle and comes with a microfiber towel for $12.95.

The company, located at 810 Lake Street, has a group of employees who manufacture at least 15,000 gallons of Bio-Kleen products each day.

Those products are sold through motorcycle, RV, boat and auto parts stores throughout the United States, on the Internet and at the company's Lake Street headquarters. Bio-Kleen products sell  around the world.

Source: Bio-Kleen

Hogspot: Business built on finding biker friendly spots

These days smart phones and their apps have made it easy to locate just about anything you want to find. Just about everything but places where motorcycle riders are welcome.

That realization led Matt Page to develop the HogSpot app and website. A play on the popular name for big bikes -- hogs -- and hot spots, the app is about a year old and Page created it himself. It's available free on Google Play and Apple App store.

Page describes the need, saying, bikers out for a ride typically go about an hour before they stop to take a break and stretch. If the ride is a long one, that may leave them looking in unfamiliar places for restaurants and bars that welcome them.

Page, who rides a Victory Vegas, says he's learned there are basically two kinds of riders, those who are looking for places where they will find other bikers and those who want a bike friendly atmosphere but don't require the spot to be exclusively for bikers.

And when we are talking about bikers we are not talking about the bad guys and hoodlums that are the typical stereotypes the media uses to portray bikers. Page says most motorcycle enthusiasts are "a unique breed of people, but unlike the negative way they are portrayed in the media, most are freedom loving Americans with good hearts."

This breed is not going to turn to Yelp or 4Sqare to find the type of establishment they are seeking. They have starting using HogSpot to fill that need.

HogSpot has listings that locate bars, eateries, places to buy gear, dealerships, and where to get repairs. It also maps rides, vistas, and museums. 

Access to the app and website are free. Ultimately, Page anticipates businesses featured on the site will want to advertise there. He currently is working to demonstrate the business model is viable.

At the same time, two business partners recently have left and Page is now seeking others to help grow the business. A full-time police officer at Western Michigan University, Page fits in work on the startup business around his paying job.

He also is contemplating dropping the name HogSpots, as many bikers associate hogs with Harley Davidson and that is causing confusion, as the site is for all types of bikers. "It doesn't matter what bike you ride," Page says.

Page has developed his business with the help of Starting Gate and worked with WMU's John Mueller as his mentor. Page, who as has been a police officer for 15 years, also is now back in school on his way to becoming an MBA student.

With spring will come a new biking season and Page want to have the latest version of HogSpots by whatever name it is called ready to roll.

Source: Matt Page, HogSpots

Illustrations from HogSpots website.

A map of what you can find on HogSpots.

Matt Page on his motorcycle.

Paczkis: At Sweetwater's they're not just for Fat Tuesday this year

Fat Tuesday may be five days away, but this year there's no reason for paczki lovers to wait that long for their annual treat.

"Pooch-key", "Punch-key", or "Poonch-key" are all correct ways to say paczki, says Sweetwater's Donut Mill. The term itself, is translated as "little package."

Sweetwater's has been making the traditional pastries for more than 15 years and this year decided to get the party rolling Feb. 28, five days before the beginning of Mardi Gras.

Last year the three Sweetwater's locations in Battle Creek and in Kalamazoo produced more than 15,000 paczkis for the holiday. The popularity of the pastries encouraged the donut makers to increase the amount of time they would be available.

Vanilla Creme, Chocolate Creme, Bavarian, Cherry, Blueberry, Lemon, Strawberry, Apple, or Raspberry are the flavors to choose from.

Production begins Feb. 28 and paczkis will be available then through March 4.

You can call in your order now and request to pick it up any day from Feb. 28 to March 4. Individual paczkis will also be available for walk in customers but daily quantity is limited so Sweetwater's encourages you to call before stopping in.

The holiday pastries can be ordered at all three stores: Battle Creek, 269-979-1944; Kalamazoo's Sprinkle Road, 269-388-4613; and Kalamazoo's Stadium Drive, 269-372-3636.

When the paczkis are gone there still will be the 55 different kinds of donuts, as one publication recently put it "from the standard crullers, twists, fritters, and longjohns to over-the-top peanut butter creme-frosted doughnuts with milk chocolate filling." 

Source: Sweetwater's Donut Mill

Populus 2014 focuses on people who change communities

Those interested in helping to bring about change in the community are invited to a special event hosted by Southwest Michigan First.

Populus, a one-day event, March 28 at the Kalamazoo State Theatre, is intended to inspire policy makers and engaged citizens who share the vision of making Southwest Michigan a strong, vibrant region together.

Leaders from across the community – business, not-for-profit, government, education and faith-based organizations – are invited  collaborate with public servants to shape policy in Southwest Michigan.

Participants will hear the creative thought, civic engagement and innovative ideas shared by Populus 2014 speakers including:

Richard Florida, best-selling author of The Rise of the Creative Class. Richard Florida is the Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, Global Research Professor at New York University and Founder of the Creative Class Group, which works closely with governments and companies worldwide. He is known as the world’s leading urbanist and considered an “intellectual rock star” by Fast Company.

Nigel Jacob from the City of Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics.With an extensive background in collaborative, citizen-facing technology projects, Nigel Jacob serves as an advisor to the mayor of Boston on emerging technologies through his work at the Office of New Urban Mechanics. Nigel is a fellow at the Center for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College and has received a number of awards including being named Public Official of the year in 2011 by Governing Magazine and the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation award in 2012.

Christopher Leinberger, Metropolitan Land Use Strategist and Visiting Fellow with The Brookings Institution. Voted one of the “Top 100 Urban Thinkers,” Christopher Leinberger is an expert land-use strategist, teacher, researcher and author, balancing business realities with social and environmental concerns. Christopher is the president of Locus, a national network of real estate developers and investors, Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. and an Op-Ed Contributor to The New York Times.

State of Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley will also participate in the event.

To learn more about the event and its speaker lineup, go here.

Source: Southwest Michigan First

Pictured: Christopher Leinberger, Nigel Jacob, Richard Florida

Lakeview Square Mall adds fashion retailer as new tenant

The strong mix of national and local retailers in Lakeview Square Mall has attracted a new national retailer to the shopping center.
Villa, known for its sneakers, has moved into a 4,280-square-foot space between Maurice’s and Finish Line. National brands such as Nike, Jordan, Beats by Dre and Puma will be found there.
The store also sells urban and athletic apparel and accessories for men and women. 
Villa, a lifestyle fashion retailer, opened its first Battle Creek store Feb. 21 at Lakeview Square Mall in Battle Creek. Sierra Jones is the store manager.
The store features an entire wall of illuminated footwear, flat screen TV’s and Apple computers for shopper use.  
Villa calls its stores lifestyle hubs, places for shoppers to share information on fashion, sports, and community empowerment.
"Villa appeals to a younger demographic who seek fashion statements from their sneaks to their caps," says Mark Dycus, mall manager. "We welcome this newest addition to the broad array of merchandise offerings at Lakeview Square Mall."
Villa has 79 stores in six states, including eight in Michigan. The company is located in Philadelphia.
"Lakeview Square Mall is an important shopping destination in Battle Creek, offering a strong mix of national and local retailers, restaurants and entertainment," says Jason Lutz, Villa chief executive officer. "Villa is excited about bringing exclusive sneaker and fashion styles to Lakeview Square Mall."
Lakeview Square Mall, located at 5775 Beckley Road, is home to JCPenney, Macy’s and Sears and more than 50 fine shops, restaurants and services.
Source: GK Development

Are there hops in my shaving cream?

Beer--it's not just for drinking any more. That's what the good folks at Kalamazoo's Damn Handsome Grooming Company believe.

The one-year-old, boutique manufacturer of grooming and beauty products whose line includes soap, beard oil, lip balm, shaving cream and more, makes them with ingredients normally associated with the production of beer.

"We have our studio is on about five acres, where we have a hop farm, we also grow mint. Everything else comes from a brewery or someplace that manufactures organic oil or organic butter," says Jarrett Blackmon, who co founded the business with his wife Bridget.

Damn Handsome purchases ingredients such as spent grains and brewer's yeast from several area craft breweries and picks up other ingredients such as butter and oil from sources outside the area.

"Hard-working, natural ingredients," as Blackmon calls them.

"All of our oils and butters are Midwest based. Our brewed ingredients we do get from a lot of West Michigan breweries, and some Mid-Michigan breweries," Blackmon says. "We partner with craft breweries; we chat with them, pick up some spent grain, talk about hops. It's great. The community is so giving, and so cool, we become friends with many of these guys."

Blackmon uses the word "friends" instead of business partners because Damn Handsome sees itself, not as just another local business but as a new and vital member of the Kalamazoo-area craft beer scene, which is one of the reasons the company generally chooses to wholesale its products or distribute them online as opposed to selling them at brewery stores.

"That's piggybacking on the success of the craft beer community. That's not what we're trying to do; we're trying to be a part of it," Blackmon says.

Outside of their work with Damn Handsome, the Blackmons are avid craft beer drinkers and home brewers. They've been trying their hand at making beer of their own for several years.

Blackmon sees the beer making as a fun hobby, not a budding business. Soaps, lotions, oils and other handmade products are what he and his wife are truly passionate about.

The company began creating and marketing products for men, but will soon be expanding its line to cater to women as well.

"It's a little bit of a departure but still beer-centric," Blackmon says. "What we found is that some of the female customers that buy for the boyfriends or their husbands end up using the products themselves."

In the end, Blackmon says he thinks the residents of Kalamazoo will take to bathing with beer just as quickly as they took to drinking it.

"The community in Kalamazoo is just so amazing and supportive of trying wacky things," Blackmon says.

For more information, please visit the Damn Handsome website here

Jeremy Martin is the craftbrew writer for Southwest Michgan's Second Wave.

AVB hires project superintendent and human resources manager

AVB recently hired Michael Wittenberg as Project Superintendent and Krista Manley as Human Resources Manager.

Wittenberg, the company says, is a highly organized individual who will use his solid construction and management experience to manage projects and meet strict deadlines. Wittenberg has managed projects with companies like CSM Group and Triangle Associates, Inc. Wittenberg will draw on that experience to maintain schedules and communications on AVB’s commercial projects. He is 30-hour OSHA certified with a degree in construction management from Ferris State University.

Manley previously worked as employee relations and human resource manager for companies such as Johnson Controls, Inc., Ally Servicing, and Ring Power Corporation-Caterpillar Dealer. Manley now joins AVB as the Human Resources Manager. She graduated from Western Michigan University with a bachelor’s of business administration and a major in management-human resources.

Building Southwest Michigan since 1981, AVB’s commercial division focuses on construction management in the healthcare, education, office and retail markets. AVB’s custom residential building division specializes in single-family homes, condominiums and neighborhoods. AVB’s development group focuses on property development for commercial, residential, and mixed uses.

Source: AVB

Premier Tool gets funding to grow business

When it comes to economic gardening of mid-sized companies what they need often comes down to financing.
Premier Tool and Die in Berrien County is one of 12 small businesses to benefit in the past year from a program to provide financing that will help them grow to the next level.
The tool and die maker uses specialty alloys to serve many industries including second-tier automotive, heavy truck, agriculture, appliance, military, homeowner equipment and telecommunications industries. 
The program that could help Premier grow is a partnership between investor banks, the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) and Grow Michigan. Grow Michigan provides collateral and capital financing support for companies with 500 employees or fewer to stimulate private-sector capital investment that aim for the next stage in expanding their enterprise.
For Premier Tool and Die the investment will allow the company to add 60 jobs to its current 150-employee workforce.
Grow Michigan offers key financing assistance for small business by offering mezzanine loans (a hybrid of debt and equity financing that typically is used to finance a company's expansion) from $500,000 to $3 million over five years.
Funding is provided to growing Michigan small businesses in a wide range of industries located in nine counties, including low-to-moderate income regions.
MSF’s contribution is approximately one-sixth of Grow Michigan’s investment.
Together, the 12 businesses received $20.1-million in necessary collateral and capital financing support from Grow Michigan.
The Grow Michigan board of managers includes equal representation from investor banks, the Michigan Strategic Fund and the founding members of Grow Michigan. Grow Michigan was founded by Russell Youngdahl, Jr., founding and managing member of NorthStar Capital; Henry Brennan, III, Partner of Howard and Howard law firm; David Treadwell, former CEO of Eagle Picher Corp.; and E. Mark Gregory, III, formerly EVP of Comerica Bank.
Participating investor banks include Fifth Third Bank, PNC, Huntington, PrivateBank, Crestmark Bank, Seaway Community Bank, Bank of Holland, Bank of Northern Michigan and Mercantile Bank of Michigan.
"Reasonably priced growth capital to Michigan’s small business community was much discussed, but not available," says Russ Youngdahl, CEO of Grow Michigan. "Through the creative initiative of the MEDC, our investor banks and Grow Michigan, we have been successful in proving that with proper underwriting, we can accelerate growth in Michigan by filling the capital needs for small business."

Source: Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Christy's Consignment Shop moves two doors down, doubles space

A new location is in the works for Christy's Fine Furniture and Accessories in the Oakwood Plaza in Kalamazoo but customers won't have to look far to find it.

The store is moving from 3015 Oakland Drive to 3017 Oakland Drive, just a few steps away in the same shopping plaza. By April the store should be in its new spot.

Owner Christy Lamson says the new location will increase the space she has to show the furnishings and accessories that have made her store popular with those looking for a high-end way to decorate their homes without the high-end price tag.

The new store will have 5,000 square feet, double the size of the current location. The amount of space needed reflects the growth of the 9-year-old company built through its loyal customers and Lamson's knowledge of retail. Today there are many reasons people are looking for furniture. Some are downsizing, others simply want a change. 

Lamson says she had needed a larger showroom for some time, but it took awhile for the right space to become available. She will be adding three new employees, as well.

Before she went into business for herself, Lamson worked as a designer at Welling, Ripley and Labs, where she became convinced that there was a market for the type of furniture and accessories she now carries.

"We fulfill that need for high-end furnishings for a lot less money," Lamson says. They also provide design assistance where needed.

Lamson says word of mouth from satisfied customers has kept her store busy. "We've needed to grow for quite awhile now," she says. Customers come not only from the immediate area, but from St. Joseph, Lansing and Detroit area to shop. 

Furniture, pictures, lamps, and accessories including crystal are just some of what customers will find in the consignment store. "Things come and go quickly," Lamson says.

Source: Christy Lamson, Christy's Fine Furniture and Accessories

Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership takes shape

Hardly any structure with wooden walls, however intricate, is going to turn heads. But what about a building with sectioned logs in place of bricks?

Now you’ve got the makings for rubbernecking.

Construction crews are about halfway done with work on the exterior of Kalamazoo College’s Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, covering the one-of-a-kind building’s gently curving outside walls with a random, but intelligently designed, smattering of different sized logs.

The wood is white cedar, and it all comes from Drummond Island, says Av Mulder, masonry foreman for Miller-Davis Co., the main construction firm on the project. Workers on-site receive pre-cut logs from Miller-Davis, then use circular saws to more fully refine the logs for specific placement, forming them in place with a special premixed mortar that sets slowly to minimize cracking.

The end result is a random, up and down orientation of the different sized logs, something Mulder calls "a peak and valley effect." The construction technique has been used on buildings in the Upper Peninsula, Canada, and a few barns scattered around the region. But it’s the first time that an institutional building in the United States has been built with such materials, he says.

Mulder stopped short of estimating how many individual "bricks" might be placed, but did say about 100 cords of wood would be used. Officials from the college’s Office of Communication on Tuesday arranged a tour of the site for local media.

Masons attended a two-day seminar to learn how to use the new kind of "brick," Mulder says. A mason since 1971, he says he has never laid a log before. Crews have to always be thinking about what size log to place next, to keep the placement of the "bricks" fluid looking. Where the pre-fabricated walls bend and curve, masons have to customize the logs even further, making sure their angles correspond to those seen in the walls.

The logs don’t just make for an interesting look, but provide an incredible amount of insulation.

"This isn’t like laying a line down and building a wall," Mulder says. "It’s kind of like working with fieldstone, but you can trim fieldstone. This is all eyeball, always thinking, especially around the windows. It’s like nothing I’ve ever worked on."

He adds with a laugh, "Maybe I’ll have this figured out when we get done."

Work has been hampered by the harsh winter the region has endured, but Mulder thinks the log-laying will be complete in 8-10 weeks. Work on the 10,000-square-foot center, on the corner of Academy and Monroe streets and designed by Chicago-based architectural firm Studio Gang Architects, began in December 2012. It is set to open sometime later this summer.

"It’s an old building design that has been updated for a modern use," says Paul Manstrom, Kalamazoo College vice president for facilities management.

Inside the Gold-targeted LEED certified building, crews cut sections of 2-inch insulation, squeaking them into place on the floor before concrete is poured on Wednesday. The space will be heated with geothermal energy--both in the form of forced air and radiant heat--tapped from a source 400 feet below the center, Manstrom says.

In the coming months, the unique features of the interior will take shape: multi-purpose rooms capable of morphing into different sizes thanks to flexible walls, a community kitchen, and a large hearth, meant to serve as a common area.

"I predict that a lot of people will drive by this building just to look at it," Manstrom says. "It was designed to be unique, just like the Arcus Center that it will be home to."

Environmental justice advocacy leader to speak at WMU

In New York, the environmental justice advocacy group WE ACT works to inform, educate, train and mobilize the predominantly African-American and Latino residents of Northern Manhattan on issues that affect their quality of life--air, water, indoor pollution, toxins, land use and open space, waterfront development and usage, sanitation, transportation, historic preservation, regulatory enforcement, and citizen participation in public policy making.

The organization with a 13-member staff is led by Peggy Shepard, co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice in West Harlem. Shepard has been invited to Western Michigan University to speak on environmental protection for all Americans.

Shepard's organization has a 24-year history of engaging residents in community planning and campaigns to bring about environmental protection and health policy.

WE ACT's first campaign achieved the retrofit of the North River Sewage Treatment Plant and a lawsuit settlement of $1.1 million. A 10-year campaign spurred by a community-based planning process has resulted in the construction of the Harlem Piers at 125th Street on the Hudson River, which opened in 2010.

The environmental justice movement has worked over the past 20 years to influence environmental policy to improve environmental health and protection in communities of color and low income. In her visit to WMU, Shepard will define environmental justice and discuss its challenges and achievements through the years.

She also will highlight WE ACT's work in northern Manhattan neighborhoods as well as the evolution, research, and policy processes and outcomes of a community-based participatory research partnership that has had an impact on air quality and related environmental justice concerns.

WE ACT's advocacy and research contributed to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority retrofitting its entire diesel bus fleet. The organization also hosts the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change.

As part of the Changing Climates Series, WMU's Center for the Humanities is bringing together scientists and humanists to consider how the world's temperature, environmental and social climates are changing and what the earth's inhabitants need to know and do about it. The series is exploring how scientific research is defining issues that concern everybody, including the warming of the globe, the toxicity of the environment and the fundamental changes mankind is making to the natural world. The intersection of these and other issues provides both an opportunity and a necessity to talk across the usual boundaries within academia and beyond.

Source: Mark Schwerin, Western Michigan University

Holden family preserves nearly 400 acres in Calhoun County

Philip Holden had a deep appreciation for a nature and never wanted to see his family property developed. For more than 150 years, the nearly 400 acres of land in Convis Township has been the Holden family's property and respect for the land's natural values has passed down through the generations.

His wishes are now being realized. An easement that allows the property to be conserved and remain in private ownership has been arranged by the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.

It will protect the property that has such features as a shallow, 124-acre spring-fed lake known as Mud Lake. The lake recharges into Ackley Creek, which in turn flows into Lake Michigan by way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo rivers. The shoreline is unaltered, and the woodland’s understory is blanketed in native sedges with virtually no invasive plants.

The spring-fed lake and more than 150 acres of surrounding high-quality wetlands provide habitat for a diverse array of waterfowl, including Sandhill Cranes. Particularly unique is the archipelago of oak- and pine-dominated islands ringing the western end of Mud Lake, accessible from land bridges constructed by the family in the early part of the 20th century.

The land has a mix of high-quality dry southern forest, southern wet meadows, and emergent marsh. It provides habitat for the Eastern Box Turtle, Cooper’s Hawk, and even the federally endangered Bald Eagle.

"Conserving the Holden's land in its natural condition helps to ensure the quality and quantity of water resources that drain to Lake Michigan," says Geoffrey Cripe, SWMLC’s director of land protection.

He notes that Ackley Creek emanates from a lake just north of Big Marsh, which includes the 690-acre Audubon Bernard Baker Sanctuary and the Kiwanis Youth Conservation Area, home of the annual CraneFest in October.

"The wetlands and uplands that drain to Ackley Creek are a high priority for SWMLC to protect because they are highly significant resources for wildlife and water quality," Cripes says. "The conservation of the Holden property, located about a mile downstream from Big Marsh, is just another step forward in a larger scale plan to protect exceptional resources in Calhoun County."

Linda Holden dedicated the easement in memory of her late husband Philip and his father and grandfather, both named Raymond Francis Holden. Linda and Phil called this land home for 45 years. Linda still lives on the property and says she is glad to know the land will always remain in a natural state as her husband wished.

"He loved the land and wanted to preserve it for future generations and in memory of his father and grandfather who also loved the land," Linda says.

The family has been in contact with Land Conservancy since 1999 and, after working out all the details to finalize the agreement, their wish to forever protecting their land became a reality at the end of 2013.

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy maintains 44 publicly accessible preserves and holds conservation easements on 83 privately owned parcels which are not accessible to the general public. SWMLC serves the nine counties of Southwest Michigan and has protected almost 13,000 acres since its inception as an all-volunteer organization in 1991.

Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Battle Creek decorates downtown with public artwork

Over the past year bringing art back to downtown has been a priority for the Battle Creek Downtown Partnership.

Several sculptures were reinstalled or relocated there. The Cube, the Cyclist, and the Combine were among those. In October 2013, a mosaic, Edgewater, was created and installed by local artist Jone Rakoski on the stage at Wave Square. A competition announced in October will result in a mural installed at Friendship Park later in 2014. Another mural project is in the planning stages.

Now the vacant building at the corner of Carlyle Street and Michigan Avenue features artwork to catch the eye of those driving east on Michigan Avenue.

Four artists with the Rogue Artist Gallery, 117 W. Michigan Ave., in Battle Creek, donated their time and creativity to the project. Animals, people, and abstract art work now can be seen on the building thanks to the work of Corey Ayers, Ron Holder, Nick Jakubiak, and Donald VanAuken.

The Rogue Artist Gallery in Battle Creek was formed to give artists in Battle Creek a place to exhibit their work without having  to fit into a preconceived mold of what art centers and councils want.

“When the windows on this building needed to be secured, placing artwork in sills just made sense,"  says Alyssa Jones, business development and communications manager. "This building is one that has been vacant for decades and the windows need to be covered up to make sure the sidewalk below is safe for pedestrians and vehicles who park and walk along Carlyle Street.”

The Battle Creek Downtown Partnership is an initiative of Battle Creek Unlimited, intended to establish downtown Battle Creek as a vibrant, livable urban center.

Source: Alyssa Jones, Battle Creek Unlimited

Two workshops on how to start a business scheduled

If starting your own business is something you have been dreaming about, two upcoming workshops are designed to get you beyond the dreaming stage.

Aspiring entrepreneurs are invited to learn the basics of starting and owning a small business in workshops being offered in Paw Paw and Dowagiac.

Instruction in writing a comprehensive business plan that includes an executive summary, marketing, operations, management, sales and financials will be offered.

Those who complete the class will be encouraged to pitch their business plan to commercial lenders, loan guarantors, and service organizations at a Meet the Lender event, April 24 at Kinexus, 499 W. Main Street, Benton Harbor.

The workshop cost is $35 and registration is required. Please call 269.387.6004 or send email here.   

The workshops will be led by Small Business Development Center Business Consultant Bob Jones. He has helped successfully open 16 small businesses in the last year and is currently working with 80 additional clients through free one-on-one counseling. Such counseling is always available for those who want to start their own businesses and is particularly recommended for those attending the workshops.

The upcoming workshop in Paw Paw is set for 6 to 9 p.m., Feb. 19, at Michigan Works! Paw Paw, 32849 E. Red Arrow Highway. The workshop in Dowagiac is 6 to 9 p.m. at Michigan Works! Dowagiac 601 N. Front Street, Dowagiac.

The workshops are open to those across Southwest Michigan.

Source: Megan McCausland, Kinexus
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