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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

Growlers games will bring together Bell's and baseball

Following a nearly three year hiatus, Northwoods League baseball is returning to Kalamazoo. The Kings, who made their home at Homer Stryker Park ceased operations in 2011, but the newly formed Growlers intend to pick up where its predecessor left off. Only this time around, the local club will be hitting the field with a little help from a big friend.

Bell's Brewing Company will be the primary sponsor for the Growlers as the brewery and the baseball team have agreed to a five year relationship to bring summer collegiate baseball to fans all across Southwest Michigan.

"We are thrilled to partner with a staple of the Kalamazoo community such as Bell's. It's another big piece to the puzzle in bringing our fans the best atmosphere possible at Growlers baseball games," Growlers President Brian Colopy says.

The "atmosphere" Colopy is talking about is bringing the easy going, fun vibe of Bell’s into the ballpark though giveaways, promotions, and of course plenty of locally produced craft beer.

"Bell's is a part of Kalamazoo. It's a popular place to go to; their brand is known not only in Kalamazoo but across Michigan,” Colopy says. "Craft beer is a big part of the city, having a brewery like Bell's becoming the official craft beer, it's a natural fit."

The Growlers intend to celebrate both baseball and craft beer though new found traditions such as "Ring the Bell’s," discounted Bell's beer on Tuesdays and "Bell's Beer Cave," an indoor/outdoor suite on the right field line that can be rented out for corporate events, parties or just be large groups looking for an unique ballpark experience.

"The Bell's Beer Cave is for group outings. As part of your ticket into the Beer Cave you’ll have numerous beers on tap. We’re going to do the Bell's homerun promotion, where there will be a Bell’s Bell rung every time we hit a homerun and Bell's beer will be discounted for the rest of that inning," Colopy said. "We're going to have some of the go-tos. Oberon is a big one, and we’ll have Two Hearted. They’re coming out with cans now too, so we’ll have the cans.”

The Growlers are hoping to lure people out to the park with the promise of locally made beer, but the team expects fans to stick around for high-quality baseball, as the Northwoods League is known nationwide as an incubator for high-end talent

Big leaguers such as Detroit’s Max Scherzer and former Tiger Curtis Granderson have made appearances in the league. More recently, the Battle Creek Bombers took the field with Dillon Moyer, a 2013 draftee of the Los Angeles Dodgers and son of pitching great Jamie Moyer.

"Everything we’re doing here is for fans of the game; great beer and great baseball go hand in hand,” Colopy says.

The Kalamazoo Growlers begin play on June 27, when the team hits the road for a three game stand against the Madison Mallards. The first home series begins Friday, July 30, versus Battle Creek.

Source: Brian Colopy, Growlers

Old House Lovers gather to exchange ideas and fix things

There is a growing movement to keep alive skills that have been in danger of being lost. That and a love of old houses is what the Old House Network in Kalamazoo is about.     

The organization, founded in 2003, started as a way for those who love old houses to exchange ideas and fix things. Network members began hosting workshops in their homes.

"Kind of like a Tupperware party but a little messier," says Sharon Ferraro of the Old House Network. "We stripped paint, fixed windows, stripped wallpaper and put new mortar into old foundations. Our teachers were experts in their field and we had a blast."

Three years later the group decided to become a nonprofit, complete with 501c3 status. In 2006 they organized their first Old House Expo at the Kalamazoo County Fairgrounds. They invited vendors and expert instructors for an event that included hands-on demonstrations.

"No one else in Michigan is doing this," Ferraro says. The weather the day of the inaugural expo was snowy. Even so, more than 500 people turned out.

They have continued to offer the expos every year since then and twice in 2012 (three were in Grand Rapids). This year, the ninth annual Old House Expo will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 15. in the Crowley Center of St. Augustine’s Cathedral, 542 W Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo.

Old house owners, contractors, suppliers and advisors will be part of the day. Three tracks of programming will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. covering topics from solar to window repairs to wallpapering. Deciding if an old house is right for you is another topic to be covered.

In the vendors’ hall, the expo will feature continuous demonstrations of paint stripping techniques in the Great Strip-Off, including hand stripping, chemicals, natural solvents and various forms of heat. There will be a demonstration of basic window repairs. And information on the easiest way to strip old house hardware.

Jim Turner of Turner Restoration in Detroit is the featured speaker. As a devoted old house lover, Turner has served as an advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is active in the Michigan Historic Preservation Network as well. He will present the results of testing energy efficiency of traditional wood windows from the Window Preservation Standards Collaborative. He will also make a separate presentation on repairing steel windows.

Vendor’s spaces are available and interested contractors or suppliers are invited to apply. Many of the vendors are local business owners, including Douglas and Son Paints, Kazoo Books, Eco Friendly Contracting, North Woods Windows, to name a few.

The expo raises funds for the Old House Network so it can continue to teach workshops. Previous workshops have included window rehab, exterior and interior painting, plaster repair, insulation, tiling, planning your project, working with building inspectors, floor refinishing, paint stripping, gardening, a dozen ways to kill poison ivy and laying a brick parking pad, and more.

The organization also advocates for keeping and fixing old houses. Ferraro says that when a house is rehabbed the budget  is 70 percent labor and 30 percent for materials. For new construction it is a 50/50 split. "More local people are employed, and their wages stay in the community, in rehabilitation than in new construction," Ferraro says. "And when homeowners do their own work--they tend to buy locally."

The Old House Network teaches traditional home repair techniques to preserve and maintain houses built before 1950. In 2012, the owner of an 1895 house gave the organization his home to use as a workshop house. Named Ted’s House after their benefactor, The Network plans to begin workshops there this summer. Classes will range from structural assessment and planning to insulation and window repair and more.

Source: Sharon Ferraro, Old House Network

The Ninth Annual Old House Expo will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15 at Crowley Center, St. Augustine Cathedral, Kalamazoo. Admission is $7, $5 for seniors, and students.Children under 12 admitted free with purchase of a ticket for an adult. 

Animal Technician Academy joins certificate program lineup at KVCC

The number of career academy classes at Kalamazoo Valley Community College continues to grow. The latest is one that teaches students to be an animal technician.

Students in the six-week program will learn  basic anatomy and physiology, identification methods, and humane care. They also will be taught maintenance, health and observation, and handling techniques. Biosecurity, record keeping, and medical terminology also are part of the course. And students will gain skills in effective communication, workplace safety, critical thinking and employability.

Hands-on training is species specific and taught by highly qualified personnel, KVCC says.

Classes will take place Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the KVCC Groves Campus, beginning March 18. Lab training will be based at the MPI Research training facility in partnership with the organization’s training and development department.

Students who successfully complete the academy will be prepared for an entry-level position as a lab-animal technician in a research or laboratory facility. Entry-level wages can range from $19,000 to $25,000 annually.  An experienced animal technician can earn from $25,000 to $41,000 per year.

The fee is $900. Financial assistance is available through Michigan job training assistance programs, Kalamazoo Promise, and Veteran’s Benefits.

The first academy will be limited to 12 students.

Before establishing an academy, the college meets with focus groups to determine whether there are jobs to be filled, and a need for trained applicants.

For details about applications, deadlines and other information, cal 269-353-1253, e-mail careeracademies@kvcc.edu  or visit the websit here.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Dawn Kemp, Kalamazoo Valley Community College

Nonprofits receive $4.5 million in grants from Kalamazoo Community Foundation

The work nonprofits do to address community concerns were supported with more than $4.5 million in grants from the Kalamzoo Community Foundation in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Grants from Advised Funds, those for which the donor suggests grants, totaled nearly $1.562 million. Grants from Field-of-Interest Funds, those which a donor focuses on specific areas, were $937,122; and grants from funds for specific nonprofit agencies were more than $1.007 million.

Gants from unrestricted funds totaled just over $1.109 million in the fourth quarter. These grants support the Community Foundation’s four community investment priorities--early childhood learning and school readiness, economic and community development, programs benefiting individuals and families, and youth development.

They include:

• Kalamazoo Center for Youth & Community: $161,783 for quality youth development and neighborhood collective impact.

• Local Initiatives Support Corporation: $150,000 for operational support.

• Kalamazoo RESA: $134,500 for the Great Start Plus program.

• Kalamazoo County Land Bank: $100,000 for the Riverview Launch program.

• Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services: $100,000 for the Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Service Homeownership Center.

• Ecumenical Senior Center: $77,000 for operational support.

• Eliminating Racism and Claiming/Celebrating Equality (ERAC/CE): $75,000 for leadership and governance development.

• Comstock Public Schools: $50,000 for renovation of the Comstock Community Auditorium.

• Big Brothers Big Sisters: $35,000 for operational support.

• Kalamazoo Public Library: $23,347 for Kalamazoo Public Library’s Anti-racism Transformational Team.

• Kalamazoo Civic Theatre: $10,000 for Academy of the Arts.

• Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center: $9,000 for the Homeless Youth Coalition pilot.

• A Variety of other grants: $183,766.

The Community Foundation does more than provide grants to the community, says Suprotik Stotz-Ghosh, vice president for Community Investment. 

"Our leadership in the community is fueled by a deep knowledge of community issues and we work diligently with our partners – donors and nonprofits – to best serve the community’s short and long-term needs," says Stotz-Ghosh. "This helps ensure that we are directing the right resources to the highest priority needs."

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Tom Vance, Kalamazoo Community Foundation

Photos: Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services, Ecumenical Senior Center, Local Initiatives Support Corporation
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