| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Growth News

1149 Articles | Page: | Show All

Lane Automotive expansion to create 138 new jobs

With  $1.9 million in Community Development Block Grant funds to Watervliet Township in Berrien County Lane Automotive Inc. will be able to undertake an expansion project that is expected to generate 138 new jobs.

The funds in part will go toward on-the-job training for new employees. And Lane Automotive will offer at least 70 of the new jobs to those of low or moderate income.

The company got its start in 1964 when George Lane, who had been building drag race cars out of the garage of his home in Coloma, decided to start a part-time business supplying speed equipment to local racers.

As his positive reputation grew he moved the business into a store front of its own and the business continued to grow. This original building would undergo several additions during the next decade as Lane Automotive's retail trade grew and the wholesale side of the business began to develop.

Over the next 12 years the company continued to grow and in 1987 ground was broken on a new 53,000 square foot building. The company's next move-- in 1998-- was to Watervliet into a building three times the size of the one it had just moved out of. Details of the company's growth can be found here.

Today, Motor State Distributing, now the largest division of Lane Automotive, is one of the leading speed equipment warehouse distributors in the world and the company has found it was ready to expand again.

The site for the business in Michigan was chosen over competing sites in Tennessee and Indiana.

Source: Lane Automotive Inc. 

Whirlpool buys Lake Michigan College M-Tech building

Lake Michigan College will be able to expand current and offer new academic programs in engineering technology, mechatronics, robotics, prototype and design technology, and energy production with a boost from the sale of the college's M-TEC building, located at 400 Klock Road in Benton Harbor.

Details of the sale were not disclosed, but the purchase by Whirlpool will help the school move toward its goal of having a new technology center on the Napier Avenue Campus in Benton Harbor.

The 44,000 square foot M-TEC building, built in 2000, sits on 9.783 acres of land. "The facility has served its purpose well over the past 14 years," says Lake Michigan College President, Dr. Robert Harrison, "but the increase in operational efficiencies, the expansion of program and service offerings, and a better learning environment for students, made a strong case for the move."

Consolidating M-TEC programs onto the college’s main campus will improve students' access to services like financial aid and academic advising. Technical classes will also be located nearer to general education classes like math, business, and English.

When the new center is completed it features will include a FABLab and a simulation lab. The College has received a federal trade grant to purchase state-of-the-art equipment.

The new tech center will be built and its programs are being enhanced in response to an increased demand for skilled workers in the region. In January 2014, the college conducted a survey of dozens of representatives from area businesses.

They identified the training, facilities, and programs that would meet their needs, and together they pledged to bring 260 new, high-skilled jobs to the area within three years of the center opening. Businesses surveyed included Vickers Engineering, Edgewater Automation, Whirlpool Corporation, Dane Systems, Hanson Mold, Eagle Technologies and the Cook Nuclear Plant.

"Manufacturing is strong in southwest Michigan," says Harrison. "We must constantly evolve in order to prepare students with the high-tech skills they need to help our industries thrive."

Source: Lake Michigan College

Alamo Drafthouse to host latest Star Trek New Voyages episode

Portage public relations expert and sometime screenwriter Rick Chambers is about to see his third screenplay in the continuing voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise on the big screen in "Mind-Sifter," based on one of the most loved short stories from the Star Trek universe.

It's the second time a Star Trek episode has beamed into Kalamazoo, specifically to the Alamo Drafthouse, which also screened Chambers' last effort.

"Rick and I have known each other since we worked together at Western Herald quite a few years ago," says James Sanford of Alamo Drafthouse, "and I am delighted to see how he took his love of 'Star Trek' to such an amazing level: He was always a huge fan and now he's actually creating his own additions to the franchise. We had a terrific response to the screening of his 'Holiest Thing' episode last year and we can't wait to host his new film."

The senior executive producer of Star Trek New Voyages, James Cawley, contacted Chambers in November 2013 and asked if he would be willing to write the teleplay for "Mind-Sifter."

"The story was published in 1976 in a paperback book titled 'Star Trek: The New Voyages,' and it's been extremely popular in Star Trek fandom. So it's an immense honor for me to be part of bringing it to life," says Chambers says.

Cawley was a friend of the story's author, Shirley Maiewski, who passed away in 2004, and Cawley was given permission to produce an episode based on her story, Chambers says. Maiewski, is widely known as "Grandma Trek" for her involvement as a Star Trek writer and advocate, and "Mind-Sifter" has long been admired as a tale that captured the magic of the original series.

"I remember being captivated by Shirley’s story when it was first published, and I’ve been in love with it ever since," Chambers said. "It was a huge honor to be part of bringing her story to life. The talented cast and crew of Star Trek New Voyages did an amazing job."

"Mind-Sifter" will debut Wednesday, Jan. 21. The free event will include a panel with actor Brian Gross, who portrays Captain James T. Kirk in the series, along with Chambers. Doors open at 7 p.m., with the episode beginning at 7:30 p.m.

In "Mind-Sifter," a tortured Kirk is lost in the past and presumed killed, and while his shipmates struggle to come to terms with his death, newly promoted Captain Spock (Brandon Stacy) is faced with a resentful crew, an enemy threat, and haunting mental images of his suffering friend.

"’Mind-Sifter’ is a powerful tale about loss, loyalty and determination," Gross says. "The events in the story completely upend the lives of the Enterprise crew. That made the episode challenging and fun to do, and I’m looking forward to watching it on the big screen in Kalamazoo."

Those who attend the screening in costume will help raise money for early grade reading initiatives in the community. For every person in a Star Trek costume or other science fiction outfit, Rick Chambers & Associates will donate $10, up to a total of $500, to United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region to support local programs aimed at childhood literacy.

"Knowledge, entertainment and imagination all rely on our ability to read," Chambers says. "This is a great way to have fun at the screening while helping more kids read well at a young age."

Chambers, owner and president of public relations firm Rick Chambers & Associates LLC and author of the novel "Radiance," has long loved the Star Trek stories. He says his motivation to craft the screenplays "has been the chance to write in a universe that inspired me to be a writer at a young age. Star Trek offers an incredible space for storytelling. One of its strengths is how it tackles social issues in unique, thought-provoking ways. That's a great opportunity for any writer."

Produced by Cawley Entertainment Co. and Retro Film Studios LLC, Star Trek New Voyages presents new adventures of the starship Enterprise crew based on the original Star Trek TV series. Guest stars in past episodes including original series actors George Takei, Walter Koenig and Grace Lee Whitney.

"It's been a blessing to be involved, not just for the writing, but also for the many great relationships I've made with the people involved," Chambers says. "They come together each year, from all walks of life, out of their shared love for 'Star Trek.' It's amazing to experience that."

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


Aboard the bridge of the starship Enterprise in Star Trek New Voyages: Captain James T. Kirk (Brian Gross, seated), Mr. Spock (Brandon Stacy, left) and Dr. Leonard McCoy (Jeff Bond).

Captain James T. Kirk (Brian Gross) is interrogated by Klingon Commander Kor (Clay Sayre) in "Mind-Sifter," the latest episode from Star Trek New Voyages.

Captain James T. Kirk (Brian Gross), lost in the past with no memory and held in an asylum, is aided by Dr. Jan Hamlin (Rivkah Raven Wood) in "Mind-Sifter," the latest episode from Star Trek New Voyages.

Rick Chambers aboard the bridge of the starship Enterprise in Star Trek New Voyages.


Food company, ReConserve, to redevelop industrial space on Angell Street

ReConserve takes bakery, cereal grain, snack food and similar food byproducts and recycles it into livestock feed.

The company has operations in Battle Creek and Grand Rapids, and was considering pulling out of Michigan.

Instead, ReConserve now plans to repair and modify two 100-year-old processing buildings and an office building at 170 Angell Street in Battle Creek.

The property will be a Brownfield Redevelopment and will undergo more than $8 million in capital investment. The project will bring back into active use approximately 45,000 feet of industrial space and nearly 2 acres of green space. It was approved for redevelopment by the Michigan Strategic Fund Board.

Working closely with The Right Place in Grand Rapids, Battle Creek Unlimited, Battle Creek's economic development organization, says it was able to collaborate for the region and keep the company in West Michigan.

ReConserve will install processing equipment, grain bins and a rail spur that will go directly into a specially designed building to accommodate loading and unloading of rail cars utilizing the Grand Trunk Railroad. The company also will be eligible for reimbursement for environmental and specific non-environmental activities it undertakes to reactivate the former industrial site.

ReConserve, which had its beginnings in California, was the first to design, build and install bulk loading systems helping the company become the largest recycler of bakery and cereal grain by-products and a recognized specialist in food waste removal.
In addition to the redevelopment, the project will put tax dollars into the City of Battle Creek and into the school district. The project's taxable value is expected to be approximately $2.15 million within one year of project completion

“The project will result in the rehabilitation of a blighted and underutilized property near downtown, provide and create employment, and increase the taxable value of the property,” says Cheryl Beard, Battle Creek Brownfield Redevelopment Authority Administrator.   

Source: Battle Creek Unlimited

Coldwater Township to be new home for Clemens Food Group pork processing facility

A 550,000 square-foot pork processing facility will be located In Coldwater Township and $12.5 million in Community Block Grant funds is helping to make that possible.

A new Clemens Food Group pork processing operation is expected to bring 810 jobs to Michigan and create $255.7 million in capital investment in the Branch County community. "Being able to recruit a company with 800 is a game changer for us," says Lisa Miller, executive director of the Branch County Economic Growth Alliance. "It doesn't happen but once in a lifetime. Economic development is very difficult. To be able to land this project is a big win for us."

The $12.5 million in Community Development Block Grant funds for the City of Coldwater will go toward infrastructure improvements, land acquisition, workforce development and on-the-job training for the new development.

To make the project possible Coldwater and Coldwater Township agreed to a land transfer. The transfer will allow the City of Coldwater to contribute $4.5 million toward the project for infrastructure improvements at the site, including water and sewer main extensions and a new municipal electric overhead distribution line.

That support, along with the block grant approval, is part of an overall package of local and state support that will total $55 million. This also includes nearly $16 million in tax savings as a result of the recently approved personal property tax reform.

The Clemens family is a recognized leader in pork production. Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania-based Clemens Food Group is a sixth-generation, family-owned operation that includes farming, processing, transportation and logistics. The company has 2,200 employees. Doug Clemens, CEO, Clemens Food Group, says his company is "genuinely excited to be joining a great community of pork producers we've been working with over the past several years here in the state of Michigan."

Michigan is one of the nation's top pork producing states, ranking 13th in the country. There are 10,800 jobs related to the 2 to 2.5 million hogs marketed each year, says the Michigan State Extension office. With more than 2,600 producers in the state, the pork industry annually contributes more than $560 million dollars to the Michigan economy.

Pork exports previously accounted for a large portion of the economic impact in Michigan, generating an additional 700 jobs and $50 million of personal income for the producers. 

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) worked with a group of Michigan pork producers for approximately three years and spent $100,000 to conduct a feasibility assessment for a pork processing plant in the state. This feasibility assessment was essential in convincing the Clemens Food Group to locate in Michigan.

Clemens Food Group considered both Michigan and Ohio for a Midwest expansion of its pork processing operations.  

“This decision by the Clemens family only underscores that Michigan’s food and agriculture sector is ripe for innovative business opportunity, economic development, and new jobs. It’s a growing industry and we’re excited to have a pork processing plant back in the Great Lakes State," says Jamie Clover Adams, MDARD Director.

Says MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney, "Clemens Food Group’s decision to invest here demonstrates to other global companies Michigan’s standing as one of the great agriculture centers in the U.S. with a business climate that enables their success."

Sources: Clemens Food Group and MEDC

Studio 269 plans grand opening in Berrien Springs

It can be interesting how life moves full circle. Take Ashley Bowhuis and the location for her new hair salon, Studio 269.

The salon at 9187 U.S. 31, Suite C, in Berrien Springs is in the same building where Bowhuis worked for her first job, at Udders Ice Cream.

She's known the owners of the building for many years and when an opening became available the hair stylist with six years experience decided it was time to open her own salon.

"My mother works next door and she let me know that they were looking for someone to rent space in the building," Bowhuis says. She has been a licensed cosmetologist since 2008 and decided the time was right for her to launch her own hair salon.

Salon 269 has three chairs, two of which Bowhuis will ultimately rent to others. Right now she is building the business on her own. Studio 269 is a full-service hair salon that offers haircuts, hair coloring, perms, heat styling, facial waxing, and deep conditioning leave-in treatments.  

Bowhuis's salon uses Paul Mitchell products and she says she keeps up on the latest in hair styling through training his company offers to those who sell his shampoos, conditioners, and other products. She also visits shows for stylists that take place in Grand Rapids and Chicago.

As a new startup, Bowhuis turned to the Women’s Business Center (WBC) at Cornerstone Alliance for guidance. "There were so many issues and details to opening my own business, and they kept me on track to making sure everything got done--orchestrating the timing and moving ahead to the next step."

Customers already are noticing the special touches Bowhuis has put into creating a salon that makes people happy when they visit. The way she has decorated the salon and the manner in which people are greeted as the enter are all part of creating the welcoming atmosphere she wants for her customers.

Bowhuis will celebrate the salon's grand opening from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19.

Studio 269 is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and by appointment only on Saturday. For more information on Studio 269, call (269) 473.6100 or visit the salon's Facebook page.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Ashley Bowhuis, Studio 269

Turning paper into art work for the book 'Rose'

It  sounds like the agenda of an author researching the world of work: table busser at Food Dance, farmhand, dogsitter. But it's the real life work history of the past year of Jessica Aguilera as she moved from one job to another seeking one that fit after parting ways with her  employer of seven years.

At the age of 42, most of the jobs simply wore her out. Soon she was living off her savings, seeing it dwindle too quickly.

Aguilera was feeling so low, she says all she could do was cut paper. What happened then is what some will call the magic of not knowing what to do next.

Acting on the advice of someone she laughingly calls her "spiritual advisor" she put together the collage artwork she was creating and a children's story she had written years ago. "She said you need to dig out that book and get some income coming in," Aguilera says.

Writing, illustrating, and publishing a children's book is a dream Aguilera had on her bucket list for a long time. Now, was the time to do it.

With paper and a set of "tools" for cutting and shaping tiny pieces, Aguilera created "Rose." It's the story of a young girl who expresses her individuality through her unique style of clothing. It also demonstrates how art can be created using the most accessible and affordable of materials -- paper, scissors, and glue.

She spent about 200 hours cutting and gluing all the tiny pieces. When she had the artwork finished she turned to Sonya Bernard-Hollins and Sean Hollins of Season Press to publish the book. They took pictures of the original artwork, making minor adjustments as needed in Photoshop. The result retains the three-dimensional feel of the original, Aguilera says.

Today, the book sells on Amazon and is published by CreateSpace, the online retailer's print-on-demand service. (Just in time for Christmas.)

One look at Aguilera's Facebook page shows readers are loving it. Aguilera is overwhelmed by the positive reaction to the book and the people of Kalamazoo who are supporting her in her new endeavor. "They won't let me fail," Aguilera says.

Not only is the book taking off but those who like the artwork she is creating have asked her to make their likenesses out of paper, too, for custom-made Christmas cards.

Even though as a society we have been trying to get away from paper, so far, we have not been able to do it. That's been good for Aguilera. People have been giving her paper they don't want or can't use. One friend has donated blueprints, which she says are beautiful to work with. When her former employer was getting rid of dictionaries she took seven. The fonts of the type on dictionary pages are perfect for her work. She also is fond of cereal boxes, which she says pop off the page once she has added color.

These kinds of resources have been coming to her on a regular basis. For example, when she ran out of black markers and was wondering what to do, a package from her mother arrived with colored pencils.

Ideas for new books are already coming, too.

"The community has really rallied around me," Aguilera says. "I had an idea of how people are in the world. The book has changed my mind about everyone."

Aguilera has found a job that fits. 

There will be a book signing for "Rose" from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21 at Handmade Kalamazoo, 121 W. South Street, in downtown Kalamazoo. A limited number of copies of the book will be available for signing. Aguilera says she is grateful for the opportunity for this first book signing as Handmade Kalamazoo gives 100 percent of the proceeds from sales to the artist, rather than taking a percentage.

• The book also can be purchased on Amazon, here.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Jessica Aguilera, author "Rose"

Habitat for Humanity milestone:195th home in Kalamazoo

A family of a longtime resident of Kalamazoo's East Side neighborhood donated a house to Habitat for Humanity and now the 1,000 square foot house is the new home of a Habitat home buyer.

At a recent dedication ceremony the public was invited to see the many energy efficient features built into the home at 1819 Elder as it was rehabbed. High school students enrolled in the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency’s Education for Employment Construction Trades program renovated this house under the direction of Habitat staff.

Through the program EFE students learn many aspects of the construction trade, including site preparation and layout, carpentry, electrical, masonry, plumbing, heating, plastering, painting and other skills.

Habitat for Humanity volunteers also helped with the project.

The new home is so energy efficient that it doesn't have a traditional furnace. By using the latest in energy saving materials and methods, such as spray foam insulation, thicker framed walls, and air-sealing, the home requires less than half of the heat that would be provided by the smallest gas furnace on the market today. Instead, the home is heated and cooled by two "mini-split" heat pump units.

Some other special features include:
  • handcrafted cabinets made by Jackson State Prison volunteers through the Prison Build Program;
  • partnership between the Michigan State Department of Corrections and Habitat for Humanity of Michigan;
  • board insulation donated by Dow Chemical;
  • paint donated by Valspar;
  • a range and refrigerator donated by Whirlpool;
  • breakers and service panel donated by U.S. Schneider Electric, and;
  • mini-blinds for the bedrooms and baths from Hunter Douglas.
The homeowners are the 195th to participate in the Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity program.

A qualified Habitat home buyer who has contributed more than 300 volunteer hours or “sweat equity” to help build this home and the homes of fellow Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity home buyers purchased the home.

The home buyer also completed more than 30 hours of MSHDA-approved financial literacy and personal financial management classes at Kalamazoo Neighborhood Housing Services and more than 27 hours of homeowner maintenance training provided by Habitat in partnership with Community Homeworks.

Source: Habitat for Humanity

Second Wave takes a break for the holidays

Here's a holiday greeting from our desk to yours. As we do each year, Southwest Michigan's Second Wave staff it taking a break to go outside, breathe in the fresh cold air, and breathe out the old year. We also plan to get a little shopping in before Christmas. 

So far those in charge of the weather have not gotten the memo that holiday season is when we want snow. Yahoo weather says there is a 60 percent chance of snow Dec. 25. When it gets here we're ready to get out there an enjoy it. 

As we do each year, Southwest Michigan's Second Wave staff is taking a break over the holidays. We will not publish Dec. 25 or Jan. 1. 

We will be back Jan. 8 with new stories and pictures.

Till then, stay warm!

Southwest Michigan's Second Wave team

Wetlands, woods, and lakes now protected in Delton

For the past 70 years the Smith family in Barry County has been purchasing property, putting together more than 300 acres. They wanted to see the property's wetlands, lakes and woodland protected.

Now that land will stay in its natural state as the family hoped. The Smith family has entered into a conservation easement with the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy funded by the a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Nonpoint Source Program matching grant. The program is designed to conserve highly ranked properties for water quality protection such as that in the Augusta Creek Watershed. 

"Conserving this property has been the goal of our family for several years and fulfills my long-time dream," says Karl Smith. His parents left the property to him and his late brother, Roger.

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy has been working with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Four Townships Water Resource Council for the past two years to conserve this and other land in the area. The land will be known as The Smith Nature Trust Conservation Easement.

"The Smith property has been one of the highest priorities for both its size and diversity of wetlands, water bodies, and habitats important for wildlife, including migratory and nesting waterfowl," says Emily Wilke, SMLC Conservation Projects Manager.

Karl Smith says he has fond memories of the times spent with friends and family at the reunions they host on the shores of Little Gilkey Lake.

"This summer, there was a family reunion with family members coming from all over the country," says Smith. "They all told us how grateful they are that we are preserving this property."

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy serves the nine counties of Southwest Michigan, and has protected almost 13,000 acres since it was formed as an all-volunteer organization in 1991. It now has has eight staff and 150 active volunteers and is supported by over 1,200 household memberships.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

A sandhill crane’s-eye view of the Smith property provides views of Little Gilkey Lake stretching north to Shallow Gilkey Lake, now permanently protected with a conservation easement. Photo by Nate Fuller.

Lynn Steil monitors the Smith property by kayak. Photo by Emily E. Wilke.

At Arclight Brewing Co. there's more than beer to drink

With every new brewery opening, small business owners are banking their careers and their crafts on the idea that there are lot of folks out there seeking a well-made pint of beer.

Edward Nash has seen first hand the thirst many Southwest Michigan residents have for craft brew, but he also knows there are plenty of people out there who aren't as passionate about IPA, Porter and other craft beer styles. He wanted them to have something to be excited about too.

That's why in July of 2014 when Arclight Brewing Company first opened its doors at 544 N. Main Street in Watervliet, the burgeoning craft brewery made sure to have a large selection of craft made beverages for customers seeking something other than a traditional brewery experience.

For Nash, however, that didn't mean simply opening a couple bottles of table wine or offering a few bottled pops.

Instead, Arclight has an entire menu dedicated to its own take on Shandy, house made sodas, and even Kombucha, a slightly bubbly fermented drink of sweetened black or green tea. Arclight makes it primarily with black tea.

"It was always part of the concept," Nash says. "I love root beer-- gourmet root beers, not commercial root beers. I wanted to do one with honey, molasses, Mexican vanilla, and sugar, and our orange soda is made with actual orange juice."

Those are two in a list of five craft sodas, all of which are also used to make Arclight shandys, typically a 50/50 split of lemonade and wheat beer.

Arclight, however, goes a non-traditional route, mixing its Ventura Blonde Ale with house made soda, creating unique and often adventurous flavor combinations, even as it stays true to the craft beer ethos of fresh, often locally procured ingredients.

"We wanted to produce sodas that were as close to natural as possible," Nash says. "Ours are sweetened with honey, Michigan beat sugar and cane sugar."

Despite the reputation that shandy is a seasonal summer drink, Nash says his version is selling well, even as as snow becomes more prevalent than sunshine.

Soda's are usually produced every two weeks. The brewery goes through nearly 30 gallons of both root beer and orange soda each month.

Nash's homemade Kombucha, which clocks in at barely .5 percent ABV has also been a hit for those seeking a change of pace from beer.

Of course, like any brewery, beer is still the main draw--and Arclight has plenty to offer.

Arclight offers at least eight beers on tap at any given time, including a few rotating seasonal choices. Nash recently added Santa's Sleigh'r, a Belgian-style double apple ale; snicker doodle porter; and a coffee stout brewed with fresh Paramount coffee.

Nash finds that his beer pairs well with fresh roasted nuts and cupcakes, both of which are offered as the only two menu selections in the tasting room. The cupcakes are made by Shana Rogers of Ibby Cakes

"We have locally made cupcakes that are delivered every Friday. We try to pair them with some beers we have on tap. They've even used our oatmeal stout to make some of the cupcakes," Nash says. "We don't serve (full meals), but people are allowed to bring in food. We have menus from local restaurants that will deliver."

And if you're already counting the days until winter ends, the sun returns, and you can sip shandy in a lawn chair, you are indeed in luck. Arclight is currently working on plans to open a beer garden and games area behind the main brew-house, which should be open to the public by late spring.

Writer: Jeremy Martin, Second Wave Media
Source: Edward Nash, Arclight Brewery

Quenching the rural thirst at Millgrove Brewing Company

Chris LaPonsie laughs when he remembers that first batch of homebrew. "It was the coldest day ever, and it was the worst beer ever."

Duane LaPonsie, his father, smiles and shrugs. He wasn’t fazed. "Let’s try making our own," he suggested, and the two never looked back. That was nearly six years ago.

Father and son are now co-owners of Millgrove Brewing Company at 633 Hooker Road in Allegan, at the center of a small strip mall, with a capacity of 66 thirsty souls. The microbrewery is Allegan’s first and only brewery within a 15-mile radius. They are already eyeing the space next door for an expansion.

"The City of Allegan didn’t even have any ordinances in place when we applied for a license," says the elder LaPonsie. "They were very supportive of our opening."

The grand opening was July 4, 2014, with the brewery open only two days a week, but business was so brisk that the LaPonsies have already expanded hours to five days a week: Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 9 p.m.; Friday 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Realizing that the kits to make homemade brews were not giving them the results they wanted that cold day years ago, the home brewers began grinding their own grains. "The kit has all that done already, but that means the sugars have been extracted. Once we started doing our own, the beer got really good."

"We had a lot of friends coming over to give it a try," Duane LaPonsie says with a grin.

"We get most of our hops now from Schoolcraft, and we are experimenting with Michigan-based malt and grains," says Chris LaPonsie.

Millgrove Brewing Company, named for the nearby village of Millgrove the LaPonsie family calls home, serves five craft beers on tap, four of which are mainstays with one or two seasonal or experimental beers, called one-offs.

Wayfarer, a cream ale, is their first and most popular brew. Allegan Stout is an oatmeal stout with roasted barley added for a coffee flavor. RoboPorter is a robust porter with hints of chocolate, and the Imposter IPA is a dry, west-coast style IPA with a simple malt to showcase the hops. Pints are priced at $4, a 5-ounce pour at $2 or $3, but flights featuring samples of all four beers run $8 to $9. Panini, quesadillas and sandwiches will be added to the menu in December, but customers are invited to bring along their own take-out meals.

Adding to the draw is live music on Saturday evenings, often featuring the local Irish folk band, Tarpaper Sessions. Local musicians interested in playing at Millgrove Brewing should contact Chris at 269.355.1915.

Writer: Zinta Aistars, Second Wave Media
Sources: Chris LaPonsie, Duane LaPonsie, Millgrove Brewing Company

TODA expands warehouse, production space in Battle Creek

TODA America has outgrown the space it built four years ago in the Fort Custer Industrial Park. Now it is expanding on the east and west ends of the building.

TODA will add 14,000 square feet in warehouse and production space at 4750 W. Dickman Road. The expansion is slated to be finished by the spring 2015. By the end of 2015 the company expects to be at full production, producing approximately 4,000 tons per year of high quality cathode materials.

The company expects to add full-time employees once the addition is complete.

The company manufactures lithium-ion cathode material, used in power tools, computers, wind power projects, energy storage systems, though it is primarily known for its use in cars.

“We do not make the actual battery--our facility produces the material that goes into the positive end of the battery,” says plant manager Jose Garrido.

“Our product is custom made for our customers” says senior engineering manager Yoshi Narabayashi. “Because their needs are sophisticated, the timeline from product development to delivery is much longer than the traditional manufacturing processes.”  

TODA has worked with its customers to identify the direction the company needs to go.  “Our product portfolio is 40 percent automotive, 60 percent energy storage systems  including windmills, telecommunications and solar panels,” Narabayashi says.

Battle Creek Unlimited marketing director Doug Voshell has worked with TODA America since the Japanese company first began its search for their investment in the United States in 2009. He says TODA has found a pool of qualified candidates working with MiWORKS and will take advantage of the Skilled Trades Training Fund which will include training at Kellogg Community College’s Regional Manufacturing Technology Center to will provide ongoing professional development for TODA employees.

TODA is not the only business that is growing in the Fort Custer Industrial Park. Battle Creek Unlimited, the economic development organization serving the Battle Creek area reports another 45 companies have expanded in the Fort Custer Industrial Park since 2009, including five new companies with total investment approaching $400 million.

Source: Doug Voshell, Battle Creek Unlimited

Healthcare organization chooses central location in downtown Battle Creek

Community HealthCare Connections and Nursing Clinic of Battle Creek has a new home in downtown Battle Creek at 62 East Michigan.

The healthcare organization that helps those who might otherwise go without such services, purchased the building and will occupy the roughly 13,000-square-foot building located near Division Street.

A capital campaign and private investment provided the funds to purchase the newly renovated building.

Community HealthCare Connections has existed as an organization since 2009, when it was formed from the merger of the Nursing Clinic of Battle Creek and the Calhoun Health Plan. The organization employs a staff of 19. It provides a prescription drug access program, a volunteer dental services program, assistance in understanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and a health assistance fund. Dental and other physician services are available.

"After 26 years in operation, the Nursing Clinic of Battle Creek finally has its own home – a remarkable place where volunteers take care of those in need," says Samantha Pearl, executive director for Community HealthCare Connection.  

Previously the organizations served clients from the Toeller Building and an adjacent building. "Our new location also makes us more visible and more easily accessible to those who are working but still without affordable health access--a population that might not know there’s help available for them," Pearl says.

"Our new location distinguishes us as a nonprofit organization – a place where the work of hundreds of volunteers is coordinated to make health services available to people who would otherwise go without,"  says Samantha Pearl, executive director for Community HealthCare Connection. "

Rob Peterson, Battle Creek Unlimited’s Downtown Development Director, says: "We’re glad Community Healthcare Connections understands the value of locating downtown: Its central location, the amenities available for employees, and the ability to become more ingrained in the fabric of Battle Creek. They’ve picked a beautiful building that we hope will serve them well for years to come."

Source: Battle Creek Unlimited

Prairie fens to be purchased to help save butterfly and rattlesnake

As the canary warned coal miners that poisonous gas was reaching dangerous levels, the Mitchell's satyr butterfly warns about the quality of drinking water today.

Now, the Mitchell’s satyr butterfly is on the brink of extinction, but measures are being taken to bring it back with a $180,000 matching grant to purchase critical habitat.

SWMLC, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, will buy three parcels of land at two sites- the Coldwater Fen Complex in Branch County and the Spring Brook Fen Complex in Kalamazoo County--together totalling 60 acres that have suitable fen habitat for the Mitchell’s satyr butterfly.

The Coldwater Fen Complex is home to the world's second largest population of Mitchell’s satyr butterflies. SWMLC will also purchase a parcel within the Spring Brook Fen Complex, which historically supported Mitchell’s satyr butterflies and currently supports Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes.

The habitats the endangered Mitchell’s satyr and the threatened Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake thrive in--prairie fens--are at risk. A prairie fen is an alkaline, spring-fed wetland. This unusual type of wetland is fast disappearing.

There are less than 15 Mitchell’s satyr sites left in the world, and Michigan is the only state left were Massasaugas are regularly found, since they’ve been almost eradicated from the Midwest.

Prairie fens host one of the greatest variety of plants and animals of any habitat, so protecting them is critical for species beyond the Mitchell’s satyr and the  Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake.

"These habitats have a disproportionate amount of plant and animal diversity for their size," says Nate Fuller, SWMLC conservation and stewardship director. "For every Mitchell’s satyr, I’ll see 30 Baltimore checkerspots and dozens of other butterflies. I’m finding rare turtles, salamanders, warblers, thrushes, orchids, wildflowers, and all sorts of extraordinary things."

SWMLC and the MDNR are members of the Mitchell’s Satyr Working Group, which has created a recovery plan to save Mitchell’s satyrs from extinction.

The goal of the recovery plan is to build populations to a level where the satyrs can eventually be removed from the endangered species list. But simply saving the places where they exist isn’t enough, SWMLC officials say.

"We need to find new places for them to live," says Fuller. "This matching grant will enable SWMLC to triple the size of our current preserve by buying contiguous satyr habitat, allowing us to manage the second largest population in the world. We are working with partners in the hope that this site can act as a source population for future introductions to new sites."

Fuller says, "Reintroduction efforts are just beginning, and we have a lot to learn. But I’m more optimistic about the Mitchell’s satyr recovery than I’ve been in a long time."

Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy
1149 Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts