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Perrigo hires associate director of corporate accounting

Barret Bloenk is the new Associate Director of Corporate Accounty for Perrigo, Co.

Barret will assist with financial reporting, internal controls and financial regulatory matters.

He will also will work on special projects related to accounting changes and policy implementations, business combinations and integrations.

Barret has 15 years of public accounting experience as a senior manager in the financial advisory practice of a national accounting firm.

Most recently, Barret consulted on mergers and acquisitions and led due diligence engagements on behalf of strategic acquirers and private equity groups.

Barret earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting from Western Michigan University. He is from Bay City and now lives in Holland. 

Source: Perrigo Co.

Wightman & Associates, Inc. adds five new team members

The civil engineering, architectural, and survey firm that serves Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana, Wightman & Associates, Inc., has added five professionals to its team.

James Baker of Augusta, Michigan has joined the Portage office as a project engineer and storm water, asset management, and wastewater grant manager. He earned a bachelor of science degree in Civil Engineering with a minor in mathematics from Western Michigan University. Baker is a veteran of the Marine Corps and also has 12 years of direct municipal experience working in water resources, most recently with the City of Kalamazoo.  

Ron Brady of St. Joseph, has joined the Benton Harbor office as an architecture technician. He has more than 24 years of experience in drafting and architecture. Brady's background is in fire protection sprinkler design and pre-manufactured homes. He earned an associates degree in architecture from Ivy Tech Community College.

James Derks, of Kalamazoo, has joined the Benton Harbor office as a licensed architect. He earned degrees in both a master of architecture and bachelor of science from the University of Michigan.  He has more than 25 years of programming, design and management experience, and an extensive background in educational and recreational facility design projects.

Denise Duffel of Berrien Springs has joined the Benton Harbor office as IT administrative support. She comes to the role with eight years of experience. She earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration and computer science from Indiana University, and an associate’s degree in business administration and computer science from Lake Michigan College.

Source: Wightman & Associates, Inc.
 
 

MI Makers Box: The Secret's Out

A love of what's being made in Southwest Michigan brought together a group of people who want others to know what's happening here.

Their idea for getting out the word grew from the realization that though there was a lot of support for purchasing locally made goods here, there was little opportunity for local makers to be discovered or to have their story told.

So the team put together MI Makers BoxFor an annual rate of $129.99, subscribers get four boxes shipped and delivered to their doorsteps each quarter. Each box is full of four or five products made regionally. The story of the person who made the product also is included.

"By sharing these boxes with the world, MI Makers seeks to passionately support the dreamers, the believers and the entrepreneurs who spend countless hours making high quality products right here in the southwest corner of the mitten state," says Cynthia Hernandez, managing director of operations and curator of the project.

MI Makers Box is launching at a time when handcrafted goods are making a resurgence in the United States. The work has even spawned its own form of political activism--known and Craftivism. The name refers to the idea of making your own goods as a statement against the bland sameness of mass-produced goods.

For the MI Makers team, however, the project is simply fueled by what they call an awareness of how much people from Michigan love what's made here. "I love how Michigan loves all-things Michigan," Hernandez says. "This is especially true in our Southwest Michigan community."

MI Makers collaborates with local makers to handpick the products, tell their stories, and market and sell each box. Before each box’s products and makers are revealed to the public, contents are kept secret until the boxes' recipients have the chance to open up their surprises and take the exclusive first peek.

The first boxes hit local doorsteps in March and they sold out. Inside there were goods from Lush Gourmet Foods, Pop City Popcorn, Confections with Convictions, Damn Handsome Grooming Co., Kalamazoo Candle Company and Van Buren Intermediate School District’s Paper Production Program.

"The response for the inaugural box from local and national subscribers has been great," Hernandez says. "Makers are already beginning to see new fans and even corporate sponsorships."

MI Makers works with C2 Brands, a not-for-profit, benevolent organization established to help grow communities through a variety of brands, programs and resources. Headquarters for MI Makers and C2 Brands are in Kalamazoo, though the team's focus is on the entire surrounding region across Southwest Michigan.

T
he MI Makers Box project, Hernandez says, is about "lifting up the small business community, sharing best practices, and making new connections."

And the project is not about those creating the boxes, but those who create what goes in the boxes and how together they can help Southwest Michigan thrive. 

Source: Cynthia Hernandez, MI Makers Box

The gears that must mesh to create a community where innovation thrives

Culture, institutions, community members, and capital all play a part in whether or not a community fosters business startups. And they all could be represented as gears that work together and form an integral part of such communities. 

Ten Western Michigan University students traveled to Boulder, Colo.; Austin, Texas; Chicago, Detroit and Grand Rapids to learn about each of those communities as part of the Understanding Startup Communities Course offered through the Lee’s Honor College. They also went to Cassopolis to learn about Michigan companies to watch. 

They came back to Kalamazoo and presented to community members at a meeting at Starting Gate their thoughts on how the gears mesh and put forward an idea for an business incubator like those they saw on their travels. 

John Mueller, assistant professor of management at Western Michigan University, who teaches entrepreneurship, led the students in the cross-country visit as they explored the factors that drive a vibrant startup community.

Students reported that as they visited different communities they came to understand how important culture was in each of the communities they visited, though they initially did not recognize it as a vital part of the equation.

They found communities where risk taking was expected and accepted. 

The students also came to realize that business incubators and co-working spaces came with a social aspect, in that entrepreneurs could find others with whom they could collaborate and commiserate. Social events also were important for providing places people and ideas could “collide,” the students said.

In Boulder, meetings took place not only in the office, but out in nature. Boulder Open Coffee Club happens in the Boomtown Accelerator where members talk with one another.

They learned about Techstars, and how it empowers entrepreneurs to bring new technologies to market through mentorship and seed funding.

The startup investigation trip was timed over spring break so that students could experience a taste of South by Southwest in Austin. As the students said: “There were great opportunities for socialization and collaboration in the city of Austin. Although, we could be biased because we witnessed South by Southwest.”

Both communities share a quality of life that the WMU students described as an almost magical quality--a “stay factor.” They explained that in both Boulder and Austin they heard that students came to attend university and never left.

For Boulder, the mountains and outdoor activities in a city where there is 330 days of sunshine each year is a big draw. The city is clean and there are many opportunities to eat healthy food. Dogs are welcome everywhere and marijuana is legal. With a population of 100,000 the community is tight-knit, so businesses that might compete in other communities collaborate in Boulder.

In Austin, live music, good food and art all create an attractive culture for innovators. The people are friendly and sincere and the city is a haven for Texans who don’t fit in other parts of the state. Students said they were told the city is a speck of blue in a sea of red that is Texas. Though, the two political parties do cooperate in Austin.

When it came to diversity, the students found more in Austin than in Boulder, though they admitted the festival may have skewed that. They also found that beyond demographic diversity it is important to have a diversity of mindsets (which can be hard to achieve without demographic diversity). 

They also tried to determine whether it is possible for economic growth created by startups to take place without shoving out certain members of the community through gentrification. Those they talked to said they believed it was possible, but had not yet determined how it could be done.

The students looked at institutions such as universities and local governments and their roles in encouraging entrepreneurship. They also identified the role of large corporations: They start a culture of technology and provide the community with economic stability and a base for employment.

Community members also play a huge role, especially billionaires. Especially in Austin, these members of the community were described as approachable and willing to share their expertise and funds.

Both Austin and Boulder are also filled with entrepreneurs and lifestyle businesses (those that allow their founders to maintain a certain income level and particular lifestyle). They found food trucks in Austin and came to appreciate those trucks in Kalamazoo.

The students learned that 80 percent of the capital invested in Boulder comes from outside the city. They found out about investors who only put money into businesses they know about and which they feel passionate about. Investors care about where hey are putting their money and they want it to help entrepreneurs and the community.

“People making connections opened up capital,” said Elyse Hogan, one of the 10 students in the course.

Innovation is flourishing in Detroit because of the influx of people who want to make a difference there. 

In Grand Rapids they learned of the changes taking place in Start Garden.

Inspired by their visit to Boulder, students envisioned a co-working space for Kalamazoo. It would have a downtown location, open workspace, lounges, a kitchen, ping pong tables, conference rooms and lockers. Mentors with office hours, workshops and classes all could help entrepreneurs succeed. 

They even had a name for the building--Dash. In a local cemetery they were shown head stones with dates that represent beginnings and endings, but learned what matters most is the dash between those years, as it represents how one spends his or her life.

As students rolled out their co-working space idea, several members of the audience spoke up saying that they are at work on similar plans. They also said that people may be looking for different kinds of spaces and it is likely there will be room for different kinds of incubators, accelerators, and co-working spaces.

Students said it would be helpful for them to work with those who are already at work on such a project and as the meeting broke up connections were being made for further collaborations.

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

Editor’s note: Thanks to the students of HNRS 2900 for sharing their Framework of Startup Communities used as reference in this story. Students who participated in the class were: Ethan Archer, Eric Carlo, Simbarashe Chirara, Elyse Hogan, Alexi Lenderman, Josie Marshall, Kailin Marshall, Mackenzie McGuckin, Jill Pickett, and Adam Roth. 

Skillman Corp. hires project engineer

Nate Preston has joined the Skillman Corp's Kalamazoo office as a project engineer.

He has most recently worked for Turner Construction Co. and Birchwood Construction Co.

The Michigan native says he is happy to be back after years of working in Arizona and California.

Preston is a graduate of Ferris State University in Big Rapids and has a Master of Science Design-Build from Auburn University in Alabama.

Skillman Corp. provides project administration and construction management services including construction management, design/build, facility studies, owner technical representative, project administration, and more.

Source: Skillman Corp.

United Federal Credit Union promotes two

United Federal Credit Union has moved two of its employees.

Carly McNeilus has been named Director of eCommerce Sales and Marketing and  Nithida Somsanith has been appointed to the position of Products Marketing Manager at United Federal Credit Union in St. Joseph.

McNeilus will lead the staff as it revamps ways members interact with the credit union digitally. She will lead them as they prioritizes, design, and develop new digital connections. She also will direct changes in existing interactions.

She will oversee selection, quality assurance, and implementation of new technology solutions and will be responsible for growing sales and improving service levels for web- and mobile channel-derived business and transactions.

McNeilus was previously eCommerce Technology Manager in the UFCU Information Technology Department. There she was responsible for day-to-day operations of digital electronic channels including web; mobile; apps, and other integrated systems, and directing the implementation of technology solutions to help enable the credit union's strategic goals.  

McNeilus’ previous experience includes marketing and consumer relations positions in Southwest Michigan and Northwest Indiana.

A Southwest Michigan native, McNeilus earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Arts and Sciences from Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.  She lives with her family in Niles.

Somsanith will lead the pricing, promotion and life cycle management of UFCU products. Somsanith was previously a Business Products Specialist with UFCU. She designed, developed, implemented, and managed business products and services to meet the long-range strategic objectives and financial targets of the credit union.

Somsanith’s previous experience includes management, consulting, marketing and business development positions with The Pure Pantry, Kiran Analytics, Charter One Bank and Chase.

A St. Joseph native, Somsanith  earned a bachelor of arts degree in Organizational Studies from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and a Masters of Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing from the University of California at San Diego. She lives in St. Joseph.

United Federal Credit Union has more than 130,000 members worldwide, and manages assets in excess of $1.83 billion. Its corporate offices and main branch are located in St. Joseph and it has other branches in Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, and Ohio.

Source: 
United Federal Credit Union

Four new team members join Wightman & Associates

The team of service providers at Wightman & Associates has grown by four. A new CADD drafter, an engineer, and two engineer's in training are now working for the civil engineering, architectural, and survey firm.

Joining the survey department as a CADD drafter in the Benton Harbor office is Shawn Howell, of South Bend, Ind. He earned an associate degree in Industrial Technology from Lake Michigan College and brings 15 years of drafting and design experience to the company.

Anna Keehn of Gobles has joined the Benton Harbor office as an engineer in training. She is a graduate of Western Michigan University where she earned a bachelor of science degree in Civil Engineering with a minor in Mathematics. She has background in water system infrastructure and road design.

Veronica Maslanka of Fennville has also joined the Benton Harbor office as an engineer in training. She earned a bachelor of science degree in Civil Engineering with a minor in Mathematics from WMU and an associate in science degree from Lake Michigan College. She has background in road design and transportation planning.

The engineering team in the Portage office has expanded to include Paul Schram of Portage. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from Western Michigan University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Architecture from the University of Michigan. He brings to his new role five years of design experience.  His engineering school focus was in structural and traffic design.

Wightman & Associates, Inc. is a civil engineering, architectural, and survey firm that has been serving Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana since 1946 with offices in Benton Harbor, Portage, and Allegan.

Source: Jamie Balkin, Wightman & Associates, Inc.

 

Ice bucket results: Bronson uses new technology to treat ALS patients

Remember when everyone from celebrities to your next door neighbor was dumping ice buckets over their heads to support the ALS Association?

Those who were part of the ice bucket challenge helped make possible a new system that connects specialists at Bronson Methodist Hospital and ALS patients in remote and underserved communities in northern Michigan.

The ALS Association Michigan Chapter and the Daniel and Pamella DeVos Family Foundation also made possible the use of the JEMS Technology Telehealth System.

Medical professionals can send live streaming video to a specialty physician via an iPhone, iPad or Android-based phone or tablet using the JEMS Telehealth System. The specialist will be able to review the video on their smart device in real time and respond with medical advice.

Kevin Lasser, president of JEMS Technology, based in Orion, Mich., says the system is "the conduit that enables physicians and specialists to deliver expert care in a way that's convenient for patients and their caregivers."

Dustin Nowacek, MD, Bronson Methodist Hospital's medical director for neuromuscular services and neurodiagnostics, explains the impact of the technology: "Telemedicine will give ALS patients in northern Michigan -- and several other rural areas across the country -- access to the multidisciplinary clinic approach to ALS care, which in itself has been shown to improve ALS care."

ALS patients and their caregivers have to travel to several specialists to receive all of the care that is required to combat the full-body, degenerative nature of the disease, says  Paula Morning,  executive director of the ALS Association Michigan Chapter.

"Telemedicine allows the ALS patient a unique opportunity to become educated about their disease and receive uncompromised care through face-to-face interaction with experts across all domains of care," says Morning. "Recent donations to the ALS Association made it possible for Bronson to use the JEMS Telehealth System; those who participated in the ice bucket challenge this summer made this patient care possible."

Source: JEMS Technology

Angela Crawford is new retail training coach for KCFCU

Angie Crawford has been hired as the new retail training coach for Kellogg Community Federal Credit Union (KCFCU).

Crawford has more than 10 years experience in training and development in the communications industry.  At KCFCU she will train staff to find innovative ways to provide service to credit union members.

“I believe that serving our members is about the experience,” says Crawford. “How we do what we do for our members is what matters. I want our members to have an exceptional service experience at KCFCU, at every touch point, every time.”

Kellogg Community Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Battle Creek, Michigan is a full service financial institution serving people Southwest Michigan. With more than $436 million in assets, KCFCU serves more than 36,000 members and has 10 branches in Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Portage, and Galesburg.

Source: ?Kellogg Community Federal Credit Union

CSM Group hires three new employees

CSM Group recently welcomed these new employees: Jacob Boyd, project engineer; Maloree Brugel, project engineer; and Chris Watts, project manager.

Boyd comes to CSM Group with a Bachelor of Science in Architecture and Construction Management from Lawrence Technological University, and previously worked for CSM as an intern on the Gift of Life project in Ann Arbor. As a project engineer, he will continue to provide management support on this project and will receive, review, and distribute submittals, shop drawings, and keep accurate and updated construction documents.

Brugel, who has a Bachelor of Science in Construction Management from Ferris State University, will be working in CSM’s Healthcare market segment. She will work on the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Health Focused Campus in downtown Kalamazoo, where she will provide assistance and support to the project managers and project coordinators.

Watts comes to CSM with 12 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, and will assist in supporting and strengthening CSM’s Advanced Technologies market segment. Recently, he worked as a project/manufacturing engineer at JB Laboratories/Perrigo Company in Holland.

Source: Sarah Lettow, CMS
 

Armune BioScience closes on $2.5 million round of financing

Armune BioScience, Inc. has completed its first round of financing, bringing in $2.5 million.

Financing will go toward the launch of the new test for prostate cancer developed by the company. Apifiny is a non-PSA blood test to aid in the early detection of prostate cancer.

Outgoing President and CEO Eli L. Thomssen says the test is already getting attention from urologists and the company is pleased with the financial support it has received.

Thomssen will now become the Chief Business Officer for the company. In his new role, he will focus on key business development initiatives and raising additional funding to support Armune BioScience.

The company says Thomssen will work to speed up progress on key milestones with existing tech partners and continue to work with strategic partners to support the company’s long-term growth. Thomssen has more than 40 years of business development experience in the life sciences field.

Stepping into the President and CEO spot for the company is David A. Esposito. He joined the Armune BioScience in June 2014 to create a  commercial strategy for Apifiny and expand the company’s sales and marketing efforts.

Board Chairman Donald R. Parfet says, “We are excited to have David assume the CEO role at the Company. His extensive experience in the industry will serve our commercialization efforts very well.”

Armune BioScience, Inc., was founded by the Apjohn Group, LLC, a business accelerator built by experienced health-care executives that brings together management talent and angel and seed financing, and a group of experienced life science professionals. Armune, incorporated as a Delaware Corporation, has its corporate headquarters in Kalamazoo, and a research and commercial laboratory facility in Ann Arbor. It is a medical diagnostics company formed to develop and commercialize unique proprietary technology exclusively licensed from the University of Michigan for diagnostic and prognostic tests for prostate, lung and breast cancers.

Source: Armune BioScience, Inc.

 

TowerPinkster adds employee and promotes another

TowerPinkster, a local architecture and engineering firm has announced a new hire, the promotion of an employee and a Revit architectural certification.

Kelsey Pitschel has recently been hired to support TowerPinkster’s continued growth in West Michigan.

Pitschel has joined TowerPinkster’s mechanical engineering team as an intern. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree at Western Michigan University.

Bjorn Green has been appointed senior principal of the firm and has been with TowerPinkster for eight years. He was also recently nominated to serve on TowerPinkster’s board of directors. Green provides an expertise in master planning and also leads TowerPinkster’s business development efforts. He is an Associate of the American Institute of Architects.

Jennifer Swan, a project coordinator at TowerPinkster for 15 years, has completed the Autodesk Certification Program and became a Certified Revit Professional; a certification proving proficiency with the architect industry’s most widely used software programs. Swan is also certified by the American Association of Independent Architects.

TowerPinkster has offices in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. Recent work includes projects for Spectrum Health, Western Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Kalamazoo Public Schools, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kent County, Kalamazoo County and the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

Source: TowerPinkster

Yeo & Yeo names David T. Jewell as principal

David T. Jewell, CPA, has been promoted to the position of principal at Yeo & Yeo.

Jewell has more than 12 years of tax, accounting and business consulting experience. He started with the firm in 2008.

He co-leads of the firm’s Tax Services Group and is a member of Yeo & Yeo’s Health Care Reform, State and Local Tax, and Agribusiness teams.

Jewell’s areas of expertise include federal taxation of businesses, individual tax planning and preparation, small business start-ups and business succession planning. He presents tax seminars and writes tax articles for publication.

He is based in the firm’s Kalamazoo office.

Source: Yeo & Yeo CPAs & Business Consultants

Perrigo hires Kelley Brassard

Kelley Brassard has been hired as Store Brand Marketing Manager for Perrigo in Allegan.

She will be responsible for managing diabetes products, especially meter and strip products.

Brassard has nine years of experience with diabetes care products. Much of her experience came while working as a national account manager for global health care drug and product manufacturers.   

Brassard earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Western Michigan University.  She is from Mattawan and currently lives in Paw Paw.

Source: Perrigo
 

Where to find an internship for summer 2015

There may be snow on the ground but for those hoping to obtain summer internships now is the time to act. This week the companies participating in the Monroe-Brown Internship Program were announced.

In 2015, there will be 26 participating companies offering a total of 33 internships.

Currently enrolled college students who wish to obtain real work world experience in engineering, health sciences, information technology, production planning, merchandising, architecture, interior design, human resources, marketing, sales and financial management are welcome to apply.

Once the intern is hired, he or she will work for the company for a minimum of 400 hours between May and September. This is typically full-time for ten weeks, but can be customized to suit the needs of the individual companies and interns.

Throughout the internship, the student will receive hourly wages, valuable networking opportunities and applied career experience, according to Southwest Michigan First.

Some interns have gone on to be hired by participating companies into full-time positions upon graduation. The internship program provides $3,000 in scholarship funding for college and an hourly wage paid by the employer.

Applications can be found hereThe full list of companies offering Monroe-Brown internships for 2015 can be found here.

The program is open to incoming juniors, seniors and graduate students at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, Davenport University (Kalamazoo Campus only), Michigan State University, University of Michigan and second-year students at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

Students attending Michigan State University and University of Michigan must have graduated from a high school in the greater Kalamazoo area.  

Ron Kitchens, chief executive officer of Southwest Michigan First, says  finding and keeping talent is the priority of the region’s top companies. They know that internships are one of the best ways to locate and develop it.

“Our hope is that this year’s interns, like many of our past ones, use this opportunity to find a path to their future employment,” says Robert M. Brown, president of the Monroe-Brown Foundation.

Source: Petey Stephanak, Southwest Michigan First
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