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Paw Paw Courier Leader: Visions for downtown Lawton

New decorative sidewalks and crosswalks, trees and planters, new lighting fixtures and signage, could be part of a new look for the Village of Lawton all designed to entice those driving through the village to slow down and take a look around. The Paw Paw Courier Leader reports village officials hope such measures would bring more business to the village and help strengthen Lawton’s identity along with slowing down traffic on Main Street and offering safe pedestrian crossing on the road also known as M-40.
 
Excerpt: "All this does come at a cost," Matt Davis, of Wightman & Associates, the village’s engineering firm, told council members Tuesday night during their regular monthly meeting. The total estimated cost is $810,000 to spruce up a slightly more than three-quarter-mile stretch of Main Street between White Oak Road and Fourth Street. The village’s estimated portion of the cost is $408,780.
 
For more, please read the rest of the story.
 
Source: Paw Paw Courier Leader 

Chicago Magazine: Time for a brew in Kalamazoo

Chicago Magazine encouraged readers to visit Kalamazoo for the third annual Kalamazoo Beer Week, Jan. 11 through Jan. 18. The magazine says: Over the week, local restaurants and breweries will host more than 100 beer-related events, including tastings, home brewing and bottling demonstrations, brewery tours, seminars in beer cocktails, and a "Sunday beer brunch."
 
For more, please read the rest of the story.
 
Source: Chicago Magazine 

MLive: Bedding plant industry faces challenges

Lisa Ambrosio, who took over the reins of her family's Wenke Greenhouses Jan.1, comes in at a time when her job will be to wrestle with an industry that is undergoing huge changes, reports MLive. 
 
Across the industry, sales have remained flat and profit margins continue to shrink. In Kalamazoo County, there has been little, if any, new greenhouse construction in the past five years -- in contrast to the previous five years, which saw 5 to 10 percent growth annually, said Lorence Wenke, Ambrosio's father. Shrinking profit margins have prompted some growers to retire, others to sell out, and there are fewer, larger operations now.
 
Excerpt: Ambrosio's biggest challenge in leading what Wenke said is the 29th largest greenhouse business in the nation will be learning to adapt to changing consumer demand in a very competitive environment where there is little room for mistakes.
 
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Source: MLive

Detroit Free Press: Food Safety in Battle Creek

Battle Creek is attracting increased federal attention -- and funding -- for one of the hottest and most important issues on the planet these days: food safety, reports the Detroit Free Press. The International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI), now part of the Global Food Protection Institute (GFPI) in Battle Creek, has helped train thousands of inspectors and worked with officials from China, Turkey and elsewhere to improve food safety. A staff of three has grown to 18 regular and contract employees, plus a nationwide network of nearly 100 instructors.
 
Excerpt:  "The institute has become more than they ever envisioned," said President and CEO Julia Bradsher, referring to the people at the civic group Battle Creek Unlimited and the Kellogg Foundation, which helped fund the institute's creation as a way to generate economic activity in the city and capitalize on the food industry expertise nearby.
 
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Source: Detroit Free Press

B. C. Enquirer: It's a SNAP in Calhoun County

Four participating farmers markets in Calhoun County redeemed nearly $14,000 in SNAP benefits during the 2011 fiscal year the most recent year for which numbers are available, according to the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service stats published by the Battle Creek Enquirer. 
 
Excerpt: "We know that in the last few years, the total amount SNAP benefits has leveled off," said Rachel Chadderdon Bair, program director of the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program. "The fact that more SNAP benefits are being spent at farmers markets indicate there’s more interest in local food and healthy food."
 
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Source: Battle Creek Enquirer

Kalamazoo Gazette: A Speak It Forward Celebration

The Kinetic Affect duo, Kirk Latimer and Gabriel Giron, have been showing youth at Lakeside Academy how to take charge of their problems with words, reports the Kalamazoo Gazette. They'll be showcasing what they've done at Chenery Auditorium Jan. 12. Kinetic Affect and local musicians will perform, the Mt. Zion Baptist Church choir will sing and Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell will emcee, but the stars of the show will be current and former students of Lakeside Academy, the juvenile rehabilitation facility on Oakland Drive.
 
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Source: Kalamazoo Gazette

WWMT: The Fresh Food Fairy Of West Michigan

College students, businesses and programs in Kalamazoo came together to highlight healthy eating in the new year through a 2013 calendar that features the vibrant food community in West Michigan, with proceeds benefiting healthy eating programs for kids. One of those programs is the Fresh Food Fairy. Frayer’s goal is to go to every kindergarten class in Kalamazoo Public Schools, teaching kids healthy habits.  
 
Excerpt: "My basic presentation is about why fresh food is so fun and there's five reasons: it's very colorful, with fun shapes, interesting textures, delicious flavors and it helps our bodies grow strong and smart!" says Hether Frayer, the Fresh Food Fairy. 
 
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Source: WWMT 

Fourth Economy Index: Kalamazoo in top 10 of current rankings

The latest release of the "Fourth Economy Community (FEC) Index" was announced recently, listing the nation’s top 10 large-sized Fourth Economy Communities. These communities are those ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth and Kalamazoo County is on the list. 
 
Excerpt: The "fourth economy" characterizes the most recent phase of our nation’s economy, reflecting a combination of the previous three to include agrarian, industrial, and technological. This new index is intended to serve as a dashboard for community stakeholders to gauge their capacity to attract and retain modern investment. 
 
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Source: Fourth Economy Index

WKZO: County parks to get big improvements

Two Kalamazoo area parks have just won the jackpot, reports WKZO 96.5 FM. River Oaks Park near Galesburg and Flesher Field in Oshtemo have both been chosen by the state’s Natural Resource Trust fund to receive $300,000 for improvements, upgrades and repairs. 
 
At Flesher Field the parking lot will be moved, a running track installed and other improvements made. Rivers Oaks Park will get a new picnic area with a more accessible playground and paths, a splash pad, and parking lot improvements.
 
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Source: WKZO 

MLive: Kalamazoo Community Foundation awards $719,000 in grants

The Kalamazoo Community Foundation announced grants recently totaling more than $719,000 for nine area nonprofits, reports MLive. The grants, ranging from $22,500 to $180,000, represent the fourth round of grants approved by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation board of trustees in 2012.  
 
Excerpt: "The vision of our donors throughout 87 years, funding needs they could not have imagined, is realized in each round of grants," said Carrie Pickett-Erway, the foundation's president and CEO.
 
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Source: MLive

B.C. Enquirer: Kitchen serves 40,000th meal

In just 14 months, Battle Creek's first evening soup kitchen has served 40,058 hungry people. Recently, the kitchen marked the occasion of serving dinner guest number 40,000. The big moment came when John Cram, a homeless man, walked through the door. He was greeted and presented with a $25 Meijer gift card.
 
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Source: Battle Creek Enquirer

Kalamazoo Gazette: Run through the Lights 5K

Runners of all ages packed the Kalamazoo Mall by the hundreds recently, decked out in blinking lights, reindeer antlers, Santa hats and other festive gear for the annual Run Through the Lights, presented by Kalamazoo Area Runners and Gazelle Sports. Organizers announced an attendance of more than 1,000 registrants, who ran or walked the 5K course -- untimed -- that looped through the downtown area. The course was closed to vehicle traffic for the first time.  

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Source: Kalamazoo Gazette

Sturgis Journal: Community fulfills wish lists

Residents of Mendon Community Schools have a chance to, once again, come to the aid of Mendon’s students by answering a wish list compiled by teachers at the district’s two school buildings, reports the Sturgis Journal. Donations or financial contributions toward teacher wish-list items are administered through the Mendon Schools Foundation, a not-for-profit entity that ensures donations are tax-deductible. The foundation encourages instructors to keep the item they request at $500 or less.

Excerpt: Brandon Wenzel, principal at Mendon Elementary School, said local businesses play a big role in helping fulfill requests. In other cases, he said, the requests are fulfilled by individuals and families. "My in-laws have all decided to make a sizable donation at Christmas on behalf of the grandkids, other cases we hear are purchases made in memory of or in honor of someone, and a lot are done anonymously," Wenzel said.

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Source: Sturgis Journal

Niles Daily Star: Helping the needy a growing concern

In Berrien County, many organizations helping the needy are struggling to keep up with demand, reports the Niles Daily Star. "We have seen an increase of families needing assistance," said Pat Saxton, director of the Niles Christian Service Center. "Normally, we help somewhere around 130 to 150 families a month, but, this year, we are averaging about 25 extra families per month. In October, we helped about 160, and, in November, it was 185." Saxton attributed the increase to unemployment benefits running out and families moving back into the area that had left hoping to find work elsewhere.

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Source: Niles Daily Star

MLive: Home Builders say Kalamazoo market improving

Kalamazoo was one of nine Michigan cities listed on the Improving Markets Index from the National Association of Home Builders in December, reports MLive.To make the list, compiled by the NAHB and First American, a city has to have shown improvement in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months.

Kalamazoo's housing permits hit a low in July 2010 and have improved 3 percent since then, according to the index. Home prices, which hit their low one year ago in December 2011, have climbed 5.7 percent over the past 12 months. Employment in the industry also has grown 1.8 percent over the past year.

For more, please read the rest of the story.

Source: MLive
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