Cool Summer

December 22, 2006
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Cool Summer

A last-ditch fundraising effort by local businessman Ed Kettle kept fireworks in the skies of downtown Grand Rapids

July

A last-ditch fundraising effort by local businessman Ed Kettle kept fireworks in the skies of downtown Grand Rapids: Centennial Wireless, Metro Health, Alticor and Spartan Stores donated a collective $75,000.

In a less explosive celebration, "Jukebox  Hero" was the first song to blast out of the one millionth jukebox manufactured by Grand Rapids' Rowe International, the world's oldest and largest maker of coin-operated jukeboxes.

Also in good spirits was the ThomasM.CooleyLawSchool, as its satellite locations finally received approval from the American Bar Association. Prior to the decision, students in Grand Rapids and Rochester were forced to take higher level courses in Lansing. The branch approval did not alter Cooley's lawsuit against the ABA for "forgone income."

Six West Michigan institutions involved in the life sciences formed ClinXus, an alliance to market the institutions' expertise and cutting-edge clinical research capabilities to pharmaceutical companies, biotech firms and institutions such as the National Institutes of Health. The Van Andel Research Institute was awarded $1.5 million from the 21st Century Jobs Fund on its behalf. VARI spin-off XB TransMed Solutions LLC received a $508,263 award.

Allegan pharmaceutical maker Perrigo shuttered its Holland and Montague plants as part of an effort to consolidate production in Allegan. Many of the lakeshore employees found work in the Allegan plant. The company earned some unwanted national attention later in the year when some errant metal shards forced a massive recall.

Far away from the health care field, New Holland Brewing Co. and Founders Brewing Co. both made plans to expand capacity with new facilities this summer. The Holland-based brewery did so, opening a 30,000-barrel facility on

Fairbanks Avenue
. Founders was set to move to the former Imperials Metals building being redeveloped by Blue Bridge Ventures, but opted to expand in the BrassWorksBuilding instead.

Illinois investment group Franklin Partners played a sizable role in filling well over a million square feet of vacant industrial space in the Kentwood-Wyoming area between the former Bosch plant at

4700 Broadmoor Ave. SE
, the Steelcase facility at
5353 Broadmoor Ave. SE
and two smaller facilities.

Grand Rapids Chair Co. launched a design-it-yourself furniture line. "If you were to draw a design on the back of that notepad, I could give you a working sample in 15 minutes on our laser-cutting machine," said Dave Miller, the company's president.

August

This year's uncharacteristically hot "dog days of summer" forced many West Michigan businesses to alter their operations, as the weather affected workers and building materials alike. The workday ended for high-rise window washers at ; roadwork construction shut down whenever the mercury hit 90.

"It gets a little tricky when you're talking this type of heat," said Fred Statler of Statler Concrete.

The 15-member Michigan Tooling Coalition challenged the boundaries of the collaborative model, forging initiatives for health care, purchasing, training and even export to Asia

Another fledgling group, the Michigan Homeland Security Consortium, made its local debut. Heavy with West Michigan firms — including NuSoft Solutions, SecureMatrix, C/D/H and iMart — the group's membership is open to all companies affiliated with the industry. Modeled after MichBio, the consortium introduced a $1 million investment fund to support homeland security startups.

Local development groups reported a surge of interest in the region this year. The senior West Michigan development agency, The Right Place Inc. in Grand Rapids, saw as many leads for companies looking to invest in the region by June of this year as it had in the entirety of 2005. This was more an indication of the nation's economy than that of West Michigan, however, but it does help that West Michigan has a pro-business climate, solid work force and surplus of available modern industrial facilities.

The addition of mixed-use development

Viridian Place
to Edison Landing in Muskegon brought the total investment in downtown Muskegon this year to $35 million, according to Mayor Steve Warmington. The $10 million development by True North will have two phases involving two 27,000-square-foot buildings. Similar success was found at Terrace Street Lots between
Western Avenue
,
Terrace Street
and
Shoreline Drive
. The Hot Rod Harley Davidson dealership and the Seelye-Wright Hyundai dealership will all be located on the downtown property.

Spectrum Health began negotiations with Michigan Medical PC regarding a merger of the two organizations. The deal did not happen, but Spectrum is talking to other physician groups with the hopes of merging with another in the future.

An online survey by eHealthInsurance cited Grand Rapids as the most affordable city for family health insurance among the country's 100 largest cities and as the second most affordable for children's health coverage.

September

After a year of planning by development company Grand Landing LLC and 10 years of planning by the city, a groundbreaking took place on the $70 million resort, retail and residential development in Grand Haven: Grand Landing.

Grubb & Ellis|Paramount and Commerce Realty & Management Co. became the largest of several commercial real estate mergers this year. The same happened in the residential arena, where Coldwell Banker Schmidt acquired AJS Realty, Westdale Realty and Woodland Realty.

Going into harvest time, the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems at MSU produced a study suggesting substantial opportunity in the state's agriculture industry. Expanding the state's economy by nearly 1,900 jobs and creating another $187 million in annual personal income might only cost $9.5 million.

"What this study shows is that Michigan can improve the economy by creating linkages between farmers and consumers," said Michael Hamm, director of the C.S. Mott Group.

Holland technology startup Crayon Interface developed a mobile phone application capable of starting a car or adjusting settings within the vehicle or home. Based on the Moshi interface, CellSTART is distributed by JBS Technologies, an Ohio-based manufacturer of vehicle security and remote starter systems.

The city of Wyoming was revealed as the only local municipality to refuse to hear applications for the state's tax-free Tool and Die Recovery Zones. As a direct result, nearly an entire industry segment is now at least investigating the possibility of moving out of the city.

The Downtown Alliance rolled out its advertising strategy for its downtown branding initiative. The same group that produced the oft-criticized "Keep It A Secret" tag line will produce outdoor billboards, light pole banners, posters, print ads, radio spots and other signage.    

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