Business trip to Africa positions Holland firm

March 8, 2010
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A Holland consulting firm with expertise in finding financing for energy-efficient projects had representatives in Africa last week at a United Nations forum.

Viability LLC has worked with a wide range of businesses in the U.S. to secure millions in grants and development incentives, including projects that may qualify for the international carbon credit market.

Three members of the firm were in Nairobi, Kenya, last week at the Africa Carbon Forum, where Viability’s Kyle Denning made a presentation on “using carbon finance to fight poverty and environmental degradation.” With Denning were Dr. David Armstrong and Dan Kuipers.

Denning told the Business Journal via e-mail from Africa that only about 2 percent of development projects worldwide that generate carbon credits have been done on that continent.

“This is a disappointment, as there truly is an enormous amount of opportunity here, and carbon finance can be a tool to not only reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, but just as importantly, improve health, economic and social/environmental conditions of the individuals, families and communities,” said Denning.

The Kyoto Protocol established the Clean Development Mechanism for development projects that result in carbon credits. Countries that have made a commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce or limit their CO2 emissions can implement an emission-reducing project in developing countries, under CDM guidelines. The results are marketable certified emission reduction credits, which can count toward that nation’s commitment.

A CDM project might involve, for example, a rural electrification project using solar panels, or the installation of energy-efficient boilers. CDM projects must result in emission reductions that are in addition to any that would have occurred anyway.

In operation since early 2006, there are now more than 1,650 CDM projects worldwide.

Denning said the forum included presentations on experiences that project developers have had in Africa, challenges of the market there, its future and the best areas of opportunity.

The Viability people met with technology providers looking to implement projects, including solar, biogas, efficient cook stoves and wind power.

“The missing component consistently is capital, especially in the current state of the global economy,” said Denning. “We are trying to bridge the gap and identify interested financing parties and connect them with these projects.”

“I may be a bit naive, but my experience on the ground here in East Africa, working with a variety of different partners — all with different competencies — has strongly supported my belief that Africa doesn't pose nearly as much risk as the outside world believes,” said Denning.

After the forum, Viability’s contingent will be in Africa for a second week to meet with other renewable energy developers in Kenya and Rwanda, to discuss possible wind, solar and hydroelectric projects.

PiSAT Solar of Grand Rapids will be among the businesses meeting with Viability in Rwanda. Viability is helping PiSAT develop a program to fund and distribute thousands of PiSAT-designed solar powered lanterns to replace hazardous kerosene lamps in homes.

Pillars of success

Three West Michigan organizations were named recipients of the 2010 Huntington Pillar Award for their dedication to empowering women in the workplace.

AngelCare Home Health Care, Grand Valley State University and Varnum will be honored by Women’s Resource Center during a luncheon fundraising event March 17 at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. The event is open to the public.

“These employers understand the value women employees bring to their business,” said Sharon Caldwell-Newton, executive director of Women’s Resource Center. “They are pillars of support to women and to the broader Grand Rapids community, and we are pleased to honor their contributions.”

AngelCare Inc. Home Health Care is a Grand Rapids-based home health care organization that has grown to over 120 employees since it was established in 2000. AngelCare Inc. is receiving the 2010 Huntington Pillar Award “for its commitment to giving disadvantaged women employment opportunities and encouraging them to develop professionally in order to support themselves. Mentoring programs, a unique car repair loan program, and regular employee appreciation days are just some of the policies and practices in place that support the culture of care to help its female employees succeed.”

Grand Valley State University employs more than 2,500 people and has many talented women in leadership roles. Fifty percent of the senior management team, which reports to President Thomas J. Haas, are women. “GVSU is receiving the 2010 Huntington Pillar Award for its ongoing commitment to diversity and programs that empower women leaders and help them flourish and make significant contributions to the university.”

Varnum law firm employs more than 150 lawyers in its five locations throughout Michigan. “Recognizing the unique pressures female attorneys face in achieving work/life balance that allows them adequate time with their family while continuing on a partner track, Varnum is receiving the 2010 Huntington Pillar Award for its continued commitment to enhance and encourage use of its Alternative Work Schedule for attorneys.”

A sporty payoff

Grand Angels’ portfolio company MockDraftCentral.com has been acquired by Roto Sports Inc.

MockDraftCentral.com has been a pioneer in online mock drafts and real-time software to facilitate fantasy sports drafts since 2002. It has been honored with multiple industry awards. With more than 130,000 members, MockDraftCentral.com offers mock drafting services, cumulative draft statistics and draft technology licensing.

Acquiring the site provides RotoWire.com with the ability to add industry leading live drafting to its highly customizable league commissioner and integrate up-to-date draft statistics into the 24/7 player news and notes.

“Adding the Web's leading outlet for mock drafts to our best-of-breed content will give fantasy users increased advantages when preparing for fantasy drafts,” said RotoWire.com president Peter Schoenke. “It's a great fit because both businesses have subscription models that focus on customer service and offering products that are worth paying for to give a fantasy owner a competitive advantage.”

The Grand Angels and software development firm Atomic Object played crucial roles at critical points in the life of Mock Draft Central, according to Jason Pliml, president of Mock Draft Central. “Without the advice of my Grand Angel board members and the exemplary software development skills of Atomic Object, we never could have built Mock Draft Central into the profitable business and respected brand that it has become,” said Pliml.

An applicable move

Grand Valley State University became appy with the recent launch of its iPhone app. The product is the first to come out of the school’s Mobile Applications and Services Lab within the School of Computing and Information Systems.

The app contains school news, the GVSU People Finder directory, a GPS-enabled campus map, and a few other features, as well. The process included eight undergraduate and graduate students and went through all the steps of software development. The app can be found on the Apple iTunes store at http://gvsu.edu/r/?q=268C7A.

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