Economic Development and Small Business & Startups

Eight Grand Rapids companies on Michigan’s 50 to Watch list

May 15, 2015
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Mayor George Heartwell last week recognized eight Grand Rapids companies that made this year’s Michigan 50 Companies to Watch list.

The eight companies make Grand Rapids the city with the largest representation on the list, which is sponsored by Michigan Celebrates Small Business.

The award honors growth-oriented businesses based on market expansion, job creation, technological innovation and community impact.

According to MCSB, the 50 companies represent a wide variety of industries, are privately held and headquartered in Michigan, have between six and 99 employees and generate between $750,000 to $50 million in annual revenue, or have working capital from investors or received grants in 2014.

The honored companies collectively achieved more than $308 million in total revenue and employed 1,748 people in 2014. They are planning to create 798 new jobs this year.

“To think that our city had more winners than any other city in Michigan, we are so excited about that,” Heartwell said at last Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

He thanked the company leaders, six of whom were present, for choosing Grand Rapids as their headquarters, and noted each of the companies is contributing to the economic vitality of the city and providing jobs within the community.

The Michigan Small Business Development Center, U.S. Small Business Administration, Michigan Economic Development Corp., Edward Lowe Foundation, Small Business Association of Michigan and Chris Holman, Small Business Advocate, launched Michigan Celebrates Small Business in 2005. MiQuest is the managing partner. The mission is to highlight the contributions small businesses make to the state’s economy.

The eight Grand Rapids 2015 Michigan 50 Companies to Watch are:

Blackford Capital

Blackford Capital is a private equity firm that acquires, manages and builds middle-market manufacturing, distribution and service companies. The firm currently has seven portfolio companies operating in 12 states, employing more than 1,100 people and with combined revenues of approximately $350 million. Blackford has 17 employees and 25 operating partners.

Boxed Water is Better

Starting with the simple idea to create a bottled water brand that is kinder to the environment and gives back, this company found that packaged water should not be bottled at all but boxed instead. Triple-filtered for purity, Boxed Water sets itself apart with packaging that is made from more than 75 percent paper, is recyclable and 100 percent BPA free.

Creative Studio Promotions

Creative Studio Promotions saw a great opportunity to expand and fulfill a need in the e-store, warehousing and fulfillment markets, carving out a niche in the promotional products industry as well as a solution provider. The advertising specialty company provides promotional products, builds e-commerce sites in-house, and provides screen-printing, embroidery and shipping.


Firstronic is a specialty provider of electronics manufacturing services including turnkey electronic assembly and materials management services to OEMs in the electronics industry. Firstronic’s electronic manufacturing services consist primarily of the manufacture of complex printed circuit board assemblies using through-hole and surface mount technology.

Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing

Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing is an important component in the growing life sciences industry in Michigan. The company is a contract manufacturing organization supporting new product development and cGMP (current good manufacturing practice). With a state-of-the-art clean room and highly trained staff, Grand River Aseptic provides clinical trial and commercial material in vials or syringes for the life sciences industry.

NxGen MDx

NxGen MDx is a molecular diagnostics company that focuses primarily on the women’s health industry. NxGen provides genetic screening for more than 120 genetically inherited diseases that can cause devastating health problems. The company works directly with doctors across the country to provide pre-screening for women of childbearing age to help educate and prevent genetically inherited disease during family planning.

Sun Title

Sun Title works with clients who are buying or selling a new home or building to create or expand a business. Since 2005, the company has grown through the attraction and retention of skilled workers, innovation and a commitment to customers and the community.

Varsity News Network

Varsity News Network partners with educators to create healthy communities and influence strong character in school sports participants. By creating easy-to-use, time-saving communication channels for athletic departments, VNN is working toward making sure those educators can be a positive influence in their schools, recognize the great things their athletes are doing and bring their community together through sports.

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