Street Talk

Street Talk: Addressing serious issues

Neighborly advice.

June 8, 2018
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Battle Creek-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation announced a $10-million investment to establish a Battle Creek Small Business Loan Fund.

Last week’s reveal event included a who’s who of economic developers, finance professionals and Battle Creek leaders.

In attendance were Rebecca Fleury, Battle Creek city manager; La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO, WKKF; Joel Wittenberg, vice president and chief investment officer, WKKF; Mark Harmsen, MDH Development, Heritage Tower; Sara Wallace, president and CEO, Miller Foundation; Joe Sobieralski, president and CEO, Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU); John Gallagher, board chair, BCU; Mark Behnke, Battle Creek mayor; Dennis West, president, Northern Initiatives; and Brenda Hunt, executive director, Battle Creek Community Foundation.

The fund is part of the larger BCVision community effort launched by WKKF and Kellogg Co. to address the city’s most serious issues, prioritize equitable economic development, create quality jobs and expand small business activity to stimulate growth leading to increased income among Battle Creek families.

“We are committed to accelerating transformation in Battle Creek so that all children will thrive. Creating a vibrant economic climate is critical to changing conditions and that requires all of us to concentrate efforts and speed up the process,” Tabron said.

“The Battle Creek Small Business Loan Fund will provide the capital and technical assistance that can spark small business development and help local entrepreneurs scale up.”

WKKF is seeding the fund with an initial $1-million investment and will match local investments 2-to-1, up to $10 million.

Major contributions already total $1.8 million from Kellogg Co., BCU and the Miller Foundation. With the 2-to-1 match for local contributions and the $1 million, the Battle Creek’s Small Business Loan Fund holds $6.4 million to date.

“Our founder, W.K. Kellogg, was also a small business owner in Battle Creek at one time, and that entrepreneurial spirit lives on in this community,” said Steve Cahillane, Kellogg Co. chair and CEO.

“It is one of the many reasons we are proud to call Battle Creek home and why we remain steadfast in our determination to have a positive impact on this community, now and in the years ahead.”

Sobieralski said his organization is “excited about the future of economic development in Battle Creek.”

“We are pleased to commit to the new loan fund,” he said. “Our entire BCU team — from the board of directors to the staff — applauds the commitment of the many organizations in our city working together to advance economic opportunities for everyone in Battle Creek.”

The new fund will be managed by Northern Initiatives, a Marquette-based 25-year-old community development financial institution that awarded its 1,000th loan last year and has originated $60 million in loans throughout its history, creating more than 4,000 jobs.

One-third of its loans have been to startups, one-third to women-owned businesses and 73 percent have been directed to Michigan’s underserved communities.

Northern Initiatives will open an office in downtown Battle Creek and hire a local business developer and loan officer.

The loan fund is open to small businesses and startups. Supporting entrepreneurs of color will be a priority. Businesses with a Battle Creek address and/or a physical location in Battle Creek will be eligible to apply for a loan.

At the event, developer Harmsen shared an update on the progress of the Heritage Tower revitalization project, slated for opening in 2019. An economic milestone in downtown Battle Creek, the renovation calls for 85 apartments on the upper floors, with retail and restaurant space on the first two floors.

WKKF’s Wittenberg said the $28-million investment in Heritage Tower could create 125 new jobs and generate additional tax revenues.

Two firms have been identified — Detroit’s GWJ Group and HR&A Advisors — to work with public, business, civic and community leaders on a broader economic development strategy for Battle Creek.

For more details on Battle Creek’s Small Business Fund, contact Northern Initiatives’ Melissa Evans at (231) 375-9867 or Venard Roberson at (616) 329-6188 or info@northerninitiatives.org.

All ears

The Grand Rapids Police Department is inviting community members to participate in a trust-building initiative.

The first session, titled “Speed of Trust,” will take place twice on June 27, from 8 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. Both sessions will be held at the Grand Rapids Police Department, 1 Monroe Center NW.

GRPD has contracted with Utah-based Franklin Covey, a global organization providing time management training and assessment services for organizations and individuals. The intent is to cultivate trust through learning how to better communicate and solve problems and for the community to have an equal voice and role in the process.

“We strive to deliver progressive, professional and responsive service to our community,” GRPD Chief David Rahinsky said. “Our mission statement states we will listen to the community’s wants and needs and not restrict our thinking to traditional paradigms. The concerns of our community will help to shape the priorities of our agency.”

Each session includes a 1-1 ratio of police officers and community members where attention is directed toward objectives instead of suspicion about others’ intentions. GRPD already has hosted a “train the trainer” certification course with an equal number of officers and citizens, with the goal of implementing the program with a unified voice.

Those interested in participating may email TrustGRPD@grcity.us and provide a name, email address and session option.

Extended reach

Allegan County primary employers have a new resource to support growth.

Lakeshore Advantage is extending its economic development services to the Allegan County’s nearly 200 primary employers.

Lakeshore Advantage business support services include growth assistance, tackling talent challenges and ensuring long-term economic health in the community.

The three-year contract between Lakeshore Advantage and the Allegan County Economic Development Commission board began June 1.

“The Allegan County Economic Development Commission and Lakeshore Advantage share a history of collaboration. Recent economic development successes demonstrate the results possible through collaboration and the expertise Lakeshore Advantage brings,” said Robert Sarro, Allegan County administrator. “Allegan County is excited to build upon these successes through this increased partnership that will benefit all of Allegan County and our broader region.”

Lakeshore Advantage has been serving Holland-based primary employers in Allegan County since its start in 2003 and has been serving Ottawa County businesses since 2014.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Ottawa County has the fastest rate of growth of any county in the state over the last eight years, growing at a pace of 8.5 percent over that period. Allegan County also is one of the fastest-growing counties in Michigan, experiencing growth at a rate of 4.5 percent since 2010.

“This partnership means we will be able to extend our services to support businesses, from startups to grownups, ensuring great jobs for current and future generations in two of Michigan’s fastest-growing counties,” said Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage president. “We’ve created a highly successful economic development model and are ready to scale to support all of Allegan County for benefit of their employers, residents and the county’s future economic vitality.”

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