On The Road To Jobs

March 25, 2008
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Entrepreneur Keith Brophy acknowledged last week that the deal he forged with RCM Technologies to purchase NuSoft Solutions was bittersweet in that the company is now headquartered internationally in New Jersey. But finding investors for second-tier technology companies remains elusive in Michigan.

Brophy, 45, is well-known in the West Michigan business community and frequently speaks on new technology at business and economic development meetings.

He founded Sagestone Consulting in 1997. By the time it merged with NuSoft in late 2004, Sagestone had made a name for itself as a Microsoft Best Partner and for its work on Web sites for National City Home Mortgage and Zondervan Bible Search. Brophy had previously been employed by IBM and X-Rite.

NuSoft is a software developer as well as a Web site designer and developer. In late February, NuSoft announced a new division called Kinetic IG, which Brophy said "does Web development and interactive development. We have creative designers as well as Web developers in that group."

Brophy is president of services at Troy-based NuSoft, which has about 75 employees in Grand Rapids, its largest office. NuSoft has about 160 employees, and had sales in 2007 of approximately $16 million, according to an announcement from RCM.

RCM Technologies, a publicly held company, had sales of $214 million in 2007. According to an RCM filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 19, RCM offered $3 million in stock for NuSoft.

Dale Mansour, founder, president and CEO of NuSoft, and Brophy will continue to manage NuSoft operations as part of RCM’s Enterprise Business Solutions Group.

The acquisition by RCM will enable NuSoft to grow, and Brophy said he expects a "substantial increase" in employment in the Grand Rapids office.

"It's an exciting step for the company and for Dale Mansour and I as entrepreneurs. We'll have one of the strongest software technology core competency groups around, serving the nation, with a very strong grounding in West Michigan for the long haul, as part of RCM Technologies," said Brophy.

  • There is a lot of support for a Renewable Portfolio Standard for the state of Michigan. It would require a minimum amount of electricity used in the state to be generated by renewable resources such as wind, solar, biomass — just about anything but fossil fuels.

As a stand-alone bill, it's a pretty safe bet RPS would be a shoo-in. But Michigan's proposed RPS law is hogtied to several other bills regarding electricity rates and regulations.

State Rep. Mike Sak told the Business Journal editorial board last week he'd be inclined to separate RPS from the other issues in the proposed legislation, but …

"My understanding is they want these things as a package," said Sak.

Two days later, Birgit Klohs of The Right Place also told the editorial board she wants to see RPS a separate issue.

Jared Rodriguez, vice president of public policy and government affairs at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, has spent a lot of time watching the Legislature in action. What does he think are the odds of the politicians separating RPS from the other proposed electricity bills?

"Slim to none," said Rodriguez.

That's because the legislation put forth by Rep. Frank Accavitti Jr., D-Eastpointe (chairman of the House Energy and Technology Committee), contains some proposals that are a "little controversial," in Rodriguez's words — things that "are going to impact constituents."

One is "de-skewing." Electricity rates now are skewed in favor of residential customers at the expense of commercial and industrial customers. De-skewing means commercial/industrial rates will go down a little and residential customer rates will go up a little.

"Going into an election year and raising rates on residential customers is not going to be looked at too favorably," said Rodriguez. "Democrats who control the House don't want Republicans to use that against them in the campaign. If they have one up or down vote on the entire package and everybody votes for it, nobody can use that," he said.

The Chamber of Commerce in Michigan, along with many commercial and industrial electricity customers, is opposed to "re-regulation" of electricity, which they say amounts to the repeal of the current right of customers to buy electricity from other than the big utilities. Re-regulation is also part of the hogtied package, meaning there will be pressure to vote the package down — which would mean no RPS for Michigan. Yet.

  • Tool Ventures International has purchased the former Synergis Technologies Group Die Cast plant in Kentwood. The acquisition includes the 35,000-square-foot facility, major equipment and several machines. TVI will move equipment and its work force of 45 from its Grandville location to the new site by mid-summer of 2008. The expansion will lead to the creation of 25 new jobs in West Michigan, with more growth anticipated later in the year.

“We are really pleased to own this facility, which gives us additional capability and capacity,” said TVI President Don Mekkes.

  • Kent County ranks as the 99th largest county in the nation, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released last week. The estimates put Kent County’s population at 604,330 as of July 1, 2007, a 5.2 percent increase since 2000, or about 30,000 more people.

Other local counties also posted positive population growth since 2000: Ottawa County, at 259,206, is up 8.8 percent; Muskegon County, 174,386, is up 2.5 percent; and Kalamazoo County, 245,333, is up 2.8 percent.

Posting the greatest growth in the state was Livingston County, with a 16.7 percent increase since 2000. Grand Traverse County grew 10.1 percent during the same period.

  • The West Michigan Strategic Alliance’s Green Infrastructure Leadership Council will hold its third regional watershed workshop Thursday at Grand Valley State University’s Allendale campus. The purpose of the workshop is to promote regional collaboration related to watershed management and green infrastructure.

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