Top Of The Heap

August 11, 2008
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Grand Valley State University and Calvin College are crowing about being mentioned in the 2009 edition of The Princeton Review’s Annual College Guide. The guide surveyed 120,000 students at 368 top colleges.

Calvin College was among the top 15 percent of colleges to make the list. And just so prospective students know what they’ll get for their $21,000 in annual tuition, the Christian Reformed college in Grand Rapids also made several sublists: Stone-Cold Sober; Scotch and Soda, Hold the Scotch; Most Religious Students; Alternative Lifestyles Not An Alternative; Don’t Inhale; Got Milk?; and Future Rotarians and Daughters of the American Revolution.

GVSU in Allendale found its way onto The Princeton Review’s list of 158 Best Midwestern Colleges, as did Holland’s Hope College.

  • With the Olympic season upon us, it seems everyone is catching the fever — including Steelcase and Alticor. The two companies kicked off the first annual West Michigan Intern Olympics last week. The games put 50 college interns from each company head-to-head in non-stop “Olympic” action. The eight events tested the interns’ athleticism as they competed in a hula hoop relay, baseball, marshmallow dodge ball and tug of war to see who would take home the title of “West Michigan Intern Olympics Champions.”

  • There are a lot of high-tech cleanrooms in operation now, for ultra-clean research, manufacturing/packaging and other activities — including doing laundry.

That curious factoid can be learned from John Vander Wall, president of Midwest Cleanroom Associates in Grand Rapids, who will speak at the Medical Device Diversification Seminar Sept. 10 at the GRCC Applied Technology Center. It's for companies that are not now involved in medical device manufacturing but think there may be a future there for them.

People who work in cleanrooms must wear sterile gowns. Some companies that have cleanrooms find it's more economical to have re-usable cloth gowns, but then they have to be laundered — very, very carefully laundered, cleaner than TV commercial clean — before they can be used again. So now some specialized uniform companies have their own ultra-clean cleanrooms for laundering cleanroom gowns.

Midwest Cleanrooms Associates works all over the world, designing and building cleanrooms. (It even had a project in Egypt with the Egyptian Army.) Just now the company is finishing cleanrooms near Ann Arbor for Cintas, the uniform company, which supplies reusable cleanroom gowns.

Vander Wall obviously understands the challenges of high-precision, high-tech production, which is why he will be talking about manufacturing excellence, a critical issue in medical device manufacturing.  Two other topics at the revolving seminar will focus on design/engineering and quality systems, and regulatory issues, according to Dan Keyes of GRCC, which is putting on the seminar in conjunction with the West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative.

For more information and to register for the seminar, go to

  • Speaking of WMSTI, so many more companies and organizations have joined BioTech Connect that the West Michigan Science & Technology Initiative decided to change the membership program’s name and expand membership services.

Since 2003, WMSTI has been offering science and technology entrepreneurs access to the development tools, amenities and community assets they need to commercialize their discoveries. The organization started its BioTech Connect program in 2005 to provide life sciences companies and organizations with business contacts in the industry as a means to help them succeed in the life sciences arena. Linda Chamberlain, executive director of WMSTI, said it became clear in 2005 that companies needed a better way to connect with one another and stay abreast of changes taking place because the life sciences industry was fast becoming an economic force in the region.

In the short time since its formation, the membership program has grown to include more than 100 West Michigan companies and organizations and has enjoyed a 100 percent membership renewal rate. The program was recently renamed “Connect2” because as WMSTI grew, some confusion arose about who WMSTI and BioTech Connect actually served, said Kim Bode, WMSTI marketing director.

“I spent a lot of time explaining to people that the program wasn’t just for biotech companies but for companies that wanted to make connections within the life sciences industry and connect with different providers,” Bode said. “We felt we were limiting ourselves and limiting the program’s potential by calling it BioTech Connect. Changing the name was more just to clarify what the program stood for.”

Along with the name change, WMSTI expanded services it offers to members. Bode said members were asking for more opportunities to network, so Connect2 has begun quarterly meetings for members and people interested in joining.

A Connect2 networking event is slated for Sept. 23 at Varnum Riddering headquarters in Bridgewater Place. Bode said attendees will have a couple of hours to network, and there will be a presentation on membership and its benefits, which include a company listing on the WMSTI home page, access to member podcasting interviews, a company listing in the Connections2 database, the WMSTI annual report and BioLink Newsletter, and reduced costs to all WMSTI events.

“We offer really great benefits that help companies that might not necessarily have a large marketing budget or even the ability to promote themselves,” she said. “Membership gives them a great opportunity to promote themselves in several different ways — through podcasts, through a Web site listing and through great networking events.”

The life sciences industry here is booming, Bode said. WMSTI’s medical device consortium program, for instance, is gaining four to six members every month, she noted. 

“In 2008, WMSTI is in a stronger position than ever before in terms of being able to help life science organizations,” Chamberlain said.  

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