Economic Development and Human Resources

Business Journal selects Newsmaker nominees

December 19, 2018
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GRBJ Newsmakers 2018 logo

The Grand Rapids Business Journal’s Newsmakers of the Year celebration is a popularity contest. But not in the way you might think.

When Business Journal reporters and editors met to discuss nominees for the 2018 Newsmaker of the Year honors, nearly 200 choices were considered before settling on the top three nominees in each of the following 16 categories: Arts & Entertainment, Beverages, Economic Development, Education, Finance, Food, Health Care, Law, Manufacturing, Nonprofits/Philanthropy, Real Estate/Construction, Retail, Sports, Startups, Sustainability and Technology.

In short, we are honoring the people who generated the most important news stories during 2018.

In turn, these people, projects, plans and products make West Michigan a popular place to do business.

See how that works?

Last year, Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, was honored for the more than $1 billion in investment in public spaces, new buildings and renovations on the books in and around Muskegon. Those efforts earned her the overall Newsmaker of the Year Award.

Most of this year’s nominees are familiar to West Michigan residents, especially those who read the Business Journal on a consistent basis, because they are the people who shaped local news in 2018.

The Business Journal will honor West Michigan’s top decision makers on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at its annual Newsmakers of the Year breakfast at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids. Tickets for the event, which begins at 7:30 a.m., are available online.

The top selection from each category will be recognized with an industry Newsmaker award, and a Newsmaker of the Year will be selected from among the winners of those 16 categories.

The top Newsmaker in each category and the overall Newsmaker of the Year will be announced during the event.

A printed supplement profiling the nominees in each category will be included in the Jan. 28, 2019, issue of the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

For now, though, here is the first look at the finalists in each of the categories for Grand Rapids Business Journal 2018 Newsmaker of the Year.

Arts & Entertainment

Jori Bennett, ArtPrize

Rich MacKeigan, SMG

Tavian Napier, Western Michigan University

Beverages

Brian Mucci and Brandon Joldersma, Coppercraft Distillery

Jon O’Connor and Kyle Van Strien, Long Road Distillers

Mark Sellers, HopCat

Economic Development

Dave Alexander, Downtown Muskegon Now

George Haga, Ada Township

Birgit Klohs, The Right Place

Education

Thomas Haas, Grand Valley State University

Edward Montgomery, Western Michigan University

Dale Nesbary, Muskegon Community College

Finance

Jeff Helminski and Jack Kolodny, Auxo Investment Partners

Kelly Potes, ChoiceOne Bank

Tom Welch, Fifth Third Bank

Food

Robert Schermer Jr., Meritage Hospitality Group

David Staples, SpartanNash

Rich Wolowski, Gordon Food Service

Health Care

Robert Casalou, Trinity Health Michigan

Tina Freese Decker, Spectrum Health

Bill Hughson, Blue Sky Vision

Law

Tania “Dee Dee” Fuller, Fuller Law and Counseling

Floyd Gates Jr., Bodman PLC

Deborah Hughes, Legal Assistance Center

Manufacturing

Troy Comiskey, General Motors

Kevin Lobo, Stryker

Matt Missad, Universal Forest Products

Nonprofits/Philanthropy

Amy Acton, Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors

Annemarie Valdez, First Steps Kent

Ryan VerWys, Inner City Christian Federation

Real Estate/Construction

Aaron Jonker and Curt Mulder, Wolverine Building Group

Mike VanGessel, Rockford Construction

John Wheeler, Orion Construction

Retail

Chris Baker, Betten Baker Automotive Group

Rick Keyes, Meijer

Diane Maher, Fox Motors

Sports

Lew Chamberlin, West Michigan Whitecaps

Mike Guswiler, West Michigan Sports Commission

Russ Hines, River Bank Events and Media

Startups

Tom Guarr and Jack Johnson, Jolt Energy

Mario Rodriguez-Garcia, Soldadera Coffee

Katarina Samardzija, Locker Lifestyle

Sustainability

Elissa Sangalli Hillary, Local First

John Scholtz, Ottawa County Parks

John and Melissa Ziech, RecycleBoxBin

Technology

Brian DeMuth, GRIMM

Mark Johnson, Michigan Software Labs

Michael Rutherford, Rutherford & Associates

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