Street Talk

Street Talk: The leaders and best

Technically speaking.

November 1, 2019
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During his days at the University of Michigan, Wayman Britt was known for his defensive wizardry and leadership on the basketball court.

When the former Wolverine forward found his way to West Michigan, he eventually applied those leadership skills to Kent County government, currently serving as the county’s administrator/controller, overseeing a budget of $444 million.

That role, among other things, landed Britt on the Business Journal’s recent Grand Rapids 200 list, honoring the most influential leaders in West Michigan.

Now he and his wife, Dinah, are applying those skills to the younger generation.

The Boy Scouts of America, Michigan Crossroads Council last week announced a new scholarship — Wayman and Dinah Britt Adventure Point Scholarship Fund — to give all youth an opportunity to participate in the programs and services offered at Adventure Point, a new state-of-the-art outdoor center on 38 acres surrounding the local Boy Scout offices.

“Wayman Britt has worked tirelessly for many years to ensure that all youth in Kent County have access to the leadership and life skills offered through Scouting,” said Scout Executive/CEO Aaron Gach. “Through his leadership, our organization has expanded the scope and reach of our mission to serve all youth, regardless of their financial circumstances.”

The formal establishment of the Wayman and Dinah Britt Adventure Point Scholarship Fund took place Oct. 29 during an event for family, friends and members of the Boy Scouts of America. Special guest Jack Harbaugh, former Western Michigan University football coach and father of Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh and Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, provided remarks during the ceremony.

“Dinah and I are honored to be a part of this scholarship fund to help every child in our community access the programs at Adventure Point,” Britt said. “The chance for kids to experience new things in the STEAM lab or an adventure like climbing or camping will expand their world view. The programs at the center will also build our youth’s leadership skills, which will eventually lead our community in the future.”

All of the funds raised will be used to help youth to attend the summertime camps and other Scout programs. Residents wanting to contribute to the fund should contact Rebecca Alberda at Rebecca.Alberda@scouting.org or (616) 785-2662.

“Adventure Point will be a real game-changer in our region in exciting kids about science, math and sustainability,” Britt said. “Dinah and I are grateful for the opportunity to spearhead this important scholarship fund.”

Hear ye, hear ye

Retired NFL offensive lineman and West Michigan native Jared Veldheer will be the keynote speaker during the 2019 Dutch-American Heritage Day celebration on Thursday, Nov. 21. During the celebration, Tulip Time’s town crier of 40 years, John Karsten, will be honored.

The celebration, which features traditional Dutch-inspired dinner and music, will be held at the Pinnacle Center, 3330 Highland Drive in Hudsonville, beginning with a reception at 5:30 p.m. followed by a dinner and program at 6:30 p.m. The annual dinner is a celebration of the strong ties between the Netherlands and the United States, and raises awareness of Dutch history and culture for future generations in West Michigan.

Veldheer was born and raised in West Michigan and attended Forest Hills Northern High School. He earned a degree in biology from Hillsdale College, where he was co-captain of the football team and was named first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association. In 2010, Veldheer was drafted by the NFL’s Oakland Raiders as the 69th overall pick. In addition to the Raiders, Veldheer played for the Arizona Cardinals and the Denver Broncos. While with the Cardinals, he was named team MVP in 2014 and was co-captain in 2015 when the team won the NFC West championship title. He announced his retirement in May 2019.

Each year during the DAHD celebration, an individual from West Michigan who has helped raise awareness of the region’s Dutch history is honored. Karsten, who emigrated to the United States in 1957 to follow his future wife Wieda, will be recognized. He became only the fifth town crier for the Tulip Time Festival in 1979 and announced his retirement as town crier earlier this year. In 1997, Karsten became a charter member to the American Guild of Town Criers and was its president for eight years. As a crier, he traveled internationally to promote the city’s Dutch heritage.

Tickets for the Dutch-American Heritage Day celebration cost $15 and can be purchased by calling (616) 726-8010 or emailing info@wmdutch-americanheritage.com.

Soft opening

Michael Cotter, director of digital products at Grand Rapids-based electrical and industrial technology firm Feyen Zylstra, was appointed to the Technology Council of West Michigan. He officially joined the council in September.

The Technology Council of West Michigan is organized by The Right Place Inc. and exists to grow software-oriented businesses in the greater Grand Rapids region and strives to make West Michigan a national leader for software development capabilities.

The panel operates in much the same fashion as The Right Place’s other industry councils representing supply chain management and manufacturing.

Tech council members share information and experiences of interest and benefit to its members to help fuel the success of member companies. In addition, the tech council supports West Michigan businesses that are using — or considering using — software as part of their competitive strategy.

Cotter, who has more than 19 years of software engineering experience, is pursuing an MBA from Michigan State University and obtained a bachelor’s degree in computer systems engineering from Boston University. Cotter has been with FZ since June 2018, where he oversees FZ’s industrial IoT platform and leads a team of developers as they ready manufacturers for the Industry 4.0 revolution, focusing on cloud technologies and Industrial IoT.

Other members of the council include Brian Anderson, CEO and co-founder of Augusto Digital; Shawn Crowley, co-CEO of Atomic Object; Dr. Jared DeMott, founder of VDA Labs LLC; Mark Johnson, co-founder of Michigan Software Labs; Brian Knapp, founder of Externa CGI; Mark Larierdi, president of CQL Incorporated; Brian McKeiver, co-owner of BizStream; Howard Paul, COO of Array of Engineers; Stacy Paul, CEO of Array of Engineers; Mark Van Holstyn, president and founder of Mutually Human; Andy Van Solkema, vice president of digital strategy and experience at OST, and Jennifer Wrangler, senior business development manager of The Right Place.

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