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Downtown Grand Rapids Thrives!

Written by | Friday, 31 August 2012 16:53 |

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Through his efforts to guide the Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding out of financial hardship, Jeff Agar has helped bring more alternative therapy options to children and adults with disabilities in West Michigan.

Sustainability isn't just some esoteric concept for Rob McCarty. It's a philosophy by which he runs his business, and he believes in it so strongly that he focuses his volunteer efforts around it as well.

The new satellite patent office in Detroit is the first of four new locations planned around the nation to spur innovation and creativity. 

Corporate clients might be singing the blues when they approach attorney Mark Smith for legal counsel, but they might not know that he can be found on the radio spinning blues tracks as a volunteer programmer on WYCE.

When Erhardt Construction Co. set out to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the company's management team wanted to do something other than throw a big party. Instead, what Ben Wickstrom and the team developed was a plan to make a statement of gratitude to the community that has supported the company in its five decades of growth.

"Rather than talk about ourselves, we want to celebrate the community," Wickstrom said.

Chase Lee, a 21-year-old University of Michigan student from Grand Rapids, co-developed an ideas marketplace where entrepreneurs could buy and sell ideas. But he and his business partner Alex Schiff, 21, another U-M student, decided that their original concept wasn't working because everyone wanted to sell and no one wanted to buy. 

For Gazelle Sports co-founder Chris Lampen-Crowell, giving back is all about advocating for a healthier, more active community.

Lampen-Crowell co-founded the small West Michigan-based chain of running and fitness stores in 1985. From the beginning, the retailer focused on building a community of health and fitness conscious individuals.

For Lara Kitts, paying it forward is steadily becoming a full-time job.

Kitts chairs the board of the Family Hope Foundation, a growing all-volunteer organization launched in 2010. The organization works across West Michigan to unburden families that have special needs children.

If Americans know how to do one thing, it's barbeque. For many it's a family tradition, and that's exactly why the second generation, family-owned Miller Welding Supply hosts its annual "Bad to the Bone BBQ Rib Cook-off," an event which benefits Hospice of Michigan.

Owners of the Eastown landmark and favorite breakfast spot Wolfgang's Restaurant have partnered with D.A. Blodgett – St. Johns, putting their time and skills into honoring Grand Rapids area foster families.

GRAND RAPIDS — Businesses want people who can work across disciplines, and Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University has a new program aimed at developing multi-talented designers to fit the bill.

Stephanie Elhart is director of communications at NewNorth Center for Design in Business, a nonprofit business and educational organization in Holland. The center offers classes of varying lengths. Twenty percent of participants are designers. The rest want to learn to think like designers to launch new companies or reinvigorate old ones. Elhart, who earned a degree in graphic design from the University of Michigan, worked in marketing, communication and business development services — including at Johnson Controls Inc. and fuel-D — before helping launch NewNorth in 2009. She sees this role as the synthesis of all her prior experiences.

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