Joe Boomgaard

Joe Boomgaard

Editor, covers craft beverage industry.
Twitter: @jboomgaard
Email: [email protected]

The expansion in the hard cider market cooled last year, with the industry growing just 10.8 percent — a far cry from the 71 percent reported in the prior period, according to market research firm Nielsen. But Andy Sietsema takes those national market trends with a grain of salt, largely because they don’t count craft cideries like Sietsema Cider LLC in their research. “Sales out of our place were up 23.5 percent through this fall,” he said, noting that he also hopes to add two new distribution markets in 2017. According to Sietsema, “constant education” remains a key factor in the industry’s continued growth, even if it’s at a more sustainable rate.

Byron Center-based Pilot Malt House LLC, a supplier of malted grains to the beer and distillery industry, has experienced only growth since its founding in 2012. In that time, the company has expanded from 10 acres to 3,000 acres of barley and could break the 4,000-acre mark in 2017. Earlier this year, Pilot Malt signed a deal with ingredient supplier Country Malt Group to have its products distributed nationwide, which could open new possibilities for continued growth, according to founder and President Erik May. He told MiBiz he’s bullish on the craft beer and distilling industries, even as some signs of weakness emerge. 

Given that JSJ Corp.’s diversified manufacturing operations span North America, Mexico and China, Nelson Jacobson and the company’s board of directors are bracing for a period of acute political uncertainty. However, the chairman, president and CEO of the Grand Haven-based company fully expects to see “very significant growth — 20 percent plus” in 2017. That growth is coming off a record year this year in which JSJ’s sales were “well over” $500 million across its portfolio that includes GHSP Inc., Izzy+ and Dake Corp. Jacobson spoke with MiBiz about his outlook for the new year and how the political volatility influences the company’s plans. 

As any company involved in the automotive industry knows, the sector clearly follows a cyclical pattern over time. Patrick Greene, the president of Cascade Die Casting Group Inc. in Grand Rapids, believes that after six years of growth in U.S. auto sales, the next downward cycle could occur “in the next couple years.” But Cascade Die Casting and other suppliers, for whom the pain of the 2008-2009 recession remains a very fresh memory, have already started taking action. “We are preparing by making sure our balance sheet is strong and our operations are highly productive and efficient going into the downturn,” Greene said. 

Ask manufacturing executives about their biggest challenges and they’ll most likely sum it up in one word: talent. As Michigan’s unemployment rate continues to shrink, manufacturers have struggled to attract and retain people, especially the in-demand skilled workers they need to run their highly automated plants. The Lansing-based Michigan Manufacturers Association has heeded its members’ call by partnering with the SME Education Foundation and the Manufacturing Institute on a new talent solution, said MMA President and CEO Chuck Hadden. SME’s Partnership Response In Manufacturing Education (PRIME) initiative offers customizable curricula, while the Institute’s “Dream It Do It” program provides a framework for manufacturers to communicate more effectively with educators. 

Sunday, 25 December 2016 20:00

EDITORS’ NOTE: Uncertainty Ahead

In speaking with hundreds of business executives over the last couple of months, we heard plenty of different phrases to describe their overall bullishness: All-time record year. Double-digit growth. Expansion. New markets. New products.

Members of the DeVos family are increasing their investment play in the craft beverage industry with the acquisition of a majority interest in a Newaygo County maker of hard ciders, MiBiz has learned.

Insurance broker Acrisure LLC of Caledonia has completed the $2.9 billion management-led buyout of private equity firm Genstar Capital.

GRAND RAPIDS — An investment banking adviser believes the current environment in the contract furniture industry should lead to more deals getting done before the end of the year. 

A project to move a microbrewery from the outskirts of Sparta to the heart of the village downtown got a shot in the arm yesterday thanks to a state grant.

As New Holland Brewing Co. LLC ramps up a major expansion into the Grand Rapids market that’s expected to open next month, President and co-founder Brett Vanderkamp has plenty to keep his mind occupied. 

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has identified an unlikely threat lurking in West Michigan.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has identified an unlikely threat lurking in West Michigan. At issue is Grand Armory Brewing Co.’s attempt to trademark the phrase “Coast Guard City,” which it used in the name of a signature beer brewed for the annual Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival.

A California-based wood products manufacturer plans to invest $4.2 million into a new West Michigan plant.

Footwear and apparel marketer Wolverine World Wide Inc. reported better-than-expected result for its second quarter, although sales were down compared to last year.

Last month, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council, commonly known as the Great Lakes Compact Council, unanimously approved a request from the city of Waukesha, Wisc. to use Lake Michigan as its source of drinking water. Because Waukesha was in a county that straddled the Great Lakes Basin, it needed to request permission for the diversion as outlined in the 2008 Great Lakes Compact, which was designed to manage and protect the freshwater system. The review process forced Waukesha, the first city to make such a request, to scale back its initial diversion proposal and to design its system such that all water is returned to Lake Michigan. The Alliance for the Great Lakes advocated that conditions be placed on Waukesha’s request to ensure the diversion did not cause environmental harm. Molly Flanagan, the group’s vice president of policy who also helped negotiate the original compact, spoke with MiBiz about the process and what the ultimate approval means for future diversion requests.

COMSTOCK PARK — The owners of the West Michigan Whitecaps want to market Fifth Third Ballpark as a venue for big-name acts like Eminem or Bruce Springsteen, perhaps for shows as soon as this fall. 

The list of most-read stories on MiBiz.com for the first half of 2016 has a decidedly real estate and retail-related theme.  

With its share price down more than 13 percent since the Brexit vote, appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. looked to calm investors this morning by reaffirming its guidance for the 2015 fiscal year.

Stock prices of West Michigan’s publicly traded companies tumbled on Friday as Wall Street succumbed to the uncertainty caused by the U.K.’s decision to exit the European Union.

The Right Place Inc. President and CEO Birgit Klohs has one word to describe her reaction to the United Kingdom’s decision yesterday to leave the European Union: Disappointment.

If you’re someone who feels especially compelled to help out your coworkers when they ask for assistance, you may want to rethink always saying yes. New research from Russell Johnson published in the Journal of Applied Psychology finds that helping colleagues when they come to you with work-related problems can be mentally draining, especially when you’re acting on multiple requests in a single day. The kicker: The draining effect is worse for people who care the most about the plight of others. Johnson, an associate professor of management at Michigan State University, spoke with MiBiz about his research, its implications and his advice for helpers and help-seekers alike. 

GRAND RAPIDS — SpartanNash Co. has to overcome a key hurdle in attracting craft beer shoppers to the retailer’s high-end D&W Fresh Market Breton Village store. 

According to the most recent state jobs data, wages for manufacturing production workers in May sunk to their lowest levels in the last 12 years as the average hours worked dipped to the lowest point since 2009. Meanwhile, the number of people working in manufacturing hit its highest level in almost a decade.

A trademark lawsuit involving two drug companies in West Michigan has been settled out of court, according to documents filed yesterday in federal court.

A West Michigan attorney is among a group of legal professionals nationwide hoping to raise the bar for advising the growing craft beverage industry.

The craft beer industry in Michigan essentially started with Larry Bell in 1985 launching what would become Bell’s Brewery Inc. Since then, and especially over the last decade, the industry has taken off in West Michigan and beyond. 

If ever there was a sign that the craft beer business has matured, it’s that the money has finally showed up and taken an interest in the industry.

A year and a half after launching Railtown Brewing Co. in Dutton, Justin Buiter and Gim Lee realized their craft brewery needed to expand well ahead of schedule. 

With its 348 barrels of beer produced last year, Newaygo Brewing Co. accounted for less than 1 percent of all craft beer made in Michigan in 2015.