Joe Boomgaard

Joe Boomgaard

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

As the four partners developed the business plan for Creston Brewery, they faced a key decision that would define the future direction of their company.

A Pennsylvania plant closure could translate into growth in West Michigan for a global plastic injection molding supplier.

Because Native American tribes are sovereign nations, they’re tax-exempt and have their own statutes and regulations, although they must follow federal law. Tribally owned firms also are exempt from state and federal income taxes.

Across West Michigan, Native American tribes have started to hang out their own shingle in enterprises that move them away from the familiar tribal-owned casino.

Last month, Laura Bell took on the role of CEO at Comstock-based Bell’s Brewery Inc., the company her father started in 1985 when she was 2 months old. The second-generation leader spoke with MiBiz about what it’s like to run a family-owned business, her vision for the company and why independence still matters in craft beer.

Grocery retailer and distributor SpartanNash Co. plans to unveil a new e-commerce service that will allow customers to order products online and pick them up at a store.

Legislation that passed the state Senate last Thursday seeks to level the playing field for economic development organizations trying to attract companies to Michigan’s border communities.

As the story goes, Jim Koch found his great-great grandfather’s lager recipe and decided to get into the beer industry. More than three decades later, the craft brewing pioneer and founder of The Boston Beer Company Inc. became perhaps the first craft beer billionaire based on the success of Samuel Adams Boston Lager. In the Harvard graduate’s 2016 book, “Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over a Beer or Two,” Koch discusses the management techniques he used to help grow Boston Beer (Nasdaq: SAM) into the fifth-largest U.S. brewery by sales volume. After addressing the Michigan Brewers Guild’s Winter Conference in Kalamazoo this month, Koch joined MiBiz over a beer to discuss the state of the ever-changing industry. 

Friday, 13 January 2017 16:11

West Michigan CPA firms to merge

Grand Haven CPA firm Walburg+Associates PC merged into Brickley DeLong PC in Grand Rapids.

Readers of MiBiz.com continue to gobble up news about downtown Grand Rapids developments and all manner of craft beverage-related stories in 2016.

With the first year under his belt, Cedar Springs Brewing Co. founder and Director of Happiness David Ringler says he’s pleased the company has surpassed its initial projections. The brewery should end the year having produced about 800 barrels of mostly traditional German-style beer, including Küsterer Original Weißbier, which won a bronze medal in the Great American Beer Fest earlier this year. Ringler hopes to add some new equipment to boost production and distribution in the coming year, “but we have no ambitions of growth at all cost.” 

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.