John Wiegand

John Wiegand

Staff writer

[email protected]

GALESBURG — One Southwest Michigan manufacturer of LED lighting plans to use lean manufacturing processes and internal technological expertise to beat out cheaper foreign competitors.

While countless manufacturers throughout West Michigan have lamented the lack of available talent, evidence shows the workforce constraint has finally affected the industry’s ability to grow.

After steering Spartan Motors Inc. through a series of changes that helped the manufacturer return to profitability, Daryl Adams knew the timing worked to take the next step in the company’s growth strategy.

After experiencing explosive growth over the better part of a decade, executives at Muskegon-based KL Outdoor LLC knew they needed a partner to continue that pace of expansion into the years ahead. 

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP — As automakers continue to seek out lightweight components for their vehicles, one West Michigan manufacturer is betting that its relatively new stamping technology will help fill that demand. 

With availability of talent at a premium, many manufacturers are attempting to lure away key workers from their competitors. 

ZEELAND — When a lawsuit surfaced showing one of West Michigan’s largest corporate farmers was facing insolvency, the news sent shockwaves through the state’s agricultural industry.

WHITE CLOUD — A statewide rush to increase livestock production has proved to be a boon for one West Michigan producer of animal feed.

SARANAC — One West Michigan producer of eggs plans to capitalize on the growing U.S. market for cage-free and organic products.

As farmers across the state struggle to turn a profit in an era of depressed commodity prices, one aspect of agribusiness — food processing — continues to grow in West Michigan.

John Bryant will retire from his position as the top executive of Kellogg Co. next week.

A large farm operator in West Michigan appears poised to file for federal bankruptcy protection.

As the leader of a family-owned business, Aaron Zeigler can relate to the owners of car dealerships acquired by his Kalamazoo-based Zeigler Automotive Group. The $1 billion (revenues) mega-dealer has grown by acquiring other family-owned dealerships in recent years, earning it a national ranking of 64th in new car sales last year, according to Automotive News. Zeigler, a second-generation owner, spoke with MiBiz about the intricacies of buying other family-owned dealerships in an era when the automakers often control whether a transaction can move forward.

When two former executives of Pitsch Holding Company Inc. filed a lawsuit against three of their siblings in 2007, they probably didn’t know they’d be starting a 10-year war.

In April, Native Traits LLC was gearing up for a $1.5 million Series B raise from venture capital investors.

KALAMAZOO — After two years of looking for manufacturing companies to buy, Dave Kersjes and Steve Remstad found an opportunity in FlowTech Inc., a small producer of fluid and air filtration products.

GRAND RAPIDS — When Todd Maines took over his family’s wire-harness business in 2012, he entered the company after years of not being involved in the day-to-day operations.

While Houston was reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, employees of Wolverine World Wide Inc. began circulating an email chain with ideas about how they could help with the recovery efforts.

After a frenzied period of M&A activity for craft breweries, industry insiders and investors expect the pace of deals to moderate in the near future.

GRAWN — A grower-owned fruit cooperative with several Western Michigan members has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection, following a series of setbacks to its operations and annual harvest.

Bill Melvin grew up around motorsports, so it seems only natural that being a gearhead would translate into his professional life. Melvin owns and operates Liquid Asset Partners, a Grand Rapids-based asset liquidation firm. The company specializes in selling assets of distressed companies, healthy companies looking to offload old equipment and inventory and business owners looking to transition out of their business. Lately, Liquid Asset Partners has taken a slightly different path, acquiring two iconic names in motorsports: motorcycle manufacturer Eric Buell Racing, headquartered in East Troy, Wis., and most recently Braselton, Ga.-based Skip Barber Racing School. Melvin spoke with MiBiz about his company’s decision to acquire these organizations as well as his business model and future plans.

HOLLAND — A West Michigan startup hopes to drive down costs and increase consumer safety for electric vehicles with new technology it plans to bring to market next year.

Detroit-based law firm Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP recently launched a formal practice group focusing on the rapidly growing autonomous vehicle industry. The firm, which maintains offices in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lansing, recently hired Steve Wernikoff to co-chair the practice with Tom Appledorn, a partner in the firm’s intellectual property group. Wernikoff formerly served as an enforcement director for the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Technology Research and Investigation. MiBiz spoke with Wernikoff and Appledorn about the firm’s goals with the new practice group, the matters it plans to work on and the future of autonomous vehicle technology.

HOLLAND — Before you put pen to paper in any transaction, experts say it’s important to vet the parties with whom your company does business.

MUSKEGON — KL Outdoor LLC plans to establish a new global headquarters for its operations in downtown Muskegon.

Fox Motors Group LLC has entered the mid-Michigan market with its acquisition of Ann Arbor Automotive Inc.

The company behind a popular West Michigan snack brand must pay up after it failed to chip away at its debts to a key supplier.

While manufacturers have avoided the attention of hackers in past, the industry has risen to near the top of cyber criminals’ hit lists. As such, many manufacturers are finding their organizations woefully underprepared to combat the ominous threat of cyber attacks. Ryan Bonner works with Brighton-based Brightline Technologies Inc. to educate manufacturers on I.T. matters ranging from cloud management to regulatory compliance and security. Last week, Bonner participated in a cybersecurity webinar hosted by MiBiz and Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-West. [Editor’s note: Visit mibiz.com/cybersecurity to view the webinar.] After the webinar, he talked about new cybersecurity regulations from the Department of Defense and manufacturers’ exposure to cyber threats.

GRAND RAPIDS  Alliance Beverage Distributing LLC plans to expand into the northern Lower Peninsula by acquiring another wholesaler’s beer distribution rights, MiBiz has learned.

PORTAGE — Isaiah Erskine has faced tough odds for most of his young life.