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Q&A (73)

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has struggled in recent years amid budget cuts, staff reductions and a breach of public trust after an automated computer system falsely accused 20,000 residents of fraud over a two-year span. Michelle Beebe aims to change that. Beebe was appointed to lead the UIA in late April, following the state’s decision to reassign the former director Sharon Moffett-Massey in the wake of the false-fraud allegations. Beebe comes to Michigan from Utah where she led that state’s unemployment agency since December 2014. After three weeks on the job, Beebe spoke with MiBiz about the challenges the UIA faces in Michigan and how she plans to help improve the agency.

Q&A: Jon Lanning, President of Inontime Inc.

Written by | Sunday, 14 May 2017 13:45 |
Q&A

As the co-owners of Zeeland-based trucking, warehousing and logistics firm Inontime Inc., Jon Lanning and business partner Eric Bruins have tried to build a culture based on trust and entrepreneurship, where every one of the more than 300 employees has a sense of ownership. That culture earned the two executives the Small Business People of the Year honor for the state of Michigan, as awarded by the U.S. Small Business Association. Lanning spoke with MiBiz about the role culture played in enabling growth for the company that has annual revenues in excess of $25 million, and how the general business climate affects small business executives.

As Michigan continues its attempts to foster and grow a high-technology sector, the state’s economic development organization has started to assess what it can do to help. To that end, the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) last month approved a new $1 million Early Stage Proof of Concept Fund aimed at commercializing technology at the state’s research institutions. Denise Graves, director of university relations at the MEDC, spoke with MiBiz regarding the new fund and where it fits in the broader Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) program, which aims to accelerate the biomedical, life sciences, advanced transportation, advanced materials and agricultural biotech industries.

Noto’s taps reality TV chef ahead of expansion

Written by | Sunday, 16 April 2017 13:00 |
Q&A

As it turns 20 years old this year, Noto’s Old World Italian Dining has plans to grow. The longtime Italian eatery and banquet center in Cascade Township has brought on self-proclaimed celebrity chef Robert Hesse to assist with that growth strategy. A veteran of reality television show Hell’s Kitchen with fellow chef Gordon Ramsay, Hesse is open about his past as a drug addict and drug dealer who also suffered two heart attacks and eventually lost approximately 400 pounds. Hesse spoke with MiBiz about what he believes he can lend to the food culture in West Michigan.

Steven Wybo doesn’t see much of a happy ending for the vast majority of brick-and-mortar retail stores. The senior managing partner in the Birmingham office of international turnaround and restructuring firm Conway MacKenzie Inc. says the impending demise of West Michigan-based retailers like MC Sports and Family Christian Stores is indicative of the trends impacting larger mall anchors. In particular, they bear too much fixed cost and have to contend with ever-changing consumer trends. Wybo spoke with MiBiz regarding recent closures and the very limited number of options he sees for retail.

With most experts predicting a surge in defense and infrastructure spending based on the Trump administration’s recent proposals, manufacturers likely will have more opportunities to vie for federal contracts. However, the process of actually finalizing a contract with the federal government is far from easy, said Sue Tellier, owner of JetCo Solutions LLC. The Grand Rapids-based consulting firm assists companies in the aerospace, defense, professional services and other industries in sourcing procurement contracts with the federal government. Roughly 20 percent of the company’s clients work in the aerospace industry. Tellier spoke with MiBiz regarding some best practices for companies pursuing government contracts.

Dunn reflects on tenure as WMU president

Written by | Sunday, 19 March 2017 16:15 |
Q&A

On June 30, John Dunn will step down as president of Western Michigan University after a decade on the job. Over the course of his tenure, Dunn ushered in a new era for the Kalamazoo-based university, playing a key role in striking a partnership with the Cooley Law School and creating the private Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine. Under Dunn, WMU increased its minority enrollment from 10 percent of the student body in 2007 to 22 percent now. At the same time, WMU’s international student population doubled to 1,833 students. During a visit to Grand Rapids as part of a 10-day farewell tour across the state, Dunn spoke with MiBiz about his accomplishments at WMU and his plans for retirement.

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.

As the automotive industry adopts new technologies like autonomous driving, suppliers need to find opportunities to add value. For Yanfeng Automotive Interiors, that opportunity comes from flexible seating, smart surfaces and other technology, said Bryan Nyeholt, vice president of global product and process. Yanfeng, which formed in 2014 after Johnson Controls Inc. spun off the majority of its automotive interiors business to Shanghai-based Yanfeng Automotive Trim Systems Co. Ltd., manufactures a variety of interior components including instrument panels, door panels and consoles. Nyeholt is the keynote speaker for the annual Automotive Supplier Symposium, hosted by Grand Valley State University’s Van Andel Global Trade Center on March 9 at the Richard M. DeVos Center in Grand Rapids. Nyeholt spoke to MiBiz prior to the event about the benefits of the joint venture and how disruptive trends in the automotive industry are driving interior design. 

After spending the early part of her career as a communicator with the United Nations and the U.S. Treasury Department, Kara Alaimo witnessed glaring disconnects between organizations and people communicating across different cultures. Her new book, “Pitch, Tweet, or Engage on the Street: How to practice global public relations and strategic communication,” seeks to shed some light on those differences and help people communicate more effectively. The book is built on interviews with senior communications professionals from 31 different countries and divides the globe into 10 distinct cultural units. Alaimo will visit Grand Valley State University as part of its APR Speakers Series on Feb. 13 to discuss her research and book. Alaimo spoke with MiBiz  prior to the event about how businesses should prepare to communicate across borders in an increasingly globalized and hostile world. 

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. 

When Andrew Haan takes over in early February as president of Downtown Kalamazoo Inc. (DKI), he’ll continue the organization’s focus on encouraging growth in Southwest Michigan’s largest downtown market. Haan, who currently serves as an associate director in Gov. Rick Snyder’s Office of Urban Initiatives, spoke with MiBiz about the recently proposed investments in and around downtown Kalamazoo and what will continue to propel the city’s growth.

While beginning farmers often start their operations with a passion for local food and agriculture, many struggle with the day-to-day financials and other intricacies of running a business. Tom Cary, manager of the Beginning Farmer Program at Michigan State University,  aims to remedy that. The program hosts a series of Farmer Field School workshops to help prepare people to manage the business side of their farms. The program will hold a farm labor roundtable to discuss best practices in attracting, retaining and managing employees on Wednesday, Dec. 14 from 1-4 p.m. at the MSU Student Organic Farm at 3291 College Road in Holt. Cary spoke with MiBiz prior to the workshop about some of the main issues facing new farmers. 

Beginning Jan. 9, 2017, Jim Gill will take over as CEO of the growing Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids. Having previously worked as the COO and CFO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority in Pittsburgh, Gill will take over an airport going through major renovations and adding flights amid record passenger counts. Gill spoke with MiBiz about his hopes to engage a changing airline industry in continuing the success the Ford airport has enjoyed in recent years. 

Q&A: Sam Tsemberis, Founder, Pathways Housing First

Written by | Sunday, 27 November 2016 16:24 |
Q&A

Dr. Sam Tsemberis wants you to know that ending homelessness isn’t very complicated. Simply put, it just requires providing people with housing. The clinical psychologist and founder of New York City-based Pathways Housing First visited Grand Rapids in mid November to meet with organizations that provide services for the city’s homeless population, as well as to give a talk at Fountain Street Church. He also sat down with MiBiz to discuss his housing-first model and how Grand Rapids could end homelessness in a year if the city were to commit to it. 

Keith Creagh had the less-than-desirable front-row seat to much of the state’s response effort to the ongoing Flint water crisis. A longtime director of several state government agencies, Creagh was tapped to head the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality following the resignation of the previous director in January. Now the director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Creagh spoke with MiBiz in early November after his appearance on a panel related infrastructure and its relationship to health.

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