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Q&A (78)

Martha Gonzalez-Cortes has leveraged an educational background in cultural anthropology into a career focused on helping people — often those from marginalized communities. A West Michigan native from Oceana County, Gonzalez-Cortes joined the Kalamazoo Community Foundation at midyear to serve as the organization’s vice president for community investment. With a 20-year career in public service, Gonzalez-Cortes most recently served as the community relations director for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Previously, she was CEO of the Hispanic Center of West Michigan and state director of the Office of Migrant Affairs during part of the Granholm administration. Gonzalez-Cortes spoke with MiBiz about her new role in Kalamazoo and her outlook for how she can help effect change through philanthropy in Southwest Michigan.

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.

Dr. Edward Montgomery began his tenure as Western Michigan University’s ninth president last week, taking over from former President John Dunn who stepped down after a decade in the role. Montgomery joins WMU after a career in a variety of positions both within and outside academia. An economist by training, Mongomery most recently served as the dean of the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. He also worked in both the Clinton and Obama administrations, serving as the “Auto Recovery Czar” during the latter president’s term in office. Less than two days into his new position, Montgomery spoke with MiBiz about his background in higher education and his plans for the university going forward.

After about eight years away, Jeff Mason has returned to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Having previously worked at the state’s top economic development organization as a senior vice president for business development, he left in 2009 to head up the University Research Corridor, an alliance of Michigan’s three major research institutions. He’s rejoining the MEDC as its president and CEO, where he’ll lead an organization that’s grown into new focus areas, specifically community development. Mason spoke with MiBiz about these organizational shifts and the new economic development tools the state legislature recently passed to help make Michigan more competitive.

Justine Burdette took over leadership of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center-West early this year after the organization’s long-time director, Bill Small, departed to pursue a career in education. With a background in liberal arts and art history, Burdette — who worked as an executive assistant to Small — brings a new perspective and problem-solving skills to guide MMTC-West through the next evolution of manufacturing. Burdette believes manufacturers will need to integrate new connected technologies, cybersecurity and other measures to compete in the future. She spoke with MiBiz about what skills she brings to the table and her long-term outlook for the organization.

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. 

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