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Q&A (83)

Veteran PR exec launches marijuana-focused business

Written by | Sunday, 01 October 2017 17:28 |
Q&A

When Roberta King decided it was time for a career change, she wanted to make sure her next phase involved something unique. The long-time vice president of public relations and marketing at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation ultimately decided the niche market of medical and legal recreational marijuana needed a “premier national and international communications firm.” King recruited fellow marketing and branding veteran Dottie Rhodes and the two officially launched Canna Communications LLC in late August. King spoke with MiBiz regarding the opportunities in the industry, ranging from consulting with startup businesses in the complex marijuana industry to organizing advocacy campaigns.

Q&A: Gary Allore, CEO of Mercy Health Muskegon

Written by | Sunday, 17 September 2017 13:00 |
Q&A

Gary Allore took over this month as president and CEO of Mercy Health Muskegon with a deep knowledge of the region’s health care market. Allore has worked for nearly 30 years for the Catholic Health system’s local and regional operations. He previously served as regional chief financial officer for Mercy Health West Michigan, which includes Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids. In his new role, he succeeds Greg Loomis, who retired in June, as Mercy Health Muskegon continues construction on a $271 million expansion and faces new competition from Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health’s move into the market over the last two years. The 54-year-old Muskegon native spoke with MiBiz about his new role as CEO.

Honigman launches autonomous vehicle practice group

Written by | Sunday, 03 September 2017 16:02 |
Q&A

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.

Hundreds of private equity investors, advisers specializing in M&A and finance and other business professionals will be in Grand Rapids this week for the Great Lakes Capital Connection. The two-day conference, hosted for the first time by the Western Michigan chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth, involves keynote speakers, panel discussions, and private networking events to create collaboration across the region. MiBiz spoke with ACG West Michigan President Rabih Jamal, a managing partner at DWH LLC in Grand Rapids, about the event and his perspectives on the present conditions for accessing capital.

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.

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.

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