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Small Business (178)

Q&A: George Bradshaw

Written by | Monday, 20 August 2012 00:00 |

George Bradshaw was a modern day "Mad Man" in New York City, having worked on marketing campaigns for NBC's 2000-2008 Olympics programming and for Disney, before following his wife's career to West Michigan.

As one of the most public evangelists for Southwest Michigan, Ron Kitchens serves as the face of economic development in a region that continues to have its share of successes.

A Utah bank that specializes in U.S. Small Business Administration lending entered the Michigan market this summer, seeking to tap into the state's improving economy.

WEST MICHIGAN — Small business owners across Michigan feel increasingly optimistic about their future prospects, according to results from a pair of surveys that found expectations for increased hiring and improved sales and profits.

In the Small Business Association of Michigan's June survey, 22 percent of 600 respondents said they increased hiring in the past six months, a rate double the amount found in the prior survey last November. Twenty-six percent said they intend to hire more staff over the next six months.

GRAND RAPIDS — A new startup competition linking entrepreneurs and designers will see which team can quickly and inexpensively come up with the best business idea. 

The goal: to get past over-thinking ideas by rapidly prototyping them, getting them into the customers' hands and learning quickly from mistakes or missteps. 

ITB offers sustainable packaging solution

Written by | Sunday, 22 July 2012 00:39 |

A West Michigan manufacturing startup has taken the international packaging industry by storm creating an eco-friendly divider that's generating as much buzz in the business as bubble wrap did a half century ago.

GRAND RAPIDS — Joe Jones wants to change how the Grand Rapids Urban League works with businesses in West Michigan.

WYOMING — Fleet owners in search of a more sustainable alternative to petroleum fuels find the marketplace has few options that are both scalable and economical. That search has companies increasingly turning to compressed natural gas (CNG) as their fuel of choice.

Fleets in West Michigan now have more access to CNG with the addition of the region's third filling station in Wyoming. A multilayered partnership helped secure $1 million in grant funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to install the station at 450 44th Street at property owned by Louis Padnos Iron and Metal.

WEST MICHIGAN — Setting an aggressive goal, Herman Miller Inc. wants to grow annual sales by a half-billion dollars within the next three years.

One of the targeted investments Herman Miller plans to make to achieve the goal that President and CEO Brian Walker outlined in a recent conference call is developing a new distribution channel and sales structure "to better enable us to serve small business customers," a market segment that large office furniture makers have had difficulty penetrating in the past.

WEST MICHIGAN — Business owners who haven't already been planning ahead for federal health reform better get going, experts on the law say.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling largely upholding the federal Affordable Care Act heightens the need for employers that have not already done so to begin planning for how they'll comply with provisions in the law.

GRAND RAPIDS — You've probably heard of the West Michigan business development groups he has helped create, which include Grand Angels and Grand Valley Research Corp., but you may have never heard of Craig T. Hall before. 

And that's the way Hall, president of Lee Shore Equities, likes to keep it.

GRAND RAPIDS — With gas prices rising and an increasingly large number of people living and working in cities, Nate Phelps says he found a great opportunity to realize his lifelong dream of owning a bike shop in Grand Rapids. 

Opened in March, Central District Cyclery is located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids on Monroe Center in the space previously occupied by City Market. The retail store specializes in selling and servicing bicycles geared toward the urban rider, such as road and urban commuter bikes.

WEST MICHIGAN — Bob Bockheim can't quite put a finger on exactly what's going on right now or why, although he agrees with his colleagues that global economic uncertainty is probably to blame.

Nucraft Furniture Co., a maker of high-end office furniture and conference tables, started off 2012 strong but has since seen business slow as the industry approached midyear.

Over the more than two decades he's worked at Herman Miller Inc., President and CEO Brian Walker experienced the industry's highs and felt the pain of its steep decline during the recent recession. Today, Walker says he's "cautiously optimistic" about the industry's direction, and he's concentrating on what the company can do internally to affect its success. That's certainly kept the Zeeland-based manufacturer busy. "We're launching a total of a couple hundred products over an 18-24 month period," Walker told MiBiz during an interview at the company's showroom at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago during the NeoCon trade show. 

ROTHBURY — Rising customer demand, an ideal location and available capital created an opportunity for a local company to reopen one of West Michigan's idled foundries.

Muskegon-based Michigan Steel Inc. worked with one of its key customers to convert the former Kurdziel Iron foundry in Rothbury, Mich. into a steel foundry to meet a growing demand for railroad castings. The newly formed Rothbury Steel Inc. launched production in late April with hopes of becoming a $50 million operation within two years.

The Zingerman's way

Written by | Friday, 08 June 2012 19:21 |

GRAND RAPIDS — When Paul Saginaw and Ari Weinzweig created Zingerman's Deli, all they set out to do was create a tasty sandwich shop in Ann Arbor. Little did they expect that they'd go on to foster one of the most revered customer service models in all of business.

"Really all we wanted was a great corned beef sandwich," Saginaw told MiBiz during an interview in Grand Rapids, where Saginaw was attending the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies annual conference in mid-May. "We didn't grow up in foodie families."

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