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Intermodal: Eastown is the nameplate on a new plan to bring high-quality street food to the city. The Urban Renaissance Group wants to develop shipping containers into customized small commercial kitchens around the city, offering a temporary location for entrepreneurs to try their hand at running a restaurant. The group wants to test the concept with a location on Wealthy Street, but needs to first get the city's and the historic preservation commission's approval to move forward.

Rather than get sent to rot in a landfill, about 100,000 tons of food processing waste will be converted into electricity once Michigan's first large-scale biodigester comes online this summer.

Construction on the $22 million Fremont Community Digester and electric generator is just now wrapping up, and testing at the facility should begin in a matter of months.
The project's developer, NOVI Energy, also signed a $55 million agreement with Consumers Energy to purchase approximately 380,000 megawatt-hours or 19,000 MWh per year of electricity from the plant over the next 20 years. The deal marks the first time the utility will buy energy made from food processing waste.

Amway scion and ArtPrize founder Rick DeVos has launched "an unconventional venture capital fund" that blends elements of elevator pitch competitions, business mentoring and community engagement.

DeVos introduced Start Garden LLC, which is backed by a $15 million commitment from the DeVos family, on April 26 at a press event at the JW Marriott Hotel in Grand Rapids. The company will make initial $5,000 investments in new companies each week and then participate in follow-on investments of up to $500,000 as some of the ideas mature and develop into projects or businesses. Companies or individuals can submit ideas via the company's website,

While the Sorber brothers initially started Two Men And A Truck, it was their mother, Mary Ellen Sheets, who really helped set the vision and create the culture for the growing international moving company. President and CEO Brig Sorber discusses how the company grew during a time of economic turmoil and became complacent because of that growth. When the company realized it had to restructure, Sorber knew he could always turn to the advice his mother gave him.

GRAND RAPIDS — Shifting its ground from the east and west coasts, the BALLE Business Conference will move to the heartland this May and give local businesses, entrepreneurs and community members the opportunity to explore and discuss issues pertaining to the growth of local, interconnected economies.

While West Michigan is host to a number of its own small business accelerators, some out-of-state investors see the region as fertile ground for scooping up a piece of the area’s entrepreneurial climate.

Founded in 1987 by John Lowery, Applied Imaging now has six offices in Michigan and is pushing an effort to further its footprint into the Metro Detroit market.

In forming a united front, the managing partners at 13 Grand Rapids law firms seek to aggressively diversify the local legal community in the years ahead.

A million pounds of scrap powder produced by West Michigan manufacturers could someday end up in office furniture instead of the local landfill.

Criterion designs and manufactures automation equipment, particularly programmable motion technology used in cutting machines, measurement machines and robotic parking systems. Last year, the company helped develop an automated parking system for a medical center in California.

Keltech is a designer and manufacturer of tankless electric water heaters used in place of boilers in stadiums, on ships, for instrument sterilization in hospitals and for other industrial and heating applications. To grow, the company has paid special attention to how it markets its products.

The historic 93-year-old company has grown to be a full-service manufacturer of metal fabrications and assemblies. It rallied through the recession and made 2010 and 2011 record years. Proos recently leased an additional 30,000 square feet and partnered with local community colleges for future growth.

Lynx Network Group is a wholesale and retail provider of telecommunication services that focuses on providing links to the rural and underserved areas in Michigan that competitors typically avoid because of high entry costs. A facilities-based provider, Lynx owns more than 1,200 miles of fiber assets. In 2011, Lynx doubled its annual revenue and is projecting a 34 percent increase in 2012.

Optimal Solutions is a provider of software and systems engineering services for the education and health care markets. The company developed the world’s first interactive patient system that is 100-percent data network based, a product it debuted at Metro Hospital.

When the Michigan Celebrates Small Business event launched in 2005, its founders must have felt like lone voices in the wilderness. Corporate recruitment and retention were still the economic development strategies of choice in those heady, pre-recession days.

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