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A bipartisan group of former lawmakers and Lansing political veterans today proposed a 47-cent increase in the state gas tax to fix Michigan’s roads.

Independent Bank Corp. this week reported net income of $9.9 million, or 41 cents per diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2018. 

Grand Valley State University economist Paul Isely still believes the U.S. economy could dip into a recession within a year, although West Michigan is likely to experience a “soft landing.”

Oliver Healthcare Packaging has expanded with a deal for a supplier of medical device packaging on the West Coast.

Betten Baker Auto Group has acquired South Haven Chevrolet Buick GMC, expanding the company’s reach to Southwest Michigan.

A subsidiary of a China-based manufacturer of electromechanical actuators plans to invest $2 million into a new headquarters facility on the lakeshore.

Westshore Design LLC plans to add customers in new markets with the acquisition of a Moline, Mich. electronics manufacturer.

Chemical Financial Corp. would extend further across the Midwest with the proposed merger with Wayzata, Minn.-based TCF Financial Corp.

Reforming Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system remains a high priority in Lansing after a proposal during the 2018 lame-duck legislative failed to gain the support needed to pass. State House leaders this month, soon after convening the new legislative session, formed a special committee to look at no-fault reform, and the first bill introduced in the Senate offers a basic outline for reforms.

KALAMAZOO — Western Michigan University plans to launch an online program designed to improve the ability of I.T. professionals to protect against and mitigate hacks and data breaches. The eight-week, online certification program from WMU’s Haworth College of Business and College of Engineering and Applied Sciences starts in March and consists of four courses in high-demand cybersecurity specialties.

HOLLAND — Acquiring the assets of a Charlotte-based plastics molder gave Clarion Technologies Inc. a broader customer base, added manufacturing capacity and the ability to move production closer to clients. The Holland-based Clarion Technologies acquired certain assets and a book of business from CNI Plastics LLC of Charlotte. Clarion Technologies redeployed the production equipment acquired in the deal to its facilities in Greenville, Mich., Anderson, S.C., and Garland, Texas.

GRAND RAPIDS — A private investment group has purchased a downtown commercial office building at 61 Commerce Ave. SW for $4 million, MiBiz has learned. An investment group affiliated with Byron Center-based E5 Ventures LLC bought the five-story, 28,245-square-foot commercial office building from ProCare Corporate Headquarters LLC. The transaction closed on Jan. 14.

KALAMAZOO — Private equity-backed Beacon Specialized Living Services Inc., a provider of specialized residential health care services, has expanded into Minnesota. The deal for Saint Paul, Minn.-based Owakihi Inc. marks the for-profit Beacon’s first foray outside of Michigan, according to a statement.

BYRON CENTER — Rural wireless provider FreedomNet Wireless was acquired by an Indiana-based internet provider The deal for Byron Center-based FreedomNet, which serves rural areas mostly south of Grand Rapids, near Fowlerville and in Southwest Michigan, expands La Porte, Ind.-based Surf Air Wireless LLC’s coverage area north into West Michigan, according to a statement.

Macatawa Bank Corp. nearly tripled earnings for the fourth quarter.

ChoiceOne Financial Services Inc. posted record earnings for the fourth quarter.

Former Herman Miller Inc. President and CEO Brian Walker joined Detroit-based private equity firm Huron Capital as a partner in charge of strategic leadership for portfolio companies.

Mercantile Bank Corp. recorded strong earnings and loan growth to end 2018, a trend executives expect should continue into 2019.

 Trustees at Grand Valley State University today named Philomena Mantella as its next president.

Heavy truck industry supplier SAF-Holland Inc. has acquired a majority stake in a company that manufactures automatic tire pressure management systems.

Foresight Management has acquired Grand Rapids-based Building Performance Team Inc., expanding the company’s in-house services in energy modeling and building commissioning.

A corner commercial building along the East Fulton Street corridor in Grand Rapids is under new ownership.

Here is the MiBiz Growth Report for Jan. 21, 2019.

NORTON SHORES — A company that moved out of Norton Shores before its tax abatements expired is now suing the lakeshore community and fighting the city’s demands for repayment of nearly $1 million.

Federal tax reform means multiple benefits to the real estate industry, although some further guidance is needed for investors to fully understand what that means. After President Donald Trump signed into law the most sweeping changes to the U.S. federal tax code since 1986 with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, experts pointed to the real estate sector as one of the winners with the reforms.

Most manufacturers can expect to fork over less in taxes for last year, and companies that monitor the shifting provisions could capitalize on greater investment in a few key areas. Although most of the tax cuts from the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 became effective for manufacturers on Jan. 1, 2018, businesses in all industries have been left with questions and uncertainty about how the new laws need to be applied, said Joel Mitchell, a tax partner at Plante Moran PLLC in Grand Rapids.

The recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act purported to simplify tax structures, rates and exemptions, but accountants say small businesses face plenty of nuances depending on their size, structure and profits. “One thing I have noticed, people thought they were going to be left with simpler tax laws and to some extent, some have,” said Sally Steffes, CPA and one of the partners at H&S Companies PC. “There are many variables to contend with.” 

The federal tax reform Congress enacted at the end of 2017 comes with significant complexity that tax professionals say they’re still sorting through as the 2019 tax season begins. For the first time, tax advisers are beginning to prepare and file returns for clients under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Given the depth of the changes and the complexity of the new federal tax code, the only certainty for the 2019 tax season is the expectation that business owners will need to spend more time with their CPAs and tax advisers as they dive into the details and work through their returns.

Western Michigan University Professor David Karowe, Ph.D. has dire predictions for what will happen if people across the globe fail to take swift action to replace fossil fuels with green energy. While climate change affects systems globally, it will have real effects on the West Michigan region and its economy, according to Karowe’s predictions, which are informed by his years of research on the effects of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide in plants.

GRAND RAPIDS — A new initiative funded with a $300,000 grant from the Wege Foundation wants to develop environmentally-conscious human beings at a young age. The aim for the Grand Rapids Environmental Education Network, or GREEN, is to have every student in Grand Rapids Public Schools participate in an environmental experience, according to Clayton Pelon, associate director of the Grand Valley State University College of Education who serves as the lead on the grant.

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