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Craig Hecker had thought about his eventual departure from his family business for a decade or more. A few years before he sold, he began preparing. He spent time “making sure everything was up to date and in good shape,” and even paid off the company’s debt.

Some business exits go smoothly; others, not so much. The key for business owners approaching the time when they’re poised to move on is to plan early and often, and to thoroughly think through their approach to the process.

Life happens. So does death. Professional advisers say business owners need to prepare for what happens to their companies in the event they’re taken out of commission by a sudden life-changing event — such as an illness or injury that leaves them incapacitated or debilitated, or worse. Even if an owner experiences a personal crisis that takes him away from the business for an extended period, it can have crushing effects on the company, especially without prior planning, advisers say.

Jennifer Orme applied to be the human resources director for the city of Holland after hearing about the job on Facebook. The city’s next request took her by surprise: They asked her to send in a hard copy of her resume.

WALKER — Entrepreneur Steve Ehmann has experience riding the wave of business on the way up and knows what it’s like when that same wave comes crashing down. Right out of college, Ehmann started a windsurfing school and then a chain of surfing apparel retail stores along the coast of West Michigan. When the recession of the early 1990s hit, the retail industry “got too rough,” according to Ehmann, who closed the stores in 1992.

Succession planning can be an emotionally-charged family affair for businesses in any industry. That’s especially true for all sizes of family-owned farms, which make up more than 97 percent of the industry nationally, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

KALAMAZOO — The $60 million downtown Kalamazoo cancer pavilion is one of a number of capital projects for Bronson Healthcare that are driven partly by the shift toward delivering care at outpatient settings. Along with the cancer facility across from the Medical Office Pavilion on the South Campus in downtown, Bronson plans to develop a new $22 million hospital in South Haven and invest in a $3.8 million project to renovate inpatient rooms at LakeView Hospital in Paw Paw.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey had a message for reporters when asked to respond to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposal earlier this year to form a dedicated climate change office. “I just find it fascinating that we can sit here in Michigan in the chamber of the House and think that we can control the climate,” he said.

GRAND RAPIDS — City planners hope a road diet along the Michigan Street corridor will move traffic more efficiently and help reduce crashes The road diet, planned for this spring, will extend from College Avenue to Eastern Avenue on the northeast side of Grand Rapids. Modifications include changing the striping configuration to create one travel lane in either direction and a center left-turn lane, plus a parking lane on the south side of the road.

Here is the MiBiz Growth Report for March 31, 2019.

Graci Harkema wants to break the craft beer industry’s bearded white male stereotype. In January, she became diversity and inclusion director at Founders Brewing Co., where she’s working to give employees opportunities to “be their authentic selves and achieve their goals.” Her hire followed a pair of controversies at Founders.

GRAND RAPIDS — Fountain Street Church is less than one month away from finalizing the creation of a separate nonprofit organization that will enable it to increase the efficiency of its space and its long-term sustainability. Executive Director Jack Woller said the non-denominational Fountain Street Church would retain ownership of the building it has occupied for 150 years, but will make a more formalized effort to sublease space or make in-kind donations of space to organizations that have a relationship with the church for continuing education or personal growth opportunities.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and three other Michigan business groups backed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s proposal to increase the number of state residents with a college degree and create a scholarship fund to help students go to school after high school.

Hundreds of small businesses in Michigan that use an association health plan for health benefits shouldn't worry yet about a federal judge’s ruling that struck down a 2017 executive order by President Trump. Rob Fowler, president of TranscendAHP, expects that the U.S. Department of Labor will appeal Thursday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge John Bates of the District of Columbia.

GRAND RAPIDS — New ownership plans to turn Local 741 into a neighborhood bar after acquiring the site from a partnership involving an affiliate of Third Coast Development LLC. James Matthews, owner of Iron Well LLC, purchased 741 Leonard St. NW and Local 741 from Third Coast on March 20. Terms of the deal, which included Class C liquor and specialty designated merchant licenses, and the property transaction were not disclosed.

The Kent County Road Commission has voted to deny a more than $5 million bid for its Central Complex property along the Grand River

Sparta-based ChoiceOne Financial Services Inc. plans to merge with Lapeer-based County Bank Corp. in a deal that would create a bank with a combined $1.28 billion in assets.

State laws raising the minimum wage and setting new requirements on employers for paid sick leave go into effect toward at the end of this week, unless Michigan’s attorney general or highest court say otherwise. Laws that legislators first enacted following petition drives and subsequently amended in the lame-duck session at the end of 2018 are the subject of requests to both state Attorney General Dana Nessel and the Michigan Supreme Court. At issue is whether the legislature has the ability under the state Constitution to amend laws in the same legislative session in which they were originated through citizen petition.

GRANDVILLE — Mall owner Brookfield Property Partners LP has purchased the former Younkers store at RiverTown Crossings in Grandville. The purchase came as part of A&G Realty Partners’ auction of 10 department store properties formerly owned by Milwaukee-based The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2018. The Younkers location at The Lakes Mall in Fruitport Charter Township near Muskegon was also included in the auction.

GRAND RAPIDS — To help curb fears of gentrification, a local nonprofit and an Ohio-based developer have partnered on an affordable housing development on the city’s southeast side. Ohio-based MVAH Development LLC, a development, construction and property management firm, is working with LINC UP on the proposed Eastern Lofts at 623 Eastern Ave. SE. The two hope to secure Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) in the April funding round.

For nearly 90 years, workers in the rural community of Evart processed dairy products out of the Dean’s Dairy building. After shutting its doors and ending an era in 2013, the vacant building now has new owners who plan to repurpose it for automotive component manufacturing.

E.W. Scripps Co. plans to acquire eight television stations, including Grand Rapids-based WXMI, in the most recent arrangement to come from the mega-merger of a pair the nation’s largest media giants.

Taylor Tooling Group LLC, a Walker-based CNC machining company and tool and die maker, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Grand Rapids-based Long Road Distillers LLC hopes to open a new satellite tasting room on the lakeshore.

A vacant church in Grand Rapids’ Heritage Hill neighborhood could be transformed into affordable housing by next year.

Ninety applicants must now await a lottery drawing to see when the city of Grand Rapids will consider their plans for medical marijuana-based businesses.

Spectrum Health-owned hospitals in Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Zeeland and St. Joseph are among seven in Michigan ranked in an annual list of the 100 Top Hospitals in the U.S.

When Chico, Calif.-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. put out the “bat signal” seeking help to support victims of last year’s catastrophic Camp Fire in northern California, the Michigan craft brewing industry set into motion. Their rallying point: Resilience Butte County Proud IPA. Sierra Nevada created the beer as a fundraiser, pledging to donate 100 percent of its profits from the sale of the product to the Camp Fire Relief Fund. The 10th-largest U.S. brewery then shared the recipe online and encouraged breweries all over the country to participate.

MUSKEGON — The city of Muskegon has bolstered its economic development office amid a wave of major redevelopment projects, and while a local support organization continues to define its future and transition to private-sector support. The city reorganized and expanded the office from a half-time economic development position shared through a contract with Muskegon County, to two new full-time, in-house staffers.

VICKSBURG — A proposed large-scale redevelopment in Southwest Michigan is angling to be the second project in the state to use a new funding tool. Paper City Development LLC is hopeful its proposal will meet the Michigan Strategic Fund’s criteria to use the state’s transformational brownfield program, an incentive first enacted in 2017.

Michigan’s handling of past chemical contamination incidents offers perspective on what it’s going to take to clean up the state’s PFAS problems. Expect it to take decades, billions of dollars and some awkward dances of cooperation. Reporting on PFAS to date has focused mostly on environmental concerns and pointing blame at the companies and organizations that have discharged the emerging contaminant into water supplies. MiBiz's three-part series will go beyond the heated rhetoric to offer a dose of reality about how to handle the complex challenges stemming from the equally complex chemical.

The path to cleaning up man-made chemical contamination is expensive, complex and can take generations. That’s according to Richard Rediske, senior program manager and professor of environmental chemistry at Grand Valley State University’s Robert B. Annis Water Resources Institute. Rediske, an expert on PFAS, has worked with the Concerned Citizens for Responsible Remediation, the group that for years has been chronicling contamination at the former Wolverine World Wide Inc. tannery site in Rockford.

As the scope of PFAS contamination continues to grow nationwide, lawmakers in other states increasingly are taking note of how the situation is being handled in Michigan. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, recruited about 30 members of Congress “from virtually every part of the county” to join a bipartisan “PFAS taskforce” he formed with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican from Pennsylvania.

The practice of environmental law in the United States has evolved to better define who is liable for contamination cleanups. That’s according to veteran environmental lawyer Alan Schwartz, a member of Grand Rapids-based Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey PLC.

Michigan needs to buckle up for a long, long ride on the PFAS rollercoaster. If history is any guide, coming up with workable solutions to PFAS contamination around the state is going to take decades of painstaking work, billions of dollars and many awkward dances of cooperation between companies, government agencies and citizens groups.

After 25 years representing manufacturers in Lansing through the Michigan Manufacturers Association, President and CEO Chuck Hadden is retiring at the end of 2019. He took over leadership of MMA at a nadir for manufacturers, when the fate of the auto industry and its supply chain was a big question mark looming over the state.

MUSKEGON — Shifting dynamics in the automotive industry convinced family-owned Hines Corp., an industrial holding company, to seek a buyer for its Michigan Spring & Stamping LLC operations. The decision came after Michigan Spring successfully launched a new production facility in China in September 2018 in response to demands from a key customer, said George “Bud” Hendrick III, executive vice president of corporate development at Hines Corp.

HUDSONVILLE — SoundOff Signal, a global supplier of LED vehicle lighting, control systems, and electronic warning products, prides itself on a quarter century of “smart design” and hometown service. The Hudsonville-based company started in 1992 with a single innovative solution to a uniquely dangerous problem. At the time, research indicated that motorcyclists were inadvertently leaving their turn signals on after completing a turn, resulting in motorist confusion and leading to serious accidents. SoundOff Signal designed a device that initiated a beeping sound once the turn signal was activated, reminding the cyclist to turn the signal off once a turn was complete.

Key aspects of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first budget proposal involving education and road funding have drawn mixed reactions from the business community, but advocates are aligned in opposition of leveling the tax rate among Michigan companies. Whitmer has proposed reinstating a tax exemption on pensions that was eliminated by former Gov. Rick Snyder, and offsetting the decreased revenue with higher taxes on smaller businesses.

GRAND RAPIDS — Many companies offer employees an anonymous way to report to management various problems, impropriety or other violations, often via a telephone hotline or a dedicated email account. But a new startup company is offering workers a better way to blow the whistle, and in doing so, could allow businesses to get a better handle on potential issues before they spin out of control.

GRAND RAPIDS — A need to generate administrative efficiencies and better compete for talent contributed to driving the affiliation between senior living providers Porter Hills Presbyterian Village Inc. in Grand Rapids and Chelsea-based United Methodist Retirement Communities Inc. 

A $1.4 million line item in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s $60.2 billion budget proposal unveiled March 5 calls for a three-year project to catalog “hazardous materials pipelines” that cross Michigan waterways. Department of Natural Resources Director Daniel Eichinger told lawmakers this month the study, spurred by the debate over Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, is needed to fill an information gap about dangers posed to Michigan waters.

GRAND RAPIDS — A capital fund providing commercial real estate bridge loans raised more than $11 million from investors in its first few months and closed on transactions with three borrowers. Red Oak Capital GP LLC of Grand Rapids continues to close monthly on investments from new investors en route to a goal of raising $50 million through a bond offering by the end of 2019, with two six-month extensions if needed. The capital raised goes to a national fund that provides senior lines of credit for commercial real estate deals that do not yet qualify for bank financing.

GRAND RAPIDS — Nearly a year after closing on the acquisition of a community bank on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Lake Michigan Credit Union could extend its footprint further in the Sunshine State. By following members who are migrating south for the warmer climate in retirement, the Grand Rapids-based Lake Michigan Credit Union is presently looking at other community banks in Florida, said President and CEO Sandra Jelinski.

Building the United Way brand and providing a consistent donor experience is imperative for the organization and its affiliates to remain relevant. Those were among the factors that led to the announcement in January of the Van Buren County United Way’s decision to join forces with the United Way of Southwest Michigan for back office operations.

Here is the MiBiz Growth Report for March 17, 2019.

David Denton says even though e-commerce is affecting the retail market, he’s expecting another good year for the sector from a real estate development perspective. Denton, vice president of real estate brokerage at DAR Development in Grand Rapids, was recently named to the Midwest Real Estate News Hall of Fame and previously served as president of the Commercial Alliance of Realtors.

The founding couple whose initials gave ELK Brewing LLC its name are no longer with the company.