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With the final winter North American International Auto Show in the books, the century-old expo in Detroit and newer market-specific shows across the Midwest may start to change organically — but organizers aren’t planning on it.

The proposed $3.6 billion merger between Chemical Financial Corp. and TCF Financial Corp. would create a Midwest bank based in Michigan that’s able to compete with the largest national banks and that’s likely to pursue further acquisitions. Under the $3.6 billion all-stock deal, the Wayzata, Minn.-based TCF Financial (NYSE: TCF) would merge into the Detroit-based Chemical Financial (Nasdaq: CHFC). Once the deal closes, Chemical Bank locations would take on the TCF name.

HOLLAND — The $6.7 million that ITB Packaging LLC raised from private investors will go to support developing new production equipment and expanding into markets outside of the U.S. In the years ahead, the company aims to accelerate growth, penetrate new product markets such as consumer goods, electronics and the beverage industry, and establish production for overseas customers in Mexico and Europe. The first step is to complete in-house development on the next generation of automated production equipment to produce the packaging dividers.

MUSKEGON — A West Michigan solar energy developer is pursuing new projects and job-training in low-income communities across the state that qualify for tax relief under recent federal tax reforms. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 created qualified Opportunity Zones that allow investors to defer taxes on capital gains meant to spur development in low-income areas. While most projects involve real estate development, some developers across the U.S. are beginning to explore the potential for renewable energy in Opportunity Zones.

KALAMAZOO — Southwest Michigan’s largest city is radically rethinking how its street network connects its people to neighborhoods, businesses and major institutions. In a January agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation, the city of Kalamazoo accomplished a long-standing goal of getting back under local control the major streets through its downtown and into adjacent neighborhoods. Now, officials want to reconfigure the streets into a multi-modal part of the city’s urban center.

Mercy Health plans to develop more outpatient medical centers in West Michigan over the next few years. The newest center will come online on East Fulton Street in Ada, where Mercy Health is presently building out space that will house family and internal medicine physicians, neurology, OB-GYN, X-ray, a lab and ancillary services, including physical therapy. Mercy Health expects to offer the first services at the new Ada location in April, said Chief Integration Officer Mary Boyd.

A decision out of Washington, D.C. at the end of last year provides further uncertainty as to how far employers can go with incentives to encourage employees to participate in wellness programs. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in mid-December decided to scrap two rules about wellness incentives. 

GRAND RAPIDS — The organization that provides blood to most of the hospitals in Michigan took on a new name to create a single brand identity with sister centers in neighboring states. Grand Rapids-based Michigan Blood became Versiti Blood Center of Michigan in mid January. The name change comes six years after Michigan Blood affiliated with Milwaukee, Wis.-based Versiti Inc.

State lawmakers are trying for a third consecutive session to codify rules over property tax assessments that municipalities say have cost them millions of dollars in revenue.

The newly formed Northwest Michigan Rural Housing Partnership has tapped Sarah Lucas as its executive director. Lucas, who also serves as director of community development at Networks Northwest, a 10-county public regional planning agency, talked with MiBiz about the issues that make workforce housing virtually impossible to build in communities that continually get overlooked by state and federal programs.

J.D. Collins became state director of the Grand Rapids-based Small Business Development Center in mid-December. He spent years at larger organizations — Fifth Third Bank, Amway, Spectrum Health — working as a technologist and innovator “before I really found my niche.” Collins also ran his own consulting firm, Collins Innovations LLC, and was chief innovation officer at a heavy equipment technology startup.

Acrisure LLC capped off its most active year for M&A with the acquisition of Milwaukee, Wis.-based HNI Risk Services at the end of 2018.

Marketing Grand Rapids as a place for young people to live and work is becoming increasingly important to the local economy.

A West Michigan brewpub in planning has agreed to change its name as part of a settlement in a trademark infringement case brought by Railtown Brewing Co. last August.

The economy in Northern Michigan may differ greatly from West Michigan’s, but leaders in both areas of the state have started to grapple with a common challenge: a lack of affordable housing. As in the greater Grand Rapids region, the inability of workers to find available affordable housing has reached crisis levels across the northern Lower Peninsula, in both rural markets and in cities like Traverse City and Petoskey.

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.

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