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Published in Economic Development

MiBiz Growth Report: Sept. 12, 2022

BY Sunday, September 11, 2022 06:58pm

Here is the MiBiz Growth Report for September 12, 2022:

M&A

  • The Huizenga Group, a privately held investment firm based in Grand Rapids, has bolstered its capabilities in the automation sector with a deal for Madison Heights-based supplier Bulldog Factory Service LLC. Previously a part of Madison Heights-based Santanna Tool & Design Co., Bulldog Factory Service has additional operations in North Carolina and Mexico. The company provides automated and welding systems, conveyors, design and simulation services, and workforce reduction projects and kits. Huizenga Group offers management services to a diverse group of companies in tool and die, pharmaceutical packaging, machined metal parts, electrical contracting and highly engineered automotive component manufacturing. Terms of the transaction were undisclosed. Bulldog was advised by Phil Gilbert of East Bay Advisors. The deal for Bulldog marks the second transaction involving an automation company in the last five months for Huizenga Group. In April, the company acquired Grand Haven-based Churchill Technologies LLC,  a designer of special purpose assembly and test equipment. 
  • Keller Ford Inc., which operates a 52,000-square-foot store at 3385 Alpine Ave. NW in Walker, has been acquired by LaFontaine Automotive Group LLC, marking the Southeast Michigan company’s entry into the Grand Rapids metropolitan market. The company has been eyeing the West Michigan area as a growth opportunity, according to CEO Ryan LaFontaine, who called the market “a tremendous opportunity for continued growth.” LaFontaine Automotive Group has acquired 17 Michigan retail locations in the last five years, including four acquisitions in 2021. The Keller Ford dealership is the fourth Ford store in LaFontaine Automotive Group’s portfolio. The dealership group, based in Highland in Oakland County, operates 52 retail franchises at 30 Michigan retail locations. LaFontaine Automotive Group will rebrand the Walker location as LaFontaine Ford of Grand Rapids. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
  • Crain Communications Inc. has acquired the Grand Rapids Business Journal from Troy-based Gemini Media LLC, publication executives announced last month. Crain Communications — a Detroit-based, privately held media company with a portfolio of business and trade publications — said the deal helps further its reach into West Michigan and bridge its publications in Chicago and Detroit. The company’s city brands also operate publications in Cleveland and New York. According to a statement on the deal, the GRBJ will continue operating as a separate media outlet and will “tap into additional content and advertising resources from the Crain city brands.” The GRBJ’s team of 10 reporters and sales executives will continue at the publication. Four years ago, Troy-based HOUR Media LLC acquired Gemini Publications, the former owner of the GRBJ, and formed Gemini Media LLC.
  • Montage Inc., a provider of protection plans for residential furniture, jewelry and watches, has sold to One80 Intermediaries Inc., a Boston-based specialty insurance broker. The deal included subsidiaries Montage Furniture Services and Montage Jewelry Care, which provide insurance plans and warranties direct to consumers and via retail outlets, according to a statement. Montage’s insurance plans include traditional pooled risk and captive/reinsurance protection programs. The company got its start more than 40 years ago offering traditional furniture protection plans. For One80, the transaction bolsters the company’s warranty business, which it first entered in 2020 with the acquisition of Safeware.
  • Private equity-backed AGS Company Automotive Solutions LLC, a maker of automotive aftermarket parts, has acquired a California-based manufacturer and distributor of auto and motorcycle tools and equipment. In acquiring Gilroy, Calif.-based Motive Products from co-owners Eric Leicher and Marco Romani, AGS will add a complementary line of equipment to its portfolio. Motive Products, which has been in business for 24 years, makes the Power Bleeder line of equipment, which is used by professional racers and enthusiasts for bleeding brake lines. Norton Shores-based AGS also sees the deal for Motive Products as the first in a line of several acquisitions the platform aims to complete by the end of the year. AGS was founded in 1931 as American Grease Stick Co. Since 2016, the company has been a portfolio company of 3 Rivers Capital, a Pittsburgh, Pa.-based private equity firm that acquired the firm from the Rosen family for $10 million, according to reports at the time.

 

Expansion

  • SnackCraft LLC, a manufacturer of natural snack food products owned by Greece-based Unismack S.A., will invest nearly $42 million to establish a U.S. headquarters in Kentwood. The company will renovate a vacant Kerry Foods facility for new equipment and machinery and expects to create up to 185 jobs with the project, its first in North America despite having a global presence. The Michigan Strategic Fund awarded the company a $1 million Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant for the project. SnackCraft considered a competing site in Chicago, according to state officials. The Kentwood facility, located at 4444 52nd St. SE, will be a co-packer and contract manufacturer of baked crackers, tortilla chips, single and twin-screw extruded snacks and pellet snacks. In addition to manufacturing, the site will also include R&D facilities and provide warehousing and some third-party logistics for its customers. Unismack founder and CEO Dimitrios Stratakis said the Grand Rapids region “seemed like an obvious choice” for expanding the company’s manufacturing capacity in the U.S.

 

Closure

  • Harmony Hall will be closing its doors on Grand Rapids’ west side as the owners of Harmony Brewing Co. LLC plan to move brewing production to another location to “maximize” distribution. The company, owned by siblings Heather, Barry and Jackson Van Dyke, said it will close the 401 Stocking Ave. NW location after ArtPrize this year and move its brewing operations to an off-site, production-only facility. The company’s original location in Eastown will remain open. Harmony Hall launched in 2015 as a satellite location to help the brewery keep up with demand for beer production. However, the owners now say the Harmony Hall facility lacks the space the company needs for “large scale production, so we had to make the difficult choice to move.”

 

Development

  • Tall Timbers Portage LLC, a venture of developer The Hinman Co. and AVB Construction LLC co-founder Joseph Gesmundo, received state approval for $4.7 million in brownfield incentives to build a four-story, 180-unit apartment development in the city of Portage. The Michigan Strategic Fund approved the incentives for the Tall Timbers project at 3413 W. Centre Avenue, a former dumping site. The city of Portage is supporting the project through a local tax capture portion of the brownfield plan, valued at $6.4 million. The city identified Tall Timbers as a priority because it will help address housing needs driven partly by expansion projects at nearby companies including Stryker Corp. and Pfizer Inc. Ten percent of the housing units will be reserved for households earning between 80 and 120 percent of the area median income. 
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