People in the News: A roundup of new hires, promotions and awards in West Michigan.
Longtime state workforce developer to lead energy jobs consortium
Marcia Black-Watson ended a brief retirement stint to lead the Michigan Energy Workforce Development Consortium, effective Aug. 1.
Black-Watson — who worked for the state for more than 34 years in various workforce development roles — was named statewide director of the MEWDC that was created through the Michigan Chamber of Commerce Foundation. That extensive workforce development experience prepared her for a new role that aims to meet utilities’ and other companies’ energy-related labor needs.
“The consortium has been really successful in bringing to bear resources that support projects around career awareness, exploration, developing customized education and training programs, and even looking at retention issues within the energy industry,” Black-Watson told MiBiz.
The MEWDC formed in 2009 as an industry-led partnership to help identify workforce needs in the vast and rapidly evolving energy industry. Its board includes executives from major utilities, energy developers and workforce agencies.
Black-Watson said labor needs primarily involve electricity generation, gas distribution and overall infrastructure, such as line work workers, technicians and tree trimmers. The state’s two major investor-owned utilities, which play key roles in the MEWDC, are in the midst of multi-billion-dollar grid infrastructure plans to help bolster grid reliability across the state.
Meanwhile, the energy sector also is experiencing a significant transition to clean energy. Black-Watson said the MEWDC’s role will involve closely identifying employers’ needs during that change.
“Certainly there’s great demand as it relates to clean energy and mobility,” she said. “We are still working with the technologists to figure out what the demand will be.”
Another key aspect of Black-Watson’s work will involve reaching out to more diverse communities to attract workers. That will involve marketing education, training and pre-apprenticeship programs.
“The awareness, exposure and exploration that the consortium has identified is really key to drawing diverse populations,” she said.
— Reported by Andy Balaskovitz.
- Community West Credit Union directors have appointed Heidi Hunt as president and CEO. Hunt succeeds Jon Looman, who stepped down from his role with the organization. Hunt has more than 25 years of experience and started her career with Community West in 2011 by managing loan portfolio growth and since 2021 had been chief lending officer. The Kentwood-based Community West Credit Union has six West Michigan offices with 20,835 members and $258.7 million in assets as of June 30, according to a recent quarterly financial report.
- Grand-Rapids based AIC Insurance Services has hired Derek Mead as risk adviser and Dolores Drewek as benefits specialist. Mead’s previous experience includes time at Farmer’s Insurance Claims Branch as well as several years as an insurance agent. As a member of both the personal and commercial teams, Mead will provide comprehensive risk management solutions. Drewek brings 33 years of experience in the insurance industry. On AIC’s commercial solutions team, she will help employers provide creative benefits and solutions to their employees.
- East Lansing-based GreenStone Farm Credit Services has promoted Kimberly Brunner to executive vice president and chief financial officer. Brunner succeeds Travis Jones, who recently transitioned to the role of CEO. Brunner has more than 30 years of experience in accounting and finance. Before joining GreenStone in 2019, she was vice president of enterprise risk management at AgriBank. In her new role, Brunner will oversee the rural lender’s long-range financial strategy and day-to-day financial activities.
- Janice Oshinski has been named chief financial officer of Kalamazoo-based investment fund Sleeping Giant Capital LLC. Oshinski has held financial leadership roles at Cascade Engineering, Viking Group and Elston-Richards, leading strategic mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, divestiture, audit and compliance. She also has served as an audit manager at Ernst & Young. At Sleeping Giant Capital, formed two years ago by two Western Michigan University professors, Oshinski will support financial and accounting activities both internally and for portfolio companies.
- Lisa Knight has been named the Girls Choral Academy’s next executive director. She will succeed Lori Tennenhouse, who plans to retire Oct. 1 after nine years. Knight has been active in the arts community for more than 30 years and recently served as chief operating officer with Public Thread, a textile upcycling company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s in organizational leadership from Cornerstone University. Girls Choral Academy is a Grand Rapids-based choral arts program designed to nurture and support young women.
- DeAndre’ Harris has been appointed to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth board of directors. An attorney with Warner Norcross + Judd LLP, Harris focuses his practice on labor and employment law. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth is a nonprofit that provides education, recreation and arts experiences for local youth.
- The Gilmore, an arts organization in Kalamazoo, has named Seth Abramson the first director of a recently announced Jazz Awards program. The Larry J. Bell Jazz Artist Award and Larry J. Bell Young Jazz Artist Award were founded thanks to an $8 million gift to The Gilmore Endowment. The Jazz Awards plan to distribute about $350,000 every four years to top jazz pianists. Abramson, who is known for his music production company Rabbit Moon Productions Inc. and for his artistic direction of the renowned Jazz Standard club in New York City, will establish and oversee the selection process for the awards.
- Kent County has hired Mark Rambo as second deputy county administrator. Rambo brings more than 20 years of experience in local government and community leadership, most recently as deputy city administrator for the city of Kentwood, where he led recent efforts to establish priorities and sustainable funding options for its parks and recreation department. He also chairs the Kent County Road Commission and is a credentialed manager through the International City/County Management Association. For the county, Rambo will coordinate and oversee activities of the equalization, facilities, parks and information technology departments.
- The Right Place Inc. has hired Rob Llanes as senior vice president of business development. Llanes previously served as sales and business development director at Ottobock Industrials, co-founder and chief operating officer of Wafer Inc. and manager of customer strategy, operation and system consulting at Accenture. He has a bachelor’s degree in information and decision science from University of Illinois and a master’s degree in engineering management from Northwestern University. A U.S. Army veteran, Llanes will lead The Right Place’s prosperity arm, focusing on business retention, expansion and attraction.
- Kadant Johnson LLC has promoted Danielle Rohrer to vice president for commercial operations. Kadant Johnson is a subsidiary of Three Rivers-based industrial equipment supplier Kadant Inc. Rohrer has a bachelor’s degree in sales and business marketing and a master’s in business administration from Western Michigan University. She joined the company in 2008 as a marketing manager and has since taken on additional responsibilities in sales, applications and marketing.
- Keenan King has been named the next executive director of Kent School Services Network. He will succeed Carol Paine-McGovern, who plans to retire at the end of August after more than 13 years. King comes to KSSN from KConnect, where he is currently director of system building. KSSN is a community school coalition focused on promoting equitable education and increasing opportunities for achievement.
- Smith, Haughey, Rice & Roegge — a law firm with offices in Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon and Ann Arbor — has hired Kaley Pleva as director of marketing and business development. Pleva has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Grand Valley State University and specializes in content and digital marketing, business-to-business campaigns and search engine optimization. She comes to the firm from Beene Garter, where she worked for six years, most recently as senior marketing manager.
- Holland-based mental health and family services provider Arbor Circle has hired Chelsea Tucker as child welfare director. Tucker previously led the organization’s foster care program and spent several years as a foster care case manager. As child welfare director, she will oversee Arbor Circle’s foster, adoption and court appointed special advocates program.
- BHSH Spectrum Health West Michigan has hired Vikram Kashyap as vice president and department chief of the Frederick Meijer Heart & Vascular Institute, and Jon Ashford as chief operating officer of Spectrum Health Grand Rapids. Kashyap is a professor of surgery at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and comes to Spectrum from the Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute in Cleveland. At Spectrum Health, Kashyap will oversee the Heart & Vascular Institute’s recruitment, financial sustainability and clinical strategies. Ashford has been with Spectrum Health West Michigan since 2020, serving as chief operating officer at Spectrum Health United and Kelsey Hospitals, where he oversaw the Community Health Needs Assessment and the COVID-19 vaccination program. In his new role, Ashford will oversee operations of the Grand Rapids hospitals and medical center campus.
— Compiled by Abigail Ham.