A roundup of new hires, promotions and other advancements across West Michigan.
- U.S. Signal Co. LLC, a Grand Rapids-based data center operator, I.T. solutions provider, and — as of earlier this year — portfolio company of global investment manager Igneo Infrastructure Partners, has named Daniel Watts as CEO. Watts takes over the role from former U.S. Signal owner, chairman and CEO Rich Postma, who left the company after the sale to Igneo. Watts comes to U.S. Signal after serving as chief operating officer of independent fiber network company Segra. A U.S. Army veteran, Watts also previously served in roles with a business technology integrator and in various sales and operations roles at Windstream.
- Multidisciplinary consulting firm Wightman, which specializes in architecture, civil engineering and surveying, has named Courtney James as the company’s first solely focused construction administrator. With more than 20 years of experience in construction management and architecture, James will be responsible for transitioning projects from the initial design phase through completion while serving as a liaison between the construction manager, contractors and design team. James earned bachelor’s degrees in architecture as well as studio art and art history from Drury University in Ohio. She will be based out of Wightman’s Kalamazoo office.
- The Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, or WMed, has named Dr. Eric Achtyes as chairperson of the medical school’s Department of Psychiatry. Known for his research in schizophrenia and other mental disorders, Achtyes previously served as director of the Division of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in Grand Rapids. He also has served as behavioral health medical director at Network180, the community mental health authority for Kent County. Achtyes earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Calvin College in 1997, followed by a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Washington and his medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical School.
- Byron Center-based food distributor and retailer SpartanNash Co. has promoted Ileana McAlary from senior vice president to executive vice president, chief legal officer and corporate board secretary. McAlary, who joined SpartanNash in 2021, oversees the company’s growing legal, government affairs, compliance and aviation team. CEO Tony Sarsam said McAlary and her team “have played a crucial role in modernizing our corporate legal function as we champion customer-focused innovation and prepare for growth.” McAlary joined SpartanNash from Wolverine World Wide Inc., where she most recently had served as the company’s vice president associate general counsel and compliance officer. She also has served in corporate legal counsel positions at Meijer Inc. and Amway Corp., and as an attorney at Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey PLC. McAlary earned degrees from Grand Valley State University and Wayne State University Law School.
- Coastal Container Corp. has brought on a new manager and executive as the Holland-based packaging supplies provider expands. Coastal Container, a portfolio company of family-owned investment firm Coastal Group, recently named Troy Howard as plant manager for the container and honeycomb divisions and Thomas Staal as director of management systems. Howard brings more than 37 years of corrugated packaging experience while Staal has 33 years of experience in supervisory and quality systems roles. Coastal Container plans to hire more employees in the coming months as the company completes a 65,000-square-foot expansion in Holland. The roughly $22 million project also calls for adding a new rail spur to deliver raw materials to the facility.
• The Grand Rapids Community College Foundation has named Erin Van Egmond as executive director. Van Egmond has worked at GRCC for 25 years and served as the foundation’s associate director since 2015. She also served as the foundation’s donor relations coordinator and director of alumni relations. The foundation is GRCC’s philanthropic arm and awarded $1.3 million in scholarships to more than 1,600 students in the 2021-2022 fiscal year. The organization also works with donors on capital campaigns and raises funds to renovate or expand facilities.
DeBoer named first female president of environmental engineering firm
GRAND RAPIDS — Leslie DeBoer, a longtime employee of BLDI Inc., was named president of the Grand Rapids-based environmental engineering firm late last year, making her the first woman to lead the company.
DeBoer worked her way up the ranks at BLDI to vice president and started as president in November 2022, company officials announced last month. BLDI founder Joseph Berlin served as the firm’s president since it was founded in 1991, and now acts as senior technical adviser at the company.
BLDI specializes in providing environmental testing for commercial and industrial real estate transactions, as well as gas station remediation work.
Since DeBoer started working at the firm in 2010 in the fallout of the Great Recession, she has noticed an evolution in the nature of BLDI’s projects.
“There was a lot of foreclosure work we were doing because banks wanted to take a look at what was coming back to them, and it’s kind of transitioned over the last couple of years,” DeBoer said. “It’s been kind of nice — they are happier projects (now) of helping someone buy a project instead of someone getting their project taken away from them.”
In her new role, DeBoer will oversee BLDI’s professional services, finances, sales and marketing. DeBoer has a bachelor’s degree in environmental biology and a master’s degree in environmental science from Taylor University.
“I went to college for environmental science because I enjoy being outside and working outdoors, and when I graduated and started looking for work, I discovered the whole consulting realm,” DeBoer said. “When I graduated, it was the middle of the recession and there weren’t a whole lot of options, so I took what was available, but I ended up loving it.”
DeBoer is leading a team of mostly women, which is uncommon in the male-dominated construction industry. More than half of BLDI’s 20-25 employees are women, she said, because they just happen to be the ones that end up meeting the firm’s hiring process.
“It’s not necessarily something we are doing intentionally — we give everyone an equal opportunity,” DeBoer said. “But when we are hiring, we make sure that we have certain requirements and want people to follow up and make sure they are organized, and most of the time women are the ones doing that.”
— Reported by Kate Carlson