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When Erhardt Construction Co. set out to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the company's management team wanted to do something other than throw a big party. Instead, what Ben Wickstrom and the team developed was a plan to make a statement of gratitude to the community that has supported the company in its five decades of growth.

"Rather than talk about ourselves, we want to celebrate the community," Wickstrom said.

Road to innovation filled with many questions

Written by | Sunday, 01 July 2012 14:34 |

Chase Lee, a 21-year-old University of Michigan student from Grand Rapids, co-developed an ideas marketplace where entrepreneurs could buy and sell ideas. But he and his business partner Alex Schiff, 21, another U-M student, decided that their original concept wasn't working because everyone wanted to sell and no one wanted to buy. 

For Gazelle Sports co-founder Chris Lampen-Crowell, giving back is all about advocating for a healthier, more active community.

Lampen-Crowell co-founded the small West Michigan-based chain of running and fitness stores in 1985. From the beginning, the retailer focused on building a community of health and fitness conscious individuals.

For Lara Kitts, paying it forward is steadily becoming a full-time job.

Kitts chairs the board of the Family Hope Foundation, a growing all-volunteer organization launched in 2010. The organization works across West Michigan to unburden families that have special needs children.

If Americans know how to do one thing, it's barbeque. For many it's a family tradition, and that's exactly why the second generation, family-owned Miller Welding Supply hosts its annual "Bad to the Bone BBQ Rib Cook-off," an event which benefits Hospice of Michigan.

Owners of the Eastown landmark and favorite breakfast spot Wolfgang's Restaurant have partnered with D.A. Blodgett – St. Johns, putting their time and skills into honoring Grand Rapids area foster families.

GRAND RAPIDS — Businesses want people who can work across disciplines, and Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University has a new program aimed at developing multi-talented designers to fit the bill.

Stephanie Elhart is director of communications at NewNorth Center for Design in Business, a nonprofit business and educational organization in Holland. The center offers classes of varying lengths. Twenty percent of participants are designers. The rest want to learn to think like designers to launch new companies or reinvigorate old ones. Elhart, who earned a degree in graphic design from the University of Michigan, worked in marketing, communication and business development services — including at Johnson Controls Inc. and fuel-D — before helping launch NewNorth in 2009. She sees this role as the synthesis of all her prior experiences.

Design Matters Q&A: Brad Davis

Written by | Monday, 07 May 2012 09:06 |

Brad Davis is president of Industrial Woodworking Corporation in Zeeland, but he says he’s first and foremost a designer. He’s designed and redesigned a lot of office and residential furniture, but says these days he’s most excited about the furniture he’s designing under the Knú brand for hospitals. La-Z-Boy Contract Furniture purchased the Knu brand at NeoCon 2011, but it’s all still designed, developed and manufactured at IWC.

Design Matters Q&A: Tom Newhouse

Written by | Monday, 07 May 2012 08:59 |

Industrial designer Tom Newhouse has been committed to environmentally sensitive design for 40 years — long before the word “sustainability” was coined. Committed to “walking the talk,” Newhouse designed and constructed his own passive solar, earth-sheltered home and studio on Grand Rapids’ west side when he was only 28. He’s been driving hybrids since they came on the market, but is more proud of the fact that his commute to the office is 13 stairs. Newhouse is a frontrunner in West Michigan’s green movement in the areas of office furniture, LED lighting, kitchen cabinetry and appliances.

Design Matters Q&A: Joseph Jeup

Written by | Monday, 07 May 2012 08:44 |

Joseph Jeup is a craftsman-turned-designer of heirloom-quality modern residential furnishings. About 90 percent of Joseph Jeup Inc.’s made-to-order pieces are purchased for executive homes (think the wealthiest 1 percent). The rest are for lobbies and VIP suites at upscale hotels such as the Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons. Many of Jeup’s past designs have been for private labels. This year, he’s expanding his own line as a way to stabilize workflow at his manufacturing facility near the Gerald R. Ford International Airport.

It was faith and family that inspired John Loeks, president of Celebration Cinemas, to put his business connections to use for children in the West African nation of Sierra Leone.

Pay it Forward - Laurie Beard Founders Bank

Written by | Wednesday, 18 April 2012 09:40 |

For a relatively small company, Founders Bank & Trust does a lot for the community. Every year the bank selects a handful of charities to highlight and offers ways for employees to get involved.

Michigan Innovation Index rises

Written by | Friday, 30 March 2012 12:29 |

The innovation sector of Michigan’s economy continues to improve from recession levels, according to an index developed by iLabs, the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Center for Innovation Research.

Pay it Forward - Jesper Dinesen

Written by | Monday, 09 January 2012 15:25 |

Working with MOPs for free doesn’t sound like gratifying work. However, what Jesper Dinesen, owner of the web development firm <engine/>, did for Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPs) is a far cry from scrubbing floors.

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