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Switch Pyramid

With the help of multiple city officials, architectural and engineering firms, and a wide variety of other professionals, Colliers was able to secure SWITCH as a long-term tenant/owner who was new to the market. Upon completion, SWITCH is expected to bring over 1,000 new jobs and a capital investment of approximately $5 billion to West Michigan. To house such a cutting edge business is considered an unparalleled opportunity for any community and made this a transaction that will likely change West Michigan as a whole.


COLLIERS.COM/WESTMICHIGAN +1 616 774 3500 GRAND RAPIDS LANSING +1 517 512 7400 HOLLAND +1 616 394 4500 KALAMAZOO +1 269 978 0245

We work with the world’s leading organizations to create places that amplify the performance of their people, teams and enterprise.

When people hear of Steelcase, they often think about office furniture. They may remember our research or recognize us as an industry leader. But at the heart of all we do — and core to who we are — is our unwavering commitment to help people truly love the way they work, in Grand Rapids and around the world. Thank you for recognizing Steelcase and thank you, West Michigan, for a century of support. We join you in celebrating all the 2017 Newsmakers whose hard work and passionate dedication move us forward and help our community thrive.

Windquest Group congratulates Dick DeVos! Thank you for your leadership as we invest in people who care and aim to make our world a better place.

Newsmaker Nominee Economic Development


"Congratulations to everyone in our growing food & beverage community, it's exciting to have Boxed Water be a part of its success." - Daryn Kuipers BOXED WATER CEO


Betsy DeVos “I’m honored to be nominated as an Education Newsmaker of the Year, but the real Changemakers are the hardworking teachers, faculty, and parents, as they tirelessly serve, challenge, and inspire our students.” – Betsy DeVos

Unexpected developments, global impact highlight 2017 Newsmakers


VEN AS Grand Rapids Business Journal reviews the top stories of more than 2,500 in print and those exclusively online at grbj. com, it is apparent business leaders across many sectors have prepared a path through 2018 in what is expected to be another year of expansions, mergers, acquisitions and talent hunts. The past year marked some unanticipated developments, including the appointment of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education, an institution through which she brings to the nation her long history of charter and private school advocacy. Also unexpected: the decision of Grand Action leaders to shutter the well-known private partnership that fostered many public/private developments spurring Grand Rapids growth. Those included the Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place Convention Center and the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. Each of those projects was cited in the years of completion as the economic dominoes earning Newsmaker of the Year status.

The 2017 Newsmakers have an undeniable cumulatively powerful impact — and not just in West Michigan. International achievements were announced by GE Aviation in Muskegon, Whirlpool and Steelcase; Meijer Inc.’s aggressive pursuit of Midwest market share extended into new locations and a big deal with Shipt. Founders Brewing is now distributing in 45 states and internationally, and Boxed Water used 12 months of 2017 to expand with more than 200 distribution sites, including retailers in California. Outside community awareness (and many national rankings) also is built on the reach of venues like Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and the economic impact of area college and university students, as well as the beer and spirits makers. The medical and health care industries also are map markers and highlighted by the researchers brought to Grand Rapids through the Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center campus. Newsmakers of 2017, 48 individuals representing 16 business categories, are those who created the greatest economic impact and news impact in the metro area over the last year. (The Business Journal staff considered well more than 255 stories of consequence.) In this Business Journal report about those leading economic expansions, there are no losers, but one finalist in each of 16 categories will be named as overall category Newsmaker, and one of those 16 will be announced as the Business Journal 2017 Newsmaker of the Year. The announcements will not be made until the breakfast networking event, 7:30-9:30 a.m., Jan. 31, at Frederik Meijer Gardens. Carole Valade Editor, Grand Rapids Business Journal

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8 Arts & Entertainment

David Hooker Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Rich MacKeigan SMG Scott Sprague Gun Lake Casino

10 Beverages

Dave Engbers and Mike Stevens Founders Brewing Co. Daryn Kuipers Boxed Water Jon O’Connor and Kyle Van Strien Long Road Distillers

18 Food

30 Retail

Steve Cooper Continental Dairy Herb Herbruck Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch Inc. Rich Wolowski Gordon Food Service

20 Health Care

32 Sports

Norman Beauchamp Jr. MSU Grand Rapids Research Center Mark Eastburg Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services Kevin Lobo Stryker Corp.

12 Economic Development

22 Law

Dick DeVos Grand Action James Gill Gerald R. Ford International Airport Cindy Larsen Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce

Hank Meijer Meijer Inc. Phil Russo Russo’s International Market Robert Schermer Jr. Meritage Hospitality Group

Dan DeVos Grand Rapids Griffins Mike Guswiler West Michigan Sports Commission Steve Jbara Grand Rapids Drive

34 Startups

Matt Fenske Adult Drug Court Kevin Lobo Stryker Corp. James Saalfeld Mental Health Court

Bob Baltera Cirius Therapeutics Julie Burrell Pumpndo Feliciano Paredes AgHelp

14 Education

24 Manufacturing

36 Sustainability

Betsy DeVos U.S. Department of Education Thomas Haas Grand Valley State University Kevin Quinn Aquinas College

Marc Bitzer Whirlpool Corp. James Keane Steelcase Inc. Kevin Prindable GE Aviation

16 Finance

26 Nonprofits/Philanthropy

Stephen Duarte Kent County Sandra Jelinski Lake Michigan Credit Union David Quade Horizon Bank

Jon Ippel Amplify GR Scott Jonkhoff Next Step of West Michigan Ryan VerWys Inner City Christian Federation

Dave Koster Holland Board of Public Works Jason Meyer Blandford Nature Center Mike VanGessel Circuit West

38 Technology

Dan Irvin 123Net John Keller Metro Health-University of Michigan Health David Van Andel Van Andel Research Institute

28 Real Estate/Construction Adam Kramer Switch Mike VanGessel Rockford Construction John Wheeler Orion Construction


category: arts & entertainment

David Hooker

Rich MacKeigan

Scott Sprague

FREDERIK MEIJER Gardens & Sculpture Park continues to be an annual source of economic benefit for Kent County. A 2017 study released by Grand Valley State University researchers and economists Paul Isely and Christian Glupker shows Meijer Gardens sustains 804 Kent County jobs annually and has a $75.2 million economic impact on a range of industries. Meijer Gardens sparked an increase in visitors — more than 750,000 for the second consecutive year. Of those 750,000 visitors, 445,000 came from outside of Kent County; they accounted for 86 percent of visitor spending. Tourist spending amounted to $22.7 million, 44 percent of which was spent on meals. Another 28 percent was spent on lodging, 15 percent was spent on shopping and 12 percent contributed to transportation. Meijer Gardens’ total construction spending impact was over $5 million. It supported 39 construction-related jobs, whether it was through hiring local workers or purchasing local supplies. Meijer Gardens indirectly supported the food supply chain. The high volume of visitors propelled restaurant managers to buy a larger quantity of food from local farmers and other suppliers, which also increased the number of transportation services needed to transport the food. David Hooker, Meijer Gardens CEO and president, said the park’s visitor numbers confirm what the staff already believed. “We as the team members here have the pleasure of seeing the thousands of people who come through our front door every day,” he said. “We see the impact of our concerts and so forth, so we had a strong suspicion we had a substantial impact economically.”

SMG’S POPULAR ENTERTAINMENT venues broke revenue records in 2017. National concert tours gave SMGmanaged Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place and DeVos Performance Hall a combined revenue record of $13,641,987 from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017. That was an increase from $12,902,640 in revenue during that same period last year. Despite DeVos Place and the DeVos Performance Hall seeing their visitors’ attendance size shrink, Van Andel Arena saw a surge in visitors. Much of that increase was due to big-name concerts visiting Grand Rapids, including shows by Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, The Who, Janet Jackson and Katy Perry. Throughout the 2017 fiscal year, 732,286 individuals attended events at Van Andel Arena. It hosted 118 events, including Grand Rapids Griffins hockey games. The reported total revenue was $7,139,420. Last year, there were 115 events that brought in $6,400,073. SMG said the increase in attendance and revenue was a result of the momentum from last year, as well as a yearlong celebration for the arena. “We had a big year planned for the 20th anniversary of Van Andel Arena, and that carried over down the street at DeVos Place and DeVos Performance Hall, as well,” said Rich MacKeigan, SMG regional general manager. SMG took over management of DeVos Performance Hall and the former Grand Center, now DeVos Place, in 1994. SMG has managed Van Andel Arena since its opening in 1996. Convention and Arena Authority officials recently extended SMG’s management contract for both venues through 2028.

GUN LAKE CASINO almost doubled its size in 2017. What was once an 83,000-square-foot facility expanded to 156,000 square feet, courtesy of a $76-million construction project that ended last spring. The casino features new amenities, including a dining area, lounge, break room, café, personal lockers and new slot machines, which gives the casino a total of 2,050 slot machines and 42 table games. There also is a new 300-seat Harvest Buffet and a Stage 131 bar that is twice the size of the previous bar. The expansion created 100 jobs. Along with the casino expansion, the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, or Gun Lake Tribe, made more than $15 million in revenuesharing payments in 2017. The tribe paid about $8.8 million to the state of Michigan, nearly $3.9 million to the local revenuesharing board and almost $2.6 million to GLMI, an economic development entity. “This is a very special distribution because of the significant increase in revenues due to the expansion, and because we have surpassed the $100-million milestone,” said Scott Sprague, Gun Lake Tribe chair. The Gun Lake Tribe now has shared $101,636,676 with state and local governments over 14 distributions, according to Sprague. The revenue-sharing payment is issued semi-annually under the tribal-state gaming compact the tribe entered in 2007. “The state revenue-sharing payments help to fund economic development projects beyond West Michigan, while the local revenue-sharing payments are important for municipal services and public education,” Sprague said.

Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park



Gun Lake Casino

KEVIN G. QUINN, PH.D. 8th President of Aquinas College

From the faculty, staff, students and alumni, congratulations on your nomination as Newsmaker of the Year! Thank you, President Quinn, for everything you do for Aquinas College.


category: beverages

Dave Engbers and Mike Stevens

Daryn Kuipers

Jon O’Connor and Kyle Van Strien

LAST YEAR’S NEWSMAKER of the Year in the beverage category has no plans to slow down. What began as a pipe dream for Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers in 1997 has grown into one of the top 15 breweries by volume and the top 20 beer sellers in the country. Founders Brewing Co. produced 347,914 barrels in 2016 and 468,000 in 2017. “Most of the folks who get involved (in craft brewing) are hobbyists, not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s not looked at too seriously, and I saw that’s an avenue we could concentrate on and excel within the industry,” Stevens said. Founders also closed out 2017 by opening its distribution territory to Montana, Delaware and Mississippi. The addition grew the brewery’s footprint to 45 states, leaving only Alaska, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and Hawaii. The brewery also expanded its brick-and-mortar presence this year with the addition of a taproom in Detroit. Founders’ steady growth hasn’t come without consequences, however. The brewery’s increased operation has led to it pacing the city of Grand Rapids in the amount of wastewater treated. But this year, Founders partnered with the city to help develop three new biodigesters, transferring its waste into renewable energy for 2018. Founders also was named 2017 World Trader of the Year by the West Michigan World Trade Association, for its 2015 partnership with Spanish brewer Mahou San Miguel. The recognition put the brewery in the ranks of such companies as Steelcase, Meijer, X-Rite and Amway.

BOXED WATER has experienced a rapid expansion and outgrew its Grand Rapids office after one year. The company, which packages water in recyclable paper cartons as opposed to plastic bottles, also opened more than 200 distribution points across the U.S. this year. “People realize (plastic bottles) aren’t the best thing, we all know that, but it’s hard to go a day without interacting with them,” CEO Daryn Kuipers said. “If you’re conscious of it, it’s one small thing to be better. An easy habit change.” The growth was partly facilitated by a deal the company made in February with Sacramento, California-based Saccani Distributing Co., opening up its distribution channels in northern California. Today, Boxed Water is carried by local retailers like Sysco, Gordon Food Service, Meijer and SpartanNash, as well as nationally by Kroger, Whole Foods, Target and other distributors. Boxed Water had several other key growth moments in 2017, including reaching 50 employees with plans to hire more, distributing on Amazon and launching its own website. Recently, Boxed Water was recognized for its sustainability efforts by the Best in Biz Awards when it was named a bronze winner in the Most Environmentally Responsible Company of the Year category. “We believe in creating a high-quality product and taking care of our planet — you don’t have to choose one or the other,” Kuipers said. “That belief impacts each and every decision we make as a company.”

FINISHING OUT ITS third year of business, Long Road Distillers brought home both national and international accolades on top of releasing new spirits and expanding its food menu. Owners Kyle Van Strien and Jon O’Connor have plans to expand to the international market. Having been named Distillery of the Year at the Berlin International Spirits Competition early in 2017, the duo decided to venture overseas, taking its aquavit, a traditional Scandinavian spirit, to compete at its country of origin in Denmark, as well as establish connections with distributors in the area. “We’re finally to a point we’re having some bigger-picture conversations of what we want to be when we grow up,” Van Strien said. “We’ll focus on our full brand in places where we can have some local brand loyalty and recognition and explore taking the things we know will succeed elsewhere.” Long Road’s aquavit also took home several other awards, including Best of Show at the 2017 Craft Spirits Awards in Nashville, and double gold and Best of Class at the 2017 Denver International Spirits Competition. Long Road also partnered with Vander Mill Cider in February to launch Vander Mill Spirits and expanded its food menu in June to include dinner and brunch options. “When we started this project over three years ago, our goal was to make the best spirits in the world from local ingredients without taking shortcuts,” O’Connor said. “Our second goal was to have the best cocktail bar West Michigan has ever seen.”

Founders Brewing Co.

Boxed Water


Long Road Distillers

Here’s to the businesses making headlines. Consumers Energy congratulates the 2017 NEWSMAKERS OF THE YEAR AWARD recipients. We appreciate all you do to keep Michigan moving forward.

Consumers Energy for Business Call us for more information at 800-805-0490 or visit ConsumersEnergy.com/business #CE4BIZ


category: economic development

Dick DeVos

James Gill

Cindy Larsen

GRAND ACTION Committee co-chairs John Canepa, Dick DeVos and David Frey have retired from their roles within the organization, effectively sidelining the business-based nonprofit that has been the catalyst for more than $3.5 billion in downtown economic development and was instrumental in Grand Rapids’ growth over the past 25 years. Grand Action largely was responsible as the motor powering key downtown investment projects like Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place Convention Center and Downtown Market. Grand Action also was the driving force behind projects like the DeVos Performance Hall improvements, renovation and expansion of the Civic Theatre, and the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Secchia Center. A 2015 study by The Philanthropic Collaborative reported Grand Action projects accounted for $420 million in direct capital investment, including $125 million in private funds. Those numbers don’t account for the indirect economic impact of those projects, which totals in the billions over nearly three decades since Grand Action began its work. The group believed there wasn’t a current project ready that fits its paradigm. There are some projects on the table, such as a possible convention center expansion, but any possible projects would be a few years down the road. “There’s just no reason to be on duty or standby at the ready with a lack of clarity going forward,” DeVos said. Canepa is 87 years old, Frey is 76 and DeVos is 61. The infrastructure of the organization will remain, but they say it’s time for a new wave of leaders to step into their shoes.

GRAND RAPIDS’ “gateway to the world” has been through a lot of improvements this year. The Gerald R. Ford International Airport is morphing, a result of a $45-million upgrade and expansion of the facility. The first phase, worth $33 million, included centralizing security to one main checkpoint, terrazzo flooring, lighting fixtures, restrooms and nursing rooms, family restrooms, pre-and post-security kid play areas, pre- and post-security business centers, a meet-and-greet space and an indoor observation area where people can see passengers depart. Construction for the second phase — which will include improvements to the airline ticketing, baggage screening and baggage claim areas — is slated for this year. James Gill, airport president and CEO, said $17 million of the Gateway Transformation Project’s cost has been raised via sponsorships, such as a 10-year, $1-million sponsorship that provided four productivity and leisure spaces designed by Steelcase. “How many airports in the country can say they asked their community to support a project like this, and that community came through?” he said. “We have an exceptional, philanthropic spirit here in West Michigan, and that is now showcased through our gateway to the world.” The low-cost Frontier Airlines began offering nonstop flights from Grand Rapids to Denver and from Grand Rapids to Orlando in December, which the airport said is the No. 1 market for nonstop service out of the airport. Nearly 200 passengers fly to and from Orlando each day.

MUSKEGON’S REDEVELOPMENT fueled by over $1 billion in investments. More than $1 billion is being invested in public spaces, new buildings and renovation projects. Several projects have been completed with more in development. Organizations that have donated to the cause include Art Van Furniture, Fifth Third Bank, Lakeshore Art Festival, Mercy Health, Lakeshore Museum Center and Muskegon Community College. “A lot of people are saying 2017 has been the year that Muskegon has turned the corner,” said Cindy Larsen, Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce president. “We’re not done by any means, but you can actually see the difference.” All projects are part of the Watch Muskegon campaign, a countywide, privately funded community improvement plan. The plan was launched by a number of local businesses and individual Muskegon County residents. Projects completed and underway include a $50-million expansion of Bayer Crop Science, a new Walmart in Whitehall Township totaling $14 million, $2 million toward new breweries and distilleries, expansion of GE Aviation with an investment of $15 million, an $11-million expansion of La Colombe, the $271-million building of Mercy Health Center, new port development costing over $100 million, a $38-million investment in the Arconic Aerospace plant in Whitehall, development of Muskegon Community College’s downtown campus worth $18 million, along with multiple other developments and upgrades. Larsen said she expects to see continued interest in developing the lakeshore, especially along Muskegon Lake. “More entrepreneur activity is expected as we witness more small business openings throughout the county,” Larsen said.

Grand Action

Gerald R. Ford International Airport


Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce

BUILDERS OF A CHANGING WORLD Mike VanGessel, Rockford’s CEO, is a true business thought leader. His vision is shaping the built environment and reinforcing Rockford’s reputation for leadership and integrity. Congratulations to Mike and to all of West Michigan’s newsmakers on your many accomplishments!


category: education

Betsy DeVos

Thomas Haas

Kevin Quinn

WEST MICHIGAN has representation in the Trump administration. Betsy DeVos is a charter school advocate and GOP donor, along with her husband Dick DeVos. She is board chair of the American Federation for Children. She also is a supporter of the Common Core, which has drawn complaints from some Republicans, according to the Associated Press. The Associated Press reported: “The status quo in education is not acceptable,” Betsy DeVos said. “Together, we can work to make transformational change that ensures every student in America has the opportunity to fulfill his or her highest potential.” Responding to fierce criticism from teachers unions that the Republican donor and school choice activist is working against public education, DeVos told the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that she is “a strong advocate for great public schools,” as reported by the AP, though she also supports a “parent’s right to enroll their child in a high-quality alternative,” including charter, magnet and religious schools. DeVos said she’d also like to address rising higher education costs and massive student debt, as well as trade and vocational education because “craftsmanship is not a fallback but a noble pursuit.” Another priority for DeVos is weakening “burdensome” federal regulations and giving local communities greater control over education policies. In an apparent response to criticism from the LGBT community that she has funded conservative religious groups that promote what they consider traditional family values, including one that supports conversion therapy, DeVos said in her statement, “Every child in America deserves to be in a safe environment that is free from discrimination.”

GRAND VALLEY State University has a lot of ongoing projects. The university completed a $20-million project on the 46-year-old performing arts center at its Allendale campus, renovating the lobby and two of the entrances and constructing a two-story, 47,000-square-foot addition on the east side of the building, which is now 114,608 square feet. The facility was renamed the Thomas J. and Marcia J. Haas Center for Performing Arts to honor the support of the school’s current “president and first lady.” A $37.5-million Raleigh J. Finkelstein Hall along downtown Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile will be completed in May 2018. The five-story, 84,000-square-foot building will feature four classrooms, 15 teaching laboratories, a computer lab and 90 faculty and staff offices to extend the capacity of the university’s College of Health Professions and Kirkhof College of Nursing. A $9-million, two-level parking garage will be part of the campus. A new $20-million student housing complex is underway in Allendale that will include nine three-story buildings with a total of 108 units and 432 beds. It’s slated for completion before the 2018 summer semester and is leasing now for this fall. There also are plans to build a $70-million, five-story, 160,000-square-foot building on Medical Mile to extend the capacity of the College of Nursing. Construction is set to begin June 2018, with an opening set for May 2021. Not all of GVSU’s accomplishments were limited to construction, however. Most recently, the university secured a $1-million grant to support low-income STEM students.

AFTER A $58-MILLION capital campaign underway since 2014, Aquinas is making a couple improvements to its campus. A $32-million expansion and renovation of its Albertus Magnus Hall of Science began in September. Construction includes a new wing adjacent to the current building, modern laboratories, faculty and student research labs, collaborative student spaces and a three-story glass atrium. Kevin Quinn, president of Aquinas, said the expansion is a result of the demand for careers in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. “The groundbreaking of our new science building represents a vision to enhance the focus on STEM by investing in the jobs of tomorrow,” Quinn said. “That’s what our $58-million ‘Contributing to More’ campaign is all about — the future of Aquinas and the impact we can have on our community and the world.” As part of the capital campaign, Aquinas built a $4-million Our Lady Seat of Wisdom chapel that opened in the fall of 2017. The 7,200-square-foot chapel will accommodate the expanding needs of the college, which is underserved by Bukowski Chapel. In addition to the primary worship space, the chapel will have a separate prayer room, meeting space, sanctuary and reconciliation room. The “Contributing to More” comprehensive campaign was 60 percent funded by private donations until the college launched a public contributions phase in August. Since then, Aquinas has raised an additional 15 percent of its goal. Of the monies raised, $18.8 million so far is designated for the science wing, 58 percent of the project goal.

U.S. Department of Education

Grand Valley State University


Aquinas College

category: finance

Stephen Duarte

Sandra Jelinski

David Quade

KENT COUNTY saved taxpayers $4 million in interest payments by combining two bonds sold a decade ago. One of the bonds was a $27-million Building Authority Bond issued in 2007 for the Human Services Complex on Franklin Street SE. The other was a $14.3-million Capital Improvement Bond issued in 2008 for improvements at the Kent County Fuller Campus on Fuller Avenue NE and construction of the 63rd District Court, at 1950 East Beltline Ave. NE. Interest rates have declined since the two issuances, allowing the county to offer the bond refunds. Along with the lower interest rates, the move is possible because of Kent County’s Triple-A bond rating. The county received a Triple-A credit rating from S&P Global and Moody’s Investors Service in June, the 19th straight year of Triple-A ratings from the agencies. “When people ask, ‘Why is a Triple-A credit rating important?’ it’s great to be able to point to projects and issues like this and say, ‘Here’s one reason,’” said Daryl Delabbio, former county administrator/ controller who retired in June. Kent County Board of Commissioners Chair James Saalfeld gave credit to Delabbio and his staff, while Delabbio extended credit to Fiscal Services Director Stephen Duarte and his staff. “Darryl and his staff have provided great leadership over the past two decades, setting a solid foundation for economic policies and fiscal responsibility,” Saalfeld said. “This board is fortunate to have elected and appointed leaders that look for ways to deliver services in the most effective and efficient manner.”

IN AUGUST, Lake Michigan Credit Union acquired Naples, Florida-based Encore Bank, with $400 million in assets. The deal brought the Grand Rapidsbased credit union up to $5.6 billion in assets and $9 billion in serviced mortgages. Now, in addition to its more than 40 Michigan branches, LMCU has 10 Florida branches, six of which were Encore Bank locations in Naples, North Naples, Port Charlotte, Bonita Springs, Sun City Center and Fort Myers. LMCU already had locations in Naples and Bonita Springs. LMCU President and CEO Sandy Jelinski said the acquisition is helping to “strengthen and expand our presence in the growing Southwest Florida region.” “This is an exciting opportunity for both organizations, our collective customers and our dedicated teams of bankers,” she said in August. “Encore’s six branches are a perfect fit for our four Florida branch locations — there is no overlap. Plus, Encore is a healthy, well-run bank with an experienced staff that when joined with our staff will immediately make the combined team a key player in this market.” The acquisition is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2018. Also in 2017, LMCU’s insurance division, Lake Michigan Insurance Agency, acquired Katt Insurance Agency of Belmont and Muskegon Insurance Agency to expand its reach in the region. Kenneth Jansen, LMIA president, said after the latter acquisition that the moves fit into the credit union’s strategic plan. “Bringing insurance coverage to communities in which we already have a retail branch presence has always been a strategic goal,” Jansen said.

HORIZON BANK moved into a permanent downtown Grand Rapids home in 2017 and immediately began expanding services and growing its reach in the state. The Michigan City, Indiana-based bank signed a 10-year lease in January 2017 for a 13,000-square-foot branch, at 250 Pearl St. NW, neighboring the JW Marriott and Amway Grand Plaza hotels. Horizon previously had been working from a temporary commercial lending office it opened in Grand Rapids in 2013. “This is a strong growth market for the bank, and it helps connect our footprint between Kalamazoo and Lansing,” said David Quade, Horizon Bank Grand Rapids market president. “Our goal is to bring community banking back to our market.” Not long after settling into the downtown space, Horizon added a Small Business Administration lending team to the branch led by Scott Ellison, SBA and government loan manager, and Angela Durrah-Bays, mortgage adviser. It will focus on lending to startups, as well as small businesses that lack the collateral to qualify for standard loans. In October, Horizon Bancorp closed on the acquisition of Midland-based Wolverine Bancorp, with assets of $400 million, and Wolverine Bank merged into Horizon’s subsidiary, Horizon Bank. Horizon’s acquisition was worth $14 in cash for each share of common stock held by Wolverine shareholders. The acquisition allowed Horizon to expand its reach into the east side of the state, where Wolverine had offices in Midland, Frankenmuth and Detroit, and established a local advisory board for the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Kent County

Lake Michigan Credit Union


Horizon Bank

Photo Credit - Holley Alexa Photography

Congratulations to this year's Newsmakers!


ďż˝ nikki@simplicitygr.com

category: food

Steve Cooper

Herb Herbruck

Rich Wolowski

A $3.7-MILLION upgrade to a dairy plant in Coopersville is expected to spur $173 million in capital investments and add up to 52 jobs. In October, Continental Dairy Facilities LLC unveiled a dissolved air flotation system paid for in part by a $2.4-million Michigan Business Development Program grant issued by the Michigan Strategic Fund board. The system allows the 100-acre dairy processing plant at 999 W. Randall St. in Coopersville — shared by Continental Dairy and Chicago-based fairlife LLC — to pre-treat its wastewater on-site. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development also chipped in $225,000, and the city of Coopersville spent $1.1 million to install larger effluent pumps to handle increased flow to its wastewater treatment plant. Lakeshore Advantage said the move will result in the companies’ investment of $173 million and creation of 52 jobs, and they could not expand without the system. “Continental Dairy Facilities is very pleased to partner with the state of Michigan and the Michigan Strategic Fund to identify investment opportunities that recognize growth potential in the state’s dairy industry while working to protect the environment that we all share and cherish,” said Steve Cooper, Continental Dairy Facilities COO and general manager. The additional capacity will allow Continental Dairy to expand operations to produce butter and buttermilk powder and fairlife room to boost production, as well. Coopersville also is exploring building a $25-million, 20-mile pipeline to the Muskegon Wastewater Plant to add capacity for Continental Dairy Facilities.

A $16.3-MILLION expansion of Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch into Eaton Township is expected to generate 33 jobs and $3 million in local contracts annually. The egg-producing farm at 6425 West Grand River Ave. in Saranac is expanding at 1454 Rector Road in Eaton Township. The company is building three new cage-free facilities to raise 2.5 million young hens annually. The project is estimated to take three years due to hen-raising cycles, and it calls for investments in aviary equipment and construction, which will create 33 jobs. The feed used to raise the hens will be locally sourced, potentially creating $3 million annually in local contracts. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is supporting the project through a $523,280 Michigan Development Block Grant, which will support road infrastructure enhancements, such as upgrading the quality of Haynor and Rector roads to accommodate increased truck traffic. The expected cost of the road-enhancement portion of the project is just over $1 million, with $898,000 in grants coming from the Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Eaton Township. Herbruck’s will invest around $150,000 for the road project. “Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch truly appreciates the strong partnerships of our local and regional economic development organizations, local officials and state government agencies that enable critical infrastructure improvements, helping us to create new jobs while benefiting everyone in Ionia County,” said Herb Herbruck, executive vice president of Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch.

WYOMING-BASED Gordon Food Service expanded its reach into the south and east in 2017, acquiring a food service division and a food distributor. The company, helmed by CEO Rich Wolowski since 2016, now has distribution centers throughout the Northeast, Midwest, Southwest, Southeast, East Coast and in Canada. In June, GFS acquired Red Diamond Foodservice, a division of Birmingham, Alabama-based Red Diamond. Red Diamond produces and sells a broad spectrum of coffee and tea products across North America and services a variety of markets, including retail, convenience, health care, education, institutional and wholesale. Wolowski said Red Diamond’s broadline food service customers now are being serviced by GFS’s Douglasville, Georgia, distribution center. “These are exciting times for us as we expand our business in the Southeast region,” Wolowski said. “We expect a seamless transition as both family-held companies (GFS and Red Diamond) have a similar approach to operations and serving our customers.” The deal closed in September. In October, GFS acquired Ettline Foods Corp., a broadline food distributor headquartered in York, Pennsylvania. The company served restaurants, health care facilities, schools and other businesses and industry customers in four states. “Ettline has a track record of providing a superior experience for its customers and a history of growth in a competitive and changing landscape, which made them very appealing to our growth plan,” said Scott Nicholson, president of GFS U.S. distribution. Nicholson said the deal gives GFS the ability to serve customers with “expanded services and buying power.”

Continental Dairy

Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch Inc.


Gordon Food Service



We Shorten the Distance Between You & the World


Congratulations to our CEO, Jim Gill, a 2017 Newsmaker of the Year Honoree! 2017 NEWSMAKERS OF THE YEAR GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 19

category: health care

Norman Beauchamp Jr.

Mark Eastburg

Kevin Lobo

MICHIGAN STATE University strengthened its presence on Medical Mile this fall, opening an $88.1-million research center projected to create hundreds of jobs and inject millions of dollars into the economy. The Michigan State University Grand Rapids Research Center, first announced in 2014 but in the works since 2010, opened on Sept. 20 at 400 Monroe Ave. NW. According to MSU, the center is expected to increase employment in the Grand Rapids area by about 480 jobs by 2029 and have an annual economic impact of $29 million from 2029 onward. The economic impact from construction of the six-story, 162,800-square-foot building is estimated at $100 million. Norman Beauchamp Jr., dean of the MSU College of Human Medicine, said the facility will bring research partners together to investigate diseases like cancer, autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. “We’re going to look at ways to improve outcomes for children with autism, and then we’re going to look at the way genes affect outcomes in children. On a number of the floors, we’ll look at cancer research,” he said. The center also will host oncology researchers from the Spectrum Health-MSU Alliance and research collaborations with Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services and Grand Valley State University’s health sciences programs. MSU said the center eventually will hold up to 44 principal investigators and their teams, or as many as 260 employees, once the fifth floor — with a to-be-determined use — is built out.

AFTER HEARING from hospitals, law enforcement and the community over the past three years, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services answered the call for more youth inpatient services. Pine Rest CEO Mark Eastburg said in 2016 the hospital had to turn away almost as many adolescents and young adults as it admitted due to lack of space. A $12.4-million expansion at the Van Andel Center on Pine Rest’s Cutlerville campus, which includes a 26-bed adolescent and young-adult unit called the Cypress Unit, opened to patients July 5. Cypress is expected to serve more than 1,200 adolescents and young adults annually — the same number who were turned away in 2016. “We start with a community focus. We want to make sure that everyone in Michigan has access to the finest behavioral health services anywhere, and this is another step in that direction,” Eastburg said. “If a family has to call 10 places to find an open inpatient bed for their son or daughter, that’s not doing that. So, solving the access problem through programs and units like this positions us to better address psychiatric care issues in the state.” The unit was designed to be able to split into two sides and provide specialized treatment for separate age groups. In addition to the 26 beds, the 26,600-square-foot patient wing includes a technology room, two sensory rooms, a gym and an environment designed to be “safe and inviting” for the patients.

WITH THE ACQUISITION of two medical technology companies totaling almost $1.4 billion and the launch of a partnership with GE’s 3-D printing business, Stryker Corp. continued to grow in 2017. The Kalamazoo-based medical device manufacturer in June announced it would acquire Mississauga, Ontario-based Novadaq Technologies for $11.75 per share in cash, or about $701 million. Kevin Lobo, chair, president and CEO of Stryker, told investors after the acquisition that the company’s long-term growth strategy is on track. “We continue to deliver on our goal of achieving organic revenue growth at the high-end of medtech as we are gaining market share across the majority of our division, and we continue to make investments to help drive growth longer term,” he said. “We are excited about the … acquisition of Novadaq, which (adds) a key growth driver to our high-performing Endoscopy division.” Just two weeks later, the company announced a partnership with GE Additive to bring 3-D printing — or additive — machines, materials and services to Stryker’s global supply chain. Then, last month, Stryker signed an agreement to acquire Plymouth, Minnesota-based Entellus Medical for $24 per share, or about $662 million. Timothy Scannell, group president of Medsurg and Neurotechnology at Stryker, said Entellus makes products for the minimally invasive treatment of ear, nose and throat, or ENT, disease states. “Entellus is a leader in the ENT segment and offers a comprehensive portfolio of products that enable physicians to conveniently and comfortably perform a broad range of ENT procedures,” he said.

MSU Grand Rapids Research Center

Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services


Stryker Corp.


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category: law

Matt Fenske

Kevin Lobo

James Saalfeld

OTTAWA COUNTY’S 20th Circuit Court Adult Drug Treatment Court program was selected as a national mentor court by the National Association Drug Court Professionals and the U.S. Department of Justice. The court is one of nine courts in the entire country to hold that distinction. The honor is given to high-performing drug courts that demonstrate exemplary practices and operate with fidelity to the drug court model. “As a mentor court, we will have the opportunity to host other drug court programs from around the United States, provide consulting and technical assistance to drug courts and participate in national drug court planning and policy initiatives,” said Andy Brown, drug court coordinator of the 20th Circuit Court. The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners, chaired by Matt Fenske, approved the drug court. The drug court offers offenders the option of enrolling in a drug treatment program instead of being incarcerated. The program includes outpatient treatment, group therapy, random drug and alcohol testing, home checks, community service, curfews, fines or restitution, and bi-weekly or monthly review hearings, among other actions. “With thousands of drug courts in operation across the United States, this honor really speaks to the quality and integrity of the work our drug court is doing,” said Judge Mark Feyen of the 20th Circuit Court Adult Drug Treatment Court.

STRYKER CORP. won a seven-year legal battle that ended in 2017. The medical manufacturing company was awarded $248.7 million in a lawsuit for patent infringement against Zimmer Biomet Holdings Inc., in a ruling by a U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker. That was more than triple the amount Stryker initially was awarded in 2013. Stryker first filed the lawsuit in 2010 against Indiana-based Zimmer Biomet Holdings because it claimed patent infringement on a surgical cleaning wand that was part of Zimmer’s Pulsavac Plus device used to clean surgical wounds. In 2013, Stryker was awarded $70 million by a federal jury for damages to the company. Jonker later ruled “given the one-sidedness of the case and the flagrancy and scope of Zimmer’s infringement,” Stryker was eligible for more. That ruling equaled $228 million. However, in an appeal, the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the infringement ruling on appealing, but overturned the court’s ruling that the infringement was willful. The final ruling of the case changed when the Supreme Court ruled in a case, Halo Electronics Inc. v. Pulse Electronics Inc., in July 2016 to lessen some of the regulations that determine willfulness in infringement cases. The Stryker case was sent back to the U.S. District Court to make a final ruling, which resulted in an increase by Jonker to $248.7 million because of enhanced damages and additional attorney fees.

KENT COUNTY is trying to keep individuals out of further legal trouble to become productive members of society. The 17th Circuit Court launched a girls court and a mental health court in 2017, with the approval of the Kent County Board of Commissioners, chaired by James Saalfeld. The girls court, which launched in February, accepts up to 12 female offenders at a time between the ages of 15 and 17 years old. Offenders tend to be girls who have committed juvenile crimes, such as truancy, substance abuse and public disorder. Once accepted into the program, the girls must participate in trauma therapy by a court-appointed therapist, attend a mentoring program offered by community members and participate in social activities, such as college tours, dinners to teach etiquette and other cultural events. The girls are under surveillance in their homes and schools two to three times per day, and they must attend bi-weekly to monthly court visits. In addition to the girls court, Kent County also launched a mental health court in the fall by accepting a $193,000 grant funded by the State Court Administrative office. Individuals with felony charges and those diagnosed with a mental illness, such as anxiety disorder or schizophrenia, by a mental health professional are eligible to undergo treatment in the program. The grant is used for “program coordination, clinical support, incentives, data entry, program involvement, drug tests and legal defense.” “Jail certainly isn’t a therapeutic environment for someone with a mental illness,” 17th Circuit Court Judge Joseph Rossi said.

Adult Drug Court

Stryker Corp.


Mental Health Court

category: manufacturing

Marc Bitzer

James Keane

Kevin Prindable

MARC BITZER stepped into a whirlwind of change when he took over as CEO of Whirlpool Corporation on Oct. 1. The Benton Harbor-based appliance maker had acquired Redwood City, California-based Yummly, a 20-million user digital recipe platform, in May. The company said the move helped strengthen its ability to bring “purposeful, consumer-relevant innovations to market in the emerging internet of things space.” The acquisition was Whirlpool’s first step toward building an array of digital product offerings in the coming years. Also in May, the company opened its 5,400-square-foot Europe, Middle East and Africa headquarters in Milan, which houses 600 employees from 28 countries and features a flagship showroom called The World of Whirlpool to display the “world’s most advanced” home appliance technology and design. The company plans to invest $350 million into research and development in the EMEA region by the end of 2018, with the majority having been allocated to its two advanced research centers in Italy. Whirlpool also was named one of “America’s Best Employers” by Forbes magazine in May. In September, Whirlpool was recognized by the US Business Leadership Network and the American Association of People with Disabilities as one of the 2017 Disability Equality Index Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion. Bitzer said his work moving forward at the company will build on former CEO Jeff Fettig’s accomplishments. “The foundation of success built by Jeff and so many within this company affords us an exciting future,” he said.

IT WAS A YEAR OF partnerships, acquisitions and big projects for Grand Rapidsbased Steelcase. The office furniture maker helmed by President and CEO James Keane, with fiscal 2017 revenue of $3 billion, signed an exclusive partnership with Microsoft in March to debut “Creative Spaces” that integrates Microsoft devices with Steelcase furnishings. Keane said Microsoft’s software is some of the best in the market and used by many Steelcase clients, but the technology often is not used to its full capacity. “It’s a lot easier to approach customers together when they’re already buying from both of us,” Keane said in June. The partnership is just one way the manufacturer is emphasizing innovation. Among other 2017 investments, Steelcase opened a Learning + Innovation Center in Munich, Germany, and hired 100 employees at its Innovation and Education Center on 44th Street in Grand Rapids. Steelcase signed an agreement to acquire Santa Clara, California-based AMQ Solutions, a $37-million company that makes desks, seats and benches for open workplaces; partnered with Merano, Italybased lighting company FLOS; Taylorsville, North Carolina-based “lifestyle” products maker Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams to begin offering their complementary product lines; and announced marketing and distribution relationships with Blu Dot and Bolia. Closer to home, Steelcase sold its 1980sera pyramid to tech company Switch for $25 million — and also designed and outfitted the business lounges at Gerald R. Ford International Airport as part of an ongoing $45-million Gateway Transformation Project.

GE AVIATION IN May opened a $14.5-million, 35,000-square-foot facility in Norton Shores as part of its efforts to double down on new technology. The new “brilliant factory” — one of seven across the broader company — incorporates various technologies to improve efficiency and increase production. Kevin Prindable is the general manager and plant leader for the GE Aviation facility, 6120 Norton Center Drive in Norton Shores. He began working with Johnson Technologies more than 27 years ago, continued on after GE Aviation acquired the company in 1997 and has been the plant leader for GE’s Muskegon area facilities for more than three years. The new brilliant factory makes stage 1 and stage 2 shrouds and nozzles for the GE 90 engine, which is found on the Boeing 777. “A brilliant factory is one where lean manufacturing is embraced and digital technology is leveraged to deliver superior customer outcomes and continuous improvement,” said John Bowman, general manager of supply chain for GE Aviation. He said advanced analytics, 3-D printing and at least 20 collaborative robots are among the newest technologies available within GE’s brilliant factories. GE said the brilliant factory links design, engineering, manufacturing, supply chain, distribution and services into one “intelligent system” that collects and analyzes data from all these disciplines to make factories smarter. The system combines things like sensor enablement, digital design, and factory and supply chain optimization to improve quality, throughput and yield. GE said the sensor-enabled manufacturing lines already have reduced unplanned downtime on the shop floor and have improved product reliability and cost.

Whirlpool Corp.

Steelcase Inc.


GE Aviation



category: nonprofits/philanthropy

Jon Ippel

Scott Jonkhoff

Ryan VerWys

AMPLIFY GR was created to bring “economic growth” to southeast Grand Rapids. The organization has a four-pillar initiative to bring jobs, housing, education and wellness opportunities to the Boston Square, Cottage Grove and Madison Square neighborhoods. “Amplify GR believes neighborhoods are the heart and soul of Grand Rapids,”  said  Jon Ippel, executive director of Amplify GR. “We want to make sure residents and business owners of the city’s southeast side have the opportunity to participate in our community’s overall growth.” The nonprofit will work with local residents, business owners and community groups to carry out the four pillars of the initiative. The Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation, the  Cheri DeVos Foundation  and Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction support the organization, among others. Rockford Construction is the lead development partner for Amplify GR, and the firm will focus on vacant and underutilized properties in the area. On behalf of Amplify GR, Rockford recently purchased 32 nearby properties on almost 35 acres. “We’re proud to serve as a lead development partner for Amplify GR,” said Mike VanGessel, CEO of Rockford Construction. “We are in this for the long haul, and we look forward to working hand-in-hand with residents to bring jobs, housing, education and wellness opportunities to the neighborhood.” Amplify GR  invited community members to get involved with its multiyear planning process for the initiative during a town hall meeting, which allowed residents and local business owners to share ideas and listen.

NEXT STEP OF West Michigan completed a $2-million renovation of the charred historic building at 100 Garden St. SE in Grand Rapids, transforming it into a new LEED-certified headquarters. Next Step, a faith-based nonprofit that employs former inmates and people coming out of rehabilitation, acquired the nearly 25,000-square-foot building and nearly 3 acres of surrounding parcels in June 2015 to house its expanding operations. The process included building new offices, replacing waterlogged and bowed wooden floors, installing new windows, sandblasting the brick and ceiling, replacing portions of the roof that had collapsed during a fire in 2011, and building new doors in Next Step’s former woodshop, 906 S. Division Ave. The project also included repainting the interior, installing plumbing and electrical, new mechanical operations, and moving machinery and equipment. “There was nothing in the building when we bought it,” said Scott Jonkhoff, executive director of the organization. “It sat here for at least a few years, so there was no water or power. There was water coming through the roof — it wasn’t too far from the wrecking ball, really.” Next Step was born in 2007 when Jonkhoff and his wife bought the Division Avenue property and hired men who were unable to find work elsewhere. What started as mostly a construction business has expanded to include landscaping, production and manufacturing services all under one roof. “What we do here is more like a familytype situation than it is strictly an employer-employee relationship,” Jonkhoff said.

INNER CITY Christian Federation purchased 177 properties for affordable housing. The nonprofit closed on the properties in the Grand Rapids and Lansing areas in November 2017. ICCF said the purchase, which includes 213 housing units, will help preserve affordable rental rates and provide new homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income families and individuals. “One of the chief concerns in urban neighborhoods today is displacement of long-time residents due to rapidly escalating rents and home prices,” said Ryan VerWys, CEO of ICCF. “This purchase is one way our community is coming together to stabilize the housing situation for families and individuals who might otherwise be forced to move or even become homeless.” Goals for the properties include: •Partnering with other local housing nonprofits to assure 50 percent of the homes are sold to low- and moderate-income households within five to 10 years, ensuring current tenants who desire to purchase their homes can do so •Investing $4.5 million to improve the properties, particularly increasing energy efficiency and environmental stability, with at least 75 percent of the properties meeting the Green Home Institute’s standards for Green Star Certification •Hiring local contractors who are committed to employing low-income residents from the homes’ neighborhoods. The nonprofit also has plans for a $15-million redevelopment of a former school on the southeast side of Grand Rapids. Plans for the 72,000-square-foot site include community and office space for nonprofit social services on the ground floor, plus 40 units of affordable housing on the second and third floors.

Amplify GR

Next Step of West Michigan


Inner City Christian Federation

Congratulations Newsmakers! The employees of Kent County are proud of the leadership of Board of Commissioners’ Chair James Saalfeld (Law) and County Fiscal Services Director Stephen Duarte (Finance) - finalists for the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s Newsmakers of the Year Awards. Their commitment has made Kent County a premier destination to live, work and play. newsmaker ad final2018.pdf



4:15 PM

Sandy Jelinski President/CEO

Congratulations Sandy! Lake Michigan Credit Union’s over 1,300 associates congratulate Sandy Jelinski on her nomination for Newsmaker of the Year.


category: real estate/construction

Adam Kramer

Mike VanGessel

John Wheeler

SWITCH COMPLETED a major investment in its West Michigan presence in 2017, and the Las Vegas-based data corporation is only getting started. “Since the announcement of Switch’s expansion into Michigan, the state has been attracting the tech world’s attention, defining the region and the state as an epicenter for technology that runs the internet of absolutely everything,” said Adam Kramer, executive vice president of strategy for Switch. Switch received legislative approval for tax breaks from Gaines Township at the end of 2015 and spent over $50 million to renovate the former Steelcase Pyramid building into a Tier IV data center. The project involved the work of more than 1,000 contractors, many of whom are Michigan-based. The company completed renovation of the building in March. In October, the company announced plans to purchase the property from the landlord, Norman Pyramid LLC, for $25 million. Recently, Switch said it also would add up to 940,000 square feet of operating space to the Pyramid campus in order to maximize utilization of the space. The new build-out is planned for early 2018. “Our timeline is to keep building; the internet doesn’t stop growing and neither does Switch,” Kramer said. “We will continue to grow to fit the needs of our clients. Through good, through bad, Switch is always growing because the internet is.”

ROCKFORD CONSTRUCTION contributed to much of the growth of Grand Rapids’ West Side. The firm’s CEO, Mike VanGessel, envisioned his childhood home becoming a magnet for commerce since the company moved to 601 First St. NW in 2013. Last year, the firm partnered with Consumers Energy to launch Circuit West, a project that will implement renewable energy technologies in a 10-block area on the West Side. “This part of Grand Rapids is growing quickly, and we are excited to have a hand in bringing the latest technology and renewable energy to this side of the city,” VanGessel said. Rockford Construction also broke ground on a $55-million mixed-use development that will include the Meijerowned Bridge Street Market, 116 marketrate apartments and 64 affordable housing units. Also last year, the firm was awarded $19.3 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to help finance the project. “A project of this scale requires a high level of collaboration at the local and state level,” VanGessel said. “This is a key approval for this transformational project, and it couldn’t move forward without it.” Rockford Construction also completed a handful of projects in the education sector last year. The firm completed the $7.2-million Grand Rapids Community College Childhood Learning Lab last January, the $88.1-million MSU Grand Rapids Research Center in September and a $1.2-million remodeling project for West Catholic High School in December.

WITH THE CONSTRUCTION boom in West Michigan, Orion Construction had a full schedule of projects. The firm completed several large-scale builds last year while breaking ground on much more for 2018. The groundbreaking of the $72-million Warner Building in downtown Grand Rapids possibly was the biggest success for the firm’s director of business development, John Wheeler. After three years of planning involving at least a half-dozen design changes, Wheeler and a variety of partners successfully broke ground on the project in June. “At one time, there was a list of 108 challenges … and I said we’ll have to get over all 108 of these to make this thing fly,” Wheeler said. “It was a lot. The most I’ve ever had to deal with in my career.” Orion also hit the ground running on residential developments in 2017. Having completed the $22-million student housing complex called The Lodge at Allendale, the firm was quick to break ground on the $20-million Alpine student housing complex shortly after. Orion also completed the $9.6-million Fulton Square in Grand Rapids. The development is now fully leased on the residential side. The firm also completed the $15-million Gateway at Belknap apartment complex in Grand Rapids. The firm broke ground on the $14-million Heritage Place apartment complex in Heritage Hill, as well as a $52-million mixed-use development called The Exchange Building in Kalamazoo.


Rockford Construction


Orion Construction

GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL is pleased to announce that Lis Wiehl will be in Grand Rapids on March 7, 2018, as the keynote speaker for the biennial “The 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan” luncheon event. Lis Wiehl is one of the nation’s most prominent trial lawyers, a highly regarded legal commentator, and New York Times Bestselling Author. For fifteen years, she was a legal analyst and reporter on the Fox News Channel. Prior to that she was the co-host on the nationally syndicated show The Radio Factor. Wiehl turned her attention to fiction in 2008, using her behind-the-scenes knowledge of law and media to author 13 suspense novels, including the highly acclaimed Erica Sparks Series. She is also the author of The 51% Minority: How Women Are Still Not Equal And What You Can Do About It, which won the 2008 award for Books for a Better Life in the motivational category. Launching in 2018, Wiehl’s newest series, The Hunting Series, will recount the relentless quest for justice in the aftermath of history’s most devastating and sensational crimes. Prior to joining Fox News Channel in New York City, Wiehl served as a legal analyst and reporter for NBC News and NPR’s All Things Considered. Before that, Wiehl served as a Federal Prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s office. Wiehl earned her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School and her Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Queensland. She is a Professor of Law at New York Law School.


MARCH 7, 2018 JW Marriott Grand Rapids





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category: retail

Hank Meijer

Phil Russo

Robert Schermer Jr.

HANK MEIJER has put his company on track for continued growth. The co-chair and former CEO of the family-owned Meijer grocery chain has long overseen the continued success of the Walker-based retailer, which now has 235 locations in six states. In keeping with the trend, Meijer made long strides in 2017 with several key store openings, as well as expanding into e-commerce. Meijer announced in mid-May its plans to expand north by opening its first two stores in the Upper Peninsula: Escanaba and Sault Ste. Marie. The company also broke ground in June on Bridge Street Market, a 37,000-squarefoot market connecting to a $55-million West Side project. Meijer also gained traction in the ecommerce sector this year with its home delivery program through Shipt. The service launched in Detroit in September 2016 and became available to Grand Rapids, as well as Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, Indiana, in March. The retailer announced in October 2017 that it had surpassed 500,000 home deliveries since launch, with expectations to reach over 1 million by year’s end. “We will continue our process of slow, steady growth,” Meijer said. “This plan has allowed us to remain focused on our customers and team members while growing our business and ensuring we continue to innovate in the marketplace. We are pleased to continue to grow and invest in the Midwest communities that have supported us for so long.”

RUSSO’S INTERNATIONAL Market has been a West Michigan staple since 1905. But in 2017, Phil Russo, the chain’s president and grandson of founder Giovanni Battista Russo, decided to rebrand the company for the new generation. Formerly known as G.B Russo and Son, the company changed its name to Russo’s International Market. The market also celebrated its 112th anniversary with the launch of a second 4,500-square-foot location in September at 241 W. Fulton St. in downtown Grand Rapids. The new store includes a restaurant that offers a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu, featuring gourmet Italian items. It seats up to 60 customers indoors and up to 20 customers outdoors, and offers to-go options. “We always knew we would return to our roots, and this second location will allow us to serve the downtown community as we once did 112 years ago,” Russo said. The store also offers items tailored to travelers staying at downtown hotels, such as personal care items, and to downtown workers who need to grab items on their way home, such as milk, toiletries and other staple products. Russo’s International Market was founded by G.B. Russo when he was 20 years old. An immigrant from Montelepre, Sicily, Russo started the business originally to provide staple Italian foods for other immigrants. The market specializes in fresh and prepared gourmet foods, olives, oils, deli meats, international wine, beer, spirits and kitchenware. Russo’s also operates a location on 29th Street SE, which was purchased in 1976 and expanded in 2008.

ROBERT SCHERMER JR. has big plans for Meritage Hospitality Group. The Grand Rapids-based restaurant company announced plans in 2017 to more than double the number of restaurants it owns during the next five years. And it just may exceed its goal if its 2017 transactions are any indicator. In February, the company entered an agreement to purchase 69 Wendy’s restaurants in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic. With these acquisitions, Meritage grew to more than 250 restaurants from just over 180 at the beginning of 2017. The company is aiming to reach the 400 mark during the next five years. “The consummation of these transactions is consistent with our stated growth plans and investment strategy of profitable growth within the Wendy’s franchise system,” Schermer said. “Upon closing, we intend to immediately integrate each of these Wendy’s restaurants into our unique webbased operating and accounting platform, followed by an extensive remodeling program designed to modernize the Wendy’s restaurants and enhance the overall guest experience.” Meritage operates restaurants under several brands including Wendy’s, Twisted Rooster, Freighters Eatery and Taproom, Wheelhouse and the Crooked Goose, which the company announced in November would be converted into Taco Vista, a “CaliMex” Taqueria. The company also announced the acquisition of 57 other Wendy’s locations in December. The deals are expected to close in the first quarter of 2018. Meritage operates 253 restaurants in multiple states: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia.

Meijer Inc.

Russo’s International Market


Meritage Hospitality Group

Advancing innovative biomedical research to impact human health. In 1996, Jay and Betty Van Andel founded Van Andel Institute with a bold dream—to improve the health and enhance the lives of current and future generations. Their generosity helped transform Grand Rapids into a burgeoning center for biomedical research, health care and the life sciences industry. Today, the Institute’s scientists are paving the way, harnessing revolutionary technology and investigating groundbreaking ideas to unlock the causes of cancer, Parkinson’s, depression, and cardiovascular and bone diseases—and discover new ways to treat and prevent them. VAI is proud to be part of the flourishing scientific community in West Michigan, while also collaborating with experts around the world. David and Carol Van Andel have both expanded the vision and scope of the Institute well beyond its founding. With their vision and continued commitment, emerging discoveries are taking shape and forging new hope for the future.

PICTURED—VAI’s FEI Titan Krios, the highest-resolution commercially available cryo-electron microscope in the world.


category: sports

Dan DeVos

Mike Guswiler

Steve Jbara

GRAND RAPIDS GRIFFINS fans still are in the winning spirit. After securing their second franchise championship last season, the Griffins are seeing a surge in ticket sales for the 2017-18 season despite the price increase of $3. Full-season ticket sales have increased by 13 percent, and the team has seen an increase in partial-season ticket holders. “As of right now, we are up 39 percent for partial-season plan sales compared to last season,” Vice President of Ticket Sales Matt Batchelder said in November. Group ticket sales also have played a role in the increase in sales, he said. “We are working with a lot of businesses, business owners that are using tickets for client and employee appreciation, employee engagement retention,” Batchelder said. “So, we are definitely seeing a wide variety when it comes to that. It covers church groups, school groups, fraternities and sororities. So, the group sales vary quite a bit.” Last season, the Griffins averaged over 8,000 fans per game. The second Calder Cup meant more than just a bump in ticket sales, however. The Griffins’ second championship also does much to promote Grand Rapids as a destination for high-level professional sports entertainment, West Michigan Sports Commission President Mike Guswiler said. “The win cements Grand Rapids and West Michigan as a solid sports city and has highlighted our area from the additional coverage, as the Griffins played their various postseason playoff opponents from San Jose to Syracuse,” Guswiler said.

WHEN LOOKING AHEAD to 2017, West Michigan Sports Commission President Mike Guswiler told the Business Journal: “It’s going to be a good year.” He was right. A biennial national sports competition was one of the drivers behind Grand Rapids’ economic success this past summer. The West Michigan Sports Commission won the bid to host the State Games of America. The three-day event contributed $10 million to the West Michigan economy through visitor spending for hotels, restaurants and other businesses. There were 35 venues in Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon and Caledonia that hosted 60 events and 48 sports, including swimming, basketball and rugby. The event featured 12,000 competitors, 4,000 of whom came from 47 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and the Virgin Islands. More than 20,000 visitors attended the Olympic-style event, with more than 5,000 hotel rooms booked. A week after the State Games of America, Grand Rapids hosted the International Softball Congress Men’s World Tournament and the 2017 PDGA Professional Masters Disc Golf World Championship, both of which were coordinated by the WMSC. Combined, the events contributed about $2.1 million to the economy; more than 1,000 athletes competed with more than 3,000 hotel rooms booked. “We’re on a streak when it comes to hosting prestigious national and international sporting events,” Guswiler said. “It’s a testament to West Michigan’s stellar athletic facilities and visitor hospitality that we continue to attract tournaments of this caliber that are being enjoyed by an international audience.”

AFTER JUST THEIR third season, the Grand Rapids Drive have become a fixture in West Michigan entertainment circles. In their 2016-17 season, the Drive, the NBA G League affiliate of the Detroit Pistons, broke the 2015-16’s season attendance record, which averaged out to 3,121 fans per game. In 2016-17, that average jumped to 3,267. “We had about 80,000 in fans for our 2016-17 season,” said Steve Jbara, president and owner of the Drive. “We (had) 24 home games during the regular season that ran November to April in parallel with the NBA season.” Along with a larger fan base, there has been an increase in revenue, much of it coming from sponsorships by local businesses. The team had 35 sponsors during the season, Jbara said, including Chemical Bank, Terryberry, Meijer and Metro Health. Now, Jbara said he hopes the team will garner more national attention with Twitch live streaming G League games on its website. “We’re truly the second best basketball league in the world, and we’re still working on getting our name out in the community,” Jbara said. “Once people come see a game, they’re hooked into the quality, in-game promotional activities and accessibility to players. We just need to continue telling our story.”

Grand Rapids Griffins

West Michigan Sports Commission


Grand Rapids Drive

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category: startups

Bob Baltera

Julie Burrell

Feliciano Paredes

CIRIUS THERAPEUTICS is on a quest to find a treatment for a deadly disease. The Kalamazoo-based pharmaceutical startup company used a $40-million Series A financing round — led by Frazier Healthcare Partners, an investment firm, and Hellerup, Denmark-based Novo A/S, a holding company in the Novo Group — to complete its phase 2b study of MSDC-0602K. MSDC-0602K, an insulin resistance, will be used for treatment of patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and liver fibrosis. NASH is a severe and rapidly progressive form of fatty liver disease that can become cirrhosis and liver cancer. “We believe MSDC-0602K has the potential to be a critical therapeutic tool for treating patients with NASH,” said Bob Baltera, Cirius CEO. “A great deal of experimental data, including results from a phase 2 trial in patients with type 2 diabetes, has been generated, demonstrating that these nextgeneration insulin sensitizers act in a novel way to positively impact the underlying metabolic parameters that drive NASH.” Cirius said MSDC-0602K has shown in NASH studies that it has the potential of reducing inflammation and showing significant improvement in fibrosis. MSDC-0602K was created through work with a first-generation insulin sensitizer performed by Jerry Colca, Cirius cofounder and vice president of research and development. Baltera, Howard Dittrich and Brian Farmer are part of Cirius’ management team, operating from a new office in San Diego, while the startup maintains research and development operations in Kalamazoo.

BREASTFEEDING IS A little easier for mothers now, thanks to Julie Burrell. Burrell, a Hesperia native, created Pumpndo, a hands-free breastfeeding accessory that allows mothers to multitask and potentially could keep the mother-infant connection going for a longer period of time. “Eighty-three percent of working moms are unable to continue breastfeeding for the first full year because pumping is such a challenge,” Burrell said. Pumpndo clips onto a nursing bra or tank top, eliminating the need to wear a separate bra designed for pumping. If mothers are not wearing a nursing bra, Burrell also designed a strap adapter that works with any type of bra strap. Burrell was selected as the winner of the 2017 innovateHER Challenge of West Michigan, by Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), the Michigan Small Business Development Center (MI-SBDC) and SCORE. She won $8,000 in prizes at the local pitch competition. “With my product, I want to help as many women as possible make pumping a more productive time for them by helping them keep their hands free,” Burrell said. “The longer they’re able to pump and breastfeed their child, the better.” InnovateHER contestants are women entrepreneurs in West Michigan who have a business plan and products or services that help positively impact and empower the lives of women and families.

FELICIANO PAREDES used his own experience to help others. Paredes, who migrated with his family from San Antonio to look for farm work 20 years ago, was the mastermind behind the mobile application AgHelp. “I started thinking, ‘Well, we have apps that can help you find a restaurant or store. Why do we not have an app that allows this population to have (what) they need — work, food, housing and other services?’” Paredes said. That idea turned into reality in 2017; the app is designed to connect farmworkers to employment and resources. “A worker, if they’re looking for … the nearest migrant education program or migrant health clinic, they can pull the app up and it will show (those) within 50 miles of their location,” Paredes said. “Then, they can connect with them through email, by phone or through the app.” Employers, in turn, also can use the app to find agricultural employees, and those potential employees can apply for any job openings through the app. Both employers and employment prospects can post information about themselves. “We’ve had about 10 growers using the app to post jobs and a list close to 30 that have signed up for our release in 2018,” Paredes said. “Last check, we had approximately 200 active users, but that number could be more.” More than 50 local, state and federal agencies across the country, including some in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, currently are using the app, according to Paredes.

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category: sustainability

Dave Koster

Jason Meyer

Mike VanGessel

HONORING A 10-year collaborative among environmental activists, business executives and the public, the Holland Board of Public Works opened a $240-million energy park. The energy park, which opened Oct. 2, is a natural gas power plant and the latest component of the city’s 40-year plan to become a world-class leader in energy security, affordability and sustainability. The site was home to an old furnace factory. “We found this site primarily because of the ability to get fuel into it, the ability to get fuel out of it,” said Dave Koster, HBPW general manager. “It provided enough cumulative space that we could acquire to have room for the plant and enough buffer zone around it.” At full capacity, the 130,000-square-foot park is capable of generating 145 megawatts of power in the winter and 125 megawatts in the summer. The plant also features a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions, virtually eliminates solid particle pollutants and doubles the fuel efficiency of Holland’s past power generation. The energy park has an interactive visitors center featuring 3,780 square feet of exhibit space, which highlights the history and science behind power generation. Outside of the plant are 20 acres of land with almost a mile of walking trails that eventually will connect Windmill Island Gardens to the Macatawa Greenway trail system. The Holland Energy Park received the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s Envision Platinum award, making it the first baseload power generating plant in the country to receive an Envision rating, a verification process designed to rate the sustainability of infrastructure.

BLANDFORD NATURE CENTER, in partnership with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, created a new 121-acre nature area at a former golf course on the West Side, called The Highlands. Blandford Nature Center President and CEO Jason Meyer said the property offers an “extraordinary opportunity to foster a stronger connection to the natural world,” noting the opportunities for habitat restoration, education, volunteerism and recreation will increase the quality of life in Grand Rapids “for generations.” “The vision of Blandford Nature Center is a thriving, diverse community that supports a healthy, natural world,” Meyer said. “Through our collaboration with the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, our recent acquisition of The Highlands supports that vision by providing a natural area for wildlife habitation and public trails. “This purchase was a crucial part of the project that will expand opportunities for families in our community to experience healthy outdoor activities, environmental education and hands-on stewardship of nature.” Blandford received a sizable gift from Linda Bleyerveld Weeks of Billings, Montana, allowing the center to close out its $10.3-million Growing Up Blandford capital campaign with $10.6 million three months earlier than scheduled. “This is our last and only chance to expand Blandford Nature Center and create additional educational and recreational opportunities not available anywhere else in the city and West Michigan,” said Mary Jane Dockeray, founder of Blandford Nature Center. “The community of Grand Rapids has been waiting patiently for something like this to come along.”

THE WEST SIDE is set to become a hub of new energy technology through a partnership between Rockford Construction and Consumers Energy. Circuit West, as the project has been dubbed, will be a neighborhood meant to test, implement and showcase new technologies in sustainable and renewable energy. The neighborhood will include power through solar panels, utility battery storage and electric vehicle charging stations, as well as extra bandwidth for communications and internet. Utility lines also will be placed underground for aesthetics. The neighborhood will be implemented in an approximately 10-block area of the West Side, including the new Meijer store on Bridge Street and Seward Avenue. The added emphasis in energy technologies and infrastructure on the West Side could lead to additional business investment and job creation in the area, said Mike VanGessel, Rockford Construction CEO. “Our vision is to provide a safe, innovative, sustainable neighborhood on the West Side that is a magnet for people and commerce,” VanGessel said. “This part of Grand Rapids is growing quickly, and we are excited to have a hand in bringing the latest technology and renewable energy to this side of the city.” Circuit West will be one of the first utilities in the Midwest to store renewable energy in batteries for future use. Consumers Energy also will work on the enhancement of data and grid analysis, said Garrick Rochow, Consumers Energy senior vice president of operations. Circuit West’s experimentation is expected to help lower the utility bills of residents and businesses, reduce water use, lower air emissions and save land space.

Holland Board of Public Works

Blandford Nature Center


Circuit West


Matt Fenske, Adult Drug Court Kevin Lobo, Stryker Corp. James Saalfeld, Mental Health Court


Marc Bitzer, Whirlpool Corp. James Keane, Steelcase Inc. Kevin Prindable, GE Aviation


Jon Ippel, Amplify GR Scott Jonkhoff, Next Step of West Michigan Ryan VerWys, Inner City Christian Federation

Real Estate/Construction

Adam Kramer, Switch Mike VanGessel, Rockford Construction John Wheeler, Orion Construction


Hank Meijer, Meijer Inc. Phil Russo, Russo’s International Market Robert Schermer Jr., Meritage Hospitality Group



Arts & Entertainment

David Hooker, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park Rich MacKeigan, SMG Scott Sprague, Gun Lake Casino


Dave Engbers and Mike Stevens, Founders Brewing Co. Daryn Kuipers, Boxed Water Jon O’Connor and Kyle Van Strien, Long Road Distillers

Economic Development

Dick DeVos, Grand Action James Gill, Gerald R. Ford International Airport Cindy Larsen, Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce


Betsy DeVos, U.S. Department of Education Thomas Haas, Grand Valley State University Kevin Quinn, Aquinas College


Stephen Duarte, Kent County Sandra Jelinski, Lake Michigan Credit Union David Quade, Horizon Bank


Steve Cooper, Continental Dairy Herb Herbruck, Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch Inc. Rich Wolowski, Gordon Food Service

Health Care

Norman Beauchamp Jr., MSU Grand Rapids Research Center Mark Eastburg, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services Kevin Lobo, Stryker Corp.



Dan DeVos, Grand Rapids Griffins Mike Guswiler, West Michigan Sports Commission Steve Jbara, Grand Rapids Drive


Bob Baltera, Cirius Therapeutics Julie Burrell, Pumpndo Feliciano Paredes, AgHelp


Dave Koster, Holland Board of Public Works Jason Meyer, Blandford Nature Center Mike VanGessel, Circuit West


Dan Irvin, 123Net John Keller, Metro Health-University of Michigan Health David Van Andel, Van Andel Research Institute

category: technology

Dan Irvin

John Keller

David Van Andel

IN RESPONSE TO a higher demand for client connectivity, Southfield-based 123Net poured $15 million into its West Michigan data presence this year. The company finished up a $5-million, 45-mile expansion of its fiber network in the metro Grand Rapids area and began searching for the location of a new $10-million-plus data center after its Byron Center location began to reach capacity. These developments came in response to a growing demand from business-oriented clients, something the company’s president and CEO, Dan Irvin, has long considered vital to the data industry. “We understand that data is the lifeblood of businesses today and that fast, friendly and efficient service is critical,” Irvin told the Business Journal. The new developments in Grand Rapids precede extensive build-outs in the metro Detroit area. The company’s main concentration was in the Detroit area and Ann Arbor, but aside from certain areas of Detroit, the Grand Rapids fiber network is the densest fiber network the company has built. Irvin also noted the increase in demand for data from businesses in health care, engineering, graphic design, software development and finance. “We’ve seen a lot of customers lately in those sectors … a lot of the local banks, credit unions or banks that have multiple branches Michigan-wide,” he said. 123Net has 3,200 miles of fiber network across the state and in key metro areas and five data centers. In 2017, the company also tapped into the unused potential of data fiber by being the first data company to offer “dark fiber,” or unused fiber connectivity as a service to business clients, allowing those clients to fully customize their data package.

METRO HEALTH LED the medical sector this year by being the first hospital to implement the latest in spinal surgery technology. The Business Journal reported in August that Metro Health-University of Michigan Health was the first hospital in the state of Michigan to acquire the Mazor X spinal surgery system for minimally invasive procedures. This isn’t the first time Metro Health has led the way with Mazor Robotics. Metro also was the first hospital in the state to use the company’s previous generation system, the Renaissance Guidance System. Minimally invasive surgery has been a major focus at Metro in recent years. For Metro Health’s Chief of Neurosurgery Dr. John Keller, it was an easy choice to introduce the new technology into Michigan’s medical field. “After completing more than 400 safe and successful surgeries with the previous robot, it was an easy decision to pioneer the Mazor X in Michigan,” Keller said. “This new robot gives us advantages before and during surgery that were not available even two years ago.” While minimally invasive procedures are advantageous over open surgery — by requiring smaller incisions, they result in less pain, less blood loss and a quicker recovery — it poses challenges for surgeons because of the limited view during surgery. The Mazor X uses a CT-based threedimensional simulation of the patient’s spine, which allows the surgeons to better develop a plan prior to the operation. Additionally, computer analytics provide precision guidance during surgery.

THE VAN ANDEL Research Institute threw down a heavy sum of money this year to bring the latest advancement in microscope technology to better research and combat diseases. The research arm of Van Andel Institute told the Business Journal in March that it had invested $10 million in cryo-electron microscopy, or cryo-EM. Cryo-EM allows researchers an “unprecedented” amount of detail in viewing molecular and atomic interactions. “Our new state-of-the-art cryo-EM facility, which includes significant investments in technology and talent, is part of our unwavering commitment to improving human health through scientific innovation,” said David Van Andel, chairman and CEO of VAI. The new facility houses an FEI Titan Krios, the highest-resolution commercially available cryo-electron microscope. The institute said it is one of fewer than 100 existing in the world and the second in the state. “The resolution available with the Krios, compared to earlier methods, is akin to upgrading from a road atlas to Google Earth,” said Peter Jones, chief scientific officer, VARI. “It offers exquisite detail of complex systems, which will help us find new therapies so desperately needed for patients around the world.” Cryo-EM allows researchers to determine molecular structure in less time and with fewer steps. With the new technology, scientists can flash-freeze molecules or cells in a solution and scan them with an electron beam to assemble a three-dimensional image. “Not only will it fuel the discovery of lifechanging treatments for devastating diseases, but it also will enhance Grand Rapids’ reputation as a destination for outstanding biomedical research,” Van Andel said.


Metro Health-University of Michigan Health


Van Andel Research Institute


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Profile for Grand Rapids Business Journal

GRBJ - The Newsmakers of the Year - 2017  

Who made news in 2017? The Grand Rapids Business Journal honors finalists in 16 industry categories.

GRBJ - The Newsmakers of the Year - 2017  

Who made news in 2017? The Grand Rapids Business Journal honors finalists in 16 industry categories.

Profile for grbj

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