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On the wings of the future The greater Grand Rapids metropolitan region continues to diversify, create and recreate its economic footings with business leaders who invest in community. This annual spotlight of those who are in their 20s and 30s but leading various industries and making community contributions is a look toward the future. The Grand Rapids Business Journal 40 Under Forty class of 2013 includes individuals who immigrated to this country and state as youngsters, individuals who served in the Armed Forces, and those who represent the first person in a family to have graduated from high school — and then the University of Michigan. The industries they represent or are creating are diverse, from manufacturing to green technologies. Their contributions to boards and nonprofits show measured successes and talents shared. And they are all social media savvy. This year, Grand Rapids Business Journal marks the 30th anniversary of this locally based company’s inception as a publication devoted to business journalism. It is the oldest business-reporting publication in the state. The 40 Under Forty recognition was created in 1995 and has served to connect young business leaders with one another and the greater business community. In this anniversary year, the staff looked to past 40 Under Forty classes for a glimpse at the continuation of such successes. Sam Cummings, principal and managing partner of CWD Real Estate Investment, was selected as the (over 40) honoree representing these years of sustained leadership. His updated profile is on page 8. The number of nominations was four shy of the 2011 record of 140. The nominees represent a diverse community of varied talent united by their wish to be active participants in the place in which they live. Researcher/reporter Pat Evans compiled the profiles and Johnny Quirin photographed each member of the class. It was a very tough job, but with enough food and a few respites, the panel of judges begrudgingly whittled the list to 40. This year these advocates of the under 40 crowd included: Bob Thomas, executive director of Michigan Chamber of Commerce Foundation, which includes Leadership Michigan; Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future; and Jeanne Englehart, 2013 Athena winner, tech business owner, former Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce president, and now partner of The Charter Group. Congratulations to all the nominees, and the Class of 2013.
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PREPARED FOR WORK + LIFE Employers appreciate how Calvin’s rigorous liberal arts education shapes the whole person with the faith, knowledge and skills to walk confidently into a career and life. Calvin congratulates our “40 Under 40” alumni honoree: Tamara Vandenberg, ’97 The Meanwhile/Pyramid Scheme, The Well House
www.calvin.edu 3201 Burton SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546 (616) 526-6106 or 1-800-688-0122
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Congratulations, Nicole McConnell—one of West Michigan’s 40 Under Forty. You engage employees and develop talent to serve our community. We are proud of you.
Nicole McConnell Director, Employee Life Cycle Spectrum Health System 40 UNDER FORTY 2013 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 5
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Count on Us. Count on More. Clark Hill’s full-service model offers an unmatched depth of integrated resources and talented attorneys and professionals who can anticipate and respond to your ever-changing business needs and challenges.
Congratulations Joe Voss for being named as one of the 2013 40 Under Forty Business Leaders! © 2013 Clark Hill PLC
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JAMON ALEXANDER Every day you inspire, motivate, and create lasting change in our community. Congrats on being a 40 under 40 leader. We are proud of you. THE YMCA OF GREATER GRAND RAPIDS 40 under 40 ad 2013.indd 1
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Life after 40: Cummings is Distinguished Alumnus
hen Sam Cummings first came to Grand Rapids, the Heartside District was full of dilapidated buildings. Cummings thought those beautiful and historic buildings were worth saving, so he started Second Story Properties, which emphasized rehabilitating and re-using old buildings in the downtown core — allowing the buildings to tell a “second story.” “He wanted to save Grand Rapids history,” Business Journal editor Carole Valade said. “That was always his biggest push.” He turned Ionia and Division avenues from a section of town most people wanted to avoid into the heart of downtown life, mostly by investing his own youthful vigor, leadership and money. Before Cummings joined with Scott Wierda and Dan DeVos to create CWD Real Estate Investment, Second Story renovated more than two dozen properties. Early in his career, Cummings cemented himself as a leader in understanding and utilizing local, state and federal incentives, as well as making use of public/private partnerships, to turn underperforming assets into key developments. His vision was that people would head downtown for entertainment in the new developments, then eventually move their offices downtown and, finally, they would be intrigued enough with the whole “scene” to investigate living downtown. Turns out he was right on all counts. Cummings’ work before he turned 40 is how he found himself on the Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty list twice — in
Alexis Ader, 39
Title: Owner Company: Signs With Design 8 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER FORTY 2013
2002 and 2005. He didn’t just invest in and turn around real estate; he plunged into the community and became a key player in every way. He was a Grand Rapids Community Foundation trustee from 2000-2007 and a trustee of the Grand Rapids Art Museum from 1998-2002 (and 2010-present). He also found his way onto the Grand Rapids Art Museum Foundation board from 20022010 and the Grand Valley State University Foundation from 2002-present. He’s also been a board member of The Right Place Inc. since 2006. Grand Rapids Magazine named him one of the city’s 25 Most Powerful People in 2007, and Business Direct Weekly named him to its 40 Business Leaders Under 40 list in 2004. He became a regular fixture on the 40 under 40 lists. He celebrated his 40th birthday with a black-framed copy of his last profile in the Business Journal, Valade said with a laugh. Valade decided this anniversary year would be a good time to take a look back at some of the original young leaders it honored and see what they’re up to today. For Cummings, turning 40 didn’t signal an end to his work in Grand Rapids. He still has his hands in many real estate developments around town (see the new Bucktown in Grandville). He’s still an advocate for community and environmental causes. His best work is likely still ahead of him. In 2011, Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Cummings trustee of the Department of
Without starting her own business, Alexis Ader would never have realized her full potential. She spent five years working with area design companies before deciding she could do it on her own. Now, 13 years after starting Signs With Design — a company that designs signs, banners, business cards and various other products — Ader is brimming with confidence and envisions an unlimited future. Last year, she was recognized with a Blast Award, given to top area women entrepreneurs, in part because her design business has grown more than 40 percent each of the past two years. Much of that business has been return clients, all of whom Ader is proud to have built relationships with and retained as customers. She has served as president and vice president of Business Networking
Natural Resources Trust Fund. And now, he is on the Advisory Board of the State of Michigan Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives. Cummings regularly speaks on adaptive reuse, renovation and real estate investment trends at colleges and real estate seminars, and other events such as those put on by the Associated Builders and Contractors, International Council of Shopping Centers and the Michigan Historic Preservation Network. Still a relative youngster, he’s now claiming lifetime awards. In 2011, he was recognized with the Urban Land Institute/University of Michigan Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Real Estate and the Van Andel Legacy “Casey” Award for Community Service.
International, and is a former member of the student advisory board at Kent Technical Career Center — where she earned a two-year graphic arts certificate — and the media committee of the Cedar Springs Women’s Club. Ader has worked on the Rockford Santa Claus Parade for the past four years and the Rockford Start of Summer Celebration the previous two. In 2011, she wrapped presents with the Santa Claus Girls. She’s also a member of the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs and Ladies Leads Group. “My business has displayed extraordinary growth and exemplary customer service,” Ader said. “I believe this is all due to my persistence in quality control and reliability as a valued vendor.”
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Derek Aten, 35
Title: Vice President Company: Comerica Bank
Jamon Alexander, 29
Title: Annual Fund Director Organization: YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids Jamon Alexander is a nonprofit professional for life. It started right after he graduated college when he secured a position with the Heart of West Michigan United Way. He then moved on to Spectrum Health Foundation and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation. Now he’s settled into a role at YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. In 2006, he helped launch Business Leaders Linked to Encourage New Directions (BL2END). He’s taken part in 13 leadership development programs, many through the Spectrum Health Learning Institute. He’s currently a board member at Blandford Nature Center and the Grand Rapids Urban League. He also coaches basketball for the Grand Rapids Storm and Seidman Boys & Girls Club, and tutors reading at Alexander and Coit elementary schools. Alexander said his work with BL2END is his proudest accomplishment. “It’s a platform that grows individuals professionally,” he said. “Most importantly, it encourages people to give back. With that, there’s more board service, more reading tutors, more coaches, more volunteers engaged locally. My individual efforts have been multiplied.” Although he recognized 40 Under Forty as a great honor, it’s not the reason he is involved in the community. “While recognition is not the goal, I hope to further inspire others to be engaged in impacting lives in West Michigan,” he said. “I feel as if a lot has been accomplished in my short professional career, but I know there’s much more to come.”
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At 35, Derek Aten feels his greatest accomplishments are yet to come. If that’s the case, West Michigan can expect a lot more from him. Aten realizes he’s one of the younger people to obtain a vice president’s position with Comerica Bank. He says he has Grand Rapids Public Schools to thank for that opportunity. “I am giving back to the community that raised me,” Aten said. “I do not see many others from GRPS that are doing the same.” Aten has been a Strive mentor within the school system for the past nine years. “Derek’s accomplishments in this program have impacted hundreds of students in a very positive way,” said Bob Stark of Calder Investment Advisers and a Strive representative. Aten is second vice president of the Rotary Club of Grand Rapids and is secretary of The First Tee of Michigan. He also coaches his daughter’s softball team.
“My wife and my children are the biggest influence in my life,” Aten said. “They provide me with the motivation to be a good person, a positive role model and provider for my family.” He’s done a lot, but he won’t be finished any time soon. “Many others my age use outside forces as reasons to not be involved, and I feel that is simply an easy excuse. Grand Rapids is my home for life, and I am excited that I get to be a part of an exciting and transformative time in our community.”
Jeff Barrett, 28
Title: CEO Company: Status Creative Someday, Jeff Barrett would like to give back to Grand Rapids in much the same fashion as the DeVos and Van Andel families. He’s still young, but he’s on his way. Barrett is quickly rising through the ranks of the advertising world as CEO of Status Creative, and was named Business Insider’s No. 1 Ad Executive on Social Media. He also was listed in Forbes’ Top 50 in Social Media and PRNewswire’s Best Use of Video in Social Media. He’s a columnist for The Washington Times and writer for Mashable, the Detroit Free Press and Hoot Suite. He’s also given TEDx presentations. In a nutshell, Barrett is a leader in a new field. “Within the last two years, he has built a company from scratch,” Spectrum Health’s Mark Breon said. “Simply put, when Jeff talks, people listen.” Barrett hold the position of digital media and youth outreach for the Center For Community Leadership board, and is a merchandising advisor for Gilda’s Club’s LaughFest. He’s also in charge of marketing and digital media for the Next Gen United Way board and is vice president of the Social Media Association of Michigan. One of Status Creative’s recent campaigns premiered at the Detroit Lions’ home opener. Even with all the accolades, however, Barrett stays true to his roots. “I am recognized as the best in my field and one of its rising stars, nationally,” Barrett said. “I have made a point to stay in Grand Rapids and grow my company from here.”
People who choose to work at Metro Health are driven by
to create the best health care experience for our physicians, our staff, our patients and our community.
Congratulations, Erika! Your passion is evident in all you do.
Chris Beckering, 32
Michael Borowka, 38
The west side of Grand Rapids is in the midst of a transformation, and Chris Beckering was at the heart of one of the early projects that eventually led to that renaissance. He said the redevelopment of American Seating Park, a former factory site, is his most significant accomplishment to date. But that’s definitely not all he has accomplished. He serves as chairman of the Kent County GOP and the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan. He’s also a board member of the Ada Moorings Condominium Association and a member of the Envision Ada Steering Commission. Beckering is a graduate of Inside Grand Rapids, Leadership Grand Rapids and Leadership Advantage. He’s been recognized by the Business Journal twice as part of its 40 under Forty classes, and was a recipient of the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation.
One doesn’t just run a marathon; it takes weeks of dedication and training. The 30 weeks it took Michael Borowka to train for a 2010 marathon is why it’s his most prized accomplishment. But it also helped him realize the importance of dedication to his career. His biggest professional break came when Quantum Leap Communications’ previous owner encouraged Borowka to take the opportunity to run day-to-day operations at the company. “I was given the freedom to succeed or fail,” he said. And Borowka has succeeded, living on lessons learned from his father. “He has taught me that as a man, you can balance being strong and compassionate,” Borowka said. “You can be firm in your beliefs and be open and respectful to what others think.” He chairs the Goodwill of Greater Grand Rapids Young Leaders board and the D.A Blodgett/St. John’s Home KidsFirst Committee, and is an advisor to Elves and More of West Michigan. He also works with the Ronald McDonald House of West Michigan and God’s Kitchen’s Meals on Wheels program.
Title: Director of Business Development Company: Pioneer Construction
“I’m blessed to live in a community that has provided me with excellent opportunities,” Beckering said. “I believe it is a privilege to be able to give back.” Although Beckering lists Richard M. DeVos as the most influential person in his life, he does much of what he does for his family and the city. “Chris is incredibly passionate about Grand Rapids,” said his wife, Ashley. “Not only has he made significant professional contributions at a very young age, he also gives generously of his time and talent to numerous charitable organizations in our community, all while being a great husband and father.”
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Title: President/CEO Company: Quantum Leap Communications
Rosalynn Bliss, 38
Title: City Commissioner Organization: City of Grand Rapids In 2005, Rosalynn Bliss won an election that would change her life. Now, eight years later, she’s making a difference as a high-profile city commissioner. She’s also the director of residential services at D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s and an adjunct professor of social work at Grand Valley State University. As a city commissioner, she’s helped lead initiatives to increase Grand Rapids’ tree canopy and add more than 100 miles of bike lanes. She also spearheaded the Fulton Street Farmers Market redevelopment committee that helped launch the new market. Currently, she serves on the corporate board of the YMCA, Huntington Bank’s Women’s Advisory Board, Michigan Economic Center, Dyer-Ives Foundation, Kent County Land Bank Authority and Grand Rapids Youth Boxing Foundation and is the city liaison for Friends for Grand Rapids Parks. She’s also a leadership team member for the Healthier Communities CDC Community Transformation Grant. She was awarded the West Michigan Bicycle Coalition Community Champion Award in 2012, was a member of the Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty in 2010 and 2011, and a 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan recipient in 2010. She won the Tim Pope Memorial Award for outstanding young governmental leader in 2010 and the Athena Young Professional Award in 2008. “I strive to be an example to young people, particularly young women,” Bliss said. “My hope is that I inspire others, no matter what their age, to get involved in making our community a better place for all.”
Everything Borowka does is to help further others and the community. “I believe that a big part of becoming successful and maintaining success is your ability and desire to bring others along with you, and it is my goal to be able to do so as much as possible,” Borowka said. “I also believe that success is measured by how much, and more importantly, how willing you are to give back to the community.”
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Derek Coppess, 31
Title: Founder Company: 616 Development/616 Lofts
Brian Burch, 35 Title: Principal Company: Burch Partners
Early in his public relations career, Brian Burch helped launch Chicago’s Millennium Park, its largest cultural project in more than 100 years. Since then, he’s helped West Michigan launch several culturally significant projects: ArtPrize, Start Garden and Downtown Market. “Every day my job revolves around the redefinition of the West Michigan community into a dynamic place for business, cultures and ideas,” Burch said. “All three of these represent West Michigan’s departure from the traditional business model and into a model that explores startups and experimentation.” After working for Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Lambert, Edwards & Associates and ArtPrize, he launched his own firm earlier this year. Since 2009, he’s represented the 3rd Ward of Holland on the Holland City Council. “Brian is a public servant, talented professional, social entrepreneur, father and husband,” Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra said. Burch was recognized earlier this year by Next City as a 2013 Vanguard 40 Under 40. He was also one of the Business Journal’s 40 under Forty in 2012. He serves on the marketing committee of the Association for Corporate Growth and is a board member of Ambrose Makery and the Alzheimer’s Association-Greater Michigan Chapter. “Like many, I don’t stand still,” Burch said. “I am constantly finding new ways to balance the needs of a growing family with the needs of a growing business while telling stories that are redefining the perception of West Michigan: emerging startups, and a changing cultural landscape, and for the most part, doing all of this from behind the scenes.”
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Chances are, without Derek Coppess, the downtown living scene would be less vibrant. His company, 616 Development, has led a revival of sorts in downtown residences with 616 Lofts on Pearl, Ionia and at the Kendall Building, among others, taking underutilized urban spaces and rehabbing them into beautiful living spaces. His accomplishments were recognized by the Grand Rapids Downtown Alliance, which named him 2012 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year. The Business Journal nominated 616 Development as a Newsmaker of the Year candidate last year, as well. The work he’s done in the real estate and development industry is extraordinary as much of it was done in an economic downturn. “That taught me anything is possible if you’re doing it for the right reason with the right people,” Coppess said. “I am most proud of the ‘616 Tribe’ I have put together — an incredible, mission-driven tribe of people whom I love very much.”
Coppess also is working with city planners to help achieve a critical mass downtown, including projects with the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority and Kendall College of Art and Design. He’s also helping to develop a master’s degree program at Kendall. Coppess serves on the board at Sunny Crest Youth Ranch and the advisory committee of the Parks Steering Committee for Veterans Memorial & Monument Park. “2012 was a big year for 616, and 2013 is shaping up to be even bigger,” he said. “Our accomplishments as a Tribe in such a short period of time have been staggering.”
Kim Dabbs, 38
Title: Executive Director Organization: West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology In less than a year, Kim Dabbs’ work at the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology has brought plenty of attention to the organization. “I am leading an amazing team of professionals and teaching artists in launching an innovative, impactful pedagogy for our Teen Arts Program, in which urban high school students will engage in projectbased learning and design thinking,” Dabbs said. “This model will serve as a best practice in urban education and youth engagement.” But none of it would be possible without her six years as executive director of Michigan Youth Arts. “This was my first experience in leading a statewide coalition focused on a mutual goal,” she said. “I gained so much experience in creating collaborations, working across sectors and building consensus among constituents.” She’s been awarded the Joyce Fellowship and Emerging Leader awards from Americans for the Arts, and was recognized with a distinguished alumni award from Kendall College of Art and Design. She currently serves on the leadership council of Extended Learning Opportunities Network, the Education Policy Committee of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and as a member of the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park board. “My commitment to building community and stewarding the next generation is a driving force for my professional career,” she said. “I am dedicated to the West Michigan region, passionate about building coalitions and driven by the many adult and teen students we serve at WMCAT every day.”
Jennifer Deamud, 39
Erika Duncan, 38
Title: Associate State Director Organization: GVSU Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center Grand Rapids is a hub of small businesses, and Jennifer Deamud does all she can to make all of them grow. She’s the associate director at the Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center headquartered at Grand Valley State University and has played a key role in the strategic growth of small businesses statewide. In the seven years she’s worked there, she’s moved from marketing manager to her current role while working on the small business assistance program that has brought more jobs, businesses and capital to Michigan. Deamud is chair of Michigan Celebrates Small Business — the state’s top awards program for small businesses. She is cochair of the Inforum Small Business & Entrepreneurship Affinity Group, committee member of Athena Leadership, WGVU Engage, Huntington Bank’s Rising Women Leaders Alumni Conference and marketing chair of World Trade Week West Michigan. She’s also a member of the Multiracial Association of Professionals and the American Marketing Association. She holds a special place in her heart for the years she spent coaching basketball for Special Olympics.
She has a master’s degree in communications from GVSU, and expects to complete her master’s degree in public administration. She’s a certified small business consultant and inclusion advocate. “I have embedded myself in the community in numerous leadership roles,” Deamud said. “I am a creative, innovative, enthusiastic and forward-thinking leader who is confident in my decisions and not afraid to make mistakes.”
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Title: Vice President of Human Resources Company: Metro Health Hospital
Afton DeVos, 30
Title: Development Director Organization: Kids’ Food Basket Afton DeVos overcame cancer as a teenager and now thrives as development director at Kids’ Food Basket. But her job track first passed through a stint as development director at Gilda’s Club. “The mission was very close to my heart and the job felt like a perfect fit for me,” DeVos said. “Little did I know that, two years later, we’d be celebrating our 10th anniversary and launching Gilda’s LaughFest.” In August 2012, she was hired as Kids’ Food Basket’s first development director. Within the first year, DeVos helped secure a three-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation worth $663,000. As the mother of a son, Zachary, the thought of a child going hungry is unbearable, she said. “I am most proud of helping secure this funding,” DeVos said. “Childhood hunger is a community problem — one of our nation’s most pressing problems. That’s why I am here doing this work each day.” DeVos is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Economic Club of Grand Rapids. She’s on the Van Andel Institute J-Board and is part of the committee support for Grand Rapids Central YoungLives. She was a founding member of Club Red at Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids and serves as a monthly nursery volunteer at Ada Bible Church. “I believe it is important to highlight individuals in our community who have worked their way up,” DeVos said.
Erika Duncan knows how to acquire talent. The rest of the nation can see that, which explains why she’s asked to speak nationally on talent acquisition strategies, business partner models, and engagement and retention initiatives. “I seek to coach, mentor and take risks with those I believe in,” Duncan said. “I align people with their strengths, un-handcuff them and let them go. I was able to thrive in this environment and accomplish things I never knew I could do.” She learned how talent can best flourish when she was working her way up the ranks at Johnson Controls and Spectrum Health. “I am proud of the path I have taken to get here, and the adversity I’ve had to overcome to impact the HR community and health care community in Grand Rapids,” Duncan said. “I am now able to influence other young leaders in my role at Metro Health.”
She serves on the Ottawa County work force development board, the Healthcare Employers Council and the Healthcare and Human Resources Committee, and is a member of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum play committee. She’s also a trustee at Mel Trotter Ministries. Duncan is applying lessons learned from her father and helping pass them on to future generations. “I am an example to those around me personally and professionally, and believe in others and myself,” Duncan said. “It is our responsibility as young professionals to give back and be examples and leaders for others. Age is not a factor of success, it is merely a number.”
Congratulations John Inhulsen One of
Grand Rapids Business Journal’s
40 Under Forty
Attorney. Advisor. Advocate. John is a member of the Foster Swift Commercial Litigation Practice Group. His recognitions include: • Michigan Super Lawyers® 2013 • Michigan Super Lawyers® Rising Star 2012 • Michigan Super Lawyers® Rising Star 2011 FOSTERSWIFT.COM
GRAND RAPIDS | FARMINGTON HILLS | LANSING
| DETROIT | MARQUETTE | HOLLAND
Maria Erazo, 34
Title: Insurance and Financial Representative Company: Farmers Insurance Agency
Eric Engelbarts, 32
Title: Executive Director, Meijer State Games of Michigan Organization: West Michigan Sports Commission When the West Michigan Sports Commission was formed six years ago, it had a vision for an Olympic-style event that would bring thousands to West Michigan every year. With the help ofEric Engelbarts, that vision is now a reality. Engelbarts has helped the event grow to bring more than 6,500 athletes in 34 sports to West Michigan, resulting in a $2.7 million boost to the local economy. In February, the commission will launch a Winter Games version. And that’s why his appointment as the executive director of the event is his biggest career break. “It was a positive confirmation that all the hard work and long hours invested in the previous five years had been recognized by the West Michigan Sports Commission board of directors.” He’s currently on the National Congress of State Games board, the National Association of Sports Commissions Professional Development Committee and the Davenport University Sports Management Board. He’s also served as vice president of the Grand Rapids Jaycees board. Earlier this year, the state games won the Governor’s Fitness Award Extraordinary Event. But it’s his work that has helped bring Grand Rapids an economic stimulus that puts him on the 40 Under Forty list. “By including me, you would be recognizing the hard work of more than 900 volunteers that dedicate their time to making our vision of ‘welcoming athletes regardless of age or ability,’ possible.”
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In 2011, Maria Erazo was recognized as one of the leading women in the Hispanic community with the Latina Woman Business Owner of the Year of Grand Rapids. Now, Erazo has her sights set on the rest of the Grand Rapids community. She’s proved herself to be a top-selling insurance agent, winning the Blue Vase Award, a recognition of life insurance sales by Farmers Insurance Co., and qualifying in 2012 and 2013 for the Toppers Club, a nationwide award for high performance given by Farmers. She also was awarded the Latinas Wings Award, given to an upand-coming Latina professional woman of passion in Grand Rapids. She’s now establishing her role in the community through her company Maria Erazo Enterprise, coaching and taking on speaking engagements to help overcome diversity issues. In 2012, her book, “In Search of My Father,” was released.
She’s a graduate of One Million Leaders, a leadership development program, and of the 2013 Leadership Grand Rapids class. She also is a graduate of the University of Farmers. “Coming from humble beginnings, I was able to build a successful business and continue to educate myself to give back to others,” she said of her move to Grand Rapids from Mexico when she was 11. She wants to use her experiences and leadership to better the entire community. “I have grown with this great community in all the aspects of my life,” Erazo said. “This has built a bridge for others to utilize as they build their own success stories.”
Brent Geers, 34 Title: Attorney Company: Geers Law
Brent Geers has made his family proud. Not only is he the first member of his family to graduate high school and attend the University of Michigan and Thomas M. Cooley Law School, but he also served five years in the U.S. Army, including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He’s done a lot of it for his grandmother, who continues to play a large role in his life. “She persevered through a lot, and continues to provide whenever she can,” he said. While in the army, he won the Army Commendation Medal four times, the Good Conduct Medal, German Army Marksmanship Award and the Combat Action Badge. Now, he runs his own law firm, Geers Law, and is a Department of Veterans Affairs accredited attorney who has appeared in eight Michigan courts. An externship with attorneys at the Public Sector Legal Clinic helped him gain the confidence and knowledge to start his own practice. Geers is a member of the Grand Rapids Housing Appeals Board and a post commander of American Legion Post 459, as well as a member of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation Advisory Council. He’s also a writer for The Grand Rapids Times and a member of the Floyd Skinner Bar Association. “I’m dedicated to the life and vitality of Grand Rapids,” Geers said. “I’ve seen this city transform over my short lifetime and look forward to contributing to our city’s continued success.”
Seth Getz, 37
Jesse Hertstein, 39
Seth Getz doesn’t believe his biggest professional break has happened yet, but he already has accomplished a lot. Getz believes sometimes breaks include “quitting things,” to which he attributes some of his success. “Deciding to quit one thing has opened up the pathways for other and better things,” Getz said. “So while it sounds strange, quitting has been some of the best decisions I have made in my life.” Much of what Getz does is help others get off the ground. As a founder and president of Business Mastery, he works with other entrepreneurs to better their businesses. He’s an instructor with Hope College’s entrepreneurial program and has worked as a mentor for various Start Garden startups. He also was one of three partners who recently started a coworking space in Holland called Warehaüs. “Business owners have always been an inspiration to me because they are the innovators,” Getz said. “They are the ones who have a dream worth fighting for and are willing to stretch themselves to accomplish it.”
Jesse Hertstein seems to specialize in leading initiatives. He has led the 10-year anniversary of Amway’s One by One Campaign for Children, including the first-ever global volunteer day. The campaign has helped 10 million children by mobilizing 2.7 million volunteer hours and raising $190 million. Hertstein also designed a three-year, $1 million nationwide partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and formed an executive team and strategy that has responded to 33 disasters while raising $17.6 million. Although his conventional education consists of Vanguard University and Aquinas College, he also earned a certificate in corporate citizenship from the Boston College John Carrol School of Management and graduated from Amway’s Leadership Development Program, Leadership Grand Rapids and the Institute for Healing Racism.
Title: Business Strategist Company: Business Mastery
He’s the youngest E-Myth business coach and also a master coach and trainer for Full Spectrum Business Development. Getz serves as secretary of Reformation Heritage Books and treasurer of CBH Ministries. He also has served on the Grand Haven Men’s Conference and is founder of the Saugatuck Business Networking Group. He said he does it all for his wife and three children, with his father — who died when he was 12 — in the back of his mind at all times.
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Title: CSR Senior Specialist Company: Amway Corp.
Jeffery Helminski, 39 Title: Managing Partner Company: Blackford Capital
Jeffery P. Helminski is well versed in a variety of subjects. He has a bachelor of science in mechanical engineering from Michigan Technological University, a master of science in engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Now, he’s the managing director of Blackford Capital, in charge of the private equity firm’s activities in Michigan. He’s most proud of the entrepreneurial career he’s developed. “From starting a company in the real estate development and investment industry to partnering with Martin Stein at Blackford Capital,” Helminski said, “I know first-hand that it’s both exciting and frightening to take an entrepreneurial path.” He credits much of his success to his family’s history. “Through their immigration to this country, service in World War II and career sacrifices, they taught me the importance of selflessness and instilled in me the drive to succeed,” he said. “My desire to serve my community and my passion for my career stem from the values I have learned from them.” Prior to his move to Grand Rapids, Helminski served as vice chairman of Fusion, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s young professional organization, and on the Ferndale Planning Commission and Oakland County Business Roundtable. He also serves on the board of directors of Grand Rapids-based manufacturer Custom Profile and is chairman of the board of medical equipment manufacturer Mopec. Helminski also is a member of the Michigan Executive Committee of the Urban Land Institute.
He’s a member of the Global Corporate Volunteer Council at the International Association for Volunteer Effort and a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center. Hertstein also serves on the board of directors at the Literacy Center of Western Michigan and Ada Business Association. In the past, he’s served as co-chair of the Community Literacy Initiative Coalition, and as a mentor and pen pal for Grand Rapids Public Schools. “I’m most proud of the relationships of trust that I’ve been able to build in the local and international community,” Hertstein said. “You don’t have to fight nearly as hard to achieve your goals when they are based on someone else’s goals.”
When Woodbridge N. Ferris founded Ferris State University in 1884, his idea was to mesh theory with practice to develop a workforce who knew what to do and how to do it. 129 years later, Ferris is still doing exactly the same thing: preparing in-demand professionals to make an immediate impact on Michiganâ€™s economy â€” and their own.
Don Kalisz, 36
Title: Partner and Creative Director Company: Revel
John Inhulsen, 38
Title: Attorney/Shareholder Company: Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith PC In June, John W. Inhulsen won a unanimous jury verdict that turned out to be the largest in Ionia County history. The multi-day antitrust trial had been pending for six years and awarded Inhulsen’s client $5,150,000. He was a Michigan Super Lawyer Rising Star in 2011 and 2012. Inhulsen claims to be the only under 40 individual who co-chairs major party fundraisers in the state, most recently for Gov. Rick Snyder, and he was recently elected to the Kent GOP Executive Committee and appointed to its Finance Committee. He currently serves on the Grand Rapids Bar Association’s Finance Committee and is a member of the State Bar of Michigan. He is a March of Dimes chairperson, Broadway Grand Rapids vicechairperson, and a director of the MSU Alumni Club of West Michigan and Kuyper College Business Leadership Advisory Board. In the past he has served on the East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation board, United Way Campaign Cabinet, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Campaign Cabinet, Van Andel Institute J-Board, and was part of the MSU Michigan Political Leadership Program. The work he and his wife, Monica, do in the community continues to be that of which he is most proud. “Communities don’t just happen,” he said. “It takes people and local businesses contributing their time and resources to create and sustain the opportunities we have in Grand Rapids. “We made a decision early on to take an ownership interest in the success of our community and I’m most proud of our efforts in this regard.”
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Four years after Don Kalisz founded his business, Relevant Branding, Marketing and Advertising, it merged with website and video marketing firm Qonverge to form Revel. The company is growing quickly as one of West Michigan’s premier marketing and web companies. It employs 18 people with hundreds of for- and nonprofit clients in locales from West Michigan to Phoenix. For his creative work, Kalisz has won four district silver, district gold, regional gold and national gold ADDY Awards. His work has been published in “American Corporate Identity.” He’s also been recognized with a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Michigan School Public Relations Association. Although he said it might be a bit “churchy,” he gives a lot of credit to Jesus — and to his wife. “She’s been there for me from the beginning of my career,” he said. “She’s been my ‘sugar momma.’ She gave me the courage and the income (and) health insurance that made it possible for me to start my own business.”
Now he serves on the board of the American Advertising Federation, the marketing committee of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, and on its Inclusion and Community Awareness Commitee. He’s also a member of the Muskegon Rotary Club, on the board at Muskegon Catholic Central and co-chair of the Seaway Run Marketing Committee. His family is a host family for foreign exchange students; he also coaches T-ball and baseball. “I constantly look for ways to give back,” he said. “It’s the only way to move forward in life and business.”
Jim Lilly, 32
Title: Vice President-Commercial Team Lead Company: Macatawa Bank In June, Jim Lilly graduated from a threeyear graduate banking program. It’s an extensive program both online and onsite in Pennsylvania through the American Bankers Association’s Stonier Graduate School of Banking and Wharton School of Business. The experience resulted in the accomplishment of which Lilly said he is most proud. “I really enjoyed learning in the highly specialized setting with other banking executives from across the U.S.,” Lilly said. But the opportunity for the degree likely wouldn’t have come had Macatawa Bank not taken a chance on him. “Matt Hoeksema and Macatawa Bank put their faith in me to translate my previous success as a salesperson into the role of a successful sales manager,” he said. “I knew this change would be instrumental in helping me achieve my longer-term career goals.” In 2010, the Holland/Zeeland Community Foundation honored Lilly with the Young Philanthropist Award for his community work. He also was in the 2008 class of Leadership Holland. Lilly previously served as president of the Holland Area Arts Council and is currently president of the Holland Professional Club. In 2011, he served as treasurer of the Canada’s Cup Regatta. With the 40 Under Forty recognition, he hopes to further the activity of young professionals in the community. “My wife and I are deeply committed to the West Michigan region and are very proud to call it home,” Lilly said. “I’d use the visibility gained from this award to generate interest in getting young people involved in many of the local organizations I am passionate about.”
Michael Lomonaco, 33
Brian Miller, 39
Despite his having no experience, Open Systems Technologies took a chance and hired Michael Lomonaco. Since his hiring, OST has continued to grow, from a $55 million company to $80 million with 115 employees. “They trusted me and my knowledge, work ethic and integrity that I would give it my all,” Lomonaco said. “It has worked out wonderfully, and I cannot imagine being anywhere else.” One of Lomonaco’s initiatives at OST has been community outreach, and the company focuses specific amounts of money on the people and neighborhoods of west side Grand Rapids. Employees find creative ways to give back financially and through volunteering. Lomonaco also serves on the board of the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, Van Andel Institute J Board and Milan’s Miracle Fund. He’s also a member of aimWest and the American Marketing Association of West Michigan. He’s a graduate of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce Center for Community Leadership.
The average age of a CIO is 48, and although Brian Miller hasn’t hit 40, he’s one of the most active CIOs on social networks. Earlier this year, he was recognized by Huffington Post as a Top 50 Social CIO on Twitter, and EdTech Magazine named him one of the most social CIOs. He leads Davenport University’s strategic redesign plan, and three years ago helped redesign the Davenport website. He’s also a Leadership West Michigan 2009 graduate. Miller is a city commissioner in East Grand Rapids and an active member of the East Grand Rapids Community Foundation, where he’s helped organize a policeman’s memorial and completion of the Reeds Lake Trail, as well as raised funds for the history room in the EGR Public Library. But he’s most proud of the two daughters he has with his wife, Megan.
Title: Vice President of ITS/CIO Organization: Davenport University
Title: Marketing Manager Company: OST
Much of what he does is because of his son. “He has completely changed my perspective on life in the past two years,” Lomonaco said. “I always used to say that I volunteered and participated in the causes I did because I so love GR/West Michigan and want our region to be the best. “While this is still true, I now find myself getting involved in causes so that my children and those of others will want to call GR home, not only because I did but because it offers all they want, need and more.”
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Nicole McConnell, 36 Title: Employee Lifecycle Director Company: Spectrum Health
Creating a great workplace for 20,000 employees at Grand Rapids’ largest employer is Nicole McConnell’s main responsibility at Spectrum Health. McConnell is responsible for helping launch an organization-wide orientation program that ensures employees have an exciting, educational and affirming first day. “The experience is hands-on and does not include any of the traditional tenets often associated with orientation,” McConnell said. “Instead, the day is spent learning through stories, activities, and even a motor coach tour.” Along with the orientation program, Spectrum recently launched the Career Development Center. It helps employees advance themselves and figure out the next step in their careers. “I am proud of this work because it has improved the employee experience, which is enabling Spectrum Health to attract, select and maintain the best talent,” she said. “Having the best talent allows us the ability to deliver the best care to our community.” McConnell’s efforts stem from an early mentor at Huntington Bank who was a strong advocate of her work. “I was not fully aware of how lucky I was to have a leader who truly cared about advancing me and others on his team,” she said. She is active in the Grand Valley State University Alumni Association and GVSU Human Resources Advisory Board. She also has served on the boards of Hello West Michigan and Grand Rapids Young Professionals. McConnell volunteers with Junior Achievement, United Way’s Day of Caring, Habitat for Humanity, Kids’ Food Basket and Salvation Army’s Toys for Tots.
“The majority of my volunteer work revolves around their schooling,” Miller said. “It’s important to instill a love of community in our kids, and volunteering together as a family is one way to do that.” He’s also chairman on the Information Technology Managers Association. But none of it would have happened if his first boss, Phil Stommen, hadn’t taken a risk on “a kid with almost no experience.” “He took a risk to hire a kid in a new field to essentially deliver the company’s future products to their biggest customers,” he said. “We all benefited from it and I am still working in technology, the fastestchanging field on the planet, and loving it.”
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Rachel Mraz, 32
Title: Wealth Management Advisor Company: Merrill Lynch
Mike Mraz, 32
Title: Vice President of Real Estate Development Company: Rockford Construction Mike Mraz has played a significant role in the development of downtown Grand Rapids during the past 10 years. He was on the development team that renovated the Peck Building, Front Row Condominiums, Blue Cross Blue Shield building and much of the property along Monroe Center as the vice president of real estate development at Rockford Construction. But one of his most prized accomplishments is the work he did with MoDiv, a retail incubator that is helping revitalize shopping downtown. His work at Rockford since joining immediately after college has had a large impact on the city. “Rockford (had) just completed the acquisition of 12 buildings in the Heartside area of GR and was looking for assistance,” Mraz said. “I have been lucky to be able to assist in the development of the entire area and see an entire neighborhood come back to life.” Now, the west side master plan for redevelop of Bridge Street and Seward Avenue corridor is in his —and Rockford Construction’s — sights. He’s been a board and executive committee member of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, board chair of the West Michigan Chapter of March of Dimes, board member of Broadway Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Economic Club. He’s also on the advisory council of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and a member of Ehlers Transit Partnership, which was formed to create a master plan for The Rapid. Mraz was a 40 under Forty business leader in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
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In January, Rachel Mraz was the keynote speaker at the Athena Leadership Luncheon, further solidifying her spot as a leader in the West Michigan business world. But recognition started early. She was a member of the 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011 40 Under Forty classes and a member of the Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan in 2008, 2010 and 2012. It helps to have a teammate, she said, and her husband — fellow 40 Under Forty member Mike — is the biggest influence in her life. “That may be a cliché answer, but I’m fortunate that we operate as a team in all the various aspects of our life,” Mraz said. “As such, we influence each other on professional goals, philanthropic initiatives and how those incorporate into our personal lives.”
Not only is she a rock star in the financial world, as a certified financial planner, certified investment management analyst, chartered advisor in philanthropy and chartered retirement planning counselor at Merrill Lynch, but she also is an active member of the community. She’s been a co-chair on the Van Andel Institute J Board, a trustee for Davenport University Foundation, Saint Mary’s Doran Foundation, Council of Michigan Foundations and Opera Grand Rapids, and on the boards of the Family Business Alliance and YWCA of West Central Michigan. She’s most proud of her involvement with the Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding. “I couldn’t be more proud of this campaign and all of the people who stepped forward to make it a reality.”
Eric Mullen, 38
Title: Associate Dean of Enrollment Management & Financial Aid Organization: Grand Rapids Community College He didn’t realize it at the time but securing a job at Grand Rapids Community College right after graduation was Eric Mullen’s biggest professional break. Since the hiring, he’s committed himself to growing in the profession and ensuring education is a strong part of the Grand Rapids community. “Even as a young person, I have always felt that education is critical to the success of individuals and the community as a whole,” Mullen said. “I had not considered working in higher education, (but) I quickly realized that this was an amazing opportunity.” He’s worked hard to increase his visibility as an educational leader in West Michigan, working with the Michigan College Personnel Association, the Kent County College Access Network and currently working on his dissertation for a Ph.D. in higher education leadership at Western Michigan University. “Through my work, I feel I am providing leadership that is improving higher education,” he said. “Being able to help those that didn’t see higher education in their future, and empower them to realize and work toward their true potential.” He was unsure of why he might be included in 40 under Forty, but then realized his mission aligns with the vision of the Business Journal’s recognition program. “GRCC is a vital part of our community’s economic vitality and success,” Mullen said. “I am thankful and very fortunate to help provide education and training pathways that directly improve our region.”
Hereâ€™s To A Job Well Done. At Comerica Bank, we proudly salute Derek Aten, Vice President of Business Banking, for his ongoing commitment to making a difference.
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Todd Price, 37
Jennifer Remondino, 32
Even though Detroit failed to attract the 2014 Summer X Games, Todd Price is extremely proud of the valiant effort of the Detroit Sports Commission, of which he was a member. “I’m still glad we tried and I feel good that I know many people worked tirelessly to make this a possibility,” Price said. He says the effort helped him gain some recognition in the sports community. He now works with the Pro Athlete Alliance through Yellow Dux LLC in Big Rapids, a nationwide consulting firm that brings knowledge to athletes about medical safety on and off the field. Price is on the board of the American Red Cross, and has helped the Big Rapids Public Library raise more than $860,000. He notes his early work at Spectrum Health on the board of the Michigan Society of Healthcare Planners and Marketers was a huge stepping stone in introducing him to other professionals. In February, WIRED Magazine published Price’s article on where coffee shops will be in the future.
In law school, Jennifer Remondino set a goal to secure an associate’s position with a law firm. Less than eight years out of law school, Remondino is now a partner in the largest law firm headquartered in West Michigan: Warner Norcross & Judd. “I work with one of the largest, most reputable trusts and estates groups in the state, which has helped me develop an extensive knowledge base in estate and tax planning,” she said. Earlier this year, Remondino was placed in charge of the law firm’s Holland office. Not only is she one of the youngest attorneys selected as a partner, but also was the first woman to be named Partner in Charge of one of the firm’s seven offices. She was named to the 2013 Best Lawyers In America, Trusts & Estates list, as well as a 2012 Michigan Super Lawyer Rising Star.
Title: Director of Business Development Company: Yellow Dux
He currently serves on the Mecosta County Building Board of Appeals, Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development, American College of Healthcare Executives, Michigan Planning Association and Big Rapids Zoning Board of Appeals. Price also teaches evening and online classes at Northwood University and Baker College, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in management at Walden University.
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Title: Partner Company: Warner Norcross & Judd
Tera Qualls, 29
Title: Director of Communications and Advancement, College of Community and Public Service Organization: Grand Valley State University In September 2007, Tera Qualls organized a breakfast for 10 people. That was the start of the accomplishment of which she is most proud: the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Greater Grand Rapids, an organization that now boasts more than 500 members. “This work has truly been my stamp on the Grand Rapids region,” Qualls said. “It has been a platform for individuals across the sector to get together, and for large, long-standing establishments in the region to better support and develop young professionals.” Her professional life at Grand Valley State University is split in two, as director of communications and advancement in the College of Community and Public Service, and as a project manager of the Community Research Institute at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy. She has served on the boards of the national Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, the Independent Sector’s NGen Advisory Committee, the League of Women Voters Grand Rapids, Kids’ Food Basket Expansion Task Force, and The Rapidian Steering Committee. For everything she does, Qualls said her husband and son and a small group of Grand Rapids women keep her motivated. “My husband, specifically, has provided me the opportunity and honesty I need to grow as a professional and as a person,” she said. “My very tight-knit group of women specifically provide me with the energy, enthusiasm and confidence I need to really make a mark on the infrastructure of the nonprofit sector.”
Remondino began her term as a member of the West Coast Chamber of Commerce board this year. She also serves on the Ottawa County Bar Association Board and is a member of Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity. She’s due to deliver her second child this fall, and will return to work after a leave with hopes to further her mentoring role. “My most important goal is to continue to develop as an engaging mentor to other young women lawyers who want to balance a successful legal career, a leadership role and a growing family,” she said.
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Congratulations to this year’s 40 Under Forty honorees and our first-ever Distinguished Alumnus, Sam Cummings. We look forward to following your progress in the future! sam cUmmings cwd real estate investment 40 Under Forty Class of 2002, 2005 2013 GRBJ 40 Under Forty Distinguished Alumnus
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Justin Swan, 33 Title: Vice President Company: Organicycle
Nicole Rodammer, 30
Title: Director of Business Development Company: Kraft Business Systems and Health Care Management Even before the Grand Rapids Griffins won the Calder Cup this year, the team was the starting point for Nicole Rodammer’s career. She spent four years as community relations and marketing coordinator, from 2004-2008, for the Griffins. “I was able to dive in and really become an ambassador for the Griffins in the community by helping to create fundraising events using players,” she said. “It opened my eyes to how many nonprofit programs were in West Michigan.” She moved on to Michigan Blood, where she put on the Fore for Life golf outing and raised more than $10,000 with an event that had never turned a profit. She also helped the organization to earn a “tier one” rating from the National Marrow Donor Program. Now she works implementing marketing strategy, communications and sales at Kraft Business Systems and Health Care Management. She’s president of the Grand Rapids Young Professionals and serves on the committee for Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Athena program, Family Outreach Center, Griffins Youth Foundation, Grand Valley State University Young Alumni Council and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Grand Rapids. She volunteers at Degage Ministries, Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary Pups and Pucks Walk, Fifth Third River Bank Run and Grand Rapids Marathon. To Rodammer, joy is being involved in Grand Rapids. “I am always trying to find a way to get more people involved,” she said. “The more people who are engaged in the community, the higher the likelihood they are to stay here.”
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Justin Swan knows his organic waste. That’s what sets him apart from everyone else under the age of 40 in Grand Rapids, at least according to the Organicycle co-owner, Dan Tietema. “In just 20 months, Justin has easily become one of Michigan’s brightest minds in this field,” Tietema said. “Justin has single-handedly generated solutions and processes for customers who want a wastealternative to the landfill.” Tietema also credited Swan with getting the attention of Start Garden, which awarded Organicycle second-round funding for its Curbside Composting program. For several years prior to joining Organicycle, Swan ran J.D. Consulting, which develops comprehensive campaign strategies for clients. The list of clients includes Rick Snyder for governor and the Kent County Republican Party, as well as many other candidates. Swan serves on the board of the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, Disability Advocates of Kent County and Kent County Children & Families Coordinating Council.
Swan is humble when it comes to his accomplishments. “I was put on this earth to do something significant, and most times I fail, but every now and then I achieve,” he said. Swan thinks Grand Rapids is on track for a new generation of business people. “Grand Rapids deserves an evolving brand of entrepreneurs and forward-thinking ‘next gen’ people,” he said. “I also believe that the self-made man and woman is something that the generation following me needs to be exposed to.”
Mitch Taylor, 32 Title: General Manager Company: Mersen USA
While balancing a full-time job and starting a family, Mitch Taylor completed his bachelor’s degree at Northwood University’s Adult Education Program, and that gave him the confidence to take on a leadership role as general manager at Mersen USA. He’s now in charge of 105 employees and responsible for the business, safety, quality, sales, human resources, accounting and production at the Greenville facility. In 2011, he helped navigate the graphite engineering company through a more than $7 million expansion project. But prior to Taylor’s career in the manufacturing world, he found himself halfway across the globe fighting for his country. In 2003 and 2004, Taylor was deployed to Iraq as part of the Marine Corps. He earned various medals and ribbons, including Expert Rifle Qualification, Good Conduct Medal and Leadership Flight School. He has served as a member of two boards, including the Spectrum Health United Memorial Foundation, and is currently on Resurrection Life Church’s Men’s Ministry Real Men board. He also leads a Real Kids Small Group for grades 1 through 5 at the church and is on the hiring committee at Faith Community School in Belding. Despite his military service and volunteer work, Taylor is most proud of the way he has taken over his father’s business. “(I’m most proud) of learning and understanding the business I currently run and how to navigate through the corporate world while still maintaining an environment of a locally owned business,” he said.
FIND WITHIN Grand Valley State University and the Grand Valley State University Alumni Association congratulate our alumni named to the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s “40 Under Forty” list. We’re pleased to have given our alumni a rich education experience that prepares them for positions of service and leadership. And we appreciate the opportunity to provide our faculty and staff members with an environment that fosters personalized instruction, real-world research, and individual student success.
Jamon Alexander, ‘05 Derek Aten, ‘05 Chris Beckering, ‘02 Jennifer Deamud, ‘95 & ‘10 Afton DeVos, ‘13 Erika Duncan, ‘96 Nicole McConnell, ‘02 & ‘05 Eric Mullen, ‘06 Tera Quallls, ‘06 & ‘11 Nicole Rodammer, ‘06 Justin Swan, ‘09 Andy Van Solkema, ‘02
Tami VandenBerg, 38
Joseph Voss, 37
Title: Co-owner/Executive Director Company: The Meanwhile and The Pyramid Scheme/Well House When opening a music venue with her brother and with Grand Rapids bar mogul Mark Sellers presented itself in 2011, Tami VandenBerg jumped at the opportunity. The Pyramid Scheme has since taken off and hosted some of the region’s best bands, as well as hosting one of the best pinball selections in Michigan. The VandenBerg’s other bar, The Meanwhile, was already a thriving neighborhood bar located on Wealthy Street since 2007. But her life is about more than owning bars. She’s worked organizing events for the Eastown Community Association and Division Avenue Arts Cooperative, and was one of the first skaters for the Grand Raggidy Roller Girls. Following the opening of The Meanwhile, VandenBerg went back to her roots of helping the homeless and began to serve on the board at Well House Communities. In 2010, she began her work on the board of the Grand Rapids Red Project.
Late last year, with Well House at risk of closing, she raised more than $330,000, enough to keep the organization open and purchase four additional houses. The board of directors chose her to be executive director. VandenBerg also has served on the Host Committee for the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks Green Gala, and cofounded LadyFestGR and T Rex Fest, an outdoor musical festival. She was selected to the Grand Rapids Business Journal 40 under 40 in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, and to GRBJ’s 50 Most Influential Women in 2010 and 2012.
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Title: Senior Counsel Company: Clark Hill PLC
Andy Van Solkema, 34 Title: Founder/Design Officer Company: Visualhero
Taking a leap of faith and starting his own creative firm was a rewarding and fruitful career break for Andy Van Solkema. He has turned Visualhero from a one-person graphic design firm into a full-blown studio specializing in graphic recording, data visualization, brand identity and interface design. “We have grown this startup to 15 employees and worked across the country (with clients) including Apple, Sony, IDEO and Amway,” Van Solkema said. “I also take an active role in the design and business community to advocate for the power of design and creativity.” Van Solkema leads seminars and design workshops at various universities, such as Ferris State, Grand Valley State and Yale. His work has been featured in design books and publications across the nation and he has received local ADDY Awards for brand and web design. “It is incredibly rewarding that something I am so passionate about is an integral part of business and (the) community today,” he said. “I truly believe design done right is a vehicle for micro and macro change today.” Van Solkema serves on the Design West Michigan Advisory Board and previously worked on committees for AIGA West Michigan and TEDx Grand Rapids. Volunteer projects include the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Kids’ Food Basket and St. Cecilia Music Center. “He dreams in pictures and colors where most people might only see words,” said Adrienne Wallace, project and digital director for 834 Design and Marketing. “While so many people say they are doing things, Andy actually is making things happen in Grand Rapids.”
Working with activists and artists in New York City and Haiti and his early law career in Chicago has helped Joseph Voss stay driven in his journey to continue collaboration on projects across the country. In his professional life, Voss leads Clark Hill’s entertainment industry team, representing film and television projects in legal work and helping procure government incentives for film. “Joe is a very accomplished person. Not only does he run the Entertainment Practice Group, but he is very active in the industry throughout Michigan,” said Maureen Conway, Clark Hill’s marketing manager. “He has been an advocate and proponent of bringing film and music business to the state.”
Voss was recognized by the Thriller! Chiller! Film Festival and West Michigan Film Video Alliance for his service to the Michigan film industry. Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Voss to the Michigan Film Office Advisory Council. He also serves on the State Bar of Michigan’s Communications, Entertainment and Sports Section Council and on the advisory board of the Media Arts Coalition of West Michigan. He runs Clark Hill’s “E2” program, allowing small companies access to legal services. But Voss is most proud of the part he played in the formation of the Hospice of Michigan Collaborative. The group is charged with bringing the successful parts of West Michigan’s philanthropy to end-oflife care in ways that might not otherwise have been implemented.
Congratulations to Robert D. wolford â€œManaging Now, and for the Futureâ€? Bob Wolford knows how to manage valuable situations. His law practice is built on advising companies that supply not just products and services but jobs which grow the economy and provide for families. He has helped structure organizations, including the Turnaround Management Association in West Michigan, to benefit the finance and business communities in which his clients live and work. Having grown up in Grand Rapids, and now raising his own family here, he knows how important it is to work for results that are both positive and lasting. Bob takes pride in seeing his efforts contribute to the region that future generations will inherit. We at Miller Johnson are proud of the impact Bob is having on all of us.
Grand Rapids 616.831.1700 n Kalamazoo 269.226.2950 www.millerjohnson.com 40 UNDER FORTY 2013 | Grand Rapids Business Journal 33
Robert Wolford, 39 Title: Attorney Company: Miller Johnson
Bridget Clark Whitney, 33 Title: Executive Director Organization: Kids’ Food Basket
As a senior at Aquinas College, Bridget Clark Whitney was offered an internship managing and developing the idea of an anti-hunger initiative. Kids’ Food Basket has grown from feeding 125 children in 2002 to more than 5,000 each weekday in 2013, with Whitney leading the charge as executive director. “I have gone from leading a staff of one to creating jobs for a staff of 19, leading more than 15,000 volunteers, dozens of interns, hundreds of committee members and an extremely dedicated board,” Whitney said. “I am a strong believer in ‘creativity before capital,’ and it’s resulted in a sustainable, strong and healthy organization that is making an impact every day.” As the Grand Rapids location continues to grow, Kids’ Food Basket also launched a satellite location in Muskegon Heights, one of the poorest school districts in the state. Each weekday, 600 kids are fed there, thanks to the organization. “We are working to become national in scope by providing our model and toolkit to organizations that are interested in a direct response to fighting childhood hunger,” Whitney said. Whitney serves on the boards of the Michigan Nonprofit Association, Indian Trails Camp, Nonprofit Innovations Inc., Advisory Council for Community Leadership at Aquinas College, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Grand Rapids and the Heart of West Michigan United Way. She was the recipient of the 2013 Young Athena Award. “As someone that is people-centered and relationship-driven, grounded and (with an) unwavering commitment to social justice and inclusion, I believe myself to be the kind of leader that our community needs,” she said.
34 Grand Rapids Business Journal | 40 UNDER FORTY 2013
As a founding member of the Turnaround Management Association of West Michigan, Robert D. Wolford has solidified himself as one of the top bankruptcy lawyers in Michigan. Wolford helped grow the association to more than 100 members, which also helps state leadership develop a statewide emergency financial manager training program. “What started as an offshoot of the Detroit chapter — the nation’s largest — rivals the Association for Corporate Growth in members, event attendance and sponsorship revenues,” Wolford said. “My front-line participation and leadership during this growth phase significantly raised my stature in the turnaround and local finance/business community.” But his proudest moment goes to his leadership of Miller Johnson’s Business Practice Group, which is recognized across the state as a leader in corporate, transactional, estate planning and real estate law. The Leadership Council on Legal Diversity, a collaboration between Fortune 500 companies and leadership from the Top 250 Law Firms in the United States to encourage diversity, selected Wolford as an inaugural fellow. Wolford has served on the Festival of the Arts board of directors, East Grand Rapids Public Schools Legislative Committee and the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts board.
He also volunteers for ArtPrize, Grand Rapids Urban League, Legacy Ball, Rotary Club of Grand Rapids and Ruth’s Chris Cares Golf Classic and is on the board of the Federal Bar Association. “My professional and community activities always circle back to how I can contribute to ensuring that others in Grand Rapids will have the same opportunities offered to me,” he said.
Kara Wood, 35
Title: Economic Development Director Organization: City of Grand Rapids Described by The Right Place Inc. as “vital to the economic development of Grand Rapids and the region,” Kara Wood has a bright future. Wood came from working for state government to Grand Rapids and has delivered massive amounts of legislative work for the city, which she said is her proudest accomplishment. Serving on five area boards allows Wood to develop a sense of community, which she uses to help cultivate the city’s overall development, both economically and socially. “Kara works tirelessly to raise awareness of the opportunities for young professionals to volunteer and leads several efforts,” said Kelli Jo Peltier, who serves on the Leading for Our Kids board with Wood. “Her commitment to Grand Rapids and the region is outstanding and exemplifies the qualities of a strong community leader.” In addition to Leading for Our Kids, Wood also serves on the Michigan Municipal League Land Use & Economic Development Committee, Michigan Economic Developers Association, Michigan Magnet Fund Board, Association of Michigan Brownfield Redevelopment Authorities and Van Andel Institute board. Earlier this year she earned the Michigan Municipal League’s award for outstanding service. “Ms. Wood is an exceptional talent and highly valued leader in our organization,” Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom said. “She has excelled at providing public support of our community’s private and nonprofit economic turnaround.” Wood attributes her success to strong family work ethic and diverse traveling experiences.