Grand Rapids Business Journal 04.18.22

Page 1

Community Food Club sees growing need.


APRIL 18, 2022 VOL. 40, NO. 8

The Business Newspaper of Metro Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon & West Michigan


GUISFREDI MOVED BY PEOPLE North Kent Connect leader shares journey of overseeing an organizational transformation. Page 8

City reports 2021 economic impact Over $181M in new private investment committed across eight projects bringing 708 new jobs. Rachel Watson

COVID-19 data sets Cellular research by Spectrum, MSU shows not all patients should receive same treatment. PAGE 3

Be well Report finds employers are normalizing mental health care and training leaders to support employees. PAGE 3

HOME ASSIST Independent Bank’s partnership with Freddie Mac provides help with down payment, closing costs. Page 4


The area’s top credit unions. Page 5 The area’s top banks. Page 6

Grand Rapids had a banner year in 2021 when it comes to business attraction, retention and expansion. The city of Grand Rapids’ Economic Development Department (EDD) on March 30 reported its overview of programs and impacts for 2021, and Economic Development Director Jeremiah Gracia spoke to the Business

Spectrum Health’s $100 million Center for Innovation and Transformation will be located in the Monroe North neighborhood on the edge of downtown. Courtesy Rockford Construction

Journal about the major highlights ahead of its publication. The city saw $181,189,556 in new private investment across eight projects — four new and expanding businesses and four real estate projects — which together

included a commitment to create 708 new jobs and retain 1,717 existing jobs. In 2021, the city added $638,237 in new taxes, $144,614 of which was from new property taxes and $493,673 was from new

income taxes. For comparison’s sake, in 2020, the city’s new private investment total was $179,618,441 across 10 projects — six real estate CONTINUED ON PAGE 20

PNC finds social responsibility is on the rise Survey shows for-profit, nonprofit organizations increasingly are committing to change. Rachel Watson

Serving the social good is becoming more important — even essential — for most organizations, according to a new survey by PNC Institutional Asset Management. Willow Research conducted an online survey on behalf of PNC Institutional Asset Management in December, polling a national sample of C-suite and financial executives in organizations with annual

revenues of $25 million or more to take the pulse of organizations’ views and actions on social responsibility, and the results were published last month. About 19% of the respondents were from the Midwest. Amy Kuntz, regional managing director-Midwest for PNC Institutional Asset Management, told the Business Journal her organization wanted to get its arms around what social responsibility means to different institutions. “It’s a big topic that doesn’t just mean one thing; it doesn’t just mean caring about the environment or about diversity. Our clients and prospects talk to us about this, and it sounds different from each of them; it’s not the same thing to each of them,” Kuntz said.

“What we really wanted to do was talk to people in both the for-profit and the not-forprofit sector to ask them, ‘What does social responsibility mean to you and how do you put it into prac-


tice?’” Respondents included CEOs, presidents, executive directors, COOs and high-level financial roles including CFOs, CIOs, VPs and directors of finance. Most of the organizations in the survey (95%) had annual revenues of $50 million or more. A total of 240 interviews

GRBJ.COM Vol. 40, No. 8 $3.00 a copy. $59 a year © Entire contents copyright 2022 by Gemini Media. All rights reserved.

Inside Track ....... 8 Guest Columns.. 17 Vibrant cities Change-Ups ..... 18

Local nonprofit partners with NYC marathon.

Calendar .......... 18 Public Record ... 20 Street Talk ...... 22


were conducted, divided evenly between for-profit and nonprofit organizations in health care, higher education, insurance, financial services, technology, construction and human services. “SR initiatives have proliferated in recent years, and studies have shown investors and consumers increasingly are seeking out socially responsible companies that align with their values,” said Alistair Jessiman, CEO of PNC Institutional Asset Management. “Organizations recognize not only is this good business and critical for continued growth, but it is also the right thing to do.” The inaugural edition of the PNC SR survey found, among other CONTINUED ON PAGE 15

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APRIL 18, 2022


Community Food Club sees growing need Nonprofit membership-based grocery store strives to keep prices low amid rising inflation. Rachel Watson

Despite the strong economy experts are touting, food insecurity is as real as ever among low-income Grand Rapidians, and a local nonprofit grocery store is doing its part to help fill in the gaps. Alma-Jean “AJ” Fossel, executive director of Community Food Club, a grocery store at 1100 S. Division Ave. in Grand Rapids’ underserved 49507 ZIP code, recently spoke to the Business Journal about the reality low-income Fossel customers are facing amid rising food and housing prices. Founded in 2015 as a joint program of Feeding America West Michigan, Access of West Michigan, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, Home Repair Services, Salvation Army and Unit-

ed Church Outreach Ministry (UCOM) — Community Food Club focuses on providing and expanding access to nutrient-dense, culturally appropriate food for people in Kent County. Community Food Club became its own independent nonprofit in 2018, just after Fossel joined as executive director in fall 2017. Serving families at or below 200% of the federal poverty level — many of which fall into the ALICE population of asset limited, income-constrained, employed — the club operates on a membership model with a sliding scale price structure. For $11-$15 a month, members get an allotment of points they can use to buy food. As an incentive for patrons to choose fresh options over shelf-stable food, produce is available for the lowest number of points. Fossel said Community Food Club was founded on the belief that all people deserve dignity and choice. She said when people can financially participate in buying food for their household, “it changes the game.” “I want every person to have the most beautiful grocery store experience, because I think that’s a right we should have,” she said. “We should be able to eat the foods we want to eat; we should be able to take our kids in and have them pick fruits and veggies for their lunch.”

Shoppers at Community Food Club use a points-based system to select products, many of which are fresh fruits and vegetables. Courtesy Community Food Club

She said Community Food Club has three key goals for member households: to increase their food security, meaning they skip meals less; increase their financial security, meaning they can devote more of their household budget to other priorities; and increase their health due to the quality of the food on offer. According to the nonprofit’s 2021 annual report, available to view at communityfoodclubgr.

org/about-us, after six months of shopping at the store, 95% of Community Food Club members reported they increased their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables; 35% increased their access to food, while 46% maintained it; and 30% increased their financial security. Community Food Club is supported financially by corporate and individual donors, membership fees and grants. About 60% of

the food it offers is donated fresh, and the other 40% is purchased fresh from local vendors. The store operates six days a week with the support of over 180 community volunteers and a staff of six. Last year, the grocery store distributed 934,400 pounds of food, worth over $1.13 million, 53% of which was a fruit or vegetable. Over half of its 7,421 customers (51%) were Hispanic/Latino, 23% African American, 21% white, and 5% identified as other/multicultural. In addition to providing a place to shop, Community Food Club has created opportunities for community-building, from cooking classes to sample days to a 49507 Community BBQ to a Low-Carbon Harvest Feast. Fossel said when people shop at Community Food Club, they’re getting at least $100 per month worth of food, or possibly as much as $200 per month for the larger families. That represents about a week during which members don’t have to rely on their food assistance benefits or dip into their budget to buy groceries, allowing them to put it toward other necessities. Even though Michigan expanded food assistance benefits during COVID-19, Fossel said the store has seen an uptick in visitors during the first few months CONTINUED ON PAGE 12

Spectrum, MSU find COVID-19 patients fall into two groups Report: Employee well“Just like COVID-19, most inly on and then sonalized treatCellular research one in 23 of the fections result in a complex imment. shows not all patients patients after mune response for each patient, “A greater being among top treatment with with no two individuals having understandshould receive different ther- the same biological outcomes,” ing of severe same treatment. apies. The re- Prokop said. “Through forming COVID-19 could workforce trends sults indicated strong collaborations between help identify Kayleigh Fongers

A new study could lead to greater understanding of COVID-19 treatment after underscoring the importance of precision medicine and personalized care. Spectrum Health and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine have determined through a research study that patients infected with COVID-19 fall into two distinct groups: those who exhibit a highly overreactive immune system, and those who exhibit immune suppression. According to the findings, which were published in Frontiers of Immunology, the first group could benefit from immunosuppressive drugs while the second group could benefit from immune-stimulating therapies. Among the researchers involved was Dr. Surender Rajasekaran, research medical director and pediatric intensivist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Rajasekaran said the goal of the study was to determine if a patient’s RNA could be used to increase understanding of COVID-19 and lead to more per-

which patients are at risk for complications, which would guide more Rajasekaran precise therapy,” Rajasekaran said. “As the virus itself continues to evolve and change, there is immense benefit to understanding the patient’s response to infection.” COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2, is an RNA virus that elicits an overactive immune response, causing damage to cells. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, patients have experienced different reactions to infection, ranging from hospitalization and a need for ventilation to mild symptoms or even asymptomatic cases. The study was conducted on a group of 51 adults, 36 of whom were hospitalized with COVID-19 at Spectrum Health and 15 of whom served as controls. Researchers received written consent to draw blood samples from the patients and used those samples to examine each patient’s RNA within the blood through high-density sequencing. Samples were collected at different time points — one ear-

variability in patients when it came to what treatment opProkop tions worked best, depending on reaction to the treatments. Jeremy Prokop, Ph.D., assistant professor at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, said the team “wanted to do things differently than everybody else” when it came to COVID-19 research. “We went all-in on these few samples to try to gain as much information as we could,” Prokop said. “We ended up doing a study that essentially gave us more information and sequencing at a deeper level than what had been done before.” Prior to this study, Rajasekaran and Prokop collaborated on some pediatric illness research. They started to look at cell function in greater detail, which sparked their interest in how viruses invade cells and led to this COVID-19 research. Now, they see these findings as a better opportunity for precision medicine and understanding complexities — not just among COVID-19 patients but those with other infections as well.

industry, academia and hospitals we continue to get one step closer to treating each patient based on how the infection changes their body.” Rajasekaran said he is hopeful the research also will help with long-term effects of COVID-19 and other infections. “Not only is this beneficial in battling the current COVID-19 health crisis, but it would also be invaluable in treating future infectious diseases,” Rajasekaran said. “Long-term, this data may help clinicians and researchers predict, prevent and treat long-term complications of COVID-19 and any other viral infections.” The team for this study consisted of researchers from Spectrum Health, Michigan State University, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Ambry Genetics, Grand Rapids Community College, Calvin University, Grand Valley State University, Davenport University and Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Funding for this research was provided by donors from the Spectrum Health Foundation Gala 2020, the Spectrum Health-Michigan State University Alliance, Michigan State University and the National Institutes of Health.

Employers normalizing mental health care, training leaders to support employees. Rachel Watson

The most recent Workforce Trends Pulse Survey from Gallagher found employers nationwide are taking a more agile approach to retention by addressing employees’ top concerns, including well-being. Lenny Brucato, Michigan area president for Gallagher’s benefits and human resources consulting division, and Emily Brainerd, national well-being and engagement practice leader, spoke to the Business Journal last month about Gallagher’s Q4 Workforce Trends Pulse Survey published in the first quarter. The survey found 40% of employers cited employee well-being as one of the top three concerns for their organization’s leadership, alongside burnout (48%) and CONTINUED ON PAGE 12



APRIL 18, 2022

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The BorrowSmart program is for individuals with low to moderate incomes. Courtesy iStock

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Independent Bank recently rolled out a new program aimed at ensuring low- and moderate-income individuals can purchase a home and remain homeowners for as long as they’d like. The bank is partnering with Freddie Mac, a federal home mortgage corporation, to offer customers the opportunity to join the Freddie Mac BorrowSmart program. The program awards low- and moderate-income individuals up to $2,500 to use toward the down payment or closing costs required to finance their home. “Our focus in terms of lending and homeownership continues to be driven by the desire to make homes affordable for everybody and this program is really in the spirit of that exact thing,” said Matthew Dhaseleer, vice president, lending sales manager. “In a market today where prices are going up, interest rates are going up, many people may want to own a home but may be discouraged and may feel like it’s not an option for them. So, what this program does, is it helps make money available for moderate- and low-income borrowers to be able to purchase a home that they may not have thought was possible before.” A low-income community means there is a median family income of less than 50% of the area median income, according to the Federal Reserve, and a moderate-income community means that the median family income is at least 50% but less than 80% of the area median income. Dhaseleer said Independent Bank currently serves about 40,000 mortgage customers who live in Michigan, Ohio, Florida

and North Carolina. Independent Bank loan officers can determine if a prospective borrower is considered to have low or moderate income based on their financial documents and if they qualify for the Freddie Mac BorrowSmart program. Once they are qualified, borrowers must complete housing counseling through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved counseling provider that is affiliated with the Homeownership Preservation Foundation network. The pre-purchasing counseling process is performed over the phone. “A lot of it is just homebuyer education,” Dhaseleer said. “They are going to be talking about the home-buying process, the responsibility of homeownership and managing debt. Anything that a new homeowner might encounter, they’re going to touch on that so that there are no surprises through the home-buying process and after they close on their new home.” Independent Bank has previously partnered with Freddie Mac through the Freddie Mac MatchUp program. In that program, Freddie Mac would match the savings amounts up to $2,500 of borrowers who were saving to purchase a home. That program has since ended and now Independent Bank is partnering with Freddie Mac in establishing the Freddie Mac BorrowSmart program for lowand moderate-income individuals. BorrowSmart can be used in conjunction with other Independent Bank home-assistance programs including the My Home Reward program, which could allow eligible home purchase or refinance applicants in low-income neighborhoods to pay zero closing costs. “It is just an additional effort by Independent Bank to encourage homeownership among some of the more discouraged borrowers at this time in the current market,” Dhaseleer said.



APRIL 18, 2022


Top Area Credit Unions (RANKED BY TOTAL ASSETS)


Chief executive No. of W. Mich. officer/ service chief elected Year established locations/ officer in W. Mich. employees

Total assets (as of 12/31/ 2021)

No. of members (as of Associations/ 12/31/2021) accreditation memberships

Member services


Lake Michigan Credit Union P.O. Box 2848 Grand Rapids 49501 p (800) 242-9790

Sandra Jelinski Gretchen Tellman


41 1,183



NCUA, CUES, MCUL, NAFCU, chamber of commerce, Local First, BBB


MSU Federal Credit Union 3777 West Road East Lansing 48823 p (517) 333-2424

April Clobes


1 7



NCUA, MCUL, CUNA, CUES, chamber Checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates, of commerce, CCUFC, SHRM mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, vehicle loans, youth accounts, business accounts and IRAs


Consumers Credit Union 7200 Elm Valley Drive Kalamazoo 49007 p (800) 991-2221

Kit Snyder Brent Bassett


24 395



CUNA, CUES, NCUA, FHLB, MCUL, The Right Place, Southwest Michigan First, Lakeshore Advantage, Forest Hills Business Association, Northeast Area Business Association (Grand Rapids), Michigan Business Brokers Association, Local First (Grand Rapids and Holland), Home Builders Association of Greater Grand Rapids, Home Builders Association of West Michigan (Kalamazoo), Lakeshore Home Builders Association, Grand Rapids Association of Realtors, Greater Kalamazoo Association of Realtors, West Michigan Lakeshore Association of Realtors, Women’s Council of Realtors West Michigan, Women’s Council of Realtors Southwestern, ACUMA, MMLA, Branch County Association of Realtors, Battle Creek Area Association of Realtors, Commercial Alliance of Realtors, Grand Rapids Area Chamber, Byron Center Chamber, Cutlerville Gaines Chamber, Wyoming Kentwood Chamber, Grandville Jenison Chamber, Battle Creek Chamber, West Michigan Hispanic Chamber, South Haven Chamber, West Coast Chamber (Holland), Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Coldwater Chamber


Adventure Credit Union 630 32nd St. SE Grand Rapids 49548 p (616) 243-0125 f 243-9970


Community West Credit Union 5801 Broadmoor Ave. SE Kentwood 49512 p (616) 261-5657 f 698-0955


Ann Marie Nelson David Ferguson


5 104



Savings accounts, checking accounts, mortgages, insurance, investments, commercial lending, home equity loans, auto loans, credit cards, online banking, ATM services, treasury management

Simple, interest or business checking accounts and access to more than 30,000 fee-free ATMs; eBanking – 24/7 account access through online, mobile, text or voice access; business banking services and loans; mortgages, home equity (and HELOCs), auto, RV, boat, motorcycle and personal loans, credit cards – rewards, low-rate and business options; savings - special savings, Christmas account, money markets, CDs, youth accounts and IRAs; retirement planning services; educational blog featuring free financial wellness information

Lake Michigan Credit Union acquired Tampa-based Pilot Bank. LMCU now has 19 branches throughout southwest Florida, including the six new branches from the acquisition of Pilot Bank.

Regional office MSU Federal Credit Union opened a new regional office. It is located at 3220 University Drive, Auburn Hills.

Partnership Consumers Credit Union is partnering with Consumers CU member Michael Hyacinthe to launch “Money Minutes with Wimee and Friends,” a video segment for preschoolers and families with young children.

NCUA, MCUL, CUNA, NASCUS, BBB, 4% edge checking, savings, CDs, money markets, CUES, GRACC, GRAR mortgages, auto loans, business lending, investment products, retirement planning, financial consulting

Jon Looman Pamela Hove


6 80



NCUA, CUES, CUNA, MCUL, area chambers of commerce and BBB

Mobile and online services, high interest checking accounts, savings accounts, HSA accounts, low interest consumer loans, low interest mortgages, mortgage refinance, home equity, HELOC, construction loans

Bloom Credit Union 1414 Burton St. SW Wyoming 49509 p (616) 452-2161 f 252-2545

Joseph Heintskill Roxanne Speck


5 43



NCUA, MCUL, CUNA, NASCUS, BBB, CUES, various chambers of commerce and Creston Business Association

Free checking, online banking with alerts, versatile app (w/ mobile deposit, ATM finder, bill pay, money mgt.), 30,000 ATMs, free credit score analysis, all types of loans, business loans, Visas, financial planning


Best Financial Credit Union 1888 E. Sherman Blvd. Muskegon 49444 p (231) 733-1329 f 737-1425

Morgan Rescorla


2 45




Loans, real estate lending, direct deposit, debit cards, credit cards


Muskegon Co-Op Federal Credit Union 715 Terrace St. Suite 101 Muskegon 49440 p (231) 726-4871 f 722-2628

John Rupert James Lewis


2 30



NCUA, MCUL, CUNA, chamber of commerce

Secure checking, savings, loans, money market, debit cards, home banking, CDs, IRAs, mortgages


GR Consumers Credit Union 3975 Clay Ave. SW Wyoming 49548 p (616) 538-2810 f 538-2448

Timothy Kindred Rex Welbon


2 14




Savings, checking, CDs, IRAs, ATMs, online banking, consumer loans, home equity loans, mortgages, Mastercard credit cards


Kenowa Federal Credit Union 1905 28th St. SW Wyoming 49519 p (616) 534-3307 f 534-9811

Kathy Meekhof Jerry Payne


1 9



NCUA, MCUL, CUNA, Grandville Chamber of Commerce

Mortgages, loans, Visa, checking/savings, bill pay, mobile banking

Intandem Credit Union 1619 Plainfield Ave. NE Grand Rapids 49505 p (616) 336-3490 f 363-3666

Barbara Page Jon Denhof


2 23



NCUA, MCUL, CUNA, Creston Business Association, Creston Neighborhood Association, chamber of commerce(s)

Consumer loans, mortgages, home equity, free checking, savings, term certificates, Visa credit cards, IRAs, youth accounts, online/mobile banking

The Grand Rapids Business Journal list of top area credit unions, ranked by total assets, is the most comprehensive available. The list is based on responses to Business Journal surveys. The Business Journal defines "West Michigan" as Allegan, Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties. To showcase a broader range of credit unions, the Business Journal extended the usual West Michigan area by also surveying credit unions within surrounding counties. The Business Journal surveyed 59 credit unions; 11 responded and 11 are listed. To be considered for future lists, email DND = Did not disclose

Promotion Adventure Credit Union promoted Amanda Gonzales to a commercial lending specialist position. She joined the credit union in 2019 and was an MSA at its Kentwood office.



Download this list now at in Excel or PDF format. The Book of Lists and other lists are also available.



APRIL 18, 2022


Top Area Banks (RANKED BY 2021 COMMERCIAL LOAN PORTFOLIO) Top executive(s)

Year established No. of W. Mich. in W. Mich. employees

New CFO No. of W. Mich. locations

2021 commercial loan portfolio

Commercial loans as percentage of all loans

Commercial deposits

Retail loan portfolio

Retail deposits

ChoiceOne Bank named Adom J. Greenland its new CFO. He replaced Thomas L. Lampen, who is retired. Greenland was previously the secretary and COO of ChoiceOne.


Mercantile Bank of Michigan 310 Leonard St. NW Grand Rapids 49504 p (616) 406-3000 f 726-1500

Robert Kaminski










ChoiceOne Bank 109 E. Division Ave. Sparta 49345 p (616) 887-7366 f 887-7990

Kelly Potes Bradley Henion










Macatawa Bank 10753 Macatawa Drive Holland 49424 p (616) 820-1444 f 396-7369

Ronald Haan










West Michigan Community Bank 5367 School Ave. Hudsonville 49426 p (800) 664-1778 f 669-7496

Philip Koning Jim Bishop Rick Wieringa Mike Skinner Dan Pickard










First National Bank of Michigan 141 Ionia Ave. NW Grand Rapids 49503 p (616) 242-6500 f 242-7708

Jefra Groendyk Daniel Bitzer Michael Hollander










Independent Bank 4200 East Beltline Ave. NE Grand Rapids 49525 p (616) 363-1207 f 363-1584

William Kessel









Huntington Bank received the 2022 Top Ranked Internship Award from Vault after thousands of current and former interns were surveyed about their internship program.

Grand River Bank 4471 Wilson Ave. SW Grandville 49418 p (616) 929-1600 f 929-1610

Mark Martis Marcia Borowka Elizabeth Bracken Patrick Gill Todd Gray



Leadership position

Community Shores Bank 1030 W. Norton Ave. Muskegon 49441 p (231) 780-1800 f 780-1860










First Community Bank 4455 Cascade Road SE Grand Rapids 49546 p (616) 454-8447 f 454-2465

Mark Brant









Horizon Bank 250 Pearl St. NW Grand Rapids 49503 p (616) 214-3748

David Quade









Huntington Bank 150 Ottawa Ave. NW Grand Rapids 49503 p (616) 588-3800

Krista Flynn









Level One Bank 2355 Burton St. SE Grand Rapids 48334 p (616) 872-4400 f 469-2882

Michael Stewart Douglas Kohlbeck Greg Wernette









Northpointe Bank 3333 Deposit Drive NE Grand Rapids 49546 p (616) 940-9400

Charles Williams Michael Winks









Old National Bank 5200 Cascade Road SE Grand Rapids 49546 p (616) 228-6000










Union Bank 523 Ada Drive SE, Suite 102 Ada 49301 p (800) 974-3273

Cortney Collison Suzanne Dahms Christine Fortier Janet Torres Tim Doyle









United Bank of Michigan 900 East Paris Ave. SE Grand Rapids 49546 p (616) 559-7000 f 559-4631

Arthur Johnson Joseph Manica
















The Grand Rapids Business Journal list of top area banks, ranked by 2021 commercial loan portfolio, is the most comprehensive available. The list is based on responses to Business Journal surveys. The Business Journal defines "West Michigan" as Allegan, Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties. The Business Journal surveyed 38 banks; 16 returned surveys and 16 are listed. To be considered for future lists, email DND = Did not disclose

Internship award

John Richards is the new president and senior trust officer of Horizon Bank’s trust and investment management department.

Banking relationship Level One Bank hired Craig Sutherland as its VP, commercial banker. He is tasked with developing and managing commercial banking relationships.



Download this list now at in Excel or PDF format. The Book of Lists and other lists are also available.

0.75 0.50

% APY APY ** % **


0.09 % APY

0.13 % APY







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APRIL 18, 2022

Guisfredi moved by the worth of all people

A chance meeting with a former client convinced Claire Guisfredi to alter North Kent Connect’s direction. Courtesy Claire Guisfredi

North Kent Connect leader shares journey of overseeing an organizational transformation.


n 2013, Claire Guisfredi met with a former client of North Kent Connect whose story changed everything. Guisfredi — a Cleveland native who moved to West Michigan from Toledo in 2012 — had just been hired as executive director of the Rockford-based resource organization that then was known as North Kent Community Services. At the time, the organization offered a food pantry and free clothing, had five employees and a $365,000 annual budget, and was mostly volunteer run. What it really needed was help expanding its funding and mission. Guisfredi had a background in education, public relations, marketing and fund development, but this was her first role as an executive director. “I was new to West Michigan, I didn’t know anything about food pantries, I never met a person who was Christian Reformed in my life, so that was a whole new thing for me, and I had never been an executive director,” she said. To soak up everything she could about West Michigan’s culture and nonprofit landscape, she scheduled meetings with a slew of Kent County nonprofits. On a tour of the West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology one day, she stopped in at a medical coding class and met a woman named Nanci who lived in Rockford and previously was a client of North Kent Connect. Guisfredi asked Nanci if she would be willing to meet with her later to share about her experience, and Nanci agreed. Nanci was a single mom who had been working at Lowe’s, trying to make ends meet, when she was laid off. She started cutting hair to pay the bills but didn’t know what else to do, so she went to North Kent Connect and was given food and clothing. “But (she said), ‘That’s not what I needed,’” Guisfredi recalled. She needed a way out of the downward spiral of poverty. She asked Guisfredi why the intake workers at North Kent hadn’t told her about WMCAT’s medical coding program, which she only heard about later through the grapevine. “The light bulb went on, and I said, ‘You’re right, Nanci. You are

absolutely right,’” Guisfredi said. Guisfredi let the encounter “simmer” in her mind for a while, then she went to the board of directors and said, “We need to hire social workers” — people trained in connecting clients with resources to meet their needs. “It was mostly a volunteer-run organization at the time, (with) lovely, wonderful volunteers, and they were good at handing out food or clothes, but they didn’t know how to connect the dots for people,” Guisfredi said. “If someone came to them saying, ‘I’m really stuck here, I’m in a rough spot. Can you help me figure out next steps?’ They didn’t know how; they didn’t know the resources. So, I raised the money and got our first social worker.” After a few “bumpy years,” during which the nonprofit gradually expanded its capacity as it raised the needed funds, North Kent Connect added a client services department that now has a director and two case managers. She launched a $2.9 million capital campaign in 2018 that ultimately raised $3.5 million; oversaw an expansion that included a 12,400-square-foot addition to house its administrative offices and agency partners Arbor Circle, Family Promise of Grand Rapids, West Michigan Works!, and the Women, Infants, Children program; moved the organization’s new thrift store into its own space and added a larger food pantry that feels more like a grocery store; and built a day center families can use while they wait to be rehoused. The organization has tripled its staff over the past nine years and now has a budget of $1.1 million. It serves clients in the northern half of Kent County, which encompasses Sparta, Kent City, Sand Lake, Cedar Springs, Rockford, Belmont, Comstock Park, Gowen, Grant and Greenville. If North Kent Connect meets with a client it can’t help, the nonprofit now is able to connect them to other organizations that can. Her staff sits on “almost all” the Kent County Essential Needs Task Force committees, which tackle issues such as access to utilities, transportation, food and nutrition, and housing. “My staff is well-versed in that

CLAIRE GUISFREDI Organization: North Kent Connect Position: Executive director Age: 62 Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio Residence: Plainfield Township Family: Husband, Michael, three adult daughters Community/business involvement: Board secretary, Land Conservancy of West Michigan; board member, First Steps Kent Biggest career break: Becoming the development officer for Central City Ministry, Diocese of Toledo in 2006, then being offered the job at North Kent Connect in 2013.


A late class during her undergraduate career led Shorouq Almallah to turn her attention to information science. Courtesy 616 Media

if someone is coming needing help with utility assistance or rent or mortgage, or needs help with a job, we know where to refer them if we can’t do it,” Guisfredi said. This isn’t the only value Guisfredi has added to the organization. She is inspired by an efficient, goal-oriented approach to leadership, drawing on her roots growing up as the second oldest of seven children in an entrepreneurial family. Her father was raised in a low-income area of Cleveland with a heavy concentration of Slavic families. He was from a single-parent home, surrounded by Polish relatives. His mother, Apolonia Jendrzejewski, was born in 1910 in Poland and came to the U.S. in 1913. His father, Frank Wojtkiewicz, was born in Cleveland after Frank’s Polish-born mother immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1800s. Guisfredi’s dad was the first in his family to go to college, majoring in accounting and launching an entrepreneurial journey that saw him running a bolt and screw factory with 25 employees when Guisfredi was a child. He and his wife — Guisfredi’s loving, stay-athome mother who was “a wonderful role model” and whose family originally came from Yugoslavia — raised their children in the suburbs of Cleveland. “I saw how he took his background, his upbringing, his ingenuity, his drive, and he succeeded,” Guisfredi said. She worked summers in the factory, absorbing her father’s stories, watching how he treated people with compassion and intel-

ligently ran his business. She saw his commitment to giving back in the way he served on boards and the finance committee at church. “I watched as he navigated the ups and downs of a business,” she said. “I learned a lot (from him) about leadership, and even though he ran a for-profit company, I felt like I could transfer that knowledge to a nonprofit.” Guisfredi drew on those lessons from her late father during North Kent Connect’s strategic planning process in the past year. She is leading the organization through adoption of the Entrepreneurial Operating System model, which helps organizations clarify, simplify and achieve their visions through implementing structure, processes and accountability. In the early days of leading North Kent Connect, Guisfredi wore all the hats, but now, she has learned to lean on and trust her directors of client services, finance, communications and donor engagement to do each of those roles, which has freed her up to be the visionary, leader and champion of North Kent Connect in the community. North Kent Connect now has a two-pronged mission of providing access to basic needs — food, shelter and clothing — and promoting economic independence. Its 10-year strategic target is to help clients gain access to affordable housing, reliable transportation and fresh food. Guisfredi said she is proud of the partnerships with organizations like Family Promise of Grand Rapids — she helped expand FP’s

Interfaith Hospitality Network to churches in northern Kent County where homeless families can sleep while they wait to be housed — and Migrant Legal Aid, which North Kent is working with to assist migrant farm workers with basic needs such as fresh food. North Kent is in the process of forming a committee to address rural transportation issues. “We’re going to be working with organizations that already have transportation, build relationships with those entities, explore existing programs and assess what’s feasible in northern Kent County and determine what role North Kent Connect will take with any entity, whether we’re going to be a director or a partner,” she said. After they tackle transportation, they plan to move on to the affordable housing piece. In all her work, Guisfredi said she and her team and their partners keep at the forefront the common humanity of all people. Clients might be experiencing abusive relationships, divorce, job loss, high medical bills and wages that don’t cover skyrocketing housing costs, but at the end of the day, they just need help moving forward. “Every person has value, so we need to walk alongside them. We care for those in need with love and grace,” she said. “We treat people with compassion, dignity and respect. All people are precious to God. That resonates so well here, no matter what faith tradition — or not — you are from. So that’s why we do it.”


APRIL 18, 2022

How can we ensure a healthy, resilient, functioning economy for them? First Steps Kent & the Good For Childcare Cohort have already started. Focusing on specific Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), these childcare companies are working towards a better business future. Because childcare needs to work for everyone. Learn more about the SDGs, the Good For Childcare Cohort, and a stronger economy at

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APRIL 18, 2022


Sports organization celebrates milestone Hall of Fame marks 50 years in the community. Danielle Nelson

Still I Run raises awareness about mental health issues while giving participants a constructive outlet for their feelings. Courtesy Still I Run

Local nonprofit partners with NYC marathon Mental health advocate will use opportunity to spread message. Kayleigh Fongers

What started as a passion project for a West Michigan resident is now a national movement that captured the attention of a wellknown marathon race. Sasha Wolff launched Still I Run, headquartered in Hudsonville, in 2016. To date, the organization is the only nonprofit running community in the United States that works to promote the benefits of running for mental health. Still I Run now has been selected as an official charity partner for the 2022 TCS New York City Marathon, which will bring runners from around the world to race through the five boroughs of NYC on Sunday, Nov. 6. As a chosen partner, Still I Run gets to offer guaranteed entry to five runners, who also will receive assistance from a running coach, training plans, training gear and swag from sponsors. Runners also will be asked to help fundraise for the organization as they prepare for the marathon. Since its inception in 2006, the TCS New York City Marathon Official Charity Partner Program has raised more than $400 million for more than 1,000 nonprofit organizations around the world. Prior to the start of the official

program, the New York City Marathon had served as an outlet for individual philanthropic runners since the 1980s. For Wolff, the partnership is an opportunity to bring up conversations about mental health through the lens of running and other exercise — a cause fueled by her own personal experience. Wolff said she was diagnosed with depression in 2003 and, eight years later, was hospitalized for a week at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services for depression and anxiety. “After that diagnosis in 2003, I stayed silent about it and didn't really do much to properly take care of myself until I was hospitalized in 2011,” Wolff said. “I pretty much stayed silent and fearful of sharing with anyone for eight years.” At Pine Rest, Wolff said she learned that, in addition to medication and therapy, developing a healthy habit could help manage her mental health. So, she turned to running. “I wasn’t much of a runner before then,” Wolff said. “But I decided to go for a jog one day after I was released from the hospital, and I felt a bit better afterward. I felt accomplished.” Once Wolff started running on a regular basis to benefit her own mental health, she wanted to connect with others who did so for the same purpose. After looking for a group in the West Michigan area, she widened her search to all of Michigan and then the U.S. CONTINUED ON PAGE 16

The Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame is celebrating its 50th year as an organization. There are 175 athletes, teams, programs and supporting individuals that have been inducted based on the impact they’ve had on sports in the city and the world. Over the past 50 years, GRSHOF has become an integral part of the city’s sports scene at all levels. GRSHOF President Mark Kimball said the organization makes monetary donations to community groups from funds raised during a series of events throughout the year. He said GRSHOF partners with the Great Sports, Great Kids youth sports program of the Grand Rapids Public Schools Foundation. “When you really dig into the fabric of the community, it's a whole bunch of different things that create a quality of life,” he said. “I think West Michigan is a fabulous place to be. I've lived my whole life here, my children grew up here, and I think one of the great attributes of our community is the strength of our sporting events. The great youth programs that are in just dozens and dozens of sports and every one of our little communities around here. High school sports is fabulous. We have terrific collegiate sports in our community, and we’re blessed to have professional teams here, so sports is really a great contributor our community.” It is GRSHOF’s mission to recognize those contributors, and the list of inductees is as varied as it is luminous. Marion Ladewig was the first woman to be inducted into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame in 1972. She was considered the “Queen of Bowling” as she topped the nation in high average for a woman four times between 1949 and 1963. In 1951, she won the WIBC City, State and National AllEvents titles, and she is the only woman to ever achieve that feat. The Grand Rapids native was a five-time World Invitational champion and an eight-time titlist in the All-Star series. She was named the National Female Bowler of the Year nine times and remains the all-time leader in U.S. Women's Open championships with eight. Gerald R. Ford was an All-City football player at the now-defunct South High. He was a center, long-snapper and linebacker for the University of Michigan’s football team, a three-time letter winner and a member of consecutive undefeated teams that won national championships in 1932 and ’33. He was named the Wolverines’ most valuable player in 1934. He also went on to become the 38th president of the United States. David Harris was a linebacker at Ottawa Hills High School, and

Marion Ladewig. Courtesy Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame

Tia Brooks-Wannemacher. Courtesy Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame

he set the school’s record for tackles with 158. He played at the University of Michigan on teams that won two Big Ten titles and was drafted into the National Football League, where he played for the New York Jets and New England Patriots. Tia Brooks-Wannemacher was an inductee in the GRSHOF class of 2021. She competed in the shot put and discus at East Kentwood High School and won the Michigan High School Athletic Asso-

ciation championship in the shot put. Brooks-Wannemacher went on to the University of Oklahoma, where she was a four-time NCAA shot put champion and the school’s indoor and outdoor record holder. She is an Olympic track and field athlete who competed in the 2012 London Olympics. But it’s not just individuals who make up the hall’s members. CONTINUED ON PAGE 16


APRIL 18, 2022


Film director finds receptive market in West Michigan Whitehall native’s production company is releasing a drama series this year. Danielle Nelson

While businesses were closing during the pandemic, Paige Irene Bruns was opening her own. She is the founder of Affinity Insight Pictures, a West Michigan-based film production company. She opened her company in May 2020 after graduating from Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, during the heart of the pandemic. Bruns has since created and directed projects including “Fent,” a drama series; “That Ain’t No Joke,” a documentary; “Anchor,” a short film; and “Void,” a short film. Since establishing her company and releasing several projects, she has garnered numerous awards and her work has been featured at festivals including Sunset Grove Film Festival, Indie Short Fest, Dumbo Film Festival, Cannes International Independent Film Festival and San Francisco International New Concept Film Festival. Bruns’ success as a director and screenwriter almost didn’t happen, however. She always knew she had a passion for entertainment, but she realized she wasn’t going to find success in acting after performing numerous auditions in

Bruns. Courtesy Jamie May Photography

Michigan and Chicago. “For a while, I was completely focused on a different side of the industry,” she said. “I was intrigued by acting. I chased that for a few years but as I started going through the process of doing auditions, I very quickly realized that I was not cut out to be an actor. “Being in a room full of people or on a set where their eyes are on me at all times is something that I was never going to get comfortable with, so I decided to take a step back from pursuing it profes-

sionally. I was still very heavily involved in my high school theater program because I was very passionate about acting, just not in high-pressure situations.” Once Bruns got the opportunity to direct a high school play, she never looked back. Before her senior year of high school, she transferred to Interlochen Arts Academy. There she was taking film and storytelling-based classes. After graduating from high school and Ringling College of Art and Design in 2022, Bruns

said her plan was to go to Los Angeles immediately and work her way up in the entertainment industry. The pandemic forced her to revamp her plan, however. She moved back home and found a way to use her talent and passion to make an impact in West Michigan. “We really don’t have a lot of film or TV around here, so people are really interested in the process,” she said. “They’re eager to learn how it works. I wasn’t sure when I started if there was really a market here or not, but as I’ve

gone through the process, I see that there is. I think it’s important to bring that. We have a lot of art in West Michigan, in general, but we don’t have film and TV, so I think it is an important thing to add to what we have going on.” Bruns is currently working on a multi-season drama series called “Sent,” which she said is about the opioid crisis and how it trickles down and infiltrates small towns in America. The series is being filmed in Whitehall where she grew up and it is expected to debut this year.

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Community Food Club sees growing need CONTINUED FROM PAGE 3

of 2022 — about 950 households last month, totaling around 3,000 individuals — and although she doesn’t have hard data yet on why, she suspects it’s partly because the money just doesn’t stretch as far due to inflation. “That’s certainly something that has been a challenge for us within the past couple of months,” she said. Additionally, the increasing rate of homelessness among its members amid an affordable housing crisis has led Community Food Club to add more ready-to-eat products that don’t require a kitchen to prepare. Members also report health problems including diabetes or pre-diabetes (25%), high blood pressure (17%), and allergies or intolerances to gluten or dairy (14%). Community Food Club responded to these chronic health concerns by adding a section of the store called the Health Hub/Centro Sano that contains products to accommodate those needs. The store also sells a selection of vegan and vegetarian products. The nonprofit recently did a

phone survey to understand the cultural needs and preferences of families so the store can sell more familiar staples that meet the needs of people from various backgrounds and ethnicities. “A lot of our shoppers have never been asked what foods they want to see in the store, and so we want to make that happen,” she said. Community Food Club also has added a member advisory council to help shape programming, and it continues to have multiple food club members on its board at all times. The nonprofit does what it can to buy food in bulk at lower prices and store it in its walk-in freezer and cooler to be more cost-effective, but the reality is that as inflation continues, Community Food Club will need to rely more on donations to keep prices stable for members. “We’re not going to make fruits and veggies two points (up from one point) because of inflation, we’re just going to take it on the chin and keep going, because that’s our mission, is to get healthy food out to people,” she said. “We can’t change the model in the time when

Report: Employee well-being among top workforce trends CONTINUED FROM PAGE 3

talent loss (43%). Furthermore, organizations have realized providing “innovative and effective” mental health programs and services can help lower the risk of losing good people and attract new talent, Gallagher said. According to the report, companies are taking steps like these to support the mental health of their employees: • Normalizing mental health conversations: Many organizations are using the workplace to talk about the importance of caring for an individual’s emotional well-being in and out of the office by offering online learning tools, implementing continuing education on mental health and using non-stigmatizing language in communication campaigns. • Increasing leadership and management training: Direct managers and different levels of leadership are taking an active role in creating a supportive work environment, the report said. Leaders are learning how to have effective conversations about emotional well-being, identify employees who might be struggling, address challenges and changes at the workplace, and build coping skills for stronger resiliency. • Enhancing access to care: Organizations are leveraging new virtual-care service options to accommodate flexible working arrangements and hybrid work environments, Gallagher found. • Offering multigenerational

care and resources: Every generation is facing mental health concerns, and organizations are introducing diverse care solutions targeting every stage of life into their offerings, according to the findings. • Providing a social connection: To address the need for human connection, employers are creating ways for employees to interact with each other via employee resource groups, a social wall to share photos, or a challenge to get to know a co-worker in the next cube or in a different country, Gallagher said. • Employee engagement: Nearly three in four employers surveyed said they consider employee engagement a top people metric for determining future business success, the report showed. Brainerd said, reading the national data, she wasn’t surprised one of the biggest challenges employers reported is workers’ emotional well-being, not just due to the COVID-19 Brainerd pandemic, but to constant, shared turmoil in the U.S. and around the world right now — wars, political infighting and more. “Everyone is under constant change and in a place of unknown. What’s going to come up next? … That’s the world we live in right

Community Food Club saw an uptick of visitors in March with about 950 households representing approximately 3,000 individuals. Courtesy Community Food Club

people need us the most.” Fossel said she is thankful for the philanthropic spirit of Kent County. “Kent County always rises to the challenge and to the occa-

sion — philanthropy here is really sound and amazing. People have certainly embraced us. … I won’t say that it’s not a difficult time to run a nonprofit grocery store, but I think that people understand our

goals and our mission and want to walk alongside us, and they’re going to help us be successful.” Those interested in volunteering or donating can visit

now,” she said. “Employers are taking notice of that and seeing their employee population is struggling … but I think we still need to get over that hump of employers actually taking action — really investing in solutions and resources for their people.” She said one of the areas in which employers did leap into action was providing access to virtual care. As Gallagher has talked to providers/vendors, they’ve said what otherwise might have taken them 10 years to develop was fasttracked due to COVID lockdowns. Not only that, but employers put in the work to communicate that option, and people of all ages and demographics — even the less tech-savvy — began using it. “I don’t think we’ll go back away from virtual care,” she said. “I think people have found it’s convenient, it’s easy to use (and) they don’t have to step away from work, so it definitely helps employers with productivity and the absenteeism factor.” Brucato said virtual-care options also help employees feel more comfortable addressing their mental health. “One of the challenges that existed around emotional well-being and access to care Brucato for a variety of those needs, prior to the pandemic, was around the stigma associated with admitting there were challenges and raising your hand and needing help or being willing to access the services that were available,” he said. “From a national standpoint, there’s been a light shined on the need for it, the importance of it.

And what the virtual access has allowed people to do is access the care not only in a convenient way, but also in a more discreet way. As (workers) start to get more comfortable with the idea of asking for that help and taking advantage of what’s available, the behavioral health option on a virtual basis has given them access to take advantage of it in the way they feel most comfortable.” Additionally, virtual care allows people with hectic work schedules to take 30 minutes out of their day to address mental health concerns instead of adding a roundtrip drive to a doctor’s office, he said. Brainerd said one of the first steps employers need to take to ensure better employee well-being is to assess their organizational structure and make sure a sound leadership and management team is in place that takes these issues seriously and has policies and procedures in place that address the work-life balance needed to be healthy. “Those resources we talked about are only as successful as how well the structure of the organization is working as a whole and the culture of the organization,” she said. “If you plop a really strong, good mental health resource — access to mental health care — into an organization that is mired in other challenges, it’s going to be that much more difficult for that employee to actually leverage that resource and get good use out of it,” she said. She said the best organizations will take a hard look at what they are doing that may negatively affect employees’ mental and emotional health — adding it is critical leaders don’t expect their priorities to trickle down to management organically. Training must be formalized.

“We all know one of the No. 1 reasons why people quit is because of their relationship with their direct manager, and so continuing to build the skillset of those direct managers to manage in a hybrid work environment — that’s a new skillset,” she said. “… Also, making sure that those managers are actually taking care of their own well-being is a big trend we’ll start seeing a lot of focus on.” Brucato said it also is important to acknowledge humans are social creatures, so one aspect of well-being is to ensure they still have opportunities to engage with their co-workers, even if they’re working a mostly remote schedule. “How do you get people back into the office in a way to regain some of that sense of community and belonging that comes with interacting with your peers?” he said. Another tension in play is when new, young teammates are onboarded who have never been a part of the in-person workplace, he said. “Think about the impact on new talent, young talent, coming into the organization, and how do they truly learn to be effective and successful within that organization, their business model, their culture, if from the time they graduated or were brought on board to the organization, they’ve been working from their living room or their basement and are reporting to someone they’ve never physically met?” he said. “The experience you gain and the knowledge you gain from just watching someone do their work or being there to ask questions, that emerging new workforce isn’t getting that benefit as widely as we did with this new way of working. Many of our clients are starting to question how they tackle that.”

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PNC finds social responsibility is on the rise CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1

things, most executives (92%) rank corporate social responsibility as a priority for their organization, with two-thirds (65%) saying it is a “very high priority.” The survey revealed nonprofit and corporate leaders expect to see more SR-related policies in the workplace, with 94% of respondents predicting social responsibility programs are here to stay. Most executives (91%) also said they believe companies and nonprofits can make a real impact on issues such as climate change and diversity, equity and inclusion through their social responsibility programs and initiatives. When asked what is driving their organization’s commitment to social responsibility overall, executives cited several internal and external forces, including direction from senior leadership (92%) and their board of directors (89%), alignment with their organization’s mission (90%), interest from their clients (91%) and the community (90%), and marketplace competition (86%). “Our survey definitively shows the importance of SR and environmental, social and governance (ESG) is here to stay, and for-profit and nonprofit organizations increasingly are looking for opportunities to demonstrate their values and commitments in this space,” Jessiman said. “This also means they are seeking guidance in an appropriate manner to implement these programs.” Three in four organizations surveyed (73%) said they have an environmental sustainability-related program or initiative. However, most of those organizations also said their efforts have launched relatively recently — within the past three years. An additional 18% said they have not yet implemented an environmental sustainability program but are in the planning process. For-profit organizations were found to be more likely to have a sustainability initiative (79%) than nonprofits (67%). Kuntz said while the survey team did not ask follow-up questions to dive deeper into this, she suspects the nonprofit respondents might not have taken into consideration that “by their nature, their mission is a form of social responsibility.” “For example, if you’re running a homeless shelter, you’re doing wonderful things for the world, but you might not also have a green building program, and so that was our guess, is that maybe some people were thinking, ‘Oh, I don’t have other programs in place. I’m too busy running my homeless shelter.’ … They might be looking at it as they don’t have something quite as holistic as other organizations do.” Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) also ranked as a top priority for many executives. Two in three organizations (68%) currently have a program or initiative related to DEI. An additional 26% don’t currently have one but are in the planning process. For-profit organizations are more likely to have a DEI initiative (76%) than are nonprofits (59%). Regardless, DEI initiatives are most likely geared toward the organization’s workforce in general (75%) and their leadership and man-

agement (68%), though half also are targeting their vendor and supplier base (52%), and 40% are prioritizing the diversity of their board. Also ranking among top responses was an emphasis on employee benefits, specifically financial education programs. “We were glad to have confirmed that it’s not just social programs that somebody might put in place in terms of their corporate foundation or the mission of their nonprofit,” Kuntz said. “It’s also what they do internally. What we found is employers see it as their responsibility to help employees prepare for retirement.” While nearly all the executives surveyed said their organization is committed to helping employees save for retirement (99%), slightly more than half of respondents (55%) said fewer than 50% of their employees take advantage of their financial education programs. In addition, executives also are taking an increasing interest in ESG investing. While four in 10 (40%) said their company or organization does at least some investing through an ESG lens, nearly as many (39%) aren’t engaging in ESG investing but are in the planning process. Those who do implement an ESG investing strategy said the most important factors in choosing an investment adviser are having dedicated ESG strategies (70%), dedicated impact investing strategies (68%), and access to ESG analytics and reporting (68%). Further, most executives are optimistic the growth in ESG investing can have a positive influence on corporate behavior (91%). When it comes to implementing ESG investment strategy, these executives said it is just as important to avoid investments that don’t align with your values (86%) as it is to invest in companies that do align with your values (90%). “Our survey makes it clear for-profit and nonprofit organizations are seeing ESG investing as increasingly important, but they also recognize it is critical these investment opportunities are fully vetted and indeed aligned with their own values,” Jessiman said. Kuntz offered examples from her experience with clients. “We have health care systems that say, ‘We don’t particularly want to invest in tobacco stocks. Our whole job is to keep people healthy, and it seems counterintuitive that in our investment portfolios, we would invest in something that is counter to that,’” she said. “… Some on the opposite side want to make an impact. They might want to focus on women-owned businesses or organizations that are heavily represented with women on their boards. It can be about gender or racial diversity. It can be about the environment — either avoiding harm or causing a positive impact.” She added she has noticed organizations and individuals are doing more due diligence. “To a person, everybody is saying, ‘Social responsibility programs are here to stay. We believe they can be used to make an impact; they’re important to us,’ and that’s what we heard really loud and clear,” Kuntz said. More information on the research findings, including trends in social responsibility, ESG investing, retirement plans and financial education is available at

APRIL 18, 2022


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APRIL 18, 2022

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Interest in the organization has stretched to other parts of the world, including Canada, India and the United Kingdom. Courtesy Still I Run

Local nonprofit partners with NYC marathon CONTINUED FROM PAGE 10


Member FDIC

but couldn’t find the group she hoped to have. She decided to create her own community and launched a Facebook page and personal website in 2016 to share her story. The response she received was unexpected, she said. “I thought only friends and family would enjoy my efforts to defeat the (mental health) stigma through running and sharing my story,” Wolff said. “Then there was an outpouring from the community, my friends and family, and people who live in the area who also ran for their own mental health.” The response gave Wolff an idea to form a nonprofit, and she launched Still I Run on Oct. 10 — World Mental Health Day — in 2016. Still I Run operates today as an official nonprofit organization led by a team of volunteers and ambassadors across the country. Interest in the organization has stretched to other parts of the world, including Canada, India and the United Kingdom. One of Still I Run’s main programs is the Starting Line Scholarship, which seeks to break down the barriers to getting started by providing shoes and running gear to beginners thanks to a partnership with Striders in Grandville. The scholarship also includes coaching, a 10-12 week running plan and paid entry into a 5K or 10K race. Overall, the organization’s three primary goals are to defeat the mental health stigma, promote the benefits of running and foster the sense of community

that Wolff originally wanted to find. When the COVID-19 pandemic introduced lockdowns and quarantine in 2020, Wolff noticed an increased interest in the online community. Still I Run was able to host virtual races and reach out to people through social media at a time when connecting in-person wasn’t feasible. Wolff said while the pandemic may be winding down, a mental health crisis still is ramping up. “It’s more important than ever that we talk about mental health,” she said. “We want to let people know that they’re not alone.” Going forward, Wolff said she hopes to infuse more mental health initiatives into everything that Still I Run does. Future goals include providing membership to a mental health gym and launching a new Mental Health Runner program that focuses more on intentional wellness. Her biggest goal, which will take “a lot of people, money and resources,” is to create a program that helps people find and pay for mental health care, she said. Despite the challenge of operating a nonprofit on top of being a wife, mother of two and employee at MillerKnoll, Wolff said Still I Run is her passion and a positive outcome from her own journey. “Having depression and anxiety sucks, but having Still I Run be the result of all this I think makes it worth it,” Wolff said. “If I can help others, if I can help my children who might inherit a mental illness from me, if I can help make the world a better space for anyone in terms of mental health, it’s worth it.”

Sports organization celebrates milestone CONTINUED FROM PAGE 10

inducted into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame include Caledonia girls cross country, winners of Class B state championships 1993-96; Grand Rapids Chicks baseball, winners of All-American Girls Professional Baseball League championships in 1947 and 1953; the 2001 Grand Rapids Rampage, winners of the indoor football Arena Bowl XV; and Union High School’s 1925 football squad, which was unde-

feated and unscored upon. GRSHOF also has inducted people who have supported the growth of sports in the city. The late Peter Secchia was inducted and received the Warren Reynolds Lifetime Achievement Award. Secchia was a philanthropist and the founder of the West Michigan Sports Commission, a nonprofit that’s solely focused on attracting and hosting youth and amateur sporting events in West Michigan.


APRIL 18, 2022



Michigan needs vibrant, in-demand central cities


onventional wisdom has it that big cities are dead. This time the cause of their supposed demise is the pandemic. It is widely believed that since you can now work from home, combined with a predicted long-lasting fear of crowded places, that big cities are toast. There is one problem with this theory. When asked where they want to live after college, post-pandemic college students say big cities. The renaissance of America’s big cities the last two decades was driven in large part by young professionals. Looks like the post-pandemic generation of young professionals have the same preference for big city living. The 2022 Axios-Generation Lab Next Cities Index asked, “Considering all factors that matter to you, where would you most like to live after college?” Who did they survey? “There’s a fixed slice of the graduating population that plans to live where they grew up. Then, there’s the ‘roving’ bloc, which looks for fresh ground after getting degreed. Along with Axios, Generation Lab interviewed 1,072 of those ‘rovers’ (from a representative sample of 2,109 students nationwide from two-year and fouryear schools)." What did they find? The top 15 places in order where rovers want to live after college: • Seattle • New York • Los Angeles • Denver • Boston • Chicago • Washington, D.C. • Phoenix • Colorado Springs • Austin • Portland • San Francisco

• Minneapolis • Dallas • Atlanta The absence of any Michigan community on this list should be setting off alarm bells among the state’s political and business leaders. Why? Because this is an economy where talent attracts capital. Creating a place where people want to live and work is what matters most to retaining, attracting and creating high-wage jobs. Those regions without the quality of place that mobile talent is looking for will be at a substantial disadvantage. Creating a place where people want to live and work becomes even more important as Michigan goes through at least a decade and a half where the number of older workers leaving the labor market will exceed younger workers entering the labor market. The Axios-Generation Lab Next Cities Index makes clear that to grow and attract high-wage employers Michigan needs vibrant central cities that are as in demand as Chicago and Minneapolis, the leaders in the Great Lakes. Even better would be competitive with national talent magnets like Seattle and New York City. To be competitive with those talent magnets, Michigan’s political and business leaders need to understand that quality of place attracts talent. That a primary economic development priority for the state is big cities that have the high-density, high-amenity, transit-rich neighborhoods that young, post-pandemic professionals are still flocking to. The in-demand cities in the Axios-Generation Lab poll have spent decades investing in non-roads transportation; housing; mixed use/high density development; parks and outdoor recreation; and

arts and cultural projects. Interestingly, rail transit — except for Colorado Springs — seems to be the most prominent and, almost certainly, the most important common trait these cities share. Those major public investments were made possible because business and political leadership in those regions and cities understood that retaining and attracting young talent was an economic priority. And that to be a talent magnet required a vibrant central city. By and large, Michigan, its regions and cities have been missing in action for decades in making

these kinds of quality-of-place public investments. In large part, that’s because Michigan's business and political leadership has not made retaining and attracting young talent or vibrant central cities economic priorities. The availability of billions of dollars in one-time federal funding and a large state budget surplus gives the state, regions and cities a chance to pivot toward an economic development strategy where talent attracts capital and to make the kind of public investments in our CONTINUED ON PAGE 20





Danielle Nelson: Rachel Watson: Kayleigh Fongers: STATE LEGISLATIVE REPORTER

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Michigan journalist,


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Michelle VanArman:


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Ahmed Aljanabi Dana MacDonald Maryan Toma


Elissa Stong Kerry Gerwatowski TO ORDER ARTICLE REPRINTS (616) 459-4545


GUEST COLUMN Dallas Lenear

Stop payday lenders from overcharging


n a time of great struggle for Michigan families, we have the opportunity to take a simple but powerful, popular and positive action. Currently, predatory payday lenders in our state charge triple-digit interest rates that exceed 370% APR. A proposed measure seeking a place on the November ballot would make sure they cannot charge more than 36% annually. Payday lending works like this: A person short on cash takes a loan of a few hundred dollars that is typically due to be paid back on their next payday. The payday lending industry markets these loans as a “quick fix,” but the reality is that they operate as a long-term debt trap. That’s because the terms of the

payday loan are designed to create a long-term cycle, requiring full payment plus fees and requiring direct access to the borrower’s bank account to collect it. Routinely, the borrower finds themselves unable to meet those terms and becomes stuck in a downward spiral of recurring debt that lasts months and sometimes even years. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that the average payday loan borrower takes out 10 loans in a year; and in Michigan, 70% of payday loans are taken out on the same day as the previous loan is repaid. What’s marketed as a “quick fix” is actually a debt trap by design. Payday lenders depend on this trap to feed their wealth-stripping machine. The harms caused by this practice are significant. Every high-interest dollar that goes to a payday lender is one dollar less that stays in our community. Payday loan users end up behind on utilities and other bills. They are unable to shop at local businesses or buy their children birthday presents. Oftentimes, their credit gets ruined, and some even lose their bank accounts because of multiple insufficient funds fees. As the executive director of a local financial empowerment organization (Project GREEN) and

a pastor, these painful stories are seen far too often. Proverbs 22:22 says, “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor …” Yet, that is precisely what predatory payday lenders do here in Michigan. Charging rates like 370% APR is pure exploitation of those who can least afford to pay such inhumane fees. That is why diverse interest groups are joining together to support a ballot measure reducing interest rates to no more than 36%. Our coalition includes groups concerned about helping working families maintain their ability to fully participate in Michigan’s economy, including consumer advocates, nonprofit organizations, credit unions and our faith communities. Rate caps have successfully passed in 18 states plus Washington, D.C., several of which were passed by ballot measure. Just recently, Nebraska voters passed a similar measure with over 80% support, while voters in South

Dakota and Colorado passed their payday lending reform initiatives with more than 70% support. Michiganders should join the growing number of states that put a swift stop to this exploitation by passing this rate cap on predatory payday loans. Unfortunately, our state legislature refuses to act on this important issue, even with a strong majority of Michiganders from all parties supporting this commonsense policy. We have been left with no choice other than to take this issue directly to Michigan voters. You can help make sure that Michigan citizens have an opportunity to raise their collective voice to make a significant difference on how these loans impact people in our community by signing a petition this spring. Dallas Lenear is the executive director of Project GREEN in Grand Rapids.

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APRIL 18, 2022


Rehmann announced plans to join HLB International, a global network of independent accounting and advisory firms. Formed in 1969, HLB firms currently operate across more than 150 countries, comprising more than 32,000 industry professionals.


Driesenga & Associates Inc. hired Harrison Collins as a survey assistant in the firm’s Grand Rapids survey department. Progressive AE named senior mechanical engineer Maureen Kozel a principal of the firm. She will act as an ambassador of the firm and serve clients by providing strategy, planning and project management. Senior architect Chad Fisk joined Mathison I Mathison Architects after relocating to West Michigan from Chicago. Kalamazoo-based TowerPinkster named Gregory Adamczyk to the position of director of health care. Adamczyk has worked for nearly a Fisk decade with health care systems throughout the region.


The Board of Library Commissioners of the Grand Rapids Public Library elected Rachel S. Anderson as president and Deborah Bose as vice president/secretary. Kent District Library is the recipient of the Top Innovator Award from the Urban Library Council’s Innovation Initiative for its new Project Management Office. UBS Wealth Management USA financial adviser Michael Toth was elected to a three-year term on the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park board of directors. He is eligible to serve for a total of two consecutive three-year terms.


Nucci hired as Erhardt project manager Andrea Nucci joined Ada-based general contractor Erhardt Construction as a project manager. She previously worked 14 years as a project manager for MP Johnson Construction in Minneapolis. Some of Nucci’s previous project experience includes Taft Law and multiple luxury hotels such as the Hilton, Hyatt, Radisson Blu and Loews Hotel in Minneapolis. Originally from metro Detroit, Nucci said she returned to Michigan to be closer to her family. She currently is working on construction projects for Hope College and Grand Valley State University. Early Career Contributions Award from the International Society for the Science of Existential Psychology.


Highpoint Community Bank promoted Ashley Van Alstine to vice president, retail banking, branch administration. Independent Bank Corp. hired Kris Kreter as first vice president, controller and Kim Martin as senior vice president, director of internal audit. St. Joseph-based United Federal Credit Union promoted Jodie Kitchell to the newly created position of district manager, leading 10 Michigan branches: Benton Harbor, Bridgman, Coloma, Holland North, Holland South, Niles South, Downtown St. Joseph, State Street in St. Joseph, Stevensville, and Royalton. Sparta-based ChoiceOne Bank hired Sue Murphy, vice president and trust officer, Adam Schlusler, vice president and wealth adviser, and Rob Onesko, vice president and private banker, into the bank’s wealth management group. Susan Majinska joined Holland-based Macatawa Bank as branch manager for it Gaines branch, 1575 68th St. Andrea Oade also joined the bank as client services manager for its wealth management practice, at its East Beltline office, 3177 Knapp St. Union Bank announced the addition of Sarah Klingenberg as vice president, risk officer.

Daryl Van Tongeren of the Hope College psychology faculty is the recipient of the


APR 18 West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum Webinar. Topic is Envisioning the Great Lakes Region Without Plastic Waste, Prepared for Climate Change. 1-2 p.m. Cost: free. Registration/information:

tion: (616) 234-5000 or angel-of-excellence-2022/.

APR 21 Grand Rapids Public Library/Mercy Health program for people 65-plus. Topic is Life: Short History of Living Longer. 11 a.m., Main Library, 111 Library St. NE. Registration/information: seniorsbewell. APR 21 The Acton Institute Lecture Series. Topic is Abraham Kuyper’s Principles for Christian Liberalism, by Matthew Tuininga, associate professor of moral theology, Calvin Theological Seminary. 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Acton Institute, 98 E. Fulton. Cost: $15/general, $10/students. Registration/information: event/2022/april-als-tuininga. APR 21 Van Andel Institute The Carol Van Andel Angel of Excellence Dinner and Award Presentation. An invitation-only event. 6-9 p.m., Van Andel Institute, 333 Bostwick Ave. NE. Registration/informa-

Matt Osterhaven joined its senior leadership team as vice president of finance. Osterhaven assumes the role previously held by Meg Post, who was promoted to president in 2021.

Haviland Enterprises Inc. announced

APR 23 Grand Rapids Public Museum original exhibit Fashion + Nature opens April 23, examining the relationship between the natural world and the fashion industry. Registration/information: APR 24 Grand Rapids Public Library/Mercy Health Caregiver Expo. 1-5 p.m., Main Library, 111 Library St. NE. Registration/ information: APR 24 The Lucas Project Premiere of Documentary “Unseen.” 4 p.m., Aquinas College. Registration/information: APR 25 Cornerstone University Wisdom Conversations. Topic is Reconnecting With One Another: Humility, Truth and Loving One's Neighbor in a Divided America. Includes a discussion between nationally recognized panelists: NYT columnist Ross Douthat, Harvard law professor Noah Feldman and president and CEO of the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute Mary Ann Gomez


The Christman Co. promoted Jacob Kulhanek to senior vice president and general manager of construction management and real estate development.


Easton, Maryland-based Decorating Den Interiors selected Katelynn Ostruszka to open a Decorating Den Interiors franchise that will serve the Grand Rapids area.


The Right Place Inc. appointed the following officers to its board of directors: chair: Christina Freese Decker, Spectrum Health; vice chair: Bill Pink, Grand Rapids Community College; and treasurer: Steve Downing, Gentex Corp. Board of directors: Sara Armbruster, Steelcase Inc.; Matt Biersack, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s; Michael Davenport, Jireh Metal Products Inc.; James E. Dillard III, Perrigo Co.; Katie Ferris, BDO USA LLP; Joi Harris, DTE Energy; Nick Hrnyak, Lacks Enterprises Inc.; Joshua Hulst, Michigan Software Labs; Charles W. Lott, Wells Fargo & Co.; Milind Pant, Amway Corp.; Al Vanderberg, Kent County; and Mark J. Wassink, Warner Norcross + Judd, LLP.


Grand Rapids Public Schools announced Sherwood Park Global Studies Academy officially has been designated as an International Baccalaureate World School for the Primary Years

Orta. 7 p.m., Christ Chapel, 1001 E. Beltline Ave. NE. Registration/information: APR 26 Builders Exchange of Michigan Golf League begins. Tee times between 2:46 and 3:26 p.m., 911 Hayes St. SE, Comstock Park. Cost: $434.09. Registration/information: APR 26 Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce ATHENA Grand Rapids Walking Tour. Participants explore the noteworthy sights in the city that originated from dynamic, diverse women. 4-6 p.m. Cost: $25/members, $35/nonmembers. Registration/information:


Programme, making it one of only two in Kent County (Coit Creative Arts Academy the other) and 26th overall in the state to achieve this level. Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes announced the addition of board members Kevin Muntter, office managing partner at BDO, and Joyce Chan Russell, senior vice president of government markets at Priority Health, for 2022 fiscal year.


Crystal Flash is marking 90 years of bringing energy to the Midwest. Founded in 1932, Crystal Flash has grown from a one-truck operation to a fleet of more than 200 serving more than 25,000 residential and 5,000 commercial customers in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. Originally founded by John E. Fehsenfeld, the company transitioned to a 100% employee-owned organization in 2016 in a move to ensure its long-term future.


Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Jon Tellier, president of JetCo Solutions, was elected Midwest region director for the U.S. Army Ranger Association.


Friends of Grand Rapids Parks chose Stacy Bare as its executive director. He succeeds Stephanie Adams, who recently stepped down as the organization’s executive director after four years of leadership.


The Grace’s Table board of directors elected as board chair Maria Zambrano Curtis, director of business and product development for Meijer Inc. and co-owner of LIMA United by Love.


DWH promoted Ben Borisch to managing partner and named Jeremy Cosby and Heather Gardner as partners.


Catherine’s Health Center selected Megan Erskine as its next chief executive officer after longtime CEO Karen Kaashoek announced her retirement. Erskine most recently served as chief operating officer at Heartland Health Centers in Chicago.


The Gremel Group promoted Mollie Doornbos to account manager as part of its customer-first growth strategy.


Detroit-based Bodman PLC announced attorney Ashley Poindexter joined the firm as an associate in its Grand Rapids office. Kalamazoo-based Levine & Levine Attorneys at Law hired Jessica Brandow as a trusts and estate planning attorney licensed in Michigan and Arkansas. She has worked with the firm as a contract attorney since June 2020.

information: APR 27 Johnson Center for Philanthropy Virtual Lunch and Learn. Topic is Building Nonprofit Resilience In A (Hopefully) Post-COVID World. Noon- 1 p.m. Cost: free. Registration/information: APR 27 Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce DEI Interactive Virtual Meeting. Topic is Strategies for Becoming an Inclusive Leader and Ally. 9-10:30 a.m. Cost: $10/members, $20/ nonmembers. Registration/information: (616) 928-9103 or

APR 26 Wyoming Business Leaders Meeting. 8-9 a.m., Marge’s Donut Den, 1751 28th St. SW, Wyoming. Registration/information: (616) 261-4500 or d.kuba@instantcashmi. com.

APR 28 Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce Power Lunch. Expand your network. 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Macatawa Golf Club, 4600 Macatawa Legends Blvd., Suite No. 1, Holland. Registration/information: (616) 928-9103 or

APR 27 Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Hump Day Happy Hour. 4-5 p.m., Grand Rapids Chamber Work Café. Registration/

APR 30 Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Create Great Community Latina Connect. 9:30-11:30 a.m., Grand Rapids

Paulist Father Fr. René Constanza, rector/pastor of the Cathedral of Saint Andrew and director of the Catholic Information Center, has been elected as the next president of the Paulist Fathers, his religious community. Fr. René’s leadership begins in New York in early June and he will leave the Cathedral at that time. His replacement has not been named yet.


Byron Center-based SpartanNash announced the addition of Bennett Morgan to its executive leadership team as senior vice president and chief merchandising officer.


The Michigan Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus recently named officers for 2022: past president: Janet Korn (Grand Rapids), and director at large: Bob Lukens (Muskegon). CHANGE-UPS POLICY: The Business Journal welcomes submissions to the Change-Ups section. Send announcements concerning personnel changes, new businesses, changes of address etc. to Change-Ups Editor, Grand Rapids Business Journal, 401 Hall St. SW, Suite 331, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 or email

Chamber. Cost: $35/members and nonmembers. Registration/information: MAY 6 Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Virtual Government Affairs Update. 10-10:30 a.m. Cost: free. Registration/ information: MAY 9 Wyoming-Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce Government Matters Zoom Meeting with Elected Officials. 8-9 a.m. Registration/information: (616) 531-5990 or CALENDAR POLICY: The Business Journal welcomes submissions to the calendar section. Send items to Calendar Editor, Grand Rapids Business Journal, 401 Hall St. SW, Suite 331, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 or email bjcal Submissions must be received at least three weeks prior to the event. The Business Journal calendar posted on the publication’s website ( includes listings for events extended beyond those printed in the weekly publication that are limited by space restrictions.


APRIL 18, 2022


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APRIL 18, 2022


City reports 2021 economic impact CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1

and four new or expanding businesses — with 486 new jobs committed and 401 jobs retained. In 2020, $294,515 in new city taxes was levied, of which $17,484 was new property taxes and $277,031 was new income taxes. In a video created to accompany the 2021 report, Gracia highlighted three of the projects underway — Blackmer’s $7 million-plus Gracia expansion, the $330,000 redevelopment of 1002 Hall St. SE reported here, and the building of the $100 million Spectrum Health Center for Innovation and Transformation — noting the city is focused on making sure it takes care of its own just as much as it is on attracting newcomers. “One of the key components of the Equitable Economic Development & Mobility Strategic Plan is to make sure that we communicate the resources available to all businesses within the city Grand Rapids,” Gracia said. “You’ve got to take care of the companies you have — just like anyone who has a business, it’s more important to focus on the current customers than always chasing new ones. And so, the successes of those types of companies that have been here 50, 75, 100 years, are really important for us to be able to remain competitive and an attractive place for new businesses to come.” Bob Lauson, general manager for Blackmer/PSG Grand Rapids, a Dover company, said the city has focused on making sure companies stay and continue to invest locally “because they want to be here.” “They’ve made us feel like we’re an important part of the Grand Rapids community,” he said. “The expansion for Blackmer is a really important next step that allows us to remain in this location. We’ve been here for 100 years, (and) perhaps (we’ll be here) the next 100 years. It’s the next generation.”

Isaac Norris, founder and principal of the Isaac V. Norris & Associates architecture firm handling the redevelopment of 1002 Hall St. SE, said the project is going to create space for three small businesses that are “very necessary and helpful to sustain the neighborhood.” “I think we all have a role to play in showing the next generation what the possibilities are,” he said. “I always like to say that you can’t be what you don’t see, so it’s important that young minority children see Black architects, engineers, doctors, lawyers and even developers that are building up in their community, that we are people who are builders. We should not be associated with tearing down, but we’re builders and we’re creators.” Tina Freese Decker, president and CEO of Spectrum Health, said she is proud of the Center for Innovation and Transformation project that is taking shape on the north edge of downtown. “This is an amazingly collaborative and thoughtful process with the city of Grand Rapids,” she said. “We are optimizing the advantages of the Monroe North neighborhood, the Grand River, the businesses, the neighbors and the community to infuse innovation, inclusion and inspiration.” In addition to the Blackmer, Hall Street and Spectrum projects, the city in 2021 supported the construction of Perrigo’s North American corporate headquarters being built at Michigan State University’s Grand Rapids Innovation Park on downtown Grand Rapids’ Medical Mile; the Victory on Leonard housing project in the former YMCA; MCPc’s new headquarters at Madison Square; Process Engineering & Equipment’s expansion in the Walker View Industrial Park; and a mixed-use development at 730 Leonard St. NW that includes 18 units of housing. (Details of each project are in the chart with this story.) Neighborhoods of Focus “What’s really notable to point out — it’s not in this report, but should be — is, as we reflected on where those projects are located, (we realized) five of those projects are located in Neighborhoods of Focus,” Gracia said. “If you’re

Michigan needs vibrant, in-demand central cities


cities that are required to be competitive with in-demand cities and regions across the country. At the think tank I lead, Michigan Future Inc., we have proposed dedicating $500 million in state American Rescue Plan funds to promote strategic investments designed to make Michigan’s regions magnets for talent and economic growth. This Regional Talent Concentration Initiative would provide matching grants to encourage neighboring counties, cities and towns to partner to create a shared vision for their future, mapping out the programs, initiatives and

projects that are critical for them to retain talent today and attract the workforce of tomorrow. The initiative is designed to attract at least $1.5 billion of local public, private and philanthropic funding that will propel investment in regional quality of place, quality of life and quality of opportunity. Whether it is our Regional Talent Concentration Initiative or some other alternative, what is important is that the state makes retaining and attracting young talent a top priority.

Lou Glazer is president of Michigan Future Inc.

BY THE NUMBERS GR projects supported in 2021 The following numbers are from the project applications filed with the city of Grand Rapids. Some of the estimated investment amounts and job totals have risen in the meantime. • Spectrum Health Center for Transformation and Innovation, occupying 710 Monroe Ave. NW and 706 and 725 Bond Ave. NW — $100 million project, 350 new jobs • Perrigo corporate headquarters downtown, 400-430 Monroe Ave. NW — $37,632,556 million project, 150 new jobs • Victory on Leonard, 900 Leonard St. NW in the former YMCA — $18.6 million project, 10 new jobs, 119 apartments • MCPc new headquarters, 1601 Madison Ave. SE — $12.5 million project, to bring 69 existing jobs and create 26 new jobs • Blackmer Grand Rapids expansion, 1809 Century Ave. SW — $7.4 million project, 54 new jobs • Process Engineering & Equipment Co. in the Walker View Industrial Park — $3 million project, 32 new jobs • 730 Leonard St. NW mixed-use development — $1.727 million project, 12 new jobs, 18 housing units • Redevelopment of 1002 Hall St. SE to house three small businesses — $330,000 project, 6 new jobs Total new private investment = $181,189,556 New jobs committed = 708 Jobs retained = 1,717 Source: City of Grand Rapids and Business Journal research

familiar with the city’s strategic plan and our Equitable Economic Development & Mobility Strategic Plan, we’re really focused on driving investments to those Neighborhoods of Focus.” Neighborhoods of Focus (NOFs) are 17 Census tracts in the near west and south sides of Grand Rapids in relation to downtown. Due to systemic and historic inequities, residents in NOFs experience the most disparate outcomes compared to other Grand Rapids census tracts in the areas of income, educational opportunities, homeownership and wealth accumulation. The 2021 projects in the NOFs are 730 Leonard, Victory on Leonard, Blackmer, Hall Street and MCPc. Equity impacts Gracia said the economic development team was pleased that despite not having set a hard-andfast numbers target in its inclusion plan, the city made $13.2 million in commitments to minority business enterprise (MBE), women-owned business enterprise (WBE) and minority-led business enterprise (MLBE) contractors. “That’s significant because 2021 was the first year of implementation of our inclusion plan policy, (which) is focused on


Selected mortgages filed with Kent County Register of Deeds 1600 MONROE LLC, Economic Development Foundation, Parcel: 411314380010, $2,342,000 CEDAR SPRINGS HOSPITALITY LLC, Union Bank, Solon Twp., $4,000,000 CEDAR SPRINGS HOSPITALITY LLC, Union Bank, Solon Twp., $2,400,000 PROSPECT PROPERTY INVESTMENT LLC, Consumers Credit Union, $500,000 EXERGY ENTERPRISES LLC, Kent Rintala, Cascade Twp., $1,400,000 EGYPT VALLEY COUNTRY CLUB, Mercantile Bank, Ada Twp., $5,000,000 COVENTRY WOODS DIVIDEND HOUSING ASSOCIATION LLC, CPC Mortgage Co., Walker, $1,199,000 COVENTRY WOODS DIVIDEND HOUSING ASSOCIATION LLC, CPC Mortgage Co., Walker, $8,230,000 GRAND RAPIDS RETAIL MANAGEMENT II LLC, Huntington National Bank, Parcel: 411410477008, $3,400,000 LAFAYETTE INVESTMENT LLC, Consumers Credit Union, Parcel: 411430326015, $500,000 EHTC REAL ESTATE LLC, West Michigan Community Bank, Parcel: 411811240035, $666,603

helping MBE, WBE and MLBE subcontractors with gaining contracting opportunities with the economic development projects we’re doing,” he said. “We developed this policy in support of our city’s strategic plan and our Equitable Economic Development & Mobility Strategic Plan so that we can start to build in wealth-generating opportunities for those minority-owned businesses in the construction projects that we have receiving incentives through our department.” Gracia said the city anticipates it likely will hit or exceed that $13.2 million target in 2022 based on the number of projects already in the pipeline. Affordable housing Gracia said there is an affordable housing shortfall of about 9,000 units in the city of Grand Rapids at which the EDD is slowly chipping away. The two housing projects it supported last year — 730 Leonard and Victory on Leonard — will contain a total of 137 new units. Since 2016, the city created 1,827 new units, 355 of which were affordable units at 80% of area median income or below. But to meet the vast need, he said the city continues to need help from the surrounding region. “The city of Grand Rapids

S ABRAHAM & SONS INC., B1 Bank, Walker, $6,825,000 H DEVELOPMENT GROUP LLC, Enterprise Bank & Trust, Parcel: 411429457032, $1,295,000 JTB HOMES LLC, Huntington National Bank, Lowell, $8,000,000 PV 755 MICHIGAN LLC, Mercantile Bank, Parcel: 411419483018, $515,916 CASCADE ENGINEERING, Wells Fargo Bank, Cascade Twp., $90,000,000 SKYLINE ASSOCIATION LLC, United Bank, Parcel: 411828101010, $911,250 SWAN BRAVO FIRST LLC, Southern Michigan Bank & Trust, Kentwood, $3,860,000 8830 BELDING LLC, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Parcel: 411113103020, $357,200 DESIGN MANAGEMENT GROUP LLC, Fifth Third Bank, Walker, $2,170,000 KG STORE 2609 LLC, First National Bank, Grandville, $6,880,000 EASTVIEW SERVICE BUILDING LLC, Fifth Third Bank, Parcel: 411421301005, $1,410,035 BDR MODEL LLC, Independent Bank, Cascade Twp., $1,000,000 1600 MONROE LLC, Economic Development Foundation, Parcel: 411313280023, $2,342,000 109 44TH ST SW FL LLC et al, United Bank, Wyoming, $980,000

PUBLIC RECORD should be contributing to that as the largest urban core, but also we should be looking at our surrounding communities in terms of providing affordable housing units,” he said. CIA, BID investments Gracia said he is particularly proud of the various corridor improvement authority (CIA) and business improvement district (BID) investments in 2021. According to the report, the CIAs approved 24 façade improvement projects totaling $346,383 and 20 murals with a total investment of $87,000. The CIAs and BIDs together made streetscape investments totaling $275,375, which includes street furnishings (bike racks, trash cans, etc.), maintenance and beautification of the right of way, banners and décor. Together, the CIAs and BIDs invested $708,758 in these improvements. “Our corridor improvement authorities and business improvement districts are really, really important in driving investments and placemaking in our business neighborhoods,” Gracia said. The money from the façade grants is given directly to small businesses to enhance their building facades, and many of the CIAs are removing barriers to accessing those dollars by removing the match requirement for the grants, Gracia said. Southtown Corridor Improvement Authority alone, as of a couple months ago, already had committed over $142,000 for façade grants in its territory for 2022, he added. Long-term accomplishments The second page of the report included incentivized project outcomes from 2016-20 and showed that during that period, the city incentivized 65 projects, completed 51, and had $210 million in projects under construction. It reported a four-year total of $885,864,590 in new private investments, $795,669,067 in committed private investments and 111% of commitments fulfilled. The project development breakdown for 2016-20 was 32 real estate developments, 19 businesses retained, expanded or attracted, and 14 additional projects under development. The full report is available to view at growgr.grandrapidsmi. gov/news/2021-annual-report.

FSM SYSTEMS LLC et al, Wirt Financial Services, Lowell, $495,904 WOMENS RESOURCE CENTER, United Bank, Parcel: 411431401028, $412,500 ELON HOMES LLC, West Michigan Community Bank, Gaines Twp., $434,764 JTB HOMES LLC, ChoiceOne Bank, Algoma Twp., $364,862 KLEIN, Michael et al, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Parcel: 411403176001, $407,400 ELZINGA, Thomas A. et al, PNC Bank, Cascade Twp., $400,000 HIETT, Dalan et al, Rocket Mortgage, Byron Twp., $450,000 PERUMALLIA, Abhiram et al, Pennymac Loan Services, Byron Twp., $479,750 GARNDER, Anthony J. et al, Northpointe Bank, Cascade Twp., $436,000 SHLATTMAN, Douglas et al, Heartland Home Mortgage, Alpine Twp., $357,000 DOWNEY, Matt et al, Independent Bank, Cascade Twp., $1,400,000 FRANKLIN SITE 36 LLC, Mercantile Bank, Wyoming, $4,200,000

PUBLIC RECORD AVAILABLE ONLINE: For the full version of this week’s Public Record, visit the Grand Rapids Business Journal’s website at

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12/2/21 3:00 PM



APRIL 18, 2022

Small but significant Port call.


on’t be misled by the word “small.” Michigan Celebrates Small Business recently released its 2022 list of 50 Companies to Watch awardees. They may be small, but they have generated significant economic impact across the state. In 2021, these businesses generated $352 million in total annual revenue, an increase of 37% since 2020. The companies reported 1,418 full-time equivalent employees in 2021 and project 522 net new jobs for 2022. These numbers aren’t new. The annual winners have been increasing their impact since 2018. For the last four years, the Michigan 50 awardees generated $914.7 million in revenue and added 770 employees to their workforce, reflecting a 56% increase in revenue and 60% increase in jobs for the four-year period. The honorees come from across the Mitten, with members from West Michigan, Metro Detroit and even the Upper Peninsula. They will all unite at the 18th annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business Gala on May 3. “The impact of these 50 small businesses cannot be overstated. They are the backbone of Michigan’s economy, and we are so excited to celebrate them at the


gala,” said Jennifer Deamud, MCSB board chair and executive director of Michigan Manufacturing Growth Alliance. At the event, over 800 guests will gather in-person at the Breslin Center in East Lansing to celebrate the achievements of this year’s award recipients. There have been over 1,000 companies honored at MCSB over the past 18 years, which includes 900 second-stage companies recognized by a Michigan 50 Companies to Watch Award. The six founding partners created an annual awards gala to recognize small business and second-stage companies. The founding organizations of Michigan Celebrates are: Edward Lowe Foundation; Michigan Business Network; Michigan Economic Development Corporation; Michigan Small Business Development Center; Small Business Association of Michigan; and U.S. Small Business Administration-Michigan District Office. Additional information and ticket information can be found at Senior Neighbors, a nonprofit agency focused on enhancing the lives of seniors in Kent County by providing independent living

services like transportation, case management, home repair assistance and senior center activities, is accepting nominees for its fifth annual 16 Over 60 Awards. The awards will recognize the inspirational contributions of 16 individuals 60 years of age or more living in Kent County who positively impact their friends, family and community. The deadline to nominate individuals is June 1. Nominations can be submitted at “Every day our community is positively impacted by the leadership and social contributions from older adults in Kent County,” said Bob Barnes, Senior Neighbors president. “This population continues to strengthen our community and shape West Michigan through business excellence, caregiving, activism and volunteering.” “This is a great opportunity for us to all take a moment to focus on something positive and uplifting in what has been a difficult past few years,” added Brian Clark, Senior Neighbors director of development and donor care. “There are so many people out there in Kent County making our world a better place and we need help recognizing them. We believe that everyone knows someone who deserves this nomination.”

Nominees must be a resident of Kent County or have their contributions take place in Kent County, 60 years of age or more by April 1, 2022, and contributions must be currently taking place or have taken place in the last 12 months. Honorees will be recognized at a gala on Nov. 16. The nation’s major retail container ports have begun to catch up with the backlog of cargo seen over the past several months, but could experience another surge this summer, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. “As we entered 2022, the biggest question was when the supply chain would return to normal,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “Unfortunately, we still don’t have a definitive answer. Congestion at West Coast ports has eased, but congestion at some East Coast ports is growing. Ports aren’t as overwhelmed as they were a year ago, but they are still significantly busy moving near-record volumes of cargo.” U.S. ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 2.11 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units — one 20-foot container or its equivalent — in February, the latest month for which final numbers are available. That was down 2.3% from January but up 13% yearover-year. Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said volumes remained high in February despite factories in parts of Asia closing

STREET TALK for the Lunar New Year holiday because U.S. ports were able to handle cargo from ships already waiting for a berth. “With West Coast ports still congested, there were still plenty of containers to be unloaded,” Hackett said. Similarly, the current near-shutdown of Shanghai because of COVID-19 precautions means fewer ships are leaving China and “the wait on that side of the Pacific will help reduce the pressure of vessel arrivals at Los Angeles-area terminals.” He said an influx of vessel arrivals following the resumption of normal operations in China could result in renewed congestion at U.S. ports, however. Ports have not yet reported March numbers, but Global Port Tracker projected the month at 2.27 million TEU, unchanged from the same month last year. April is forecast at 2.13 million TEU, down 1.1% from last year, and May at 2.21 million TEU, down 5.3% year-over-year. Increases are expected to resume in June, which is forecast at 2.26 million TEU, up 5.2% year-over-year. July is forecast at 2.32 million TEU, up 5.6%, and August at 2.35 million TEU, a 3.3% year-over-year increase that would set a new record for the number of containers imported in a single month since NRF began tracking imports in 2002. The current record is 2.33 million TEU in May 2021. The first six months of 2022 are expected to total 13.1 million TEU, up 2.5% year-over-year. Imports for all of 2021 totaled 25.8 million TEU, a 17.4% increase over 2020’s previous annual record of 22 million TEU.


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