Grand Rapids Business Journal 04.13.20

Page 1

Photo entrepreneur looks to the future with loan. Page 2

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

Davenport enters a virtual world. Page 3 APRIL 13, 2020 VOL. 38, NO. 15


POOLE BUILDS ON EDUCATION Former Waste Management president now runs 60 Fusion Academies across the country. Page 8

Manufacturers answer the call Small and large West Michigan makers spring into action to produce critical medical supplies during the pandemic. Rachel Watson

Grand Rapids Business Journal

Forward looking DDA budget aligns with GR Forward plan and includes funds for river work, disability efforts and street spaces among planned projects. PAGE 3

Tower on hold The 24-story City Tower project downtown is in a holding pattern amid COVID-19. PAGE 3

West Michigan manufacturers are playing a firsthand role in an emergency production effort reminiscent of the mass mobilization that took place during World War II. Even before the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced grants that would help businesses pivot to address the shortage of health care supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, dozens of manufacturers in the region had already stepped up to the plate. Over a dozen of these West Michigan companies — many of which were not previously suppliers for medical markets — have been in touch with the Business Journal in the past two weeks to share the ways in which they are reconfiguring their teams and shop floors to develop and produce solutions for health

Rachel Watson

Grand Rapids Business Journal



The area’s top mergers and acquisitions firms. Page 4 The area’s fastest growing companies. Page 6

DOZENS OF STEELCASE employees have shifted to making personal protective equipment, including face masks, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy Steelcase

isolation rooms, minimizing airborne contagions from entering hallways and corridors to protect clinicians and other patients. •Nuvar in Holland is manufacturing medical masks, producing more than 3,000 in the first week. •JR Automation in Holland worked with General Motors to

build a mask assembly line in metro Detroit in just six days. •The logistics team at Inontime in Zeeland delivered sneeze guards to all 248 Meijer stores in the U.S. •Primera Plastics in Zeeland is making disposable face shields. Continued on page 8 8

CARES Act guidance for small businesses Hackers Attorney shares zoom in details of first wave of resources as nation on COVID waits for additional stimulus funds.

RUBBER MEETS ROAD West Michigan freight company rolls through trucking industry’s recession.

care professionals and others during this crisis. A partial list of area businesses that have joined the fight against COVID-19 is as follows: •Laird Plastics in Kentwood is working with the State Emergency Operation Center (a joint operations center of Homeland Security and the Michigan State Police) to provide 100,000 protective face shields. •2Gen Manufacturing, an injection molding company that opened last fall in Grand Rapids, is now producing eye protection frames and sample first parts on a mold to make a face mask. •Atlanta-based G95 is now making the Bioshield mask at the Ladder 34 facility where it does production in Cascade Township. •The ReChaco sandal repair factory in Rockford is producing masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) on its sewing machines. •Stryker in Kalamazoo just rolled out a low-cost emergency response bed that is designed to accommodate the unique needs of COVID-19 patients. •Altus in Walker is making mobile ventilator and telemedicine carts. •Cascade Township-based Clean Rooms International reconfigured stock HEPA filters to create a new product that allows hospitals to convert standard patient rooms to

A local attorney recently shared guidance on the resources available for small businesses in the CARES Act stimulus package and recommended entrepreneurs keep a close eye on the news and consult their legal counsel as further assistance potentially emerges. Matt Johnson — an attorney and partner with Grand Rapidsbased Warner Norcross + Judd who represents closely held and family-owned businesses and chairs the firm’s business practice group — spoke to the Business Journal April 6 on aspects of the CARES Act designed to address the needs of small businesses and entrepreneurs during the COV-

ID-19 pandemic. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that was signed into law March 27 includes two divisions. Division A includes programs to benefit individuals, companies and the health care system affected by COVID-19. Division B describes the supplemental appropriations to help the government respond to COVID-19. Title I of Division A, called the Keeping American Workers Paid and Employed Act, includes the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Disaster Loan Program, SBA Express Loan Program, Entrepreneurial Development Programs and State Trade Expansion Program. Johnson cited a CARES Act summary pubJohnson lished by Warner Norcross on March 29 that noted the PPP amended the Small Business Act

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CONTENTS Vol. 38, No. 15

© Entire contents copyright 2020 by Gemini Media. All rights reserved.

to create a program that runs Feb. 15 to June 30, 2020, in which the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) may provide, directly or in cooperation with banks, 100% federally backed loans of up to $10 million, forgivable if used for certain expenses, to eligible businesses out of a $350 billion fund. According to the Warner Norcross summary, the loans “will not require security or a guarantee, will not require that an applicant be unable to obtain financial assistance elsewhere, and the SBA is waiving all loan application fees for borrowers.” Regarding eligibility for loan forgiveness, according to an interim final rule the SBA issued on the PPP on April 2, the loans are forgivable if 75% of the approved amount is used by the business for payroll. The remaining 25% may be used for rent, utilities and mortgages during the eight weeks after origination of the loan. The amount forgiven will not be included in gross income for tax

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Inside Track............9

Change-Ups.......... 12

Guest Columns....10 Other side of COVID

Calendar................ 12 Public Record....... 13 Street Talk ............14

Teleconferencing platforms are not immune to disruptions, but there are steps you can take. Ehren Wynder

Grand Rapids Business Journal

During the COVID-19 pandemic, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order for residents to “Stay Home, Stay Safe,” many residents and essential businesses have turned to teleconferencing platforms like Zoom to stay connected, but according to FBI statistics, there has been a rise in teleconference hackings across the U.S. The state of Michigan has seen Continued on page 11 8

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Photo entrepreneur looks to the future with loan Dreams by Bella founder will use racial equity funding for business planning and COVID-19 survival. Rachel Watson

Grand Rapids Business Journal

Isabel Lopez-Slattery started her photography business during college when she was having a difficult time finding work due to her then-undocumented status. Now a U.S. citizen, Lopez-Slattery has kept Grand Rapids-based Dreams by Bella Photography growing for almost a decade and is still passionate about her work as an entrepreneur and a creative. Dreams by Bella is a photography studio specializing in commercial photography and related services for websites, marketing materials and more for a wide range of corporate and organizational clients. Lopez- Slattery and her one employee serve Lopezclients ranging Slattery from magazine companies and trade associations to colleges and corporations. Local clients have included Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Eastern Floral, Steelcase and more.

THIS PHOTO OF the Grand River downtown is an example of Isabel Lopez-Slattery’s work. Courtesy Isabel Lopez-Slattery

She was working on expanding into commercial and residential real estate photography when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shut down most nonessential businesses in response to the spread of the coronavirus, her clients canceled events and photo shoots en masse. “On a scale of one to 10, I was affected almost a nine, I would say,” Lopez-Slattery said. “But it has also given me an opportunity to sit down and see how (I) can

also reinvent (myself ) in a time like this.” Lopez-Slattery is brainstorming ways to swing temporarily toward the product photography side of her business. She said she believes businesses that are currently depending on online traffic to shore up sales during the pandemic need to take branding and product photography seriously to provide accurate and appealing visuals for customers. Thankfully, Lopez-Slattery landed a racial equity loan from

Rende Progress Capital (RPC) the last week of March, and she said the funds will be immensely helpful in getting her through this time. RPC — co-founded by Eric Foster and Cuong Huynh to issue loans to excluded entrepreneurs facing barriers to conventional lending due to racial bias and other market factors — approved a loan for an undisclosed sum to Dreams by Bella, which the lending firm said at the time would allow Lopez-Slattery to acquire new

photography equipment, boost its marketing services, support staffing and operations, and potentially fund renovations for an expanded studio/office. Lopez-Slattery said she was hoping to put some of the loan toward hiring another employee, but plans have changed now. “For me, (receiving the news) was a not only very happy but a very blessed moment because of how my business has been affected right now. This is going to help me not only to innovate, because my business plan when I applied for a loan was very different, but modify and make adjustments to take it to the end of the year and continue being in business,” she said. “That’s a conversation that a lot of local businesses and entrepreneurs are having. … We’re trying to find ways of saying, ‘OK, how are we going to make the right decisions and go to the right resources to survive?’” Foster, who also is chair and managing director of RPC in addition to co-founder, said RPC’s loan to Dreams by Bella was based on “positive social impact factors of the business, bias the customer faced from traditional lenders during loan consideration processes and RPC racial equity criteria.” “On behalf of the RPC loan committee, my colleague and co-founder Cuong Huynh and our staff, we are pleased to have Dreams by Bella as a new customer,” he said. “We considered this business based on fundamentals, client base, market expansion planning and a commitment to diverse staff. We also note that Ms. Lopez-Slattery’s business has management and financial qualiContinued on page 88

March sees highest job losses in 11 years, Page 4 APRIL 13, 2020 GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL 3

Davenport enters a virtual world University one of few in the country offering VirBELA, a platform that simulates the campus, classrooms and classmates. Danielle Nelson

Grand Rapids Business Journal

With the cancelation of in-person classes, educational institutions now have to completely rely on online learning, but one local university is trying something new. Davenport University for 20 years has been offering online classes, but for the past year, some of its students have been among just a few in the country who have been using VirBELA, a three-dimensional virtual platform that mirrors a university experience. In conjunction with Blackboard and Collaborate, Davenport has been using VirBELA, which simulates the school campus, classrooms and classmates. Students are represented by a customized avatar that can teleport around on campus, walk into classrooms and talk to classmates who also are represented by avatars. The software also allows students to use sticky notes, TVs to display a slide presentation and privacy zones that give users a safe space to interact. Brian Miller, dean of the global campus for Davenport, said by deploying a virtual world like VirBELA, it gives people a sense of space

and a sense of permanence. “By that I mean, the virtual world has rooms and offices and things that clue us in as humans on how we should be interacting with each other,” he said.” For instance, if you walk into a room and you see two people at a desk, having a conversation, you know that they are doing something that you shouldn’t just barge in and start talking because you see two people in a room talking at a desk. If you compare that to a teleconference on a phone or on video, whereas every time someone joins, they say ‘Hello, this is Brian,’ it ruins the entire conversation. I think the virtual world provides virtual clues and virtual cues that that is not appropriate at certain times and it is completely appropriate at certain times. “By sense of permanence, I mean that those same two people sitting in a room having a conversation might put some notes on a whiteboard or put some sticky notes on a wall with some of their thoughts and then they go away for lunch. When they come back, the virtual room is the same as the way they left it. That is much more like how you would treat an office or classroom; you would put notes on a wall, and you would leave it there and when you come back, it would look the same.” Davenport has been using VirBELA as a pilot project for a year to hold team meetings and small group projects. “Both students and staff enjoy the adaptability of the software and the real-life interactions that the software replicates,” said Jeff

DDA budget addresses COVID help Most expenditures will go toward longterm GR Forward goals. Ehren Wynder

Grand Rapids Business Journal

project to bid,” said WDG VP of Marketing Jason Wheeler. “All of our subcontractors are frozen, and we can’t just be forking dollars over to an architect until we know when construction is going to come back online.”

Planned features and uses for the building include 5,215 square feet of ground-floor retail, five floors of parking with approximately 185 spaces, three floors or approximately 44,000 square feet of office space, 10 stories for about

118 apartments and five floors for about 19 condominiums. Wheeler said WDG may ask the city for a deferment on the months of progress lost due to Michigan’s

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority has outlined its budget priorities for the 2021 fiscal year. As in previous years, the budget aligns with GR Forward initiatives, but this year’s narrative includes special funds allocated to fight the spread of COVID-19. Among the requests for FY2021 is funding to implement the recommendations from a number of completed and soon-to-be-completed planning projects, including the ongoing Grand River governance organizing initiative, the River for All design guidelines, the Disability Advocates of Kent County and its common notice report, and the downtown street space guidelines. Additional funding also was recommended to complete and initiate major capital improvements to downtown public spaces, including Ecliptic at Rosa Parks Circle and the Van Andel Arena Plaza. Carry-forward priorities from previous years include completing strategic planning for Areas 7, 8 and 9 parking zones, finalizing implementation of improved downtown transit shelters, continued funding to support retail businesses and completing installation of a public restroom in the Heartside neighborhood. For FY2021 the DDA budget, which includes the local tax increment fund, non-tax increment fund and school tax increment fund, consists of both new projects from GR Forward and carry-forward priorities that span multiple fiscal years. With the approval of GR Forward in December 2015 as an amendment to the city’s master plan, the DDA and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. have specific objectives and the proposed budgets are built around each GR Forward goal. The breakdown by GR Forward goal from both the local tax increment and non-tax increment budgets is as follows: •Goal 1 (restore the river as the draw): $1,775,000 •Goal 2 (create a true downtown neighborhood home to a diverse population) $1,615,000 •Goal 3 (21st century mobility strategy): $2,880,000 •Goal 4 (ensure job opportunities and ensure vitality of the local economy) $1,485,000 •Goal 5 (reinvest in public space, culture and inclusive programming): $3,540,000 According DDA documents, the FY2021 local tax increment budget has a total projected rev-

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THE VIRBELA PLATFORM keeps “rooms” looking the same even after students exit so they can come back to their work later. Virtual video courtesy Davenport University

Wiggerman, Davenport’s director of instructional technology and delivery systems. “Even after leaving the software, the virtual space persists just as it would in a physical setting — providing our online students, staff and faculty with a sense of place and community.” Miller said the university will be expanding the use of the software platform to conduct health courses starting on May 6. It will be used for the online bachelor’s in health information management degree program. Miller said officials decided to implement the software for College of Health

courses about three months ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic. “The reason why we were looking at the College of Health as a good place to try this out is because those students are going into careers where they are providing medical care and medical support,” he said. “We have nursing and other College of Health profession degrees where those social skills we are trying to build with this tool are extremely important. They are important in other degrees, but they are directly, perhaps, more important to those specific degrees.”

COVID throws a wrench in City Tower Other Wheeler Development Group projects are on hold as state sorts out construction rules. Ehren Wynder

Grand Rapids Business Journal

The 24-story City Tower promised to be Wheeler Development Group’s next flagship project, but now COVID-19 and the ensuing shelter-in-place order for the state of Michigan has put the project on ice as the developers examine the next steps. The city of Grand Rapids earlier this year entered a one-year agreement with Wheeler Development Group to conduct due diligence and negotiate a development agreement for the build site at 22 Ottawa Ave. NW in Grand Rapids, but with COVID-19 putting a stranglehold on contractors and architects, it looks like the process may take longer than expected. “We were finalizing preconstruction, working with architects and engineers, so we can put that

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THE HANOVER TOWNHOME project in Caledonia has about 48 completed units, with five occupied and another three scheduled to move in over the next month. Courtesy WDG TM


March sees highest job losses in 11 years BLS report indicates leisure/hospitality was hardest-hit sector followed by declines in all major industries. Rachel Watson

Grand Rapids Business Journal

March was the worst month for unemployment claims since the Great Recession, and the scale of job losses in April is projected to be “unprecedented,” economists say. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its March jobs report on April 3, and the unemployment rate rose to 4.4%. Commenting on the report, PNC Chief Economist Augustine Faucher noted this was the first month of job losses since September 2010 and the biggest month of job losses in exactly 11 years. “The hit to the U.S. labor market in March from the viral recession was far larger than expected,” he said. “(Total nonfarm) employment fell by 701,000, according to the (BLS) survey of employers, compared to the consensus estimate of losses of around 100,000.” In the prior 12 months, nonfarm employment growth had averaged 196,000 per month. The changes reflect the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts to contain it. Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000 jobs, mainly in food and beverage establishments, the BLS said. Notable declines also occurred in health care and social assis-

tance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction, although “most major industries lost jobs over the month,” Faucher said. The jump in the unemployment rate was a 0.9-percentage point rise, up from 3.5% in February. This represents the highest unemployment rate since August 2017 and the biggest one-month increase in the unemployment rate since 1949, Faucher said. The report presents statistics from two monthly surveys: The household survey (conducted March 8-14) measured labor force status, including unemployment, by demographic characteristics. The establishment survey (pertaining to the pay period that includes March 12) measured nonfarm employment, hours and earnings by industry. As the March survey reference periods for both surveys predated many coronavirus-related business and school closures that occurred in the second half of the month — including Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order on March 23 — April numbers are expected to be much higher. “As bad as the March job report was, April’s will be much, much worse,” Faucher said. “Unemployment insurance claims were somewhat higher (the week of March 8) but were up more than elevenfold the next week and doubled the week after that, indicating that staggering job losses will be reported next month. “The stimulus bill may help somewhat, but the scale of job losses in April will be unprecedented.”

IN MARCH, EMPLOYMENT in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000. Most of the decline occurred in food services and drinking places (-417,000); this employment decline nearly offset gains over the previous two years. Photo by iStock

Kurt Rankin, vice president and economist for PNC, said the bank is forecasting a two-quarter recession (Q1 and Q2, 2020), with a rebound beginning in Q3 that gets stronger in Q4. But this is dependent on the normal pace of economic activity resuming throughout May and June, and it’s hard to say whether this will happen based on the current medical realities, he said. “May is likely to be slow at best, as caution reigns. I would say June is a safer assumption as far as when even the potential for normal activity could resume,” Rankin said. “But that’s a best-case scenario that assumes that all the fiscal programs that have been passed go into effect — unemployment insurance benefits, the checks that will be going out to households,

the $349 billion loan facility that will keep businesses from collapsing — and then the biggest assumption of all is that some sort of medical resolution is established and the all clear is sounded that people actually can get out and go back to work and go back to spending money.” Rankin said the April jobs report will likely be an amplified version of the March report, with primarily the same industries seeing a continuing high number of unemployment claims. “Anything that’s face-to-face services will be hard hit: the restaurant, leisure and hospitality industries; construction, to some degree transportation because there’s less demand for goods, so maybe that industry — warehousing/transportation — will be harder hit in April than one would

expect it in March,” he said. “Professional business services is most likely where you’ll see the work-from-home opportunities, so that should see relatively less damage, but we’ll still likely see job losses in that category because not everyone has the option to work from home, and even businesses that do have that option may have to scale back given demand has collapsed. “Manufacturing is another industry where we would continue to expect to see losses given that demand for the goods being produced is down. Autos, for example, plummeted at 10 million units on an annualized basis. That’s almost cut in half. Anything that relies on discretionary spending, the manufacture of anything Continued on page 138

Top Area Mergers and Acquisitions Firms (RANKED BY NUMBER OF TRANSACTIONS COMPLETED IN 2019) Top W. Mich executive

No. of transactions completed in 2019

2019 2018 total W. Mich. revenue


No. of W. Mich. employees

Industries served


Calder Capital LLC 5088 Corporate Exchange Blvd. SE Grand Rapids 49412 p (616) 965-2771

Max Friar


$1.95M $1.34M


Manufacturing, distribution, service, technology


NuVescor 5445 32nd Ave. Hudsonville 49426 p (616) 379-4045

Randy Rua


$1.7M $1.7M



Michael Greengard


$420,000 $570,000


Manufacturing, disribution, service

Praxis Business Brokers 529 32nd St. SE Grand Rapids 49548 p (616) 588-4640 f 825-5984

BlueWater Partners 146 Monroe Center St. NW Grand Rapids 49503 p (616) 988-9444

Snyder Partners Inc. 5550 Whispering Timbers SE Grand Rapids 49512 p (616) 889-8974

Matthew Miller










Intellinetics, a cloudbased document solutions provider, recently acquired Mason Heightsbased Graphic Sciences as a wholly owned subsidiary. NuVescor represented Graphic Sciences.

Joining the team

Calder Capital added Shane Kissack to its staff. He is a merger and acquisition adviser for Calder’s sell-side services for middle market clients in northern Illinois and southeast Wisconsin.

ListStore @

Download this list now at in Excel or PDF format. The Business Journal's list of 2020 top area mergers and acquisitions firms, ranked by number of transactions completed in 2019 in West Michigan, is the most comprehensive available. The Business Journal defines "West Michigan" as Allegan, Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties. The Business Journal surveyed 14 firms; 5 returned surveys, 5 are listed. To be considered for future lists, email DND = Did not disclose

The Book of Lists and other lists are also available.


State fuels education attainment program with grant funding Michigan Reconnect’s goal is 60% of residents with certifications or degrees within 10 years. Danielle Nelson

Grand Rapids Business Journal

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is one step closer to a goal she laid out for Michigan last year. In her 2019 State of the State address, Whitmer put forth a goal of increasing the number of Michigan residents with postsecondary certifications or degrees to 60% by 2030 through Michigan Reconnect and other options, which aims to “provide tuition-free pathway to an in-demand industry certificate or associate degree for residents aged 25 and older.” Earlier this month, Whitmer signed the legislation to create the Michigan Reconnect Grant Program.

the specific credentials students could pursue such as certificates and associate degrees. Twenty-seven percent of GRCC student body members who are degree-seeking students are 25 or older. For the non-credit workforce training programs, the number is much higher, with almost 60% being 25 or older. In addition to earning a certificate or associate degree, GRCC partners with universities, which makes it easier for students to transfer to four-year schools. Some of those partners include Grand Valley State University, Western Michigan University, Ferris State University and Davenport University.

“I believe community colleges will play a strong role and a significant role in this Michigan Reconnect Grant Program,” Pink said. “As community colleges, we have the history of our education and training process that I think gives us the accountability to not only be the choice entity to vet that education, but also to be the primary deliverer of that education and, I believe, from what I have seen, our governor and legislators hear that in regards to the important and significant roles community colleges can play in making sure that these opportunities for our Michiganders truly happen in an education setting.”

NONTRADITIONAL STUDENTS such as Lori Eastman, who graduated from GRCC in 2018, are the type of people who can benefit most from Michigan Reconnect. Courtesy GRCC Communications

“...we’ve had some really good opportunities to have a voice at those tables and that has been helpful.” Bill Pink

“The bipartisan Michigan Reconnect program will connect thousands of Michiganders to good-paying jobs and connect businesses with the talent they need to thrive in their communities,” she said. “I’m proud of the hard work that has gone into this bill package and look forward to continue working with the legislature to reach our goal of 60% of Michiganders with a postsecondary degree by 2030.” Now that the legislation is signed, the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity is responsible for establishing Michigan Reconnect, which will provide grants and scholarships to adults seeking a postsecondary education. There also is a lastpayer scholarship program established for eligible students to attain a Pell-eligible associate degree or industry-recognized certificate or credential. Changes were made to the School Aid Act to revise the distribution of funds under the tuition incentive program. There also are exceptions to the general requirement that institutions must ensure all known available restricted grants for tuition and fees are used prior to billing the Tuition Incentive Program. Before the governor rolled out her plan for Michigan Reconnect in January of last year, presidents from community colleges across the state had the opportunity to meet with the governor and legislators to share ideas and have input in refining and crafting the bills that will create the program. One of those community college leaders was Bill Pink, president of Grand Rapids Community College. “The governor and her staff have been very good at having an ear to our community colleges across the state in terms of helping to refine and better shape this bill,” he said. “I have had several conversations with our local legislators about various things to do with the bill. So, between the governor presenting it and the legislators vetting it, we’ve had some really good opportunities to have a voice at those tables and that has been helpful.” Pink said he really liked seeing

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Title company adapts to social distancing rules Transnation is finishing deals in the pipeline but wonders what’s next for real estate industry. Ehren Wynder

Grand Rapids Business Journal

Title companies still are closing deals even though COVID-19 has slowed real estate transactions to a crawl. Transnation Title Agency, a Michigan real estate closing and title agency with offices in Grand Rapids, said it is adapting the real estate closing experience to ensure consumers can continue to buy and sell homes or refinance their mortgage during the evolving health crisis. “We’ve been deemed an essential service during this pandemic and we certainly believe helping local homeowners close on their new homes or refinance their mortgage is an essential part of our community,” said Thomas Olson, CEO of Transnation Title Agency. “Many of these homeowners already selected new paint Continued on page 138

Freight company rolls through trucking recession Diversification is key to Fifth Wheel Freight’s continued success. Danielle Nelson

Grand Rapids Business Journal

The trucking industry has experienced a wave of ups and downs during the last two years, but despite that, one freight company has been weathering the storm. According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), 71% of all freight tonnage in the U.S. moves by trucks. If the trucking industry experiences a downturn, the freight industry follows. ATA’s advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased by 6.6% in 2018. In 2019, the American Trucking Association’s advanced seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index increased only 3.3%. Brian Bennett, CEO of Fifth Wheel Freight, said there has been a 14-month recession in the freight industry, but despite that, the company registered 43% growth last year. How does that happen? Bennett credits Fifth Wheel’s diversification. “Our company is very well diversified,” he said. “We are in the food and beverage, nursery, industrial, manufacturing, steel, metals, plastics and automotive sectors. We have a very diversified book of business, intentionally, to try to protect us from downturns like this.” Bennett said the firm has about 1,200 clients, with the majority of them in the Midwest. The freight company delivers products and goods nationally and internation-

FIFTH WHEEL FREIGHT’S diversified customer portfolio has proved essential during a downturn in the industry. Courtesy FWF Carrier Partner

ally, including to Mexico and Canada. With the increase in growth in 2018 and the decline in growth in 2019, Bennett said overall the two years were a push. “2018 was an anomaly in the trucking industry; it was an excellent year,” he said. “You had taxes that helped major corporations, which allowed those companies to reinvest. In 2019, we had a freight recession as a result of the surge in volume from the year before. So, 2019 was somewhat misleading. We had 14 consecutive months of negative growth because 2018 was so stellar. They essentially balanced each other out.” The growth in 2018 arose from a series of events, including the escalating tariffs between the U.S. and China, and between the U.S., Mexico and Canada on a variety of imports such as food products, steel and aluminum. It resulted in an upturn in the freight industry

because goods were cheaper for buyers, which caused deliveries to soar. “In 2018, volumes surged because businesses were stocking up inventory ahead of the tariffs,” he said. “These companies were increasing their inventory levels as much as possible because they were getting, essentially, discounted prices ahead of the 2019 tariffs. This resulted in a depletion of these inventory levels in 2019, which led to volumes decreasing. You saw a little bit of a business shift between the two years.” Coming into this year, Bennett said Fifth Wheel was on pace to deliver to between 90 million and 95 million businesses. COVID-19 will pull that expectation down, he said. “We have been in a freight recession for well over a year and we have still been able to scale and grow our business and add jobs while fighting these challenges,”

he said. “COVID-19 is on a different level, but due to our diversification and not relying on one sector, we’ve been able to push through new challenges over the last 14 months and we’ve positioned ourselves to weather this storm, as well.” Bennett said growth is measured by opportunities the company can provide to customers. “We try to bring opportunities to West Michigan,” he said. “We started in Lansing and moved to West Michigan — Grand Rapids — a few years ago with the mindset of growth and opportunities for the people who represent West Michigan. That is how we gauge our business first and foremost, by the opportunities we are able to offer. We gauge the growth of our company in two ways. One, we want to create opportunities and, two, we want to see the continued growth in market share. If those two line up, then we are doing pretty well.”

Fastest Growing Companies (RANKED BY 2019 PERCENTAGE RATE OF GROWTH) Top W. Mich. executive(s)

Year founded

2019 2017 percentage rate of growth in W. Mich.

Goals No. of employees

Services offered


SHEFIT 4400 Central Pkwy. Hudsonville 49426 p (616) 209-7003

Sara Moylan Robert Moylan


227% 235%


Women's athletic gear, personalized bra fittings


Fifth Wheel Freight LLC 4460 44th St. SE, Suite D Kentwood 49512 p (616) 965-1315 f 288-9673

Reese Van Heck Grace Sharkey Josh Brawley Nicholas Tazzioli


43% 84%


Logistics consulting, transportation services, capacity fulfillment, supply chain solutions


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In an effort to promote sustainability, The Gluten Free Bar diverted 91.2% of its waste from landfills in January. The business diverted 92.2% of its waste from landfills in February. The Gluten Free Bar’s goal is 90%.

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MMA leader steps up education, advocacy during COVID-19 Amid crisis, John Walsh says he is working to match 1,600 member employers with resources for survival. Rachel Watson

Grand Rapids Business Journal

When John Walsh became president and CEO of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, his vision was to build a new memberdriven strategic plan and expand the association’s insurance offerings — but like leaders everywhere, he switched to damage control mode when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Walsh succeeded Chuck Hadden in January as the leader of MMA, a Lansing-based statewide manufacturing association that strives to secure “a prosperous future for Michigan manufacturers” through government relations/ advocacy, education and business services. The organization, which was established in 1902, has about 1,600 member companies ranging from small manufacturers to large corporations in the automotive, aerospace, health care, food and agriculture, and apparel industries, to name a few. “We tilt toward automotive, because that’s a part of our legacy here in the state, but we cover every segment,” Walsh said. He said when the COVID-19 outbreak first reached Michigan, prior to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s March 23 “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, his organization began stepping up its education,

connecting with manufacturers of all sizes to help them understand how to maintain a safe and clean atmosphere. Recommendations and outreach at the time centered around how to conduct worker health screenings, whether through the use of thermal imaging tents outside facilities or handheld oral thermometers, depending on the employer’s size and resources; how to thoroughly clean work stations multiple times a day; and how to implement social distancing and other safety measures that were being recommended to combat the spread of COVID-19. As the virus spread and the need for drastic measures became clearer, MMA shifted to communicating with the governor about writing an executive order that would Walsh still allow critical manufacturers to continue operating. “Thankfully, we had the opportunity to work with the Whitmer administration and exchange a variety of ideas, because there are segments of manufacturing that are essential — food for instance, you want to make sure food continues to be produced and delivered. Transportation is critical. People will still need their cars to get to the grocery store, or to pick up medicine or go to the doctor,” Walsh said. “We reached a very good understanding with the administration, and they left a fair amount of room for manufacturers to make informed decisions on whether or not they should close, balancing public safety and the need to provide services that are essential.”

After the stay-at-home order was issued, MMA then shifted its advocacy to the question of funding assistance for employers and employees at the state and federal levels, so “when we get through this, businesses can reopen,” Walsh said. Once the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed, with $2 trillion in aid for businesses and households, Walsh said MMA shifted back to education mode, using phone calls, video and other virtual technologies to provide “as much education as possible directly and indirectly to our members about how to make their inquiries and apply for the benefits that come from the CARES package.” This includes helping companies communicate the most current information to their employees about filing for unemployment benefits, such as asking some people to do it in the evening to ease the load on the system, for example. In addition to continuing education and advocacy efforts, MMA had by the first week of April identified almost 300 member companies not connected to the medical industry that were nevertheless willing to help answer the demand for producing critical health care supplies. At press time, MMA was in the process of helping to vet which member employers could be eligible to apply for and receive $10,000 to $150,000 apiece through the Pure Michigan Business Connect COVID-19 Emergency Access and Retooling Grants program announced April 1. The program is providing a total of $1 million to assist small companies that can “quickly and effectively” manufacture critical health and human service supplies. Not everyone can retool quickly

JOHN WALSH, MMA PRESIDENT and CEO, said at least 300 member firms offered to retool lines or provide other services to help with the COVID-19 crisis during the first week of April. Photo by iStock

enough, but Walsh said he has been stunned by the offers of help. “Some would write and say, ‘I understand you need help. I’m not sure if I can tool fast enough, but I have a shift I had to lay off, so I have manpower. Do you need manpower?’ or somebody might write and say, ‘I have trucks; I could help move things around.’ So, the outpouring has been fantastic,” he said. “But we’re getting down to a list of people that actually can provide sewing capacity to make hospital gowns, and the number of folks that can convert to making both the face mask and the shield — those are coming online fairly quickly. And then the largest of our members, they’re doing it directly, and we’ve got Ford and GM and Chrysler each

pursuing their own efforts on more sophisticated items like ventilators and respirators.” Walsh said businesses should feel free to reach out to MMA with thoughts and ideas. “We are really proud to be doing all that we can for our members and for the state. Even if it’s not a member, but they come to our attention that they might have something that the state is in need of, we’re glad to work with them,” he said. He added a crisis like this shows what Michigan is made of, and it’s been refreshing to see the spirit of helping that has emerged. “There’s a lot of folks cooperContinued on page 138

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4/3/2020 11:44:00 AM


Manufacturing community answers the COVID call 7 Continued from page 1 •Holland startup SolisMatica is mobilizing owners of 3D printers statewide to make face shields, masks and ventilator parts. As of April 7, 296 3D printers had produced 5,772 visors for 101 requesting organizations. •Hybrid Machining Inc. in Holland has become a pickup and drop-off point for face masks and is running its machines nonstop to produce more face masks and COVID-19 test swabs. •Hemco Gage in Holland is producing precision metrology tools for manufacturers making or tooling up to manufacture PPE, ventilators, respirators, hospital beds and more. •Herman Miller is reconfiguring its Greenhouse seating production facility in Zeeland and its Hickory Plant in Spring Lake to make, assemble and ship face masks and other PPE. •Die-Tech & Engineering in Wyoming is building dies for companies that will then make parts for ventilators. •Steelcase is using its plants, model shop and innovation center in Grand Rapids to produce isolation masks and face shields as well as sharing patterns developed in partnership with health systems that will allow anyone with a sewing machine to make masks. On April 1, the MEDC announced it was launching the Pure Michigan Business Connect COVID-19 Emergency Access and Retooling Grants program, which will provide a total of $1 million in grants ranging from $10,000-$150,000 apiece for small manufacturers that are retooling to provide PPE “quickly” in re-

sponse to COVID-19. John Walsh, president and CEO of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, said April 3 his organization had identified about 300 of its 1,600 member companies that were willing to help make PPE. MMA was at the time vetting businesses on that list to determine which ones would be eligible to apply for retooling grants. Meanwhile, the manufacturers in the above list are continuing to execute on their PPE or other COVID-19-related supply projects. Bill Berry, president and CEO of Die-Tech & Engineering, said April 6 his company — which makes dies and molds for OEMs in various industries — was redirecting its nearly 50-person workforce to build about nine dies for Minneapolis-based Twin City Die Castings that the latter company will use to make a dozen different parts — including pistons — that will be shipped to Seattle-based Ventec Life Systems and Detroitbased General Motors for use in ventilator production. According to episode 987 of NPR’s Planet Money podcast, “The Race to Make Ventilators,” Todd Olson, CEO of Twin City Die Castings, needed more dies — stat — to scale up casting of metal parts for Ventec and GM, which had formed a partnership to produce upwards of 20,000 ventilators a month for hospitals around the world. Die-Tech, an existing supplier of Twin City, was able to help Twin City modify its parts so they could be built in high volumes and then committed to producing the number of dies needed in about half the time Twin City requested — two-and-a-half to three weeks at

one location instead of five weeks via multiple tool and die suppliers. At press time, Die-Tech was two weeks into the job and had already shipped six of the nine planned dies to Twin City. “We were able to deliver the first tooling in four-and-a-half days,” Berry said. The Planet Money episode noted this was possible by Die-Tech pulling in all of its engineers — “all hands on deck” — to work over that weekend. Berry said he is glad to be part of this effort. “If they can ramp up all the other parts, there’s a chance this will save thousands of people,” he said. James Ludwig, vice president of global design and engineering at Steelcase, said on April 6 that conversations surrounding how his company could help in the fight against COVID-19 began about four weeks ago after a call from its customer Spectrum Health, which was looking for a solution to help protect workers in the emergency room and check-in areas from folks who were coming in to be tested for suspected cases of COVID-19. Steelcase “rapidly” jumped in to help create and supply barriers, and then also added production of PPE such as face shields and masks. Ludwig said every time Steelcase makes a new product, there’s a reconfiguration that happens, and this was no different. “I kind of jokingly have said the way you make a mask is the way you make a seat cushion,” he said. “We’re virtually making a small seat cushion cover: it’s taking fabric, it’s creating a pattern (and) it’s sewing it out of materials that

we’re familiar with in methods that we have within our system. The concept of sewing something like this wasn’t completely foreign to us.” While continuing to fill other orders for essential businesses, Steelcase shifted dozens of workers to its critical medical supply effort and had produced and donated 20,000 facial shields and 10,000 masks as of press time. Ludwig said the company has the capacity to produce 8,000 masks and 13,000 to 14,000 shields per week for donation. Although the first wave of screens it produced were donations, Steelcase is looking for other markets in which to sell the screens, with the ability to produce up to 1,000 units per week. Ludwig said the work is “personal” for Steelcase. “There’s not a single person I know of (who) doesn’t have a neighbor, an aunt, a spouse that’s somehow affected either in the medical community or who is under threat of getting ill,” he said. “We felt that despite being a global company, our roots are here in West Michigan, and that made it very easy to start these conversations.” He said Steelcase is currently having conversations in its product development spheres about what work will be like in the postCOVID world, both in the health care space and in other segments, and the company is looking to ideate products that will meet those future needs. John Miller, dimensional engineering manager, and engineer Jonathan Wigger, at Herman Miller, spoke to the Business Journal April 7 about Herman Miller’s CO-

VID-19 response. Although the company initially said on March 23 after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order that it was shutting down all West Michigan manufacturing operations through April 13, Herman Miller subsequently resumed some production to fill government and health care contracts. On top of that, Herman Miller also got a call from Stryker asking if it could produce mattress covers for the new emergency response bed the medical device maker was rolling out. Although that partnership didn’t come to fruition, Herman Miller kept working on other ideas in response to critical supply needs, including the production of masks for Holland Hospital. Using a fraction of the workers from its normal production team — about 20 to 30 who are there by choice and not mandated — and putting in place social distancing practices or plexiglass barriers for the few cases in which workers have to be closer together than 6 feet, Herman Miller is now cutting and sewing the masks in its Greenhouse seating operation and also is making masks at its Hickory plant in Spring Lake. Production was ramping up in the past week and Wigger said he expects the plants will eventually be able to produce “thousands” of masks per day. Herman Miller also is standing by ready to make hospital gowns, depending on demand, and it also has a team working on 3D-printed face shields. “Things are happening very quickly in this new environment,” Miller said. “The asks are coming in daily.”

Photo entrepreneur looks CARES Act guidance for small businesses to the future with loan 7 Continued from page 1

7 Continued from page 2 ties that should have put her in consideration of a bank loan in the first place. “Ms. Lopez-Slattery did not stop in spite of competition, bias and social barriers. She faced many. … RPC does not just value this journey; we made it a part of our loan decision.” Lopez-Slattery said she started trying to receive conventional funding in 2016 for better photography equipment as well as for a mortgage loan, and she was denied for both by several banks, which told her she had not been in business long enough to show proof of a consistent income. “They would tell me, ‘OK, come back next year’ and ‘Come back next year,’ which I did for two years in a row, and so I kind of got sick of it,” she said. She said the process for applying for a loan from RPC was much easier than with a traditional bank because the loan committee worked with her every step of the way on what paperwork and documentation she needed and was there to answer all of her questions. “They were so helpful. … There was a personal aspect to it, and I was very happy about that,” she said. “To have somebody who can walk you through a process that is so complex like this and really care for you to submit the right things and constantly keep in communication with you through the process, it’s amazing. It’s amazing because it makes you feel that you’re listened to, you’re valuable, you do have a contribution … (and) it al-

lows you not only to keep growing as a business but also to encourage other entrepreneurs to give them these resources and have that experience as well.” Lopez-Slattery said she also is looking into small business loans that are available through the state and federal government to help get her business through the year. A “second passion” of hers is to encourage other young entrepreneurs to follow their dreams of becoming a photographer, despite what is happening in the industry right now. She said most people don’t realize the many avenues for photography and how important good images are from a marketing standpoint. “You need a photographer to take photos for your flyers, for portraits, for your website, for (the media). There’s so many areas of photography that are not (traditional). Every time I tell somebody I’m a photographer, they’re like, ‘Oh really? And how many weddings do you shoot?’” She said looking back on her childhood, she realizes now that she always loved photography — taking pictures with a disposable camera and waiting three days to get the film developed — but she never considered it could be a career. “Nobody told me, ‘Hey, you could be a photographer.’ They never looked at it as a profession. My peers always said, ‘Be a doctor, a police officer,’ all these traditional careers. … So, for me, encouraging the next generation (is important).”

purposes. If the funds are used for unauthorized purposes, the borrower will be on the hook for full repayment. Lenders will be able to defer payments on the principal and interest of the loan for six months, the interim final rule said. The interest rate for the loans is set at 1% and will continue to accrue during the deferment period. A summary of the SBA interim guidance on the PPP eligibility is available at jSBAinterimrule, but Johnson cautions the guidance is evolving, and small business proprietors should continue to watch the news for changes and clarifications and stay in contact with their legal counsel about how to proceed. “The federal and state governments are under an extensive burden, and guidance is coming out on a daily basis from the Small Business Administration on the Paycheck Protection Program,” Johnson said. Johnson said another component of Title I, Entrepreneurial Development Programs, could be a boon to small businesses. “The CARES Act provides additional grants and funding to the Small Business Development Centers and Women’s Business Centers to offer education, training, counseling and assistance to small businesses affected by COVID-19,” he said. “The Small Business Administration already makes grants to these centers, and the funding under the CARES Act is additional funding for a specific purpose. Small businesses that can benefit from this funding are small busi-

nesses that experience supply chain disruptions, closures, staffing changes or a decrease in gross receipts or customers due to COVID-19. The SBA may also provide grants to organizations affiliated with a center to establish a centralized hub for COVID-19 information.” He added the CARES Act also empowers the U.S. Department of Commerce, through the Minority Business Development Agency, to provide grants and funding to Minority Business Centers to provide education and training on how to access federal resources.

“The federal and state governments are under an extensive burden, and guidance is coming out on a daily basis from the Small Business Administration on the Paycheck Protection Program.”

Matt Johnson

These funds granted under the CARES Act are to be used for the following education and training purposes: •Accessing and applying for resources provided by the SBA and other federal resources relating to access to capital and business resiliency. •Information on the hazards and prevention of the transmission and communication of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.

•The potential effects of COVID-19 on the supply chains, distribution and sale of products of covered small business concerns and the mitigation of those effects. •The management and practice of telework to reduce possible transmission of COVID-19. •The management and practice of remote customer service by electronic or other means. •The risks of and mitigation of cyber threats in remote customer service or telework practices. •The mitigation of the effects of reduced travel or outside activities on covered small business concerns during COVID-19 or similar occurrences. •Any other relevant business practices necessary to mitigate the economic effects of COVID-19 or similar occurrences. Goals and metrics for these grants under the CARES Act are being jointly developed between the centers and the SBA, Johnson said. He added a framework was expected to be announced any day on Division A, Title IV, Subtitle A of the CARES legislation — the Coronavirus Economic Stabilization Act of 2020, which promised an additional $500 billion in assistance for larger corporations, including air carriers. At press time, the guidance had not yet been issued. Readers can check for updates. Warner Norcross also is continuing to monitor other developments regarding potential additional stimulus funding that was still being considered by Congress at press time. Johnson recommends business proprietors stay in touch with their attorneys to keep tabs on those developments.


JEFF POOLE SPENT a year in California ramping up the company. It was a time he called his “best” professionally and his “hardest” personally. Courtesy Fusion Academy

Former Waste Management president now runs 60 Fusion Academies across the country.

Poole finds satisfaction in private education Ehren Wynder

Grand Rapids Business Journal


hrough a series of twists and turns, Jeff Poole found his way to the world of private education, building Fusion Academy from a small private school in California to 60 schools across the county. A product of the Chicago suburbs, Poole attended Michigan State University, where he received a B.S. in Food Systems Economics and Management and a M.S. in Agriculture Economics. During his freshman year, Poole met his now wife, Julia. At the time she was studying for her master’s degree, which inspired him to do the same. After the two graduated, Poole took a sales job with Dow Chemical, which took his family out to Los Angeles for a year and then sent him back to Chicago, where he originally grew up. “I was in what they called their Industrial Agriculture division,” Poole said. “It worked with lawn care companies and pest control companies and anything you

would call agricultural chemicals, but more of the industrial type of field, not on farms.” After a couple more years with Dow, Poole left and shifted gears to work for Waste Management. At the time, the company began acquiring lawn care and pest control companies. Poole, who already was familiar with many people in the industry from his days at Dow, was well suited to helping WM with its acquisitions. After a few years in acquisitions, Poole got into the operations side of Waste Management, which sent him to various places in Europe, he said. Poole later was tabbed for promotion to Waste Management’s state president for Michigan, which caused his family to finally settle in Grand Rapids. After only six months in his new role, however, Waste Management was sold to USA Waste in Houston, Texas. The company gave Poole the option to move to Indianapolis, but he and his wife decided they were tired of moving all over the country.

“I built a home up in Rockford, and I didn’t have any desire to do it again,” Poole said. Poole said his greatest joy is spending time with his family, and he and his wife early on managed to carve out time every Sunday for a long family dinner. “We learned Sundays are probably the toughest days for company executives, because they’re getting ready for the week,” Poole

said. “So we started a tradition, around 4 or 5 o’clock, whatever you’re doing … we turn everything off, and it was our family dinner night.” Poole had another opportunity to shift his career when he met Peter Rupert, the president of National Heritage Academies, through a mutual friend. NHA is a charter school management company based in Grand Rapids. Rupert was looking for somebody to help with the operations side of the business. “I think when I got there, there were about five charter schools there, all in Kent County,” Poole said. Poole spent about seven years as vice president of operations for NHA, overseeing its growth from five to 51 schools in five states. His responsibilities included school operations, facility management and board relations. Despite his success with NHA, Pool admitted it was a far cry from his Waste Management days. “At Waste Management … I was running all the general operations as state president,” Poole said. “That’s a great business, and it’s something you can get excited about, because you’re helping the environment, and you have recycling and those types of elements, but when you get into education, you realize you’re entering something completely different … Parents are keenly interested in what we’re doing. The stakes are high … the world of education is one where you need to be all in … because it’s also 24/7.” Both Poole and Rupert left NHA at about the same time. After they had grown the company substantially, Poole went on to become president of Spartan Oil Corporation in East Lansing, while Rupert moved into the health care sector. The two still kept in touch during their time apart. After a couple years, the owners of Spartan Oil planned to sell the company, so Poole started formulating with Rupert about building their own charter school business from the ground up. “To Pete’s credit, he did all the heavy lifting,” Poole said. “He was able to work with some private equity firms that he knew and built a business plan.” The two got a private equity firm out of Chicago to help fund the start up, and they acquired their first school on the East Coast, which they still have today. Later, Poole and Rupert met Michelle Rose-Gilman, owner of the original Fusion Academy in Solana Beach, California. She ran the school out of a small space, and parents were on a waiting list to enroll their kids. “She said, ‘I think this is a phenomenal model. If we partner together, could we replicate it?’ And we said, ‘let’s give it a try,’” Poole said. In 2009, a year after the initial partnership, the second Fusion Academy opened in Los Angeles,

JEFF POOLE Organization: Fusion Academy Position: President and chief operating officer Age: 58 Birthplace: Waukegan, Illinois Residence: Rockford Family: Wife Julia and children Alex and Caroline. Business/community involvement: Vistage member; former committee member for Catholic Charities of West Michigan; former Boy Scouts of America troop leader. Currently supports several local charitable organizations. Biggest Career break: “In 1998, a mutual friend introduced me to Pete Ruppert, launching my career in education and a 20-year partnership at two companies (National Heritage Academies and Fusion).”

which began the journey of eventually operating 60 Fusion campuses across the country. Despite his family’s desire to stay rooted in West Michigan, Poole stayed for a year in California building the company, only coming home to see his family every other week. “It was professionally my best year, and maybe personally my hardest year,” Poole said. Fusion Academy promotes what it calls EPIC! Values. The acronym stands for excellence, passion, innovation and courage. The exclamation point emphasizes the importance of the stated values, Poole said.

When those students start a course, the first day isn’t all drill-andkill on subject matter. It’s that teacher getting to know that student’s passion, getting to know their story, frankly.

Poole recalled a recent visit at one of Fusion’s schools where he met a student in the music studio. Poole described the student as awkward and uncomfortable when he introduced himself, but when Poole asked him what he was working on, his whole demeanor changed. “His quick story was when he came to the school — he really was struggling at his other school — he just didn’t fit in. He didn’t feel comfortable,” Poole said. “Our teachers there quickly realized he liked poetry, and they quickly turned that into a love of music.” The student told Poole he was working on his own rap music, and learned to flourish once he found something he could get excited about. When new teachers come on board, they’re taught they are more than just a teacher, Poole said. They also are there to mentor their students. “When those students start a course, the first day isn’t all drilland-kill on subject matter,” Poole said. “It’s that teacher getting to know that student’s passion, getting to know their story, frankly.” Because of the intimate learning environment, teachers can modify their teaching style to the students’ needs, Poole said. Additionally, in the event of a teacher absence, the school has found it can connect the student with a teacher in the same subject on a different campus via Zoom. “It’s cool to sit in a class and watch it happen,” Poole said. “If you sit in the back of the classroom, and there’s 30 of you, who’s paying attention? Imagine a one-to-one class: That teacher, they have to be on their game, because these kids are obviously really smart, and the kids have to be on their game because they can’t fall asleep.” Poole said his greatest personal influence is his wife who has stuck with him for 35 years, and on the business side, having Rupert’s mentorship and friendship has been a great boon. “It’s been a great ride, and I’m fortunate,” Poole said. “Education isn’t easy, but go to a Fusion graduation sometime, and it makes it all worth it.”



Double down now to prosper after the COVID-19 crisis


onsumers no longer buy goods and services. They buy relationships. As we persevere through COVID-19 — when products and service offerings become scarce as the government shuts down private enterprise — trust becomes the coin of the realm. Let’s not sit back and play Candy Crush on our iPhones through the panic. Prescient leaders strengthen their connections during economic downturns. They consistently reach out to new and current customers to ensure their prosperity when the pandemic inevitably subsides. Here’s how you can too. First, cut all unnecessary expenses to hang onto as much of your workforce as possible. The one asset to avoid losing is your team. They know you and your business like no other, especially those who have been around a few years. They’ve put sweat equity into building your company. Prioritize their well-being. Training new hires is a lot more difficult than retaining employees. Consider upskilling your existing team when resources allow. They will be critical to reopening and getting you out of this situation in a better position than when you started. Negotiate terms with your landlord or bank for deferred payments. Freeze pay increases and reduce hours to prevent layoffs. Seek assistance from your state and federal government. Eliminate subscriptions that are not mission

GUEST COLUMN Jennifer Owens

A salute to our essential workforce

critical. Revisit automatic payments on your credit cards. Second, the coronavirus will cull the herd in terms of your highly leveraged competitors. Those already skating by on razor-thin margins likely will be the first to close their doors. “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked,” Warren Buffet famously said. Don’t skinny-dip. Support your customers, employees and community at every opportunity. People will remember you for helping them during their struggles, and you will boost your reputation as a result. Also, ensure that you’re identifying talented individuals that your competitors can no longer afford. Not all that many qualified workers were available a few weeks ago. Many of them are hunting for jobs right now. See if you can afford them if you have the cash. Third, work on business development. Build a list of prospects to whom you can reach out once the dust settles. Even in good times marketing budgets are the first to go when the going craters. The problem is that good marketing becomes more necessary than ever when operations stall. Your customers are anxious and seeking direction. Provide valuable information to them through social media channels, newsletters, blogs, webinars and podcasts. Advertising has suddenly become affordable as well for those priced


ur team has been working around the clock to keep a pulse on the needs of our business community in these challenging times. This past week, nearly 200 business leaders responded to our weekly poll. Forty-one percent of them are changing up their product mix to support essential-needs industries. In order for those employers to provide these critical products, their employees are stepping up and answering the call to equip hospitals, health care systems and the front line of doctors, nurses, first responders and other critical infrastructure workers in this battle of COVID-19. Here are a few examples: •Herman Miller is completely reconfiguring to make hospital mattress covers and face masks. •Nuvar Manufacturing began manufacturing medical masks. They made more than 3,000 masks in the first week of production. •JR Automation worked with GM to build a mask assembly line in metro Detroit in just six days. •The logistics team at Inontime quickly delivered sneeze guards to all 248 Meijer stores in the United States. •When they heard about the demand, Primera Plastics began making disposable face shields. Continued on page 11 8

out before as incumbent players cut budgets to conserve resources. Ad departments are willing to cut deals right now. Consider writing thought leadership articles that you can submit to well-read websites. Nothing establishes credibility more than when your name appears positively in a reputable third-party news outlet. Fourth, the novel virus is forcing every leader to reevaluate their business model. Exercise facilities are scheduling classes through video conferencing. Auto manufacturers are repurposing their facilities to meet needs in the medical industry. Restaurants are gifting toilet paper rolls with their takeout orders. One legal service provider built a database that tracks all state and federal laws related to COVID-19. It’s become the most-trafficked page on the site, generating more views and subscriptions in a day than the site typically received in a month. Finally, create a sense of “we are in this together” with your consumers to demonstrate your empathy and shared burden. Offer steep discounts on products and reduced fees for services. Lowering prices normally erodes value, but not in these uncertain days. Host a re-Grand Opening when the coronavirus abates. Announce all of the enhancements that you’ve made during the crisis and say thank you to customers and employees who stuck it out with you.

Those you helped while your own finances tanked will give you the benefit of the doubt for life. Now is not the time to give up. It’s time to double down. Prepare for the end of COVID-19 by culti-

vating trusted relationships for the future. It will be here sooner than we think. Dave Yonkman is president of the manufacturing PR firm DYS Media.

MI VIEW WEST Garth Kriewall

Michigan journalist,

I’m going to pass on the video part of today’s staff meeting, OK, guys?

GUEST COLUMN Mary C. Bonnema and Brian D. Wassom

The IP power pause: Finding opportunities amid the chaos


nternational work disruptions are not the norm and, when they happen, they can feel paralyzing. Daily work and life routines drift to a halt. Streets empty, transportation trickles and our relationships retreat. It’s like someone hit “pause” on our personal and professional practices. But professional “pauses,” if managed strategically, can bolster your business arsenal. We call this a “power pause.” A power pause is particularly advantageous in intellectual property. It affords businesses much needed time to dust off IP portfolios, reassess IP strategies and root around the corners of the business for yet-to-be protected IP. From our team to yours, here are eight things you can do right now with your IP to get an edge on your competition: 1. Identify the “crown jewels.” Audit, evaluate and button up the patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade dress, trade secrets and domain names that are critical to your business and foundational to

your success. Make sure you have identified your crucial “crown jewels” — the assets your business just couldn’t do without — in every geographic market in which you do business. Also ensure that you have maximum patent, copyright and trademark protection for them. 2. Take stock of your IP inventory. Seriously, what’s in your IP wallet? Take inventory of your IP by identifying what patents, trademarks, copyrights, domain names, trade secrets and trade dress assets you own and figure out the status of each one. Further, make sure products and packaging are properly marked with relevant patent and trademark notices. Also review licensing agreements and royalty reports for accuracy LETTERS POLICY: The Business Journal welcomes letters to the editor and guest commentary. Letters and columns must include the writer’s name, address and telephone number. Guest columns do not necessarily reflect the philosophy

and compliance. 3. Recalibrate your IP inventory. With a new sightline over your IP, keep only those things that make money, provide a strategic benefit or align with your organization’s purpose. Decide which patents, trademarks, etc. you should keep and which you should discard. Allow superfluous assets to lapse or expire. Better yet, sell them to a third party or license them to create a new revenue stream. 4. Supplement your IP inventory. Replenish, replace or reinvigorate your IP portfolio by reviewing your IP strategy and taking steps to bolster that portfolio with new Continued on page 11 8

of the Business Journal. Letters and columns may be edited for reasons of space or clarity. Please submit to: The Editor, Grand Rapids Business Journal, 401 Hall St. SW, Suite 331, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 or email

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Hackers zoom in on teleconferences during COVID crisis 7 Continued from page 1 several instances of such hacking, or “Zoom-bombing” in just one week. Hackers often disrupt conferences and online classrooms with pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language. In response, Michigan’s chief federal, state, and local law enforcement officials are joining together to warn anyone who hacks into a teleconference can be charged with state or federal crimes. Charges may include disrupting a public meeting, computer intrusion, using a computer to commit a crime, hate crimes, fraud, or transmitting threatening communications. All charges are punishable by fines and imprisonment. “Whether you run a business, a law enforcement meeting, a classroom or you just want to video chat with family, you need to be aware that your video conference may not be secure and information you share may be compromised. Be careful. If you do get hacked, call us,” said Western District of Michigan U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge. As individuals continue the transition to online lessons and meetings, state and local law enforcement recommend the following steps to mitigate teleconferencing threats:

•Do not make the meetings or classroom public. In Zoom, there are two options to make a meeting private: require a meeting password or use the waiting room feature and control the admittance of guests. •Do not share a link to a teleconference or classroom on an unrestricted publicly available social media post. Provide the link directly to specific people. •Manage screen sharing options in Zoom; change screen sharing to “Host Only.” •Ensure users are using the updated version of remote access/ meeting applications. In January 2020, Zoom updated its software. In its security update, the teleconference software provider added passwords by default for meetings and disabled the ability to randomly scan for meetings to join. •Ensure the organization’s telework policy or guide addresses requirements for physical and information security. The city of Grand Rapids is preparing for its first public teleconference meetings since the governor’s shelter in place order was executed. Doug Start, director of IT for the city, said much of the time teleconference meetings are being “hacked” because users are posting the meeting information publicly. Additionally, he recommend-

ed requiring pass codes to enter a meeting, even though people may choose to omit them for convenience. “I think it’s just a learning curve of suddenly being thrust into how you do everything virtually in a matter of days,” Start said. No city departments have been the victim of a teleconferencing hack as of press time, Start said. The city uses Skype and Microsoft Teams for private meetings and Cisco Webex for public meetings. Start added the level of security users are afforded can depend on the software and how it’s set up. “I know Zoom is getting a lot of the negative press now,” Start said. “It’s a semi-free, easy-to-use platform, but they’re all about the same.” Start said the city chose Webex because it provides users more control over who can enter the meeting, as well as giving users control over volume and muting. The city’s IT department recommends departments exercise the same precautions outlined by federal, state and local law enforcement to avoid cyber attacks during a meeting. “Put a password on, even if it’s inconvenient,” Start said. “Pay attention to some of those things you’d normally take for granted in a face-to-face meeting. When you’re online, the whole world can

come to you in click. “We’re as comfortable as we can be. Nobody’s really comfortable right now. As we learn more, we’ll make adjustments, just like anybody else.” Susan Benington, corporate attorney with Varnum LLP, said it’s important for companies to educate employees about company policies and acceptable use guidelines when it comes to using new technologies on work devices or to perform work functions, such as team meetings. “For users, make sure to check with whoever the right person is to determine if it’s an approved or sanctioned product, because the call itself could include critical information,” Benington said. “By verifying that it can be used, in addition to making sure the company is aware, it ensures appropriate commercial terms are in place. That will determine how data will be used from a commercial perspective.” Customers also should take the time to read terms of use and privacy notices, so they know how information like video recordings and conversation transcripts are secured, used and shared. “None of us want to do this,” Benington said. “I’ll admit, I should be doing it as well, but we all need to be aware of terms of use and privacy notices. When the data we’re

COVID throws a wrench in City Tower 7 Continued from page 3 shelter-in-place order, allowing the company essentially to pick up where it left off. “When it first came out — the first phase of shelter-in-place — we were under the impression that essential services did include home construction,” Wheeler said. “It later became more defined as any work that presented a safety issue.” The Business Journal previously reported on communications between the Home Builders Association of Michigan and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office. When Whitmer declared industries like housing construction are not essential under her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, she offered only the exception of completing construction to eliminate onsite safety hazards. HBAM called on Whitmer to re-think her assessment and to consult with federal Homeland Security officials. The Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, designated

single- and multifamily housing construction as essential infrastructure. The designation serves as a recommendation and not a mandatory action for state governments to comply. Wheeler Development also had to halt a previously unannounced project with the city of Rockford. The company had planned Hotel Rose, a standalone, four-story hotel building slated to begin in the fall, but the project now is on hold, as well. Wheeler Development also has three ongoing multifamily projects that are its main priority: Michigan Meadows in Grand Rapids, the Hanover in Caledonia and the Preserve in Spring Lake, all of which are in various stages of completion. WDG originally had ribbon cuttings scheduled for each townhome community throughout 2020, but the projects can only be shored up for now. Both Hanover and Michigan Meadows have people living on them and require essential construction to prevent safety issues.

“We had to enclose the buildings, make sure they were locked and there were no safety hazards,” Wheeler said. Hanover has about 48 completed units, with five occupied and another three scheduled to move in over the next month. Michigan Meadows, which started earlier, currently has 11 occupants and 13 scheduled moveins out of the 87 units planned for the site. The site currently has 38 completed units. “The main challenge is discovering what services are deemed critical so we can complete the maximum number of units and then turn them over to PURE for lease,” Wheeler said. “That will hopefully allow us to keep some stability and presence.” Anne Ficeli, president of PURE Real Estate Management, which manages all WDG-owned properties, said some of the scheduled move-in units are in various stages of completion, and some may not be complete by move-in day if construction remains nonessential.

“Some are complete, but not move-in ready,” Ficeli added. “We don’t have certificates of occupancy on all of them.” PURE has remained open as an essential service, although many agents now are working from home. The company’s service technicians still are onsite maintaining the properties, but they are not allowed to enter people’s units unless it’s an emergency, Ficeli said. “I know management is important, because we need to maintain people’s homes, but I don’t understand why construction is not essential,” Ficeli said. “People are still looking for places to live. We have some places to put them, but unless we can get construction online, it’s going to be difficult.” Ficeli said she has weekly calls with the Property Management Association of West Michigan, and construction is frequently discussed as a necessity. Both PMAWM and HBAM are in on the effort to convince Whitmer to designate construction as an essential service.

The IP power pause: Finding opportunities amid the chaos 7 Continued from page 10 and necessary IP that will propel your business forward. Take a step back and consider whether there are ways to expand your portfolio with low-cost, low-maintenance options such as copyright registrations for your key written materials, images and software. With the cost savings realized by recalibrating your IP, you’ll have a more robust budget for pursuing assets more fully aligned with that strategy. 5. Peel back your competitors’ sheets. Whether you are a fast follower or a trend setter, it’s a jungle out there. Don’t let competitors eat your IP lunch. Conduct an

IP landscape search on your key competitors’ IP to see in which direction they are headed. Consider strategically fencing them in with your own refreshed IP strategy. 6. Steer the course. For the IP assets you own and wish to maintain, review any upcoming maintenance deadlines and compile all necessary information for ensuring such assets are renewed or maintained. No need to wait until the last minute to maintain these assets so long as the renewal window is open. In fact, it is far better to not wait; getting an early start on renewals can stave off the risk of unexpected events and the delays that are already beginning to bog down the system.

7. Defend your turf. Is a competitor, counterfeiter or other interloper treading on the toes of your IP rights? You won’t know if you don’t look. Spend some of your down time conducting Google and social media searches to identify those whose unauthorized activities may be undercutting the goodwill and economic value of your hard-earned IP assets. So often, a well-timed warning letter from legal counsel can deter activities that would have become much more damaging down the road if left unchecked. 8. Don’t let your guard down. The primary culprits for lost trade secrets and data breaches are mistakes by your own employees.

New and unexpected remote work routines can contribute to reduced vigilance in ensuring your confidential information isn’t overheard or intercepted. Remind your team that, now more than ever, they share the responsibility of keeping your data and proprietary information safe and secure. Mary C. Bonnema and Brian D. Wassom are both partners at Warner Norcross + Judd LLP. Bonnema concentrates her practice on IP licensing, strategy and portfolio management and can be reached at Wassom litigates disputes in commercial and intellectual property matters and can be reached at bwassom@

providing is more sensitive, users really need to be reading the privacy notices.” On the other end, companies launching a new online or connected device product must implement compliant privacy notices and product security or else risk facing significant public relations or consumer backlash and subsequent litigation on both the state and federal level, Benington said.

DDA budget addresses COVID help 7 Continued from page 3 enue of $6,270,491, plus a beginning balance of $7,050,537, with $8,500,000 in total projected expenditures. The non-tax increment budget showed $1,233,080 in projected revenue on top of a beginning fund balance of $6,534,919, with $2,800,400 in projected expenditures. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, $1,000,000 also has been identified in the local tax increment and non-tax increment Goal 4 budgets to support a communitywide recovery effort. The DDA is prepared to deploy additional resources through future budget amendments if needed. Following recommendation from the DDA Board, DGRI staff will present the recommended FY21 budgets to the city commission on April 28. After receiving city commission approval, the board will adopt its final annual budget and priority plans at the next scheduled meeting.

A salute to our essential workforce 7 Continued from page 10 •Start-up company Solismatica is activating 3-D printers statewide to make face shields, masks and ventilator parts. To date, 268 printers are assisting with more than 4,200 items printed. •Hybrid Machining Inc. has become a pick-up and drop-off point for face masks. They are running their machines nonstop to produce more facemasks and COVID-19 test swabs. •Hemco Gage is producing mission-critical precision metrology tools for manufacturers making or tooling up to manufacture personal protective equipment, ventilators, respirators, hospital beds and more. We admire these employers’ ingenuity, flexibility and coming to the rescue to solve problems and fill needs. This is just small list of the employers who have stepped up in a major way. Please help us salute their employees, thank them for the work they are doing and recognize the difference they are making. Jennifer Owens is president of Lakeshore Advantage.

Change-Ups & Calendar 12 GRAND RAPIDS BUSINESS JOURNAL APRIL 13, 2020

ACOPNE appoints Weykamp public trustee The Academy of Coastal, Ocean, Port and Navigation Engineers (ACOPNE), a national board-certifying agency, has appointed St. Joseph-based Edgewater Resources President Greg Weykamp as public trustee to the board. ACOPNE is an entity of the American Society of Civil Engineers that grants board certification for qualified engineers who have specialized knowledge and experience in the fields of coastal, port, ocean and navigation engineering. As public trustee, Weykamp will be a voting member on the ACOPNE board and will represent the general interests of the public. Weykamp’s extensive experience and expertise in public planning and design of waterfront projects led to his appointment. ACCOUNTING

Baker Holtz provides webinars, federal and state resources, office policies, unemployment information and liquidity assistance related to COVID-19. Details:


Kalamazoo-based LKF Marketing was recently awarded two Silver Davey Awards by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts for both the website and logo categories for updating the brand and identity for Kessenich’s, a 90-yearold foodservice equipment supplier based in Madison, Wisconsin.


The Grand Rapids Public Museum has launched a live camera stream that showcases the museum’s lake sturgeon tank, which is part of the Grand River, Grand Fish exhibit. The fish tank can be virtually visited any time, but lights are turned out for the fish at night. The live camera stream features two 10-monthold lake sturgeon, an important biological component of the Great Lakes fish community. Lake sturgeon can grow to weights of up to 200 pounds and lengths of seven feet, with females being

Editor’s note: The coronavirus response has affected many public gatherings. Please check organizations’ websites for the latest event information. APR 14 Institute For Supply Management Greater Grand Rapids Professional Development Webinar, for procurement professionals whose job includes negotiating prices for raw materials, components or finished goods, by Rod Sherkin, who will explain why cost transparency is the golden arrow in your negotiations quiver. Noon-1 p.m. Information/registration: APR 14 World Affairs Council of Western Michigan The Future of Work Virtual Series. Topic: “Global Trends Shaping the Future of Work,” by Kristin Sharp, Entangled Solutions. 6:30-7:30 p.m. Information/registration worldmichigan. org/futureofwork. APR 15 Muskegon Chamber of Commerce Chamber Orientation and Networking. Meeting is for new members, future members and longtime members. 4:306 p.m., Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, 380 West Western Ave., Suite 202, Muskegon. Cost: free, light refreshments provided. Information/registration: APR 15 World Affairs Council of Western Michigan Global Executive Briefing and Luncheon. Topic: “Global Trends and the Future of Work,” by Kristin Sharp, Entangled Solutions, 11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m., University Club, 111 Lyon St. NW. Cost: $50/person; $250/table of six. Information/registration: worldmichigan. org/corporate2020. APR 16 Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce Leading Edge Workshop. Topic: Drama-Free Workplace, by Leslie Fiorenzo, director, Employee Assistance Center. 8:30-11 a.m., West Coast Chamber of Commerce, 272 E. 8th St., Holland. Cost: $55/members, $35/one additional employee, $75/nonmembers. Registration: APR 16 Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce Lakeshore Latinas Meeting. 5:30-7:30 p.m., Michigan West Coast

longer and heavier than males. Their typical lifespan is 55 years for males and 70 to 100 years for females. Go to GRPMLiveSturgeon.


The Association for Corporate Growth Western Michigan announced the winners of its 12th annual ACG Cup Competition, an intercollegiate competition among students from colleges and universities in Michigan, where undergraduate and Master of Business Administration (MBA) students analyze complex business cases and present strategies involving merger and acquisition alternatives, valuation, capital markets, finance options and corporate strategy, and receive feedback from business leaders. Undergraduate Category: The 2020 ACG Cup winning undergraduate team is Michigan State University, which was awarded a $4,500 prize. Master of Business Administration Category: The 2020 ACG Cup winning MBA team is Grand Valley State University, which also was awarded a $4,500 prize.


Ottawa County has issued a #OttawaStaysHome challenge amid

Chamber of Commerce Learning Lab, 272 E. 8th St. Cost: free. Information/registration: APR 16 Rotary Club of Grand Rapids Luncheon. Topic: “How Inflammation Can Affect the Brain and Lead to Psychiatric Symptoms,” by Dr. Lena Brundin, associate professor, Center for Neurodegenerative Science, Van Andel Institute. Noon-1:15 p.m., University Club of Grand Rapids, 111 Lyon St. NW, Suite 1025. Information/registration: grrotary. org/. APR 16 Work Wellness and Disability Prevention Institute Webinar. Topic: “Managing Pain-related Limitations in the Workplace: The Role of the Employer.” 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Information/ registration: APR 17 Wyoming-Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce 3rd Fridays! Networking Luncheon. 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Spartan YMCA, 5722 Metro Way SW, Wyoming. Cost: $17/members, $22/nonmembers, no walk-ins. Information/registration: (616) 531-5990 or APR 20 Express Employment Professionals Training Center Event. Topic: A New Perspective on Time Management. 8 a.m.-noon, 1760 44th St. SW, Suite 10, Wyoming. Cost: $125, includes breakfast. Information/registration: TimeManagementSeminar2020. APR 20 Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce Advocacy In Action: Governmental Affairs Breakfast. 7:308:30 a.m., Alpenrose Restaurant, 4 E. 8th St., Holland. Cost: $25/members, $45/ nonmembers. Information/registration:

the coronavirus pandemic. The challenge asks community members to share on social media why they stay home or show what they are doing to occupy the time. Use the hashtag #OttawaStaysHome across platforms. The county will share its favorite posts, images and videos. The Ottawa County Road Commission approved posting a 25-ton load limit for the Hayes Street bridges between 8th and 16th avenues in Wright Township, Ottawa County. Vehicles exceeding the respective weight limit on the bridge must seek an alternate route.


Root, led by Dr. Erica Armstrong, the first certified functional medicine MD in West Michigan, has made its proprietary anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense food plans available to the public in the form of fully cooked meals, ready to heat and serve. Benefits to its food plans include hormone and blood sugar balance, improved energy, mental clarity and digestion. Pre-orders are available at and weekly meals are available for pick-up at Root Functional Medicine, 746 Wealthy St. SE.


Care Resources is offering alternative ways to care for its participants since the stay-at-home order has closed the organization’s day center and limited the face-to-face interaction with social workers, therapists and other medical personnel. Some of these include creating activities seniors can do from home like offering “busy bags” containing puzzles, games and coloring pages, and creating “activity bingo,” which provides recreational therapy and exercise activities. Care Resources also has posted exercise videos to its Facebook page, and recently delivered more than 200 meals. The goal is to keep its nursing home-qualified seniors active and healthy and prevent the need for nursing home level care. Degage Ministries continues to adjust its hours and services to help provide a safe place for the homeless. The organization is maintaining its effort to provide

Workshop, “Speak Up and Be Effective.” Craft messages that are clear, concise and focused. Cost: $680/person, $600/ person for two people, same program and date. Registration: (616) 883-6458 or APR 21 Muskegon Chamber of Commerce 2020 Luncheon Lessons in Leadership. Noon-1 p.m., Tanglewood Park, 560 Seminole Road, Norton Shores. Cost: $15. Information/registration: APR 21 World Affairs Council of Western Michigan The Future of Work Webinar. Topic: “Entrepreneurs in the Changing Economy,” by Attah Obande, director of dream fulfillment, SpringGR. 6:307:30 p.m. Information/registration: APR 22 Muskegon Chamber of Commerce STAR! Certification Training. A onetime class about Muskegon’s history, upcoming events, local resources, new developments and more. 1-5 p.m., West Michigan Works!, 316 Morris Ave., Suite 100, Muskegon. Information/registration: (231) 722-3751 or APR 22 West Michigan Environmental Action Council Blue Tie Ball. This virtual event is celebrating 50 years of Earth Day. 6-10 p.m., City View, 401 Hall St. SW. Information/registration: bluetieball/. APR 24 Grand Haven/Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Chamber of Commerce 6th Annual Purse Party/Live, Silent Auction, benefiting Camp Courage. 1-3 p.m., 1204 S. Lake St., Whitehall. Information/registration:

APR 20 Work Wellness and Disability Prevention Institute Webinar. Topic: “Returning and Thriving at Work After Sickness Absence: How Workers Can Be Supported After a Long-Term Illness,” by Karina Nielsen, professor, University of Sheffield. 8-11 a.m. Information/registration:

APR 24 Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce Membership Orientation Lunch. Focus: Maximize Your Membership: The Benefits of Chamber Membership. 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce Learning Lab, 272 E. 8th St., Holland. Cost: free, complimentary lunch provided. Information/registration: keegan@west

APR 21 Jennifer Maxson & Associates

APR 28 iChiro Free Massage Workshop. Learn

free meals every day, a drop-in center for up to 50 people during the day and overnight shelter for 50 women in the Open Door Women’s Shelter nightly. Patrons have stepped up to partner with staff by providing cleaning assistance throughout the day. More information is available at degageprogramhours/. West Michigan senior living and assisted care provider Holland Home has made a public plea for face masks. More donation information is available at


Hylant in downtown Grand Rapids has hired Grand Rapids businessman Ken Fortier in a newly created position to lead business development efforts for the West Michigan division of the national company. The National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors in West Michigan and the Society of Financial Service Professionals announced Edward Fedell is the recipient of the annual Distinguished Service Award, in recognition of outstanding leadership and commitment to the profession and the community. Fedell has been in the financial services business since 1980 and has been with MassMutual Financial Group in Grand Rapids since 1993, where he serves as COO and director of advanced planning

oversees facilities management for the Grand Rapids office. Rhoades McKee announced Jon Siebers has been named chair of the firm’s Business Practice Group and Pam Cross has been named chair of the Estate Planning and Trust Administration Team. Secrest Wardle has created a COVID19 Insurance Coverage Task Cross Force dedicated to following the emerging developments of the global pandemic and its repercussions on the insurance industry. The team of specialized insurance coverage and litigation attorneys are evaluating the wave of business interruption and related claims being presented as COVID-19 impacts the nation.


Grand Rapids Opportunities For Women’s online resources for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 include financial resources to small businesses, legislation designed to help small businesses, webinars and additional help. Visit GROWSmallBusinessResources.w


Jessie LaHaie has joined Smith Haughey Rice LaHaie & Roegge as its human resources director. She is responsible for staff recruitment, training and development, compensation, benefits, performance management, policy design, and all additional HR responsibilities, and also manages the Grand Rapids secretarial and support staff, including oversight management of the central services department. She also

trigger point massage. iChiro Clinics, 6-7:15 p.m., 6690 Crossings Drive SE, Suite A. RSVP required by calling (616) 656-1830. APR 28 Wedgwood Christian Services Hosts State of the Child Panel Discussion and Breakfast. Topics will address the well-being of depressed children and teens through in-depth discussion with local students and community experts. 7:30-10 a.m., Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, 1000 E. Beltline Ave. NE. Cost: $25/person, $15/students, $200/ reserved table of 8. Information/registration: APR 28 World Affairs Council of Western Michigan The Future of Work Series Webinar. Topic: “Working Together for Growth in West Michigan: Industry and Education,” by Bill Pink, president, Grand Rapids Community College. 6:30-7:30 p.m. Information/registration: APR 28 Wyoming Business Leaders Meeting. 8-9 a.m., Marge’s Donut Den, 1751 28th St. SW, Wyoming. Information/registration: 616-261-4500, or d.kuba@instant

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

MAY 14 Acton Institute Lecture Series. Topic: “From Logos to Entitlement And Back Again,” by Samuel Gregg, director of research, Acton Institute. Noon-1 p.m., Acton Institute, 98 E. Fulton St. Free live stream also available. Information/registration: MAY 15 The Right Place Oceana County Economic Alliance 2020 Annual Community Leaders Breakfast. 7:309:30 a.m., Oceana County Council on Aging Center, 4250 W. Tyler Road, Hart. Cost: $25/person. Information/registration: MAY 19 Muskegon Chamber of Commerce 2020 Luncheon Lessons in Leadership. Noon-1 p.m., Baker College, 1903 Marquette Ave., Muskegon. Cost: $15. Information/registration:

MEETINGS & CONVENTIONS Information: Stephanie Bradley, (616) 233-3577 or sbradley@experiencegr. com.

MAY 4 Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce Breakfast With Legislators. 7:30-9 a.m., Gordon Food Service, 1300 Gezon Parkway SW, Wyoming. Information/registration: MAY 5 Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce West Michigan Minority Contractors After Hours. 4-6 p.m., Grand Rapids Chamber, 250 Monroe NW, Suite 150. Information/registration: MAY 6 Wyoming-Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce Business Networking & Beers. 5-8 p.m., Ganders Restaurant, 4747 28th St. Information/registration: south MAY 11 Wyoming-Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce Government Matters @ City Hall — with Elected Officials. 8-9 a.m., Kentwood City Hall, 4900 Breton Road SE. Information/registration: (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 bjcalendar@grbj. com. 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.


MMA leader steps up education, advocacy during COVID-19 7 Continued from page 7 ating,” Walsh said. “We work really closely now with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Association, and the greater Detroit and Grand Rapids chambers. There’s just a lot of conversation and cooperation going on, and it’s absolutely heartwarming.” After the pandemic is over, Walsh said he plans to get back to work on the organization’s strategic plan — MMA plans to send out a member survey this summer to start the process — as well as beefing up group insurance benefits for small employers. “We exist because our members need help, whether they’re a small company that just can’t get an insurance product unless they bundle with other employers through an

association like ours, or small and big (employers) needing additional help with legislation and executive orders and so on,” he said. “My goal is to really promote the industry. It’s been healthy. It’s going to face some challenges now, but it’s been healthy after the ‘lost decade.’ And my hope is we can get it to grow. “It’s not the environment of yesteryear when you stood on a greasy production line and did the same job over and over again. These are largely clean environments now that require a degree of skill. It’s no longer unskilled labor. And so, I really want to promote the industry, and if there’s something that we can do better, it’s really getting the word out. Let’s remind everybody how important manufacturing has been to the state and how much more it can be moving forward.”


20-00710 – LARSON, James C., 8794 Glen Park Court, Sparta, Jeremy Shephard (Ch. 7) 20-00713 – PETERSON, Chelsea L., 3311 Olivet SW, Grandville, Eliot A. Sasson (Ch. 7) 20-00715 – WAGNER, Ian T., 340 Freyling Place SE, Greg J. Ekdahl (Ch. 7) 20-00716 – RHODES, Larry J., 2774 Woodlake SW, Wyoming, pro se (Ch. 7) 20-00723 – WHITE, Christina L., 900 Fourth St. NW, Jeffrey D. Mapes (Ch. 13) 20-00728 – ASH, Richard, 7359 Forsythia SE, Michael M. Malinowski (Ch. 13) 20-00733 – DURMIC, Novalija, 6240 Woodfield Place SE, Ryan F. Beach (Ch. 7) 20-00736 – NORTON, John A. Jr. & Toni, 8380 16 Mile, Cedar Springs, Harlee Alexander (Ch. 13) 20-00739 – LEWIS, James H. IV & Julie, 7062 Independence Lane SW, Harlee Alexander (Ch. 13) 20-00749 – WATKINS, Jennifer L., 460 Ferndale NW, pro se (Ch. 13)


Selected mortgages filed with Kent County Register of Deeds KNUTSON, Scott et al, PNC Bank, Parcel: 410724300043, $280,000 ALT BROTHERS FARMS LLC, Randall Alt, Parcel: 410916400007, $1,200,000 FAHRENKRUG, Matthew J. et al, Mortgage 1, Parcel: 411026427015, $405,000 GREGORY, Maria A., Mercantile Bank, Parcel: 410627251280, $300,000 KASPRZAK, Thomas D. et al, JPMorgan Chase

Bank, Parcel: 411436203008, $279,535 BYKER, Joseph R. et al, Sun West Mortgage Co. Inc., Parcel: 412114152004, $325,000 HOEZEE, Curtis R. et al, Fifth Third Bank, Parcel: 412129200007, $296,000 JTB HOMES LLC, Macatawa Bank, Parcel: 411927231010, $344,157 JACOBS, Peter et al, Northern Mortgage Services LLC, Parcel: 411910251002, $451,250 TELLING, Adrian, JPMorgan Chase Bank, Parcel: 411433403012, $392,000 2921 WILSON HCV LLC, Mercantile Bank, Parcel: 411306376007, $3,187,500 BOON, Jerry et al, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Parcel: 410833300036, $304,500 MOORE, Jeff et al, LLC, Parcel: 411731175016, $325,000 SHERMAN, Michael et al, Wells Fargo Bank, Parcel: 411526330017, $780,000 HUMMEL, Christopher E. et al, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Parcel: 411524300074, $650,750 MCDONALD, Joseph F. et al, Huntington National Bank, Parcel: 411516151039, $899,850 KNIGHT, Stephen J. et al, Michigan Mutual Inc., Parcel: 410627251035, $282,800 HORLINGS, Corbett J. et al, Fifth Third Bank, Parcel: 411425127010, $323,800 VANOPSTALL, Matthew L. et al, West Michigan Community Bank, Parcel: 412116403001, $333,750 J PETERSON HOMES LLC, Mercantile Bank, Parcel: 411433203011, $528,000 JTB HOMES LLC, Macatawa Bank, Parcel: 411014228012, $293,785 JTB HOMES LLC, Macatawa Bank, Parcel:

411927232038, $297,870 JTB HOME LLC, Macatawa Bank, Parcel: 411927232037, $291,093 SWIDER, Carla J., Greenstone Farm Credit Services, Parcel: 410730251010, $463,000 MOSES, Sara et al, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Parcel: 410735410030, $380,000 GIARADINA, Nancy, Nationstar Mortgage LLC, Parcel: 411409177014, $329,000 GEHLER, Karlene J. et al, Old National Bank, Parcel: 411803126037, $960,000 WHITE, Shawn et al, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Parcel: 411433305005, $783,750 ELDERKIN, Paul J. et al, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Parcel: 411423277004, $297,000 LUBS, Shannon L. et al, Huntington National Bank, Parcel: 411108160023, $800,000 GOODELL, David L. et al, Inland Bank & Trust, Parcel: 411922201027, $285,000 GIPLAYE, Hans, BM Real Estate Services, Parcel: 412209327011, $284,000 DIAZ, Paola S. et al, Independent Bank, Parcel: 412117400022, $277,875 GREGER, Kyle et al,, Parcel: 412203461006, $289,000 HEREDIA, John C. et al, Firstbank, Parcel: 411535251014, $566,440 WESTVELD, Jason et al, Northern Mortgage Services, Parcel: 412335351004, $338,004 BRAVATA, Aron et al, Benchmark Mortgage, Parcel: 412322226006, $307,900

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

Title company adapts to social distancing rules 7 Continued from page 6 colors for bedrooms and boxed up their most precious belongings.” Olson said Transnation has seen a slowdown in real estate activity stemming from the COVID-19 crisis. Some sellers might be putting their homes on the market, but potential buyers might not be able to leave to view the home. Additionally, being laid off from work will impact the number of potential buyers. “There are still people out there who are able to buy,” Olson

said. “You see realtors out there being innovative. They can’t be out there, but they’re using new technology — doing virtual showings, doing things online — they’ve just become more innovative.” Despite the closure of some county records offices and other COVID-19 safety issues around the country, Transnation has instituted the following changes to best serve area homebuyers: •Curbside closings to observe social distancing during closings and eliminate the number of closing participants by allowing only

those individuals signing documents to be present during the closing •E-sign options for transactions with lender approval •Mailing documents ahead of time to customers when timing allows Transnation also is following CDC sanitation recommendations, including cleaning each closing location after each transaction, providing hand sanitizer, tissues and individual pens, and conducting nightly cleaning of offices. Transnation offices still are operational but are closed to

March sees highest job losses in 11 years 7 Continued from page 4 for discretionary spending has had the rug pulled out from under it.” Rankin said since monetary policy is necessarily data-driven, it’s hard to know what to expect, as this pandemic is unlike anything that’s happened to date in U.S. history. “Given there is no precedent for anything like this in the U.S. economy, and the U.S. economy is such a ‘Go out and spend your paycheck’-driven economy, there’s no way to extrapolate past recessions or past slowdowns in any sector to give us a confident sense of what is on the horizon. “It will all be data-dependent, and if we get data that’s less dramatic than anticipated, then that would likely be accompanied by medical progress. If we get numbers that are worse, then that will just extend the expectation of duration of a recession.” Household survey data •The number of unemployed individuals rose by 1.4 million to 7.1 million in March. •In March, unemployment rates rose among all major worker groups. The rate was 4% for adult men, 4% for adult women, 14.3% for teenagers, 4% for whites, 6.7% for Blacks, 4.1% for Asians and 6% for Hispanics. •The number of unemployed people who reported being on temporary layoff more than doubled in March to 1.8 million. The number of permanent job losers increased by 177,000 to 1.5 million. •The number of unemployed individuals who were jobless less than five weeks increased by 1.5 million in March to 3.5 million, accounting for almost half of

the unemployed. •The labor force participation rate, at 62.7%, decreased by 0.7 percentage points over the month. Total employment, as measured by the household survey, fell by 3 million to 155.8 million, and the employment-population ratio, at 60%, dropped by 1.1 percentage points over the month. •The number of people employed part time for economic reasons, at 5.8 million, increased by 1.4 million in March. These individuals, who would have preferred fulltime employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs. Establishment survey data •In March, employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000. Most of the decline occurred in food services and drinking places (-417,000); this employment decline nearly offset gains over the previous two years. Employment in the accommodation (hotel) industry also declined in March (-29,000). •Employment in health care and social assistance fell by 61,000 in March. Health care employment declined by 43,000, with job losses in offices of dentists (-17,000), offices of physicians (-12,000), and offices of other health care practitioners (-7,000). Over the prior 12 months, health care employment had grown by 374,000. In March, social assistance saw an employment decline of 19,000, reflecting a job loss in child care services (-19,000). Over the prior 12 months, social assistance added 193,000 jobs. •Employment in professional and business services decreased by 52,000 in March, with the decline concentrated in temporary help

services (-50,000). Employment also decreased in travel arrangement and reservation services (-7,000). •Employment in retail trade declined by 46,000. Job losses occurred in clothing and clothing accessories stores (-16,000); furniture stores (-10,000); and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores (-9,000). General merchandise stores gained 10,000 jobs. •Employment decreased over the month in construction (-29,000). In March, nonresidential building (-11,000) and heavy and civil engineering construction (-10,000) lost jobs. Construction employment had increased by 211,000 over the prior 12 months. •Employment in the other services industry declined by 24,000 in March, with about half of the loss occurring in personal and laundry services (-13,000). Over the prior 12 months, other services had added 89,000 jobs. •Mining lost 6,000 jobs in March, with much of the decline occurring in support activities for mining (-5,000). Since a recent peak in January 2019, mining employment has declined by 42,000. •Manufacturing employment edged down (-18,000). Over the past 12 months, employment in the industry has shown little net change. •Federal government employment rose by 18,000 in March, reflecting the hiring of 17,000 workers for the 2020 Census. •Employment in other major industries, including wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information and financial activities, changed little over the month. The April jobs report is scheduled to be released on Friday, May 8.

the public. Steve Barnum, vice president of sales for Transnation, said there also have been situations where selling agents have had sellers produce the virtual tour themselves with video cameras on their mobile devices. Barnum added it’s still too early to determine the entire impact of COVID-19 on the real estate industry, because when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer enacted the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, transactions were still in the works and only now are

being completed. “When all of this hit, there were a lot of transactions still in the pipeline,” Barnum said. “It’s hard to see the actual impact of this because there are still closings going on. “We may see people who are apprehensive, but we see people who are working and still have income, and they need to close.” Transnation also can help with refinanced mortgages, whether it’s to liquefy assets or to take advantage of historically low interest rates.

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Staying safe at home Food security. BUSINESS JOURNAL STAFF


hile Michigan residents have been urged to stay home and stay safe, staying safe at home has taken a broader meaning for the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan. While traditionally laser-focused on the issue of lead and other pollutants in people’s homes, the nonprofit has spread out to address all issues of home safety. “It’s very much the same message, although we’re challenged to bring additional resources into families’ homes,” said Executive Director Paul Haan “More than ever, we’re relying on parents and sharing with them things they can do on their own with a little bit of support.” Healthy Homes suspended all home visiting, community outreach activities and group meetings on March 13 and transitioned its staff to work from home on March 23. With the increased time everyone is spending at home now, Healthy Homes is staying relevant by sharing information through the “Staying Safe at Home” campaign, a multi-faceted communications campaign featuring tips and advice on how to stay safe and healthy at home. “In a lot of these homes, what’s really needed is a contractor or code enforcement, and that’s become a challenge,” Haan said. “We

started thinking what’s some of the low hanging fruit? Getting a new furnace filter is easy and it can increase your air quality.” The Healthy Homes Coalition recommends a minimum of a MERV-8 filter to filter out allergens, pollens, irritants and bacteria for better lung health. A MERV-8 filter, however, will not filter out the coronavirus. Healthy Homes’ limited capacity also has led the organization to reach out and partner with other area nonprofits like Health Net of West Michigan and First Steps Kent, broadening its scope to include not just in-home pollutants, but also mental health, domestic abuse and other issues that arise for the homebound. “With our messaging, stay safe at home, we’re saying we want our community to be as resilient as possible and that’s about having a safe environment at home,” Haan said. Recently, Healthy Homes talked with legal experts about renters’ rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many parents are worried about meeting rent payments and being evicted, Haan stressed landlords do not have the right to evict tenants who have been laid off during the crisis. “You still have to be accountable, but your landlord can’t evict you because you lost your job,”

Haan said. “We’re trying to remain laser-focused but we’re partnering to broaden our message.” Box lunch The Food Bank Council of Michigan is launching a Quarantine Box Program that will deliver food to Michigan’s senior citizens. Cautioned to stay at home and in need of daily meals, Michigan’s older population ranks among the most vulnerable residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, said the Lansing-based nonprofit that oversees pantries in West Michigan. The Food Bank Council of Michigan recognized this need and created Quarantine Food Boxes specifically for older adults who are unable to access existing food distribution sites. The quarantine boxes include 22 nutritionally balanced, proteinrich, shelf-stable meals meant to last an older adult 10 days. “Thus far, older adults represent almost 40% of the over 10,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan,” said Dawn Opel, director of research and strategy initiatives for the Food Bank Council of Michigan. “It is critical that we minimize exposure of the virus to older adults and stabilize those who are sick or returning from the hospital. Without access to healthy food, seniors in quarantine may suffer not only

Face time Kellogg Company, responding to the pandemic, is releasing a special television advertisement to thank the front-line heroes who play an important role in supporting the global food chain. “During this time of tremendous uncertainty and deep concern, anything that brings us a little comfort or gives us a sense of normalcy is particularly welcome,” said Steve Cahillane, chair and CEO, Kellogg Company. “Right now, sitting down to breakfast is more important than ever. That is why we are thanking everyone around the world who is working so hard to bring food to the table, from the farmers to the people who make the food, the truckers and the grocery stockers and cashiers who ensure shoppers have safe access to what they

need to feed their families, and food bank workers. All of these men and women are everyday heroes who deserve our sincere gratitude and appreciation.” Kellogg has shifted thousands of employees to remote work while taking steps to protect the frontline workers who make the food, as well as those who get it to the store shelves. In addition to keeping grocery store shelves stocked, Kellogg is partnering with global food banks to feed those in need. Kellogg and its charitable funds have donated $7.5 million in food and funds to COVID-19 food relief efforts. “As a company that prides itself on having a heart and soul, Kellogg has always considered it a vital responsibility to do all we can to combat global food insecurity. That has been the inspiration for our Better Days purpose platform, which is dedicated to delivering critical nourishment to families when they need it most,” said Kris Bahner, senior vice president of global corporate affairs for Kellogg. “And during this health crisis, hunger is especially acute. Our food bank partners have told us they are stretched to the limit. That is why we are donating more food and more money to help. We will continue to evaluate the need and respond as best we can going forward.” Added Cahillane: “All of us at Kellogg would just like to say we appreciate and applaud the hard work and selfless dedication of the countless people who are helping get food to those in need across so many local communities.” Kellogg’s advertisement thanking everyday heroes in the food industry is available to view at breakfastasusual. The TV spot began airing on April 8 in the U.S. on NBC’s “Today” show, then subsequently on CNN, Fox News, Univision, BET and more.




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from hunger but heightened risk of prolonged, more severe illness.” The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has created an intake form at MDHHSfooddelivery for seniors in need of meal delivery or a daily check-in call. The Food Bank Council, in cooperation with Gleaners Community Food Bank, is packing the initial 10,000 boxes with assistance from the Michigan National Guard. “So much gratitude goes to our state food banks during this time of incredible demand, especially for our vulnerable older residents,” said Phil Knight, executive director of the Food Bank Council of Michigan. “We cannot express how indebted we are to the National Guard for their humanitarian work to make sure no Michigander goes without food.” Those who want to donate to the Quarantine Food Box program as well as to support COVID-19 efforts by each of Michigan’s seven food banks can visit michiganfood

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