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Johnson Technology/GE Aviation thrilled about the future of operations in Muskegon County

 By Dave Alexander | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
on October 10, 2012 at 11:13 AM, updated October 10, 2012 at 11:15 AM

MUSKEGON, MI – Management is
excited about developments at Johnson Technology in Muskegon’s Port City
Industrial Park.

KWS Johnson Technology 7 LISA TAYLOR.jpg 

Braze Specialist Lisa Taylor, 46 of Norton Shores works with a nozzle at Johnson
Technology in 2010.  Chronicle file photo

The company, doing business in
Muskegon as GE Aviation, was before the Muskegon City Commission Tuesday for an
industrial tax abatement on a $301,000
investment in a building expansion that is expected to lead to 24 new

City commissioners unanimously approved the 12-year, 50 percent property tax
break on GE Aviation’s new 3,000-square-foot building to be completed by
Westwinds Construction of Spring Lake by the end of the year. But it is what is
going into the building that excites company President David Yacavone.

Yacavone was unable to provide specifics but he said the expansion will
assist in developing a new manufacturing process and coating technology that has
been created mainly by workers here in Muskegon. The development work is being
done in conjunction with Johnson Technology’s parent company General Electric,
Yacavone told MLive and The Chronicle.

The Muskegon and Norton Shores plants of Johnson Technology are part of the
GE Aviation division, which purchased the company several years ago. GE Aviation
is a Cincinnati, Ohio-based division with $17.6 billion in revenues and 39,000
workers in 80 locations worldwide.

General Electric is a global technology, industrial and financial services
giant that is one of the largest and most successful corporations in the world
with $145 billion in revenues and 301,000 employees around the globe.

Johnson Technology might be a small part of the overall GE business but for
the workers and host cities in the Muskegon area it is a significant enterprise.
With locations in Muskegon’s industrial park at 2034 Latimer Dr. and two sites
in Norton Shores, the company has about 550 employees, making it one of the top
five manufacturing operations in Muskegon County.

GE Aviation in Muskegon produces jet engine parts for the commercial airline
industry and for U.S. military aircraft. The GE Aviation division is a producer
of jet engines, large and small. Muskegon-made parts go on engines such as the
Boeing B737 and the military F/A 18 Hornet.

KWS Johnson Technology 1 TOM JOHNSEN.jpg          

Machine perator Tom Johnsen,  61 of Shelby works on washing a nozzle segment at Johnson
Technology in 2010. The nozzles were to be used on a 787 Boeing Dreamliner
aircraft (background).  Chronicle file photo


The expansion at the Latimer Drive facility is due to new work being created
for the local company by General Electric, said Michelle Messer, financial
analyst for Johnson Technology. The city’s tax abatements help keep the company
financially competitive, she told commissioners.

Commissioner Willie German Jr. asked about the type of jobs the expansion
will produce. Messer said they would be machinists, manufacturing technicians
and machine operators.

Messer told Commissioner Lea Markowski that the company will look for new
workers that have experience and skill in the manufacturing sector.

“These are not basic entry level jobs,” she told commissioners.

The property tax break on the $301,000 investment in the building expansion
will save the company $4,302 annually over the 12 years of the abatement and the
city will receive the same amount in new property taxes each of those years. In
addition, the increased employment is expected to generate $3,844 annually in
new income tax revenue for the city, officials said.

“We want to wish you the best of luck,” Muskegon Mayor Steve Gawron told
Johnson Technology managers. “Thank you for your continued investment in

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Muskegon's Port City Group survives recession and automotive restructuring to enjoy expansion

Dave Alexander | 
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on September 26, 2012

MUSKEGON, MI – The ride up has been a lot more fun than was the ride down, said Port City Group President B. John Essex, Jr.

JohnEssex.jpg Port City Group President B. John Essex, Jr. addressed the Muskegon City Commission Tuesday explaining the company's expansion plans.

The Port City Group is expanding with an $11.33 million investment, a new building, a new company division and the potential for at least 65 more jobs. The Muskegon City Commission Tuesday unanimously approved four separate property tax breaks for three separate Port City Group companies.

Like all companies in the automotive sector, the Great Recession and the near implosion of the North American automobile industry left Port City going from 365 employees in 2008 to a low of 170 at the depths of the economic downturn.

But as other auto parts manufacturers went away, companies like the Port City Group began to take on more and more business. The company has grown to 450 employees today in Muskegon and Norton Shores.

When it was time for expansion, the company founded as an aluminum die casting manufacturer in 1980 remained in Muskegon County.

“We have been offered some lucrative proposals,” Essex told city commissioners. “We got some insane proposals out of Indiana. But this is home and this is where we want to stay.”

The city has provided Alloy Resources Corp. at 2281 Port City Blvd. a 100 percent personal property tax exemption on a $3.1 million investment in equipment for 12 years. The expansion will increase production of recycled aluminum for all of the Port City Group’s needs and other casting plants in the Muskegon area, Essex said.

PortCityGroup1.jpg New equipment has allowed the Port City Group to diversify to LED light products and medical devices.

The new company is Engineered Aluminum Castings Inc. at 2121 Latimer Dr. The new Port City Group division has made the former Bekaert Steel Co. building its home and received a 100 percent personal property tax exemption on a $7 million investment in equipment.

Engineered Aluminum Castings also received a 50 percent property tax break on a $738,000 in building improvements. Both tax breaks are for 12 years.

Finally, Muskegon Castings Corp., 2325 S. Sheridan Rd. will receive a 50 percent property tax break on a $501,000 building expansion for a 13,500 square foot addition. The tax break is also for 12 years.

Essex said the 65 new job level is very attainable and a conservative estimate. He said the company could be hiring even more mid-level, skilled technicians and entry level production workers.

“This is a company that has taken a vacant building and made it alive again producing products for U.S. manufacturers,” Mayor Steve Gawron said. “They are proving that metals and tool and die work is not dying. We are ground zero for the metals industry and Muskegon can be a top industrial town again.

“It will not be 2,000 employees at a huge foundry but 65 jobs at a time to produce 2,000 jobs in our manufacturing sector,” the mayor said.

Essex praised the professional service his company received from city economic development staff. The Port City Group also is working with Muskegon Area First, the local economic development agency, to receive assistance from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Essex said. The city incentives were needed to trigger upcoming state assistance, he said.

“This is exciting stuff from where we were at,” Essex said. “It is a lot more fun to be riding up and not much fun when we were going down. That was the most challenging time in my career.”

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Watch Pure Michigan video from Rob Bliss, Status Creative here

Published: Sunday, September 09, 2012, 2:42 PM   



Downtown Muskegon draws a crowd for their cameo in Pure Michigan video


screenshot.jpgDetroit Lions players huddle over the camera as one of the many shots in Pure Michigan video

GRAND RAPIDS, MI -- Will a video shot from the seven-day, 50-city road trip
across Michigan be the next to go viral for the Grand Rapids marketing firm
Status Creative?

Here's your chance to see for yourself.

Rob Bliss and Jeff Barrett, co-founders of Status Creative, debuted a portion
of the video at Ford Field this afternoon. You can watch the full version

The video, just less than 4 minutes long, is a
statewide singalong to the song "Good Time" by Owl City.

If you are unfamiliar with any of the places shown in the video, Bliss and
Barrett have included links to all of the places they visited next to the lyric
in the song for the corresponding scene.

So, if you want to learn more about any of the sites they visited as you
watch the video, more information on how you can visit that place is just a
click away.

The video was sponsored by Pure Michigan and Chrysler.


50 Best Yachting Towns: Muskegon ranks 23rd on national list from Yachting magazine

Published: Friday, September 07, 2012, 10:05 AM    

MUSKEGON, MI – Muskegon was named the 23rd “best yachting town” by Yachting
magazine in a list of the 50 top yachting destinations in the nation.


Marge Beaver | Muskegon ChronicleThis aerial photo shows the Muskegon harbor
entry from Lake Michigan and the Muskegon Channel into Muskegon Lake. Just to
the south of the harbor entry is the city of Muskegon's Pere Marquette Park,
which received rave reviews from Yachting magazine.

One of the nation’s oldest and most respected recreational boating
publications ranked Muskegon the second best yachting town in Michigan, just
below Harbor Springs at 20 and third best on the Great Lakes, which was led by
tiny Bayfield, Wis., on Lake Superior.

In its September edition, Yachting wrote, “Muskegon is adjacent to Lake
Michigan on the west and Muskegon Lake to the north. The 10 marinas here boast
upwards of 3,000 slips.”

As impressive as Muskegon’s 23rd ranking in
the magazine’s 2012 list
is, the port communities that were ranked below
Muskegon are revealing. Yachting magazine in its online article of the best
yachting towns did not indicate how it came up with the list or what criteria
were used.


1. Beaufort, N.C.

2. Amelia Island, Fla.

3. Anacortes, Wash.

4. Annapolis, Md

5. Astoria, Ore.

6. Bayfield, Wis.

7. Beaufort, S.C.

8. Rock Island, R.I.

9. Boothbay, Maine

10. Camden, Maine

20. Harbor Springs, Mich.

23. Muskegon, Mich.

44. South Haven, Mich.

48. Traverse City, Mich.
Source: Yachting magazine, September 2012 edition

However, Muskegon ranked above South Haven (44) and Traverse City (48) the
other Michigan ports on the Yachting list. It also was listed above Nantucket,
Mass. (25), Newport, R.I. (28), San Diego (39), San Francisco (40) and St.
Augustine, Fla. (45).

Yachting certainly did not discriminate against smaller, out-of-the-way
ports. Although the top 10 included Amelia Island, Fla. and Annapolis, Md., it
also had Bayfield at No. 6. The No. 1 yachting town in America is Beaufort,
N.C., the magazine said.

Located on Lake Superior at the mouth of the Chequamegon Bay, Bayfield is a
community of 600 year-round inhabitants. Known as a port with a New
England-feel, Yachting praised the fishing and sailing in Bayfield.

In Muskegon, it was all about the beaches.

“Known for some of the best beaches in Michigan, Pere Marquette beach is the
crown gem of this town,” Yachting’s article reads. “Its natural white sand beach
and cool clear water has attracted many professional beach volleyball
tournaments. The immaculate condition of the beach has earned it a spot on the
Clean Beaches Council’s ‘certified clean beaches’ list.”

The short write-up that was part of the magazine’s cover story for this month
concludes: “Michigan’s Adventure Amusement Park is a popular local attraction
for younger people.”

Yachting magazine was founded in 1907 and is published from Middletown, R.I.
It has a circulation of 120,000 for its printed magazine and an active online

The upscale publication that is known for its advertisements for
million-dollar motoryachts for sale, covers the boating scene from yacht
reviews, maritime technology, exotic charters, current events and the history of
the sport, according to the magazine.

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Muskegon Retail Incubator focused on downtown redevelopment, new business start-ups

Published: Thursday, August 23,
2012, 7:19 AM

Dave Alexander | 
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This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
The Muskegon Chronicle Follow

MUSKEGON, MI – The nonprofit Muskegon Retail Incubator Inc. has organized to
become a key player in the redevelopment of downtown Muskegon and the creation
of the businesses that will make it happen.

Unruly Russell BlockDave Alexander |
Muskegon ChronicleThe Russell Block Market is at 360 W. Western in downtown Muskegon.

So for a community that prides itself on being the
“beer tent capital of the world,” it’s probably encouraging that the fledgling
business development organization builds its foundation with
the launching of the Unruly Brewing Co

MRI has leased the main and lower levels of the Russell Block Building, 360
W. Western to provide a market-style space for retailers and food vendors. The
“anchor” tenant in the Russell Block Market will be the “community brewing”
company that organizers hope will draw other food and beverage tenants.

But MRI is more than just a leasing agency for the Russell Block Market. As
an incubator organization, MRI hopes to find those wanting to start small
retail, food or beverage businesses, get their businesses organized and have
them locate in the downtown.


TerryMacAllister.JPGTerry MacAllister

“What was the central business district must now reinvent itself to become a
new destination for unique, small, specialty retail shops,” said Terry
MacAllister, president of the MRI board, about the downtown transition from the
former Muskegon Mall to a more traditional downtown layout.

MacAllister is in the public relations and advertising sector and was the
co-chairman of the Imagine Muskegon downtown planning project.

MRI will partner with existing agencies and business development programs
such as SCORE business counselors, the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce,
e-Merge, Downtown Muskegon Now and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The
idea is to get the new business owners the training and assistance they need to
give them the best chance to succeed in business, MacAllister said.

MRI is leasing the Russell Block Building to
create a “critical mass” of businesses. The Russell Block Market is adjacent to
the Century Club Center, which has a group of similar start-up retail
businesses. MRI Executive Director Eileen McCormick helped establish the Century Club and has
worked with the launching of many of those outlets

McCormick said as the Russell Block Market opens by the end of the year, MRI
will work with tenants in both buildings to get them ready for the next level of
retailing. It is hoped that the two adjacent buildings could be connected with
an interior passage and that the tenants will develop joint marketing plans, she

EileenMcCormickjpg.jpgEileen McCormick

As MRI participants begin to find success in businesses, the program is
designed to find them more traditional retail or food outlet space in the
downtown. Other retail hubs are on the drawing boards such as Shoreline Market
on the Morris Street parking lot and the possible relocation of the Muskegon
Farmer’s Market into the central business district, McCormick said.

The initial Russell Block Market leases will be for six months with a maximum
of two years unless granted lease extensions by the MRI board, MacAllister said.
Participants can stay in the MRI program for two years to receive business
development services beyond their initial launch in the Russell Block Market, he

“Not every retailer with a dream will graduate and decide to stay in
business,” MacAllister said. “Our goal is to maximize the potential and provide
information and services that will assist them in making their own decision on
how to proceed in business.”

programs are being launched on the strength of a $125,000 grant from the
Consumers Energy Foundation.
The MRI board is half way to matching those
funds, MacAllister said. There are outstanding grant applications to the DTE
Energy Foundation and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County, he said.

Once properly funded, the seed money will allow for expanded services that
include helping retailers build out their spaces at the Russell Block Building
and possibly subsiding initial month rents, McCormick said.

Those interested in contributing to MRI can
contact McCormick by email at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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