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Muskegon County officials suggest 'one-stop shop' for worker training

Published: Wednesday, February 29, 2012, 9:05 AM     Updated: Wednesday, February 29, 2012, 1:48 PM

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

MUSKEGON – Muskegon-area job training centers could be consolidated to save $1.3 million that could go back into a new facility and training more workers for jobs being offered by local businesses.

KSM unemployment office 6 BRANDON BEEBE.jpgChronicle file photoA Muskegon resident checks out a job postings bulletin board at Michigan Works! Orchard View Workforce Development & Training Center in 2009 at the height of the Great Recession.

That was the upshot of a workforce development program consolidation plan outlined for Muskegon County commissioners at a work session Tuesday. Commissioners heard details of the plan from Andrew Stone, director of the county’s Department of Employment and Training.

Stone suggested the Michigan Works! centers for Muskegon and Oceana counties be consolidated into a “one-stop shop.” All of the county staff and its job training providers would share a common space in a yet-to-be-selected central location in the Muskegon metro area.

Currently, three general services Michigan Works! centers are located at Goodwill Industries in Roosevelt Park, Orchard View schools in Muskegon Township and at the Oceana Employment and Training center in Shelby. The county’s DET staff is in a county facility on Oak Avenue.

Stone’s consolidation plan would have the offices in the Muskegon area combined into one 31,000-square-foot facility, a small satellite office in northern Muskegon County and a facility in Oceana County. The consolidation would bring the Michigan Works! programs under county operations instead of being contracted to outside agencies, Stone suggested.

KSM unemployment office 5 SONYA BARRETT.jpgChronicle file photoSonya Barrett teaches a No Worker Left Behind orientation class at Michigan Works! Orchard View Workforce Development & Training Center in 2009.

The new Muskegon “one-stop shop” facility would include nine classrooms, additional meeting spaces and open offices where worker training staff could be in one location to collaborate, Stone said.

The consolidation plan could be completed by July 2013, when the new offices could be established and agency contracts would allow for operations to be brought under the county department, county officials said.

Stone said the savings would come in the form of closing existing facilities, staffing efficiencies that come from being under one roof and combining support staff now with the county and its contracting agencies.

The job training consolidation plan will be brought before county commissioners at an upcoming Ways and Means Committee meeting, County Administrator Bonnie Hammersley said.

Hammersley praised Stone and his staff for making fundamental changes in the department since Stone took over the county’s worker training programs a year and a half ago. The department had not been directly involved in the training programs but instead managed contract performances of the outside agencies, she said.

“They’ve changed the philosophy from to asking unemployed workers what they want to be -- and if it was basket-weaver, we’d train them to be a basket-weaver, (later) to find out there weren’t any basket-weaving jobs,” Hammersley said. “Today, we are working much closer with employers as to what they need for workers.”

The consolidation plan outlined for commissioners was recommended by the county workforce development board.

KSM unemployment office 3 CHAD PHILLIPS.jpgChronicle file photoLocal Michigan Works! offices allow those out of work to look for position and put their resume on the state's job bank. 

“This is a better way to serve our community and to save money,” Stone said. “We have gotten to a position where we don’t have the money to get people trained … we have a waiting list. Every dollar we can cut in overhead can go right back into services.”

The workforce development board and other private sector employers are helping the county identify “hot skills” currently needed in the Muskegon-area job market. Today, the hottest skill being sought is manufacturers who need CNC (computer-aided machining) programing skills, Stone said.

The county receives worker training money mostly from the U.S. Department of Labor through the state of Michigan, Stone said. Funding is based on population and unemployment rates through a complicated formula. The county receives worker training funds from a total of 20 sources, Stone said.

Overall, the county has about an $8 million annual budget for worker training. Much of that money is spent on direct training and education for future workers from institutions such as Muskegon Community College and Baker College of Muskegon, county officials said.

Commissioner Marv Engle spoke favorably as to the direction the Department of Employment and Training is taking.

“This is a very, very positive step,” Engle said of the consolidation proposal. “You are adapting to make worker training programs more usable in our community.”

The Muskegon and Oceana counties’ job training programs already were consolidated in mid-2010 as the Goodwill Industries, Orchard View schools and Oceana County facilities became the only centers open to all workers looking for work through the state’s job-seeking system and exploring training options. The Family Services center in Muskegon, the Muskegon Heights and the White Lake centers began serving only clients of the Department of Human Services.

 


 

   

Century Club Center returns to its historic roots with new gathering hall

Published: Sunday, February 19, 2012, 5:37 PM     Updated: Monday, February 20, 2012, 9:58 AM

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

MUSKEGON – Downtown Muskegon is getting a new gathering place.

The Century ClubChronicle file photo

The ballroom on the third level of the Century Club in downtown Muskegon sits vacant waiting to be turned into a rental space.

The Century Club Center is returning to its historic roots with the unanimous approval this week of the Muskegon Planning Commission for the historic building’s third level to be used as an assembly rental hall.

Building owner and downtown developer Gary Post said he will now work with city building inspectors to make sure the approximately 3,000-square-foot gathering hall meets building codes for up to 250 people. He told The Chronicle that he hopes to have the room completed and available for rentals in the coming weeks.

The Century Club was built by Muskegon’s most prominent business leaders in 1887 for $30,000 at the time. The building at 356 W. Western Ave. has an ornate façade that has survived the decades. The building was restored in 2007.

In its early days, the likes of Lumber Era leaders such as Charles Hackley, John Torrent and H.J. Hoyt formed the Muskegon Club – called at the time a “first-class social club” that would honor the city. It was renamed the Century Club in 1901 and was operated until it closed in 1991.

The Century Club was just outside of the western entrance to the former Muskegon Mall. When the mall was closed in 2001 and eventually demolished, city leaders moved to save five of the original buildings that predated the downtown shopping center.

The Century Club is the most prominent of the five. Along with the adjacent Russell Block Building and the former Muskegon Savings Bank, Post purchased the three buildings for redevelopment. The Century Club initially reopened in 2007 as the Muskegon outlet for Hegg’s Furniture in Hart.

The Century ClubChronicle file photoThe "Open" flag outside the Century Club Center flaps in the wind as it welcomes customers to the downtown Muskegon retail outlet.

The three-level building has evolved into Century Club Center, a collection of specialty retailers that will become part of the next-door Russell Block Market, a non-profit retail incubator development expected to open later this year.

“We’ve had a lot of requests for us to open the third level of the building for meetings and parties,” Post told planning commissioners. “We think this is going to be a great addition to what we can offer downtown.”

For meetings and receptions, the room will not include its own kitchen facilities. However, those renting the room can use a cater company to bring in food, Post said.

Mayor Steve Warmington questioned Post on the city’s ongoing concern of parking for downtown developments as the community’s central business district redevelops after the Muskegon Mall. Post said his company has a license with the former mall property owner Downtown Muskegon Development Corp. for 50 parking spaces behind the Century Club Center that will satisfy the city requirements for both the retail outlet and the meeting room.

   

Muskegon trying to get things brewing with beer-based businesses

Published: Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 7:22 AM     Updated: Wednesday, February 15, 2012, 12:36 PM

MUSKEGON – The brewing business is hot in Muskegon.

At least there seems to be plenty of activity planning and preparing for an expected onslaught of beer-based businesses.

UnrulyBrewLogo.jpgUnruly Brewing CompanyThe newly launched Unruly Brewing Company has a new website at www.unrulybrewing.com.

A trio of business investors are in the process of planning the Unruly Brewing Company at the same time that the Muskegon Planning Commission is considering rewriting the city’s zoning ordinance to allow for brewpubs, micro breweries and larger beer production facilities.

With Muskegon County’s image as the “beer tent capital of the world,” economic developers and community promoters are putting on a full-court press to create brewing businesses here. The market is wide open with brew operations in Holland, Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Ludington but none in Muskegon, according to Jonathan Seyferth, an economic developer for Muskegon Area First.

The Unruly Brewing Company investors have heard that parties outside of the community are looking at brewery developments in Muskegon. Jeff Jacobson said he joined Eric Hoffman and Mark Gongalski six months ago to plan a “community brewery.”

As securing investors to finance their brewery plans nearly complete, Unruly Brewing Company will begin the process of obtaining licenses for its operation as it continues to explore locations in existing buildings in Lakeside and downtown Muskegon. After launching its website and social media marketing last week, Jacobson said he expects Unruly Brewing to be operating by early summer.

City planners have a series of zoning ordinance amendments on their Thursday Muskegon Planning Commission meeting agenda. The staff-initiated ordinance amendments provide definitions of beer, wine and spirit producing businesses and allowing for those businesses five of the city’s zoning classifications.

Currently, the city’s zoning ordinance does not address breweries, wineries or distilleries. However, city staff said that they have had several inquiries for such businesses such as Unruly Brewing. Seyferth and others in Muskegon have been pushing for beer-based businesses.

“There is a prime development market here in Muskegon,” Seyferth said of the interest in Muskegon. “Brewing is going to be a Muskegon thing. We will be able to go to a local brewery and get a local beer. In the next 12 months, there will be a new brewery in Muskegon.”

Hoffman and Gongalski are seasoned home brewers and have established the Muskegon Area Society for Homebrewers. Jacobson – a business development and intellectual property attorney for Parmenter O’Toole law firm in Muskegon – also has started up home brewing.

JeffJacobson.jpgJeff Jacobson

“We have some great brewers here in Muskegon,” Jacobson said of the initial business partners who combined to brew more than 100 batches of beer in 40 different styles. “We want to establish a brewery in Muskegon.”

The company is currently in the process of finding a location for the business. The business owners are looking for a building that will allow brewing but also provide a “gathering place for good conversation shared over a fine craft beer.”

The community aspect of the business plan includes inviting guest brewers to participate in production of special one-of-a-kind beers.

“Unruly Brewing will be built with the help of Muskegon residents and investors who have a passion for Muskegon’s growth,” Jacobson said.

The city’s proposed zoning ordinance changes will allow the beer, wine and spirit production businesses to be located in convenience business, central business, general business, central government services and light industrial districts as either a principal use or with a special use permit.

The Muskegon City Planning Commission will meet Thursday at 4 p.m. in the Muskegon City Commission chambers of Muskegon City Hall, 933 Terrace. The planning commission meeting is open to the public.

   

Water Resources Institute expansion plays into Muskegon's 'blue' strategy

Published: Friday, February 10, 2012, 4:37 PM     Updated: Friday, February 10, 2012, 5:38 PM

Dave Alexander | 
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MUSKEGON – The Grand Valley State University upgrade of the Annis Water Resources Institute plays right into the community’s economic development strategy of advancing the Blue Economy.

M0903BUOY7Chronicle file photoTechnician Tom Holcomb, a recent Central Michigan graduate and 2007 Mona Shores graduate works to reattach the structure cable to the GVSU Muskegon Lake buoy observatory last summer. The buoy is a project of the Annis Water Resources Institute.

The university announced Friday that it will invest $3.4 million to construct a new field research building adjacent to its Lake Michigan Center on Muskegon Lake. Construction should begin by fall.

The facility upgrade will allow the Water Resources Institute to expand its fresh water research activities as the current Lake Michigan Center facility is full, Director Alan Steinman said. The GVSU researchers will be moving into other areas of investigation, such as climate change and invasive species issues in the Great Lakes.

“We will be able to address the critical issues facing the Great Lakes well into the 21st Century,” Steinman said, adding the new field research building will be equipped with the most up-to-date instrumentation.

AlSteinman.jpgChronicle file photoInstitute director Al Steinman talks to a group from on board GVSU's research ship the W.G. Jackson, which is birthed in Muskegon.

The Water Resources Institute was launched by the founding director Ron Ward in 1986 as a one-scientist operation. When the institute moved to Muskegon in 2001, Steinman said there were 25 employees. Today, the institute employs 65 full- and part-time employees in Muskegon, he said.

“The continued development of water research capabilities is important for the community,” said Ed Garner, president of Muskegon Area First – the local economic development agency. “Their work has been used as a catalyst for economic development strategies going forward. It is all about the Blue Water economy dealing with water and wastewater systems.”

A Brookings Institution researcher spoke to the January Business for Breakfast event of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, addressing the Blue Economy. That is described as economic activity involving water, including water treatment, water conservation or water use for manufacturing, recreation or tourism.

GVSU’s Water Resources Institute has eight principal investigators with a ninth expected to be hired by summer, Steinman said. The new research scientist will be a climatologist, who will have a new faculty position within the university, he said.

GVSUBuilding.jpgGVSUAn artist's drawing of the planned $3.4 million GVSU field research building on Muskegon Lake shows a facility that is expected to be open in 2013.

The institute already has scientists researching environmental biology and environmental chemistry. It also has a division for education and outreach along with an information services center.

Among the primary research projects under way is a second year of a Muskegon Lake data collection buoy and investigation of nutrient problems in Bear Lake. The Water Resources Institute also has been involved in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration restoration of the south shore of Muskegon Lake, improving lake sturgeon populations in the Muskegon River watershed and storm water issues in the rehabilitated Ruddiman Creek.

The education and outreach operation of the W.G. Jackson research ship in Muskegon and D.J. Angus in Grand Haven reached a combined 140,000 passengers. Information services has been combining the mapping of environmental resources the economic analysis of the value of those resources.

As GVSU freshwater research expands in Muskegon, the water’s importance to the community’s economic future is becoming better appreciated, Garner said.

“Clearly, one of our more valuable assets is our lakefront and our water,” the economic developer said.

   

Muskegon economic developer Jonathan Seyferth featured in MEDC video on talent attraction

Published: Monday, February 06, 2012, 10:04 AM    

Dave Alexander | 
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MUSKEGON -- Muskegon Area First economic developer Jonathan Seyferth is one of two people featured in a Michigan Economic development video on talent attraction to Michigan.

JonathonSeyferth.jpgJonathan Seyferth

Seyferth is a young professional featured in the 2:27 video that introduces the state's MichAGAIN initiative of bringing former Michigan residents back to the state for business and professional development. The business development specialist for Muskegon Area First is a Muskegon native who recently had a job in Wyoming before coming back to Michigan and his home town in 2012 to work for the local economic development agency.

Training, attraction and retention of skilled workers is going to be a major public issue in 2012. Both President Barack Obama in the State of the Union address and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in the State of the State address highlighted worker training and development of highly-skilled individuals.

And locally, Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce is expected to work extensively on worker training and attraction of talent this year.

One of the issues facing the state and its communities is the so-called "brain drain." Michigan's best and brightest young people many times receive their college education here but their first jobs are outside of Michigan. The MichAGAIN program attempts to bring that talent back home.

"When I was in Wyoming, what I missed about Michigan is the close proximity to the water," Seyferth said in the video. "I also really missed going to Detroit Tiger (baseball) games."

Also appearing in the MichAGAIN promotional video that is part of the Pure Michigan brand is Nicole Meloche, president of Organik Consulting in Traverse City and a Marquette native. She returned to Michigan from California when it was time to begin raising a family, she said in the video.

Seyferth is a 1997 graduate of Whitehall High School who went on to receive his bachelor's degree in political science and master's degree in international administration from Central Michigan University. He worked in the educational and political sectors including being an district staff assistant to former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, in the congressman's Muskegon office.

Seyferth spent a year as a career adviser at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo. before returning to Muskegon to take the position with Muskegon Area First.

"I am who I am because of the education I received in this state and in growing up in this state," Seyferth said of returning to his roots.

   

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