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Alcoa Howmet – Whitehall, Michigan

Advanced manufacturing providing optimized solutions for improved performance, efficiency and value

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Eagle Alloy, Inc. – Part of the Eagle Group of companies - Muskegon, Michigan

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Want a good paying job in Muskegon? Simply get a college degree, labor statistics show

By Dave Alexander | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
on January 26, 2013 at 7:23 AM

 
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MUSKEGON, MI – Muskegon Heights High School students who were guests at a Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce breakfast Friday received a clear message on their prospects for the future.
George Erickcek and Michael Finney forecast the economic future of Muskegon
Enlarge George Erickcek gives a presentation on the forecast of Muskegon's economic future in 2013 on Friday, January 25, 2013 at the Holiday Inn Muskegon Harbor as part of the annual Business for Breakfast hosted by the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. George Erickcek and Michael Finney forecast the economic future of Muskegon gallery (8 photos)
Regional labor economist George Erickcek’s analysis showed the importance of finishing school and getting a college degree – a graduate level degree if possible.

Higher education is the surest way to have a job and make a comfortable income in Muskegon County, Erickcek’s economic analysis showed Friday morning at the Business for Breakfast event of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.

Erickcek looked at the effect of educational attainment on unemployment and income with some graphs that showed a blunt truth. It is a truth that business and community leaders hope all high school students in Muskegon County contemplate as they chart their futures.

The age-old message was driven home to the chamber audience at the Holiday Inn Muskegon Harbor: Education pays and higher education pays higher.

From 2011 statistics, those in Muskegon County without a high school education had a 52 percent unemployment rate compared to 17 percent for high school graduates, 14 percent for those with some college, 10 percent for those with an associate’s degree and 5 percent for those with bachelor’s and graduate degrees.

“And those with a 52 percent unemployment rate with less than a high school education are those kids that don’t move,” said Erickcek, of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. “They are the ones that are staying here. That’s scary.”

Likewise, total income for those in Muskegon County with a graduate degree averages more than $70,000 a year. Bachelor’s degree holders earn about $34,000, associate degree holder $28,000, those with some college $21,000, high school graduates $18,000 and high school dropouts $10,000 a year, according to Erickcek’s analysis.

A look at the educational requirements of Muskegon-area job postings is much different than the educational attainment of those in the Muskegon County job market. For example, some 41 percent of the workforce has some college education less than a bachelor’s degree but only 8 percent of the job postings are calling for such “middle-skilled” workers.

Likewise, 35 percent of the job postings in the Muskegon area call for a bachelor’s degree while only 15 percent of the current work force has a four-year college degree. Erickcek suggests that Muskegon County, like much of Michigan and many places in the United States, has a skills gap that points to a need to prepare young people for the jobs of the future and to retrain old workers for new careers.

Erickcek was at the Friday chamber breakfast to give his 2013 economic forecast for Muskegon County. Also speaking to the business group was Michael Finney, president of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

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MEDC President Michael Finney touts Michigan as being business-friendly at Muskegon Chamber breakfast

By Stephen Kloosterman | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
on January 25, 2013 at 1:43 PM, updated January 25, 2013 at 3:06 PM

 

MUSKEGON, MI -- Even as he acknowledged it was too soon to tell if recent controversial reforms were working, Michigan Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Michael A. Finney said the state has improved its climate as a business-friendly state.

Finney spoke Friday morning, Jan. 25 to about 400 people at the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce’s Business for Breakfast event at the Holiday Inn in downtown Muskegon.

In January 2011, when Governor Rick Snyder took office and asked Finney to come to the MEDC, Michigan was ranked as 49 out of 50 states for its business-friendly climate, he said.

“We now have climbed to number 12 overall,” he said. “We’re feeling pretty good about where we are.”

MEDC efforts in recent months have been overshadowed by controversial efforts to help businesses in the state, including right-to-work legislation that helps businesses bypass unions and the end of the personal property tax that hit businesses’ expensive equipment but helped fund municipalities.

RELATED: George Erickcek: Muskegon County job picture for 2013-14 first positive forecast since recession

“It’s a little too early to measure the impact of those,” he said. “But we are getting very positive messaging from the businesses we’re talking to.”

Finney outlined other efforts, programs of the MEDC that seem to be having an effect.

MEDC has $150 million available for grants to all kinds of businesses, and also posts collateral for business loans at roughly the rate of one a day, he said. In Detroit, MEDC has also partnered with an international crowd-sourcing platform, Kiva, to bring small loans of a few thousand dollars to individuals with small business projects that traditional banks wouldn’t look at.

Through its Pure Michigan Business Connect program, MEDC has also solicited commitments from companies to do business with Michigan companies, including hundreds of millions of dollars in commitments from Consumers Energy and DTE Energy.

George Erickcek and Michael Finney forecast the economic future of Muskegon
Enlarge George Erickcek gives a presentation on the forecast of Muskegon's economic future in 2013 on Friday, January 25, 2013 at the Holiday Inn Muskegon Harbor as part of the annual Business for Breakfast hosted by the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. George Erickcek and Michael Finney forecast the economic future of Muskegon gallery (8 photos)

Asked about how his organization valued lake access points like Muskegon’s deep water port, Finney said: “We think that the Great Lakes represent one of the significant transportation, logistics resources that we have.” He said the Great Lakes would be a “significant part” of a shipping and logistics strategy report headed for the governor’s desk in the next 30 days.

 

As the question-and-answer session continued, Whitehall Mayor Pro Tem Steve Sikkenga asked Finney about how funds lost by the personal property tax would be replaced. More than 40 percent of Whitehall’s revenue comes from the tax.

“Because it’s such a large percentage of our budget, even an 80 percent replacement – which they haven’t done by the way – would mean a large gap,” Sikkenga said later. He said he could see both sides though – his employer may do more business as a result of the tax being gone.

Finney told Sikkenga he wasn’t involved in the legislative process to replace the funds, and advised him to contact his representatives.

Asked about the right-to-work legislation, he said it was too early to tell how it would affect the economy, but the word from the business executives that select new location sites, and at least one of their trade publications, was that Michigan had become a better destination.

“They’re saying this has got Michigan on the radar screen,” he said.

 

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Whitehall couple nears dream of opening community brewery in their hometown by summer

Published: Friday, January 04, 2013, 7:20 AM Updated: Friday, January 04, 2013, 7:21 AM

WHITEHALL, MI – Local craft beer fans have doubled their chances of having the first Muskegon County microbrewery opening this year with a recent new business announcement from a Whitehall couple. 

Dan and Jen Hain of Whitehall have been planning a microbrewing business for three years and have decided on opening their Fetch Brewing Co. in the old State Bank building, 100 Colby St. in Whitehall.

The couple’s dreams of the craft beer business are coming together in their hometown, as work completing a roster of investors and consulting with a lawyer and accountant should allow Fetch Brewing to open in late spring or early summer.

That is the same time frame that the owners of Unruly Brewing Co. of Muskegon have plans to open in the burgeoning Russell Block Market in downtown Muskegon. Muskegon County, known as a good beer drinking community, is still awaiting its first microbrewery.

“The location has a high traffic count for a small community,” Dan Hain said of the vacant bank building in the center of Whitehall’s downtown business district. “And even in our little town, the bars and party stores sell a lot of craft beers over the big national brands. When people taste our beer, I think this business is going to do real well. I see us becoming a destination.”

One of the hurdles in the Hains’ business plan has been cleared, as the potential small business owners have a land contract to purchase the State Bank building, which has been planned for a restaurant in the past decade but no business has made the building that dates back to 1912 its home.

Hain said the couple explored other locations for Fetch Brewing Co., including in downtown Muskegon but settled on the State Bank building because it was in their hometown and minutes from their house. Hain, 45, said he and his wife have three small children.

“We want to teach our kids to be self-starters,” the Montague native said of the family’s entrepreneurial spirit. “This will put us out there on the line. It is a long-term dream.”

The Hains now need to secure a state liquor license for Fetch Brewing Co. and complete raising $200,000 in investor’s capital. Hain said he is about 70 percent toward raising the investment funds needed to open and the state license could take up to six months.

The Fetch Brewing Co. is being designed to have 65 seats in the lobby area of the old bank building, Hain said. The bank’s vault is expected to remain as a place where customers can purchase hats, shirts, glasses and other merchandise, he said. Reconstruction is expected to begin this month, he said.

Fetch Brewing Co. hopes to open with the ability to serve snacks and “hand-craft” sandwiches in addition to the locally brewed beverages. Hain said the plan is to have at least eight beers on tap at any time with a rotation of a dozen brews being offered.

A 20-year home brewing veteran, Hain said Fetch’s signature beer will be a red rye called “Lazy Eye Rye.” Fetch Brewing Co. will have a seven-barrel brewing system.

The company name comes from a nautical term – fetch – which is the path of the wind across a length of water, Hain said. It is a sailing expression that is perfect for a brewery so near White Lake, he indicated.

2006_06_1362.JPG The historic State Bank building in downtown Whitehall at 100 Colby St. as it looked in 2006 when a potential Italian restaurant owner had plans for the building.

White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce President Amy VanLoon has heard of the Fetch Brewing Co. plans and is thrilled that the new business development has progressed to the announcement stage.

“It is just awesome,” VanLoon said of the Hains’ plans. “I am thrilled for them and for our community. This will add a different element to the community. I think it will do well. Build it and they will come.”

Dan Hain, who will be the head brewer, has a degree in natural resources management and is currently working in manufacturing operations for a small company in Grand Haven. Jen Hain will provide the business and bookkeeping support for Fetch Brewing Co. A native of North Muskegon, she is in personal banking in Muskegon.

Fetch Brewing Co. hopes to be open this summer seven days a week from 11 a.m. to midnight with reduced hours on Sundays. Off summer season hours could be reduced to five days with the business closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

“With a large swath of West Michigan’s lakeshore being devoid of a brewery, we want to open a community brewery which would help bridge that gap,” Dan Hain said. “We are confident we can find enough committed investors to make our small business dream a tasty reality and find enough local customers to keep the facility up and running for the foreseeable future.”

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Brunswick helped form Muskegon's industrial foundation; bowling headquarters continues here

 By Dave Alexander | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
on January 11, 2013 at 6:46 AM, updated January 11, 2013 at 8:17 AM

 

MUSKEGON, MI – Brunswick Bowling sits among the companies that are the titans of Muskegon’s famed industrial history.

Just as the Sealed Power Corp., Continental Motors and Central Paper Co. (most recently Sappi Fine Paper) have done in the past, the worldwide leader in bowling equipment and products is taking down its local, historic manufacturing facilities.

Brick-by-brick, the 280,000-square-foot bowling equipment manufacturing plant on the north side of Laketon Avenue at Seaway Drive is being demolished by crews from Clifford Buck Construction Co. and Melching Inc. By spring, gone will be the any vestige of the production facilities that began in 1906 when Brunswick moved its bowling and billiards manufacturing operations to Muskegon with 87 employees.

But the large office and warehouse complex on the south side of Laketon Avenue will keep Muskegon at the center of Brunswick’s bowling world. Some 175 employees remain working for the company in Muskegon, where the worldwide management, research and development, marketing and warehousing of Brunswick Bowling Products are headquartered.

Brunswick came to Muskegon in 1906 as part of the economic development in the post-Lumber Era. Community leaders at that time sought industries to replace the wealth from lumbering, which had fled West Michigan by the turn of the century.

Brunswick was lured to Muskegon, as were other historic Muskegon industrial firms, through the community’s famed Industrial Fund, which offered the company $62,000 toward the construction of a new plant for the promise of industrial jobs. One-time Muskegon lumber baron Thomas Hume was instrumental in bringing Brunswick to Muskegon.

RELATED: Century-old Brunswick bowling plant in Muskegon to be razed as land is cleared for redevelopment

Brunswick was founded by a young Swiss immigrant in Cincinnati in 1845 and quickly became a maker of billiard tables, then known as the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Co.

Today, Brunswick is a global corporation headquartered in Lake Forest, Ill., north of Chicago. Besides bowling and billiards, the company also has brands in fitness equipment, marine engines and recreational boats.

Brunswick owns equipment maker LifeFitness, 32 recreational boat brands including Lund, SeaRay and Bayliner, along with boat engine makers Mariner and Mercury. The publicly-traded corporation has $3.7 billion in annual sales and 15,350 worldwide employees.

“Over its history, Brunswick was a huge corporation here,” said Anne Dake, curator of the Muskegon Heritage Museum. “They have made billiard tables, records and even toilet seats out of Muskegon.”

Muskegon operations peaked with 2,700 workers in 1929, when the the company had 1.3 million square feet of facilities. To survive the Great Depression, the local workers began to produce radios, soda fountains, school furniture and other products.

During the World War II production era, Brunswick produced guided missiles, fuel cells and assault boats. But by 1960, the plant was basically back to bowling technology, producing the latest in automatic pinsetters.

The slide in Muskegon manufacturing during the Rust Belt years in the Upper Midwest also hit Brunswick. The company began to pull its manufacturing operations out of Muskegon in the 1980s, making pins, pinsetters and scoring equipment elsewhere – many times overseas.

The last bowling ball was made in Muskegon in 2006 as the final 110 production workers lost their jobs. Ball manufacturing was moved to Mexico, where it remains today. The pinsetting equipment is now being made in Hungary, according to Vice President of Operations Brad Gandy.

A piece of Brunswick’s Muskegon industrial history will remain here with a display in the Muskegon Heritage Museum in downtown Muskegon.

Last winter, museum volunteers were given an A2 automatic pinsetter that was produced in Muskegon in 1961. The working unit was assembled in the industrial-oriented museum and remains a working reminder of the precise craftsmanship of Muskegon workers.

“The company has been marvelous as they designed, installed and will maintain the pinsetter,” Dake said. “But we must realize that they will still have a big presence in Muskegon.”

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Water Runs Through Us: Muskegon's port more than just shipping business but also a tourist draw

Published: Friday, November 30, 2012, 6:55 AM Updated: Friday, November 30, 2012, 6:55 AM

MUSKEGON, MI – Jim Fuhlman spent more time than he’d like to admit watching
the ships on the Mart Dock from his seventh floor room in the Shoreline Inn.

BBC Elbe ship enters Muskegon Channel   

The BBC Elbe prepares to enter the Muskegon Channel around 7 am
Sept. 27. The BBC Elbe, a 469-foot German ship, was the third of seven foreign
ships carrying wind turbine parts going to the Mart Dock on Muskegon
Lake. 


Here with his wife, Sharon, the Fuhlmans were in Muskegon at the beginning of
October visiting family. There aren’t 462-foot ocean-going cargo ships unloading
huge turbine blades and tower sections back home in Cedartown, Ga. between
Atlanta and Chattanooga, Fuhlman said.

“It was intriguing,” Fuhlman said of the commercial ship operations going on
below his hotel balcony. A retired office furniture plant manager, Fuhlman said
shipping is an area of business that he really never understood but has always
drawn his attention.

“With the size of those blades, it all happened in slow motion,” he said of
watching the Amstelborg and Marlene Green dock, unload and cast off from the
Mart Dock on Muskegon Lake. “That this dock adapted from sand and gravel to
these blades is rather amazing and shows the ingenuity people have.”

The Fuhlmans didn’t come to Muskegon and stay at
the Shoreline Inn and Conference Center because of the ship activity on the Mart
Dock, but it sure enhanced their visit. Muskegon learned – and for some
relearned – the significance ship activity in its harbor can have on tourism
as seven cargo ships made their way to Muskegon this fall with the turbine
components
.


MLive and The Muskegon Chronicle is looking at tourism this week as part of the ongoing “Water Runs Through Us” series                              that explores the community’s deep, historic relationship with its water resources and what that means for the future.


The North Star Steel issue of the mid 1970s when a manufacturing plant was
rejected on the Muskegon Lake shoreline built a community consensus of keeping
industry off the waterfront. But the industrial-type activity of Great Lake
shipping is a whole different issue.

 
BBC Elbe Arrives in Muskegon

Nikole Hanna | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it Wind turbine towers are unloaded
from the BBC Elbe at the West Michigan Dock and Market Corp.’s Mart Dock in
Muskegon, on Thursday, September 27, 2012. The BBC Elbe, a 469-foot German ship,
is the third of seven foreign ships carrying wind turbine parts. Photo available
for sale please contact Ken Stevens at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if interested.
BBC Elbe Arrives in Muskegon gallery (10 photos) 
 

  • BBC Elbe Arrives in Muskegon

  • BBC Elbe Arrives in Muskegon

  • BBC Elbe Arrives in Muskegon

  • BBC Elbe Arrives in Muskegon

  • BBC Elbe Arrives in Muskegon

Not only does shipping activity become a compatible use directly adjacent
to a waterfront destination like the Shoreline Inn with its hotel, lakefront
restaurant and marina but it actually bolsters business, according to Shoreline
Inn General Manager Doug Pollock.

The Shoreline Inn’s tremendous fall season with solid business in September,
October and now November was not caused by the surge in Mart Dock ship activity
but certainly that didn’t hurt, Pollock said. The ship arrivals not only
thrilled guests but the hotel and its restaurant was the off-hours location for
ship crews and dock workers handling the cargo, he said.

“I don’t see any hindrance being next to a commercial dock but we have
actually seen it be a positive influence on our business,” Pollock said. “You
look at what you have and align your business with it.

“We don’t want to fight it but go with it and make the most of it,” Pollock
continued. “This fall the Mart Dock got some great publicity and we got more
business. That is best for both businesses and the community.”

No community in Michigan has leveraged the public fascination with Great
Lakes commercial shipping more than Sault Ste. Marie in the Upper Peninsula,
which is home to the Soo Locks. The shipping locks on the St. Mary’s River
between Michigan and Ontario Canada have been a huge tourist draw for generation
of ship lovers.

 
A tour of the German cargo ship BBC Balboa

Ken Stevens | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it The view from the bridge
aboard the 420-foot, ocean-going cargo ship, BBC Balboa that is currently docked
at the Mart Dock in Muskegon. The German ship arrived at the dock just before
daybreak Monday with a shipment 24 wind turbine blades, some of which are still
on the ship pictured below. Crews will remove the remaining blades when weather
permits them to resume work.   

Photo available for sale please contact Ken Stevens
at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if interested.
 

  • A tour of the German cargo ship BBC Balboa

  • A tour of the German cargo ship BBC Balboa

  • A tour of the German cargo ship BBC Balboa

  • A tour of the German cargo ship BBC Balboa

  • A tour of the German cargo ship BBC Balboa

  • Sault Ste. Marie draws 500,000 people a summer to its community because of
    the Soo Locks, Soo Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Linda Hoath
    said. People will stand for hours on the multi-level observation deck in the
    park along Water Street watching the lake freighters move through the locks that
    connects Lakes Superior and Huron.


    “The river and the water is the reason we are here,” Hoath said of what
    defines Sault Ste. Marie much in the same way as Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan
    define Muskegon. “The Soo Locks are a big part of our brand. People are just
    fascinated by them. It is like the Big Mac Bridge. The locks are just huge for
    us.”

    Muskegon County Community Development Director Bob Lukens has been in
    Muskegon more than a year now and he is just learning the powerful hold port
    activity has on local residents and visitors alike.

    Lukens was speaking to a bus tour group as the senior women from southeast
    Michigan saw three ships moored in Muskegon Lake waiting out rough weather on
    Lake Michigan. Questions about Muskegon’s port dominated the conversation,
    Lukens said.

    “People are naturally curious of big ships, such big mechanical devices,” he
    said. “It is like building a big building and people will watch construction.
    These women were fascinated by the freighters that come through our port.”

    When combined with a flourishing recreational boating and the Lake Express
    high-speed ferry on Muskegon Lake, commercial shipping is a huge draw for those
    visiting the Muskegon area, Lukens said. Port City Princess tour boat owner
    Sylvia Precious said the port separates Muskegon from other Michigan
    communities, even those on the Great Lakes.

    “Seeing the big ships coming in is always a thrill,” said Precious, whose
    dinner excursion boat is berthed at the Mart Dock. “I like to get on my
    bandwagon and make sure that we promote ourselves as the Port City. People want
    to get onto the water and get close to these ships. It is all great for our
    business.”

    A whole culture has grown around Great Lakes
    shipping as aficionados refer to themselves as “boat nerds,” which has given
    rise to boatnerd.com where shipping fans
    can trade information, photos and ship sightings. That curiosity and fascination
    with ships eventually got Ed Hogan into the shipping business in 1977.

    “Living on the Great Lakes you look out on the water and are curious at what
    is going on out there … so few of us actually work in the business,” said Hogan
    -- the vice president of Port City Marine Services, who began as a deck hand and
    was a boat captain before going into marine operations. “People all over the
    lakes are out watching ships where they can.”

    You can count Gen and David Sterenberg as “boat nerds.” The Grand Rapids
    couple love to get on Muskegon Lake either in their sailboat or trailerable “tug
    boat” to get a better look at the ships that visit Muskegon’s port.

    “We can see them from the water and that is an advantage,” Gen Sterenberg
    said. “It is a fascination at how such large ships move across the water. It is
    a personal interest.”

    As long as there are people with a passion for shipping, Muskegon has an
    opportunity to bolster its tourism through its port activities.

    “It is a hobby watching them,” Sterenberg said of the big ships. “Some people
    go hunting; we watch boats.”

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    Cargo ship Amstelborg arrives in Muskegon The 462-foot Amstelborg cargo ship arrived in Muskegon late
    Wednesday morning, October 3, 2012 with a shipment of wind turbine blades. The
    Dutch registered and German owned and operated cargo ship was transporting 31
    wind turbine blades to the Mart Dock in downtown Muskegon. Watch video




     
       

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