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New hybrid CNC/CAD programs at Muskegon Community College churning out highly-skilled workers

           

Lynn Moore | 
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 </script>By Lynn Moore | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
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on October 23, 2013 at 9:46 AM, updated October 23, 2013 at 9:48 AM

 

MUSKEGON, MI --  The bulletin board in the CNC training room at Muskegon Community College is covered with help-wanted notices put there by Instructor Tom Groner.

They are from Muskegon manufacturers looking for  highly-skilled workers, the kind that Groner and his colleague Tom Martin are training through new CAD/CNC hybrid programs at the college.

The bulletin board is proof that manufacturing is alive and well in Muskegon, even if there are fewer people working in the industry, said Dan Rinsema-Sybenga, dean of workforce and talent development at MCC.

And that's exactly why the new programs that combine Computer Aided Design – CAD – with Computer Numerical Control – CNC – are so needed, Rinsema-Sybenga said. As workforces decline, the "silos" created by CAD designers and those who program computers to create the designs need to be torn down, he said.

"What industry wants is a guy who can do both," Martin said. "The guys who can do both have the most opportunity."

With the help of federal funding designed to help displaced workers, the college developed an "accelerated" eight-week program that fast tracks students into skilled manufacturing careers. The CAD/CNC Accelerated Academy allows students to bypass general education classes and get entry level training in both CAD and CNC – earning three college credits in CAD and three in machine technology. Previously, the courses took 15 weeks to complete.

It's enough for some to get their foot in the door at local manufacturing plants. But college officials are encouraging Accelerated Academy students to continue on to the college's new CAD/CNC certificate program, which requires one year of training, or an associate's degree in CAD/CNC.

Valarie Shelby, grant coordinator for the CAD/CNC program, said the instruction is very technical. Standing outside an MCC computer lab used by CAD students, she said the training students receive is far above any she witnessed when she worked in manufacturing.

"These are skilled labor jobs they're preparing for," she said. "They have to be really committed to be in this program."

Martin, who is chairman of MCC's Applied Technologies Department, said he is working with employers to encourage their workers to continue their education beyond the Accelerated Academy.

"It's in the best interest of both the worker and the employer," he said.

Bob Becklin, the apprenticeship coordinator at Anderson Global in Muskegon Heights, said completing the Accelerated Academy would be a big help to someone hoping to get on the company's apprenticeship list. It's from that list that Anderson Global hires new employees, who serve as apprentices for five years before they become journeymen earning $26.18 per hour.

"The need is great," Becklin said. "The manufacturing jobs we have here at Anderson are so high-tech and so high-paced, it's really cool to have people to have those skills .. To come not at ground zero, but up a few steps... it might put them in a better situation of getting on our list."

Anderson Global manufactures foundry tooling at its local plant that has about 165 employees. That's up from 120 workers just two years ago, Becklin said.

Among the requirements of Anderson Global apprentices is that they complete 10 classes at MCC, Becklin said. The CAD/CNC classes fit perfectly into the type of training apprentices need in the factory where employees thrive if they have multiple skills, said Becklin, who also serves as the plant's bench room supervisor and safety director.

Phillip Daneff was a cook in the U.S. Army, but knew when he was discharged that he wanted a career in a high-demand, high-wage area. After doing some research, and building on CAD instruction he had while in high school, he chose CAD and CNC.

"I've always been interested in CNC and auto CAD," Daneff said. "I knew that's where the big money was made."

He didn't know how to get started in the career until he learned about the CAD/CNC Accelerated Academy at MCC. He enrolled and now is in his second week with seven other students.

"I absolutely love it," Daneff said. "It's definitely a good starting point. ... It's not something for everybody. It's certainly challenging."

To help move students quickly through the program, and to receive more intensive training, the college spent about $85,000 in federal funding on new equipment. The equipment includes 13 new CNC simulators, which are essentially the computer portion of a mill that is used to program the tool path the mill will use to produce a part.

The college also bought several mini mills as well as a coordinate measuring machine that was a special request of Alcoa Howmet, which needs workers trained in the highly precise measuring.

Groner, the machining instructor, said he emphasizes students having fun while learning skills that are coveted by manufacturers. Students, he said, are amazed by the molds they can create in just a short while – and of the job openings posted on his bulletin board.

"We've opened the world to these guys," he said.

Lynn Moore covers education for MLive/Muskegon Chronicle. Email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  and follow her on Twitter and Google+.

   

State of Michigan approves $710,000 investment for new downtown Muskegon Farmers Market

          

MUSKEGON, MI – The state of Michigan has said “yes” to Muskegon and its new downtown farmers market to the tune of $710,000.

The Michigan Strategic Fund board Wednesday, Oct. 16 approved a Community Revitalization Program performance-based grant to help the non-profit Downtown Muskegon Development Corp. build the new Muskegon Farmers Market. The $3.8 million market is currently under construction at West Western Avenue and Terrace Street, on schedule to open May 1, 2014.

The development corporation – a combination of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, the Community Foundation for Muskegon County and the Paul C. Johnson Foundation – is privately raising the funds to build the new market. The land and new facility will be donated to the city of Muskegon, which has agreed to relocate its longtime farmers market operation from Yuba Street to the downtown.

The DMDC is the group that obtained the 23 acres that was once the Muskegon Mall, demolished the old retail center and has begun the redevelopment of the community’s central business district.

"We are elated that the state found it a viable project for economic development in downtown Muskegon," said Steve Olsen, co-chairman of the market's fundraising committee. The DMDC has raised about $3.3 million of the $3.8 needed, which includes the state grant, he said.

The Muskegon Farmers Market grant was among four – one a business development program grant -- approved by the strategic fund board, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. Those projects are expected to generate $41.7 million in investment and create 70 new jobs.

The other Community Revitalization Program grants were $445,000 to Hotel Sterling II LLC in the city of Wyandotte for a 21-room boutique hotel and $1 million to Harbortown Riverside LLC for a five-story residential building in the Harbortown complex on the Detroit River in the city of Detroit.

The business development grant was a $250,000 award to Triumph Gear Systems-Macomb, Inc. in Macomb Township for a manufacturing company in the aerospace industry undergoing a $15.2 million expansion with 60 new jobs.

“From manufacturing to local vendors and residential property, these four projects will further revitalize our state and bring new jobs to our communities,” MEDC President Michael Finney said in a prepared statement. “These new investments show Michigan’s highly competitive business climate and talented work force mean real opportunities for growing companies.”

The Muskegon Farmers Market project is creating an upscale, modern facility with 136 outdoor vendor stalls, 16 indoor/year-round stalls, 229 on-site parking spaces, a 3,500-square-foot building with a community kitchen and two sets of public restrooms.

State economic development officials expect four new jobs to be created with the market development and offer improved retail opportunities for local farmers and vendors. The DMDC expects the market to be a catalyst for other downtown retail, restaurant and residential development.

   

MiBiz 2013 M&A Deals & Dealmaker Awards Real Estate Winner: Parkland Properties

MiBiz

Friday, 04 October 2013 11:26

Written by  

Jon Rooks of Parkland Properties likes the idea of participating in Muskegon’s rebirth. The developer has amassed quite the portfolio of properties in the city, including two of its major downtown hotel properties, over the last few years. His company is also planning a range of residential offerings, including apartments and single-family units.Jon Rooks of Parkland Properties likes the idea of participating in Muskegon’s rebirth. The developer has amassed quite the portfolio of properties in the city, including two of its major downtown hotel properties, over the last few years. His company is also planning a range of residential offerings, including apartments and single-family units.PHOTO: REX LARSEN

One of Muskegon’s biggest cheerleaders happens to be a developer who owns one of the largest portfolios of property being redeveloped in the city’s downtown.

In the last few years, Parkland Properties’ founder Jon Rooks has amassed a bevy of properties in the lakeshore city, culminating earlier this year with the acquisition of the Holiday Inn Muskegon Harbor.

Parkland Properties used the tax benefits of a 1031 exchange to purchase the hotel, the owners of which had recently completed a $2 million renovation. Rooks agreed to spend another $1.5 million over two years to update the hotel’s mechanical systems, roof and windows.

The acquisition was Parkland’s second foray into the hospitality industry in Muskegon, the company having purchased the struggling Shoreline Inn & Conference Center from the brink of foreclosure in 2009.

“In the sense of the synergies we had in terms of management and cross utilization of the people I hired to turnaround the Shoreline Inn, it was just natural for us to buy the Holiday Inn,” he said.

In part, Rooks said the successful turnaround of the Shoreline Inn led to the owners of the Holiday Inn approaching him about buying the property. They talked once a year after Rooks purchased the Shoreline Inn and were able to come to a deal very quickly this year.

“Why not do it again? Why not take the same approach we took with the Shoreline Inn and use it on the Holiday Inn?” he said of his company’s thinking in approaching the deal.

That latest acquisition follows a string of transactions for Rooks in Muskegon, deals that started with Parkland’s acquisition of the former Comerica Bank building in downtown Muskegon in 2008. Rooks is now planning to redevelop the site into HighPoint Flats, a 72-unit, two-phase residential apartment development.

Last year, he also added to his portfolio a former Muskegon fire station that he plans to use as a sales, leasing and construction office for HighPoint Flats and the new Terrace Point Landing, a $14 million development with up to 70 lots for single-family units on Muskegon Lake adjacent to Shoreline Inn.

But Parkland Properties and Rooks weren’t always so keen on projects in Muskegon.

Rooks cut his teeth in the 2000s developing condo properties in the Grand Rapids market, where he made use of Renaissance Zone designations to spur buyer interest. Since 2003, Rooks has developed more than 500 condos and 53 offices spaces, all of which maintain above a 97-percent occupancy rate, he said.

With that track record behind him, Rooks’ reasons for heading to Muskegon stem back to 2007 when three of his friends convinced him to come to the city and get a firsthand look at the opportunities for development. That ultimately led to his purchase of the HighPoint Flats site.

The other acquisitions just came together because of his connections in the market, he said. All of a sudden, Rooks said his company was much further embedded in Muskegon than he ever intended.

“Once I was there, it was like I drank the Kool-Aid,” he said. “I became more impressed by their commitment and enthusiasm and the masterminding of the turnaround of Muskegon.”

Another reason for coming to Muskegon: The city was very supportive of development proposals. Rooks had just walked away from a frustrating residential proposal to redevelop the former Sligh Furniture factory on Grand Rapids’ south side after failing to win approval for a Renaissance Zone designation after other developers objected.

“I was frustrated and the timing from Muskegon’s city leaders was perfect,” Rooks said. “They said, ‘We have (the former Comerica Bank building) and we want to give you a Renaissance Zone extension here.

It got me excited about the resurgence and the enthusiasm of the people who have a focused mission of turning around downtown Muskegon.”

It wasn’t just city leaders that kept selling him on investing in Muskegon, either.

He said the community raised roughly $15 million in private funding in one year, funding that went to build the new farmers market, endow the arts museum and help fund an expansion of Grand Valley State University’s new Annis Water Research Institute.

“It’s shocking,” he said. “The city has a lot of quiet money, smart people and effective planning in place, and we just want to be a part of that.”

Despite the risk involved in being part of Muskegon’s turnaround, Rooks said he prides himself on being the first to put a flag in the ground.

“It’s a tough deal in the beginning, but we always like to be at the front end of the emerging markets,” he said. “We were the first to offer condos in Grand Rapids under $200,000, and at a time, we were selling a condo a day. We felt like we were a market maker then offering smaller, less expensive condos with more amenities than others had done in the past.”

With that confidence, Rooks said he wants to do the same thing in Muskegon. While it may not be strictly condos, he is bringing a mix of what he thinks are complementary property types to the market.

A good project should be able to stand on its own and make money, but another thing a good project can also do is become a catalyst for further development in a community, he said.

“We want to be the catalysts and we want our project to be what appraisers look at to see whether it’s prudent to lend money to new projects,” he said. “That’s ultimately the best compliment we can get when appraisers call and use our project as a comp.”

  • Company: Parkland Properties of West Michigan
  • Top executive: Jonathan Rooks
  • Annual sales: $15 million in rental revenues (sales ranged from $5 million to $50 million annually over the last five years)
  • Total full-time West Michigan employees: 220
  • Brief business description: Property development firm in West Michigan with a focus on urban renewal of historic buildings by adaptive re-use as well as an interest in improving West Michigan’s use of waterfront property on or connected to Lake Michigan.
  • Best practices for effective dealmaking: 1) Identify undervalued and underdeveloped properties ahead of the curve, work with government entities and incentive programs to create exceptional market-rate projects in turnaround communities, either from scratch or as turnaround projects; 2) Travel and explore the world to get fresh ideas to use in West Michigan, to keep us ahead of the curve, and then constantly manage cost and risk by analyzing: real and potential competition, interest rate risk, tenant loss risk, sales risk, loan renewal risk. This helps us reduce and effectively manage and then eliminate debt; 3) Work with trusted vendors and advisers to help us reduce our cost, leverage our knowledge and passion, and then pursue the business in structured phases; 4) Investigate thoroughly, invest in due diligence, buy low, sell value and sell fast, and maintain an appropriate mix of cash flow-producing assets and speculative appreciating assets — and where possible, buy, develop and sell off a portion to pay off debt, and retain the balance of the property to help finance the next project.

- See more at: http://mibiz.com/item/20974-mibiz-2013-ma-deals-dealmaker-awards-real-estate-winner-parkland-properties?acm=10069_1061#sthash.FopFz64l.PogBHtrB.dpuf

   

Muskegon manufacturer supplies gas mask components

MiBiz

Sunday, 29 September 2013 22:00

Muskegon manufacturer supplies gas mask components

Written by  

MADE IN MICHIGAN: Muskegon-based Seabrook Plastics Inc. was able to ride out the worst of the decline in the automotive industry by securing a contract supplying gas mask components to an English firm with defense contracts. During the downturn, the company was also able to add some experienced managers from larger manufacturers who brought with them significant knowledge in lean manufacturing processes. Today, Seabrook employs about 50 people and has annual sales between $3.5 million and $5 million.

MADE IN MICHIGAN: Muskegon-based Seabrook Plastics Inc. was able to ride out the worst of the decline in the automotive industry by securing a contract supplying gas mask components to an English firm with defense contracts. During the downturn, the company was also able to add some experienced managers from larger manufacturers who brought with them significant knowledge in lean manufacturing processes. Today, Seabrook employs about 50 people and has annual sales between $3.5 million and $5 million.PHOTO: NICK MANES

Executives at Seabrook Plastics Inc. eschew the notion that manufacturers need to be running near capacity to be profitable.

The Muskegon-based plastic injection molder has developed its business model around an acute focus on lean, just-in-time manufacturing by building in labor-saving automated processes, fixing up and implementing used machinery and leveraging the knowledge of industry veterans the company was able to hire as other firms were laying off workers.

Like many companies in the automotive supply chain, Seabrook Plastics faced uncertain times as the industry began to implode in 2008. But timing proved to be on the company’s side. The low point of the economic downturn happened to be a major turning point for Seabrook, which was founded in 1994.

Just as its automotive business fell off, the company was able to pick up a large chunk of business supplying a defense contractor with components for gas masks. At the same time, Seabrook also had its pick of qualified, experienced manufacturing leaders who had been laid off from other, larger companies.

Today, roughly 50 percent of Seabrook’s business comes from manufacturing gas mask components for an English company with significant government defense contracts. Seabrook has about 50 employees. The company has had annual sales between $3.5 million and $5 million.

The gas mask component business came at an opportune time for Seabrook, an ISO/TS 16949 certified company. Seabrook had been developing the tooling for the design and perfecting the engineering for the parts since 2001, but the company didn’t get orders to begin manufacturing the parts until 2008, just as the automotive industry crashed.

“We had it to carry us through and then we have been building on it,” Sherryn Benkert, Seabrook’s controller, said of the gas mask business. “We’re on the third generation (of gas mask designs) so there have been continual mold builds and changes during that time.”

The business climate also helped the small plastics company build its current leadership team and hone its business model.

Engineering Manager Al Claeys and Quality Engineer Cindy Kowalski were both veterans of Tier-1 automotive suppliers — Donnelly Corp. and Johnson Controls, respectively — who found themselves laid off from work. They came to Seabrook ready to help the company implement best practices from the much larger companies.

“We took all the lean methodologies we learned and basically turned little Seabrook into a mini JCI or a mini Magna-Donnelly,” Claeys said. “We put all the lean philosophies in. We practice just-in-time. We don’t believe in a lot of inventory. All of that helped us to make it through.”

Claeys also attributes Seabrook’s success to the company’s use of automation and robotic machinery, something introduced by President Serge L. Cousin.

Over the past several years as he walked the floor of his 30,000-square-foot plant, Cousin said he was seeing too much redundancy and inefficiency that often resulted in bad parts being shipped.

Now almost every machine in Seabrook’s factory can be operated by just one person, in many cases without the person having to stand at the station the whole time. That’s because the manufacturer uses an automated process to check for product quality. Robotic arms pick up the molded pieces of plastic and rubber and a system of cameras matched with software programs inspect the parts. The role of operator is largely reduced to that of emptying the bins that contain finished parts.

The automated processes help the company compete for projects involving complex parts with narrow tolerances. For example, Seabrook currently supplies Mercedes-Benz with rubber inserts that go between the grooves of running boards for the M-Class SUV manufactured in Alabama. The inserts contain precise bump-outs that fit into the grooves of the aluminum running board. At one time, an operator would have to peel the inserts out of the machines by hand, but it’s now all done by robot.

Claeys said this process has allowed Seabrook to cut labor costs by about 10 or 15 percent.

“It was a very difficult, labor-intensive job,” Claeys said. “(The robots) actually remove the parts, place them on a conveyor and send them right down to the operator.”

Cousin buys most of these machines at auction, sometimes even from online sites such as eBay and Craigslist. He said that he has had a few problems with malfunctioning machines, but those problems are solvable since many people on Seabrook’s staff are trained to repair the equipment. Cousin also owns a side business that repairs, maintains and sells robotic machinery. His crew is currently preparing one machine that will be shipped to the University of Southern California, he said.

The use of refurbished machines and the highly-automated processes allows the company to operate at a lower capacity utilization rate around 50 percent and still maintain profitability, Claeys said.

Claeys added that the programming for the software used in the vision cameras is typically the only aspect of Seabrook’s work that gets outsourced.

Because of the serious nature of manufacturing parts for gas masks, the management at Seabrook puts quality ahead of quantity as the most important part of the company.

“(Seabrook tries) to be a couple notches better than your local, everyday mom-and-pop shop molder and focus on quality,” Claeys said. “Quality is very important because, obviously, if you have a quality problem, somebody dies.”

The company’s production manager, Mike Wood, added that the work Seabrook does under government contracts has a significantly lower tolerance for imperfections than even its automotive work, which he said accounts for about 40 percent of its business.

“Bad parts can’t get out the door. That’s what it boils down to,” Wood said. “Companies can get fined tens of thousands of dollars if they’re not following their processes or procedures.”

- See more at: http://mibiz.com/item/20945-muskegon-manufacturer-supplies-gas-mask-components#sthash.F9slUjDS.dpuf

   

Norton Shores issues tax break for expansion at Eagle Machine Tool

By Michelle D. Anderson | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
on September 26, 2013 at 11:17 AM                           

 

NORTON SHORES, MI – The city of Norton Shores this month voted to issue a tax break for a planned expansion of Eagle Machine Tool.

After a public hearing during its Sept. 17 council meeting, council members unanimously approved the 12-year tax abatement request from Eagle Machine Tool Corporation for its expansion at 6060 Grand Haven Road. 

The Industrial Facilities Exemption was for machinery and equipment totaling $137,500 and will help add two jobs in the Muskegon area, said Eagle Machine Tool Corp. President Ted Fleis.

The city would initially receive $363 in taxes that will be abated. The first year taxes for all jurisdictions will total $2,043, according to Norton Shores City Administrator Mark Meyers.

Founded in 1991, the family-owned company, which according to its website “specializes in retrofitting and manufacturing machine tools for the metal removal and wood routing industries,” has been operating in Norton Shores for two decades.

Fleis said the building improvements will allow equipment to be shipped to the facility for upgrades. The firm recently added 3,000 square feet of space to its preexisting 5,000 square feet building.

About 70 percent of its work takes place at the customers’ site but he hopes to reduce that to 50 percent by increasing in-house assembly.

Fleis said the upcoming changes will allow employees to work locally rather than trek to places as far south as South Carolina. The lengthy commutes have kept employees away for as much as 149 days a year, he said.

“Over the last few years, we’ve lost key people because they couldn’t stand the overnight travel,” Fleis said. “I don’t see the (abatement) as tax savings as much as I see it as an incentive to hire. I’m actually encouraged by that.”

Fleis said up until its recent expansion, Eagle Machine never had the capacity for additional production. The company performs most of its work in Michigan with Detroit standing as the firm’s No. 1 market, he said.

“I can add staff and rebuild business right here in my shop,” Fleis said.

The establishment currently employs seven full-time employees. Fleis expects to add two positions in the next 18 months. Its current location, built in 1995, features two concrete machine pads and a 5 ton overhead crane that runs the length of building.

The city has approved four tax abatements this year. The recent Eagle Machine decision makes it the first abatement since the beginning of the new fiscal year that began on July 1.

During its Oct. 1 City Council meeting, the municipality will host two public hearings for industrial facilities and personal property tax abatement requests from American Glass Mosaics, LLC, 7103 Enterprise Drive. 

   

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