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Economic Development Since 1999 Contact Us

Alcoa Howmet – Whitehall, Michigan

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

Eagle Alloy

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

Serving a diverse customer base and utilizing lean manufacturing practices; one of the premier steel foundries in the country


Alcoa Howmet – Whitehall, Michigan

A commitment to environmental sustainability; keeping the health and safety of their employees, customers and communities a top priority

Culinary Institute

Muskegon Area First: Helping Local Businesses Flourish

The Culinary Institute of Michigan - Baker College's world-class caliber culinary learning environment


Alcoa Howmet – Whitehall, Michigan since 1951

Leading producer of complex investment-cast turbine components for the aerospace and industrial gas turbine industries

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Renewable energy storage device developed at Muskegon's GVSU business incubator


Renewable energy storage device developed at Muskegon's GVSU business

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

November 26, 2013 at 8:45 AM,

MUSKEGON, MI – Grand Valley State University’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center has launched a number of upstart businesses, but breakthrough products have been few and far between.

Energy Partners LLC founder and GVSU professor emeritus Jim Wolter thinks he and partner Ed Brandel have come upon an energy storage device that could be a game changer.

Solar24.JPGSolar 24 combines a large solar energy panel with a battery pack and electronic circuits to provide a steady stream of energy whether the sun is shining or not.Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle

Energy Partners a 3-year research and development venture that has made the MAREC business incubator its home – introduced Solar 24 at the Solar Power International Conference in Chicago at the end of October.

The energy storage device allows for the steady discharge of electricity created by solar panels over the course of a day even during nighttime hours, Wolter said. Besides technical support from MAREC, Solar 24 received funding from the Michigan-based Business Accelerator Fund.

“This is breakthrough technology,” said Arn Boezaart, director of the Muskegon-based MAREC. “It’s the first of its kind that I’ve seen in the renewable energy industry and addresses the often-cited intermittent nature of solar energy. This kind of innovation is the reason MAREC’s business incubator program provides the resources and space to develop new products and concepts.”

The “secret sauce” is in the electronic circuits that Brandel brought to Energy Partners, Wolter said, adding that patents are pending. The Muskegon native is a Texas Tech University engineering graduate who worked for Texas Instruments in Lubbuck, Texas as an electrical engineer.

Brandel worked in the areas of consumer products, semi-conductors and microprocessors before returning to Muskegon, he said. Wolter and Brandel have been working together on the Solar 24 for the past year and a half.

“The circuitry controls how much power you take out of the device,” explained Wolter, a retired professor of both engineering and marketing who has specialized in bringing new technologies to market.

The Solar 24 is a 5-foot-tall solar panel connected to a box with the electronic circuits and a lithium ion battery pack, which is produced by Harding Energy in Norton Shores. Wolter is the vice chairman of the Harding Energy board of directors.

The solar panel, made by a Milwaukee-based company, produces energy when the sun is shining to provide electricity and charge the batteries. As the sun energy declines, the batteries take over – producing a constant flow of current – until the next day’s sunrise, the inventors said.

The Solar 24 components are all commonly found devices from Michigan or Midwest manufacturers, Boezaart said. Wolter said the device is a “software-defined” solution to the storage of alternative energy.

The current Solar 24 puts out enough energy to provide direct current electricity for, as an example, a Third World house that has no connection to the electrical grid. The energy storage device can’t power an electric stove or air conditioner, but it does have the capability of recharging batteries for cellphones and computer tablets while also providing power for LED lighting and a radio in the house, the inventors said.

Other applications can be for small commercial signs that need lighting throughout the night or as a military use for a soldier on the battlefield with an array of electronic equipment, they said. The Solar 24 panels can be strung together, Wolter said, from 10 to 10,000 depending upon need.

At the Chicago solar trade show, Energy Partners began looking for a manufacturing company and investors to take its device to the global market, Wolter said. Initial reaction has been positive and meetings are taking place with interested parties, he said.

“I am confident that the Solar 24 will be into production in the short term,” Wolter said. “We just need a little bit more testing time.”


WZZM 13 Made in Michigan -Muskegon Manufacturer Smart Vision Lights


DALTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) -- A Muskegon-area business is an example of how a successful company can grow in Michigan. 

Smart Vision Lights started in the basement of a house, then grew to a business incubator space at the MAREC Center. Now the company has a large space to call it's own on M-120.

Smart Vision Lights designs, engineers, and manufactures LED lights that are used on assembly lines across the U.S. and in Europe and China. 

The LEDs work with cameras placed on fast-moving assembly lines, providing consistent light so the cameras can inspect auto parts, make sure the cap on your pill bottle is sealed, and the package shipped at the post office is routed to the correct destination.

Larger and faster shipping and assembly lines open everyday around the globe and Smart Vision Lights is keeping up with new products every year. "Four or five, up to 10 new products a year," said Dave Spaulding, president Smart Vision Lights.  

He says the growth of bar code readers at Fed Ex, Amazon, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service is a market his company will need to be a part of to keep growing. "All of them are going almost 100 percent reading codes on boxes as they are going through the warehouse. That is a big area of focus for us," said Spaulding. 

The lights include several parts made in Michigan; Spaulding says Smart Vision Lights' success is impacting families and other business in West Michigan. "We live here, we work here, we want to stay here. It means that jobs are here in Michigan, they stay in Michigan, and people have jobs that they can come to everyday."

Seven years ago Smart Vision Lights only had two employees, now the company employs 13 full time workers.


Watch from four angles the former Sappi paper mill power plant come down by explosions





By Ken Stevens | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  
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on October 26, 2013 at 1:04 PM, updated October 27, 2013 at 1:25 PM


MLive Muskegon Chronicle photographers were positioned at four different locations along the southern Muskegon Lake shoreline, Sunday morning Oct. 27 to record the demolition of the former Sappi paper mill power plant. 

This video shows each of those views as the 200-foot section of the building was brought down by several closely timed explosions. The public was kept at least 1,000 feet away from the blast site and was not allowed on the 119-acre site. In addition, Lakeshore Drive was closed to prepare for the explosions.

This particular section of the plant was constructed in the late 1980s and was the last major addition to the mill, which began operation producing paper on the site at 2400 Lakeshore in 1900 as Central Paper Company. 

The S.D Warren Company purchased Central Paper in 1953 and operated by that name until Sappi Ltd. of South Africa purchased the mill in 1994. The plant closed in 2009 and the site was sold in 2011 to Melching Inc., a demolition company based in Nunica. 

At its peak in 1975, employment at the mill reached approximately 1,200 employees.


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.


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