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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

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

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Muskegon Area First: Helping Local Businesses Flourish

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


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

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


Friday, 04 October 2013 11:26

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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


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. 


Another ADAC Auto expansion shows the strength of Muskegon County's industrial sector


MUSKEGON, MI – Muskegon community leaders and economic developers are starting to repeat themselves: Muskegon County’s manufacturing sector is alive and well.

That message was driven home again Wednesday, Sept. 18 as the Michigan Economic Development Corp. announced a $7.9 million expansion at ADAC Automotive in the city of Muskegon’s Port City Industrial Park that will create an estimated 97 new jobs.

The Grand Rapids-based auto parts supplier already opened an $18 million new paint line at its Muskegon facilities in July, creating an additional 130 jobs over two years. ADAC will become Muskegon County’s second-largest industrial employer, already having 766 working in two city of Muskegon facilities today.

“I am thrilled to be able to support another expansion at ADAC and having it come on the heels of the $18 million paint line that opened earlier this summer,” said Muskegon Mayor Steve Gawron, who shared a ceremonial podium with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder at an ADAC event in July. “This is a real win for the city and its citizens. This is a premiere manufacturer and this expansion solidifies our positive relationships with ADAC and the business community as a whole.”

Just in the city’s Port City Industrial Park, GE Aviation, Aero Foil International, Fleet Engineers, SAF Holland, and the Port City Group are in expansion and hiring modes, Garner said. Muskegon Area First is working with Tower Laboratories in Montague, the newly created American Glass Co. in Norton Shores and Erdman Machine in Whitehall on future expansion projects, he said.

“There are a good core of industrial players in this community,” Garner said, pointing to the county’s manufacturing leader Alcoa Howmet with approximately 2,000 employees in its Whitehall operations that serve the aerospace industry. The Eagle Alloy group headquartered in Egelston Township also has helped lift Muskegon out the economic decline.

RELATED: ADAC Automotive continues expansion in Muskegon with new $7.9 milllion investment and 97 new jobs

Muskegon County has fought through the Great Recession of 2008 as the recovery has brought the community to the same level of industrial employment as there was before the economic downturn.

The county currently has 13,000 manufacturing jobs as of July, up 400 compared to July 2012. Muskegon County had 12,800 manufacturing jobs in 2007, but dipped to a recession-low of 10,000 workers in 2009, according to Michigan labor statistics.

ADAC Auto has done its part bringing the local economy out of the depths of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of 1929. The company’s Muskegon operations mainly make door handle assemblies for the Detroit Three – Ford, Chrysler and General Motors – along with Honda and Nissan, according to company General Counsel John Shape.

The latest expansion announced through the MEDC will create another 50,000 square feet of industrial space and upgrade older paint lines in Muskegon, Shape said.  The MEDC granted the company a $650,000 Michigan Business Development Program incentive grant, state officials said.

Specifically, ADAC has received a long-term contract to make a particular part for a popular line of trucks, Shape said, unable to discuss the specific manufacturer or truck line. The new building planned by ADAC in Muskegon will house that work with the molding, assembly and painting of the parts, he said.

ADAC had looked at producing the new line of parts – the company’s single-largest contract in history – outside of the United States, but the Michigan incentive package was a key factor keeping the work in Muskegon, Shape said. The city of Muskegon will be asked to give the company an industrial property tax abatement, state officials said.

“We had a decision to make to look at other sites near our customers,” Shape said of what state officials indicate were potential locations in Mexico. “The incentive tipped the balance for us to stay in Michigan. We like Muskegon.”

In the end, the company decided to supply its out-of-country automotive plant customers from its Muskegon facilities, Garner said.

“ADAC continues to be a leader in their market segment,” Garner said. “They are a dominating force. This expansion helps the company position itself for current and future needs.”

ADAC is like many other currently successful manufacturing companies in Muskegon: It was able to ride out the recession and, in ADAC’s case, survived the complete overhaul of the North American automotive sector.

“Right now in automotive, there are still plenty of challenges but we are meeting them,” Shape said of ADAC.

Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Larsen said that citizens in the Muskegon area longer see huge industrial companies of past generations such as Sealed Power, Brunswick, S.D. Warren and Campbell, Wyant and Cannon but the current crop of leading industrial companies are no less important.

“Too many people in town do not understand that manufacturing is alive and well along the Muskegon Lakeshore,” Larsen said in pushing the current theme. “Our manufacturers employ thousands of area residents with family-sustaining jobs.”

Dave Alexander covers business and local government for MLive/The Muskegon Chronicle. Email him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


Port of Muskegon gaining attention throughout Michigan

Muskegon officials considering port expansion

From: Michigan Radio  

The Muskegon port could be expanded to accommodate for larger cargo. The port is one of the only naturally occurring deep water ports, which makes it ideal for bigger ships.

The port could be used to transport agricultural fertilizers and other goods like wind turbines, scrap metals and coal.

Credit user BigMikeSndTech / Flickr
The port on Muskegon Lake could be expanded to accommodate for bigger ships.

Jonathon Seyferth  is with Muskegon Area First. He says expanding the Muskegon port could help transport goods across the country.

"The port can make West Michigan and Muskegon an attractive option for all kinds of economic industrial manufacturing development," he said.

Jim Byrum with the Michigan Agribusiness Association says water transport is cost effective for businesses. He says job creation is a priority for the port expansion.

"It's all about jobs," he said. "There would be the opportunities for folks to engage in trade. It's a whole different opportunity that we haven't really seen in the lakes and in Muskegon for some time."

Byrum says there's no official cost estimate for the project yet. He says Muskegon area businesses interested in developing the port would help foot the bill.

-Sarah Kerson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Agriculture group looks at Muskegon barge terminal idea

From: Associated Press & The Detroit News

An aerial view of Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan beyond taken in the summer of 2008. An agriculture association official says the West Michigan city of Muskegon is a prime location for a possible barge terminal that would connect the state's farm communities to Gulf Coast exporters through Chicago and the Mississippi River barge system. (Marge Beaver / The Chronicle)

Muskegon — The West Michigan city of Muskegon is a prime location for a possible barge terminal that would connect the state’s farm communities to Gulf Coast exporters through Chicago and the Mississippi River barge system, an agriculture association official said.

Michigan Agri-Business Association President Jim Byrum said some of his group’s members have been exploring the possibility of a river barge terminal on the east end of Muskegon Lake. Existing interest in boosting the Port of Muskegon also is a factor, he said.

“Muskegon has railroad and highway connections that are key and so much is happening here,” he said. “There is so much energy with the people and development.”

Water-based transportation could be a “game-changing switch,” he said. Much of Michigan’s exported grain, for example, is sent via rail. The group also is looking at sites on the east side of Michigan at the Saginaw River and Port Huron, The Muskegon Chronicle reported.

“In the last 50 years, interest in moving agricultural products in our state by water has been missing,” Byrum said.

Muskegon officials working on port development also are investigating the idea. The proposal could be more economical if outbound barges could return to Muskegon or other Michigan ports with farm products such as fertilizer, seed or equipment.

Such a barge terminal development would need the OK from the U.S. Coast Guard and others.

“If we can get past the federal issues, I think this is low-hanging fruit for us in developing the port,” said Ed Garner, president of Muskegon Area First, an economic development agency.

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130829/BIZ/308290081#ixzz2dSR3am00


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