Street Talk: Is Michigan a hotbed for medical devices?


For years now, part of the mantra associated with the medical industry in the Grand Rapids region has been the goal of turning West Michigan into an important region in the U.S. for medical device manufacturing. Medical devices are seen as a hopeful diversification of the Wolverine State’s manufacturing sector.

So, have we achieved that distinction?

Not really, according to Todd Grimm of Rose Technologies, a small medical device contract manufacturer on GR’s northwest side.

“There’s not really much (medical device) manufacturing in West Michigan. Outside of Stryker, there’s not much going on (in Michigan),” he added, “other than Terumo in Ann Arbor. And ATEK.”

ATEK Medical Group’s plant is on GR’s southwest side, although the company had been headquartered in Minneapolis. “Had been,” because a little over a year ago, ATEK was acquired by Vention Medical in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts is, in fact, one of the real medical device manufacturing hotspots in the U.S., according to Grimm. He also ranks Minneapolis at the top, along with California, Texas and Florida.

In 2007, the West Michigan Medical Device Consortium was formed under the umbrella of the West Michigan Science & Technology Initiative. The WMMDC is essentially a self-help support group of companies in the local medical device and services industry, and Rose was one of the original seven members. Grimm said the company is no longer a member.

It’s about Time

Sumba, Indonesia; Malmo, Sweden; Guca, Serbian Dragacevo; South Island, New Zealand — and Grand Rapids, Mich. Yep, you read that right. Grand Rapids sits among these cities on Time Magazine’s list of Five Festive Events You Won’t Want to Miss in 2013. And why should the world be flocking to good old River City? ArtPrize, of course!

The magazine says of ArtPrize: “The world’s most lucrative art competition isn’t in New York City or Hong Kong but in Grand Rapids — a Michigan city better known for Rust Belt decline than edgy painting and photography. Founded in 2009 by Rick DeVos — heir to the Amway fortune — the annual ArtPrize (Sept. 18 to Oct. 6) will distribute some $560,000 to its 2013 winners, chosen by both a professional jury and the votes of the more than 400,000 visitors who will arrive to view the work.”

It’s interesting to note the other cities don’t receive the same backhanded compliment reserved for Grand Rapids. But, no matter, GR is on the list. Yet another feather to add to city’s growing “list making” cap.

Joining ArtPrize on the list are Pasola, Eurovision Song Contest, Guca Trumpet Festival and Burt Munro Challenge. It may just be the Rust-Belters in us talking, but don’t the other four sound a wee bit stuffy?

Social status

Get ready for the tourists. For the sixth year in a row, took the honor of most visited state tourism website in the country. That’s right, Michigan beat out Florida — only by a mere 1 million more virtual visits. Let’s hope that number translates in some way to actual visits.

The site attracted 8.8 million web visits in 2012. Consumers used the site an average of 24,000 times per day, and it garnered an average of 14,000 click-throughs per day to other Michigan tourism industry sites — that’s 5.3 million per year. Yes, Tim Allen has a silken voice on those Pure Michigan ads, but that can’t be the only reason for the traffic.

The good news doesn’t stop there. Turns out Michigan also is quite the social butterfly. Pure Michigan’s social media presence is the best in the country among all destination-marketing organizations, according to Think Social Media. And, the U.S. Travel Association awarded Michigan a 2012 Mercury Award for Best Use of Social Media among all destination-marketing organizations in the nation.

Where can you find Pure Michigan getting its social on? Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and, oh yeah, a little site called Instagram. Michigan knows how to look good in a photo. Leading those other states with 15,000 followers and more than 115,000 photos since July with the hashtag #PureMichigan, the state is quite the socialite.

It’s showtime!

Who says manufacturing is dead (or even boring)?

A collaborative partnership created by The Right Place/MMTC-West Manufacturers Council and the Kent Intermediate School District, has opened registration for Kent County high school students to join the 2013 Discover Manufacturing Today — Video Challenge.

Students will be represented by teams of no more than six and challenged to create a video that is at least 60 seconds but not longer than 3 minutes in length. Videos will showcase a partnered manufacturer in the area and capture the skills needed to be successful in a manufacturing career, the environment of manufacturing now, and opportunities for growth and professional development for students.

The intent of the program is to change the misperception most students, parents and others have about career choices in manufacturing. It also will allow local manufacturers to showcase their facilities and help students understand the skills they will need to be successful in various types of manufacturing careers.

The idea for Discover Manufacturing Today – Video Challenge began when members of the Manufacturers Council realized they wanted to step in and help the next generation of West Michigan’s workforce.

“The misperceptions around manufacturing are keeping students from considering it for a career,” said Jay Dunwell, chairman of the Manufacturers Council Workforce Development Committee. “We want to dispel that within students and parents, as manufacturing is now one of the fastest growing sectors in West Michigan.”

Teams will interview a manufacturerand explore the high-tech nature of modern manufacturing, and discuss the skills that employers seek. Students also will learn about the challenges faced by businesses as they search for skilled workers, and to gain an understanding of what they can do to develop the required skills.

“West Michigan is proving that manufacturing will lead again in our region,” said Birgit Klohs, president and CEO of The Right Place. “The demand for skilled manufacturers is ever present and we encourage current and future generations to keep an open mind when thinking about a career in manufacturing.”

Area businesses such as Amway are supporting the Video Challenge. Other businesses that have seen the value in changing the current misperceptions are the local manufacturers themselves. Several companies have volunteered to mentor and partner with the students to create the videos and share insight into their growing businesses, including: ADAC Automotive, Davidson Plyforms, Wolverine Coil Spring, Flexco, GR Spring and Stamping, Autocam, Terryberry and Rapid-Line.

Deadline for video entries is 5 p.m., Feb. 27. For more information visit

Videos will be judged by the Manufacturers Council followed by a screening premiere on April 16 at Celebration Cinema, where attendees will watch the winning videos on a big screen. The public will be able to participate as certain prizes will be awarded to teams based on the number of “likes” their video receives. All videos will be available for viewing by March 1 on the Video Challenges website.

Of course, no one does anything for free these days, so the winners will be able to share in some prize money, too. The first place videos, as selected by the popular vote and by judges’ voting, each will earn $2,500. The second-place winners in both categories get $1,500. Schools with the most entries and most entries per student population also will receive $1,000 prizes.

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