Street Talk: Putting a charge in development


Consumers Energy has marked 200 acres of industrially zoned land in Crockery Township for possible development.

The utilities company recently completed an “energy ready” assessment of Crockery Township Industrial Development Park, a vacant parcel near the I-96 and M-231 bypass. Consumers had reached out to Zeeland-based economic development agency Lakeshore Advantage to help identify a site in Ottawa County that would be ideal for Consumers’ Energy Ready program.

Through the program, Consumers assesses a site’s energy use potential, evaluating its existing energy structure and costs to adjust its features based on how incoming businesses might plan to use the site. Crockery Township Industrial Development Park is the first site in Ottawa County to be selected for the program and received positive assessments in its low and high voltage distribution availability, competitive electric rate options, proximity to municipal water and wastewater, and available incentives.

“With this additional assessment and marketing assistance and its prime location, we feel we are in a great position to attract the right business here,” Crockery Township Supervisor Leon Stille said. “We are pleased that Consumers Energy spent their time and initiative to facilitate this opportunity for development in Crockery Township.”

Developers, start your (energy-efficient) engines.

Hoops hysteria

The madness is here!

For some, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s first two days offer a reprieve from the strenuous day-to-day work activities. For others, March Madness offers the perfect excuse to throw a party.

Meredith Bronk and her crew at Open Systems Technologies threw their annual March Madness shindig Thursday, the first full day of basketball action.

The party gives employees, clients, friends and family a way to kick back and enjoy an afternoon and evening of basketball fun all while catching up and maybe even doing some business.

Plenty of professionals in Grand Rapids are cheering their alma maters in the tournament, whether it is for Tom Izzo and Michigan State University, John Beilein and the University of Michigan or maybe Chris Collins and the Northwestern University Wildcats, who made the tournament for the first time ever this year.

Luckily for the team (and Business Journal editor Carole Valade), the Notre Dame Fighting Irish won Thursday, so they could celebrate accordingly on St. Patrick’s Day.

While most of us are watching our brackets closely for office bragging rights, we have to imagine Kent County Assistant Administrator Wayman Britt is reminiscing about his college days — when he led the University of Michigan to the championship game in 1976.

Star gazers

A group of Grand Valley State University students is reaching for the stars by working with NASA to build a device that can be used during future space missions.

The group — Grand Valley North Stars — is participating in the Micro-g NExT Design Challenge, which calls for college students across the country to submit design proposals for one of three tools that will be used for NASA’s asteroid redirect mission in the early 2020s and its journey to Mars in the 2030s. The North Stars chose to write a proposal for the surface sampling derive tool.

In December, the group’s idea was one of 30 proposals that was selected to move on to the second phase of the competition. In May, the team will travel to the Johnson Space Center in Houston to present and test their prototype.

“The goal is to build a device that can contain multiple samples of surface particles to be examined and studied at a later time,” said Brianna Forsthoefel, North Stars team member and mechanical engineering major. “It's an honor to be chosen to participate in this competition.”

The team is building the device in Keller Engineering Labs on Grand Valley's Pew Grand Rapids Campus. Students used CAD software to design the device based on size, weight and cross-contamination specifications. They used a 3-D printer to create pieces of the prototype.

Dylan DiGiovanni, a fourth-year student majoring in product design and manufacturing engineering, said his classes prepared him for this mission.

“The engineering curriculum and its focus on developing problem-solving skills helped us prepare for this project,” he said. “Being successful in engineering courses requires a lot of motivation and problem solving, which have been crucial during the design and prototype phases of this competition.”

During their time in Houston, team members will test the device in the mission control center and direct underwater divers on how to use the tool in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, which closely mimics a zero-gravity environment.

Amy Lenz, visiting faculty member of mechanical engineering, serves as the group's faculty advisor. She said mentorship has been an important part of the design and build phases. The group has held Skype sessions with an engineer from NASA, who has provided feedback and guidance during the process.

In total, 26 teams will compete May 23; the North Stars will compete with six other teams in the service sampling derive tool category.

North Star team members are Forsthoefel, DiGiovanni, Benjamin Cousino, Nate Kyburz, Taylor Rieckhoff, Daniel Scheske and Jacob Stephens.

The team will be postings progress reports on Twitter at @The_NorthStars.

Basket cases

When it comes to marketing to millennials, Western Michigan University students recently struck gold.

A team of three WMU students took first place in the 2017 National Grocers Association Student Case Study Competition last month in Las Vegas.

Students Mariel Dehn, of Rochester Hills; Sarah Hamilton, of Clarkston; and Rustin Rice, of Vicksburg, earned the top spot and $8,000 competing against teams from 13 other universities. The case focused on developing a marketing strategy that would increase basket size, frequency of store visits and volume of higher margin purchases among millennial consumers for Harps Food Stores, an independent retailer.

“We came to the conclusion that many look at millennials as a whole, but with such a large age gap, millennials can be in distinct life stages,” Dehn said. “For Harps’ 81 stores, we came up with a marketing plan and four different merchandising plans that were targeted toward each stage: young transitionals, start-up families, small-scale families and young, bustling families. For each life stage, we were able to give a snapshot of what that group currently needs from a grocery store.”

The team prepared for the competition for several weeks, meeting weekly with three faculty advisors and several fellow food marketing students and reviewing research, strategic approach and public speaking.

“Our professors’ industry experience and coaching really helped us as we met each week,” Hamilton said. “We also had coaching from a former independent grocer.”

Team performances were evaluated by industry professionals who represent the retail and manufacturing sectors.

“The content of the students’ presentation was outstanding, and their dedication in preparing for the competition shows the work ethic and devotion to the industry that are hallmarks of the WMU food marketing program,” said Frank Gambino, professor of marketing and director of the food and consumer package goods program.

WMU tied for first place with St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

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