Street Talk: Running up the flagpole


Who knew a flag could require city approval?

Founders Brewing Co. is seeking approval from the Grand Rapids Planning Commission to add a 60-foot flagpole with a 25-foot-by-15-foot American flag above its production facility, 235 Grandville Ave. SW.

Founders Executive Chairman John Green and Pioneer Construction’s Michael Bouman filled out the application to the planning commission, which will decide on the matter at its Jan. 12 meeting.

The flagpole requires an amendment to an already approved Planned Sign Program, allowing several new large Founders Brewing Co. signs on the front, back and sides of the Founders production facility to help identify the large building from the highways.

Founders’ request for a flag, however, brings some tough decisions for the planning commission. Allowed by the ordinance is a 40-square-foot flag from an 85-foot ground-mounted pole. Requested by Founders is a 375-square-foot flag attached to a flagpole on the roof 143 feet above the ground. The ordinance also allows national flags, but not business flags — a regulation not in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling of Reed v. Gilbert in Arizona, which says regulations must only consider size and location of a flag, not its content.

It seems like it might be an innocent request from Founders.

“The proposed flag pole will provide a significant landmark for the neighborhood and the city of Grand Rapids that will help draw in local customers and out-of-town visitors to Founders Brewing and the other local establishments in the area, which will enhance the financial stability and economic welfare of the city,” the application reads. “The proposed flag pole will not be a detriment to the surrounding property owners or neighborhood. On the contrary, it will provide a significant landmark for the neighborhood that will not only enhance the neighborhood but also provide a patriotic monument for the citizens of Grand Rapids and visitors to appreciate and enjoy.”

Going to pot

Canna Media Works, a marijuana marketing and consulting company located in Grand Haven, is getting creative with its services. The less than two-year-old company owned by Jamie Goswick is launching a 10-week online program for cannabis startups. Goswick said she developed the program after attempting to launch a couple of cannabis startups.

“I saw a huge need in the industry. There’s a lot of information out there floating around about cannabis in general, but not enough information for those looking to build a legal business in the cannabis industry. There needed to be more resources for business owners,” Goswick said. “I spent hours upon hours of time researching the information I needed to start my own marijuana business. Had there been a program like the program I developed, I would have saved myself a lot of time and money.”

Goswick said cannabis business owners face a lot more challenges compared to those who start businesses in other industries. “The cannabis industry is highly regulated,” she said. “Not only do businesses face legal challenges due to the fact that cannabis is federally illegal and classified the same as heroin, cannabis business owners often also run into challenges with taxes, banking and even marketing.”

Last September, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a set of bills implementing a new licensing system for medical marijuana businesses in Michigan. The new program will provide licensing for dispensaries, commercial cultivations, processors, testers and secure transporters. Since 2008, the state was functioning under a caregiver model, allowing medical marijuana patients to legally obtain marijuana by growing it themselves or having a caregiver grow it for them.

Goswick offers a free online webinar for cannabis startups, teaching them the “7 Steps for Starting a Legal Business in the Marijuana Industry,” in which she provides a step-by-step strategy on how to build a cannabis business in a regulated market. In the 30-minute webinar, she addresses the fact cannabis is projected to be a $40-billion industry by 2020 and explains the importance of understanding the market and the roadblocks that exist, as well as creating a robust business plan that will catch the attention of investors and community leaders.

Goswick is no stranger to cultivating cannabis entrepreneurs. One year ago, she launched the West Michigan Chapter of Women Grow, a national network of women whose goal is to educate, empower and connect women in the cannabis industry through monthly networking events and national conferences.

Reaching new heights

Grand Valley State University engineering students this year will gain some practical experience at one of the lakeshore’s iconic attractions: Grand Haven’s musical fountain.

As part of an ongoing partnership between the city of Grand Haven and GVSU, six engineering students at the university will complete their senior project in 2017 by designing and building a new water feature for the fountain. The water formations have not been updated since the fountain was installed in 1963.

Terry Stevens, an affiliate professor at GVSU’s School of Engineering, said it’s about time for an upgrade to the fountain.

“Nozzles shoot water into the sky at varying heights, and it’s choreographed to music and LED lights,” he said. “Except for the sweeps, the only water movements are up and down. The water formations have been the same for 53 years, so the city would like to see something new.”

Stevens is a member of the Grand Haven Musical Fountain Committee and installed the fountain’s initial industrial control system in 1983. He led student projects to retrofit and update the fountain’s industrial control system in 2013 and its choreography software in 2014.

He said students will research and design the water feature during the winter semester and spend the spring and summer semesters building it. The group also will update the fountain’s only moving water feature — sweeps that oscillate back and forth — and provide updated documents and prints of the fountain’s hydraulic, pneumatic and water systems.

Built in 1963, the choreographed musical fountain performs nightly on the weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The fountain was the largest musical fountain in the world when it was built, and it held the title until 1998 when the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas were built.

Shine on

Rockford-based Byrne Electric is hoping to connect to the Motor City.

Byrne recently partnered with Detroit-based luxury lifestyle brand Shinola to create Shinola Power Supply, a line of power cords designed to meet consumer demand for a variety of power sources.

Those stylish cords include a 5-port and dual-USB power supply, a 2-port and dual-USB power supply and an extension cord, but true to Shinola's luxury branding, they don't come cheap. The 5-port option retails for $175, the 2-port for $135 and extension cord for $65. The cords are designed to not kink or bend when plugged into an outlet and come in multiple colors, including a sleek black, modern minimalist white and eye-popping fire truck red.

“Shinola exemplifies great American design and craftsmanship, and we are thrilled to collaborate with them to bring an innovative power accessory to consumers,” Byrne managing director Dan Byrne said. “This partnership was a natural fit. Both Byrne and Shinola have a strong commitment to well-crafted products.”

Bryne's recent expansion to a manufacturing facility in Lakeview was a move made in part to handle production of the Shinola power supply. That facility, which had sat vacant for nearly 40 years, houses about 30 full-time employees.

The products are available both in Shinola's retail stores nationwide and on the Shinola website,

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