Street Talk: Their crowning achievements


With all the talk recently centered on the disconnect between the training workers have and the skills employers need, it’s nice to see some in the business community are actually doing something about it.

Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes, which matches business leaders with students in a mentoring/networking/hands-on style, is marking the achievements of some of its members at a special presentation in May.

Topping the list of achievers is Nelson Jacobson, chairman, president and CEO of JSJ Corp. in Grand Haven, who will be inducted into the Junior Achievement Hall of Fame.

Since joining the family-owned business in 1986, Jacobson has led JSJ's global expansion in Asia and deepened the commitment of JSJ-owned companies to entrepreneurship and innovation. JSJ companies are built on a set of common values and principles, and a shared one-page strategic planning approach called the Rockefeller Habits that seeks to leverage people’s unique and diverse talents.

Jamie Mills, executive vice president of Mills Benefit Group (a Lighthouse Company), will be recognized with the Edward J. Frey Sr. Distinguished Achievement Award.

“This year, the selection committee chose to recognize Jamie Mills for her three decades of service to our community,” said William C. Coderre III, president of Junior Achievement.

He said Mills has been a tireless supporter of many local organizations including Van Andel Institute, Heart of West Michigan United Way, Paws With A Cause, Bissell Pet Foundation, Migrant Legal Aid of Grand Rapids, D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s, Gilda's Club, Ele's Place and Kids’ Food Basket.

J.A.’s volunteer award will go to Mark Peters, CEO of Butterball Farms. Coderre said Peters has volunteered at The Potter's House school every year since 2003, and has even taught multiple classes simultaneously to fill the need for volunteers.

Over the past decade, he has encouraged Butterball Farms’ employees to volunteer in elementary school classes at The Potter's House; in its mission to educate and inspire, Peters has led Butterball Farms to serve 2,160 students through 112 classes. Peters also has advocated for J.A. programs in other schools and encouraged other organizations and business peers to volunteer with J.A.

On the corporate side, Mercantile Bank will be honored with the Spirit of Achievement Award. Bank employees, led by senior vice president Bob Worthington, have been in more than 200 classrooms reaching out to more than 5,000 students involved in J.A. programs.

Last year’s Hall of Fame inductees, Donald Heeringa and Kevin Kabat, will receive their medallions at the event, which will be held at 6:15 p.m., May 18, at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

Web gem

The digital presence of Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women has never looked so sharp.

GROW, a Grand Rapids nonprofit that offers training, networking, business counseling and financial resources for entrepreneurs, recently announced it has redesigned its website.

“Due to the breadth of services that GROW offers, we needed a more streamlined site design for our clients and colleagues to navigate”, said CEO Bonnie Nawara.

“I’m particularly proud of the efforts that went into designing the interactive calendar so visitors can easily find information on our training courses, workshops and special events and register at one location.”

The previous site did not reflect the new GROW branding or modern user experience and was not user-friendly for site visitors or admin. It also was not responsive or mobile friendly and didn’t have blog capabilities, which was a problem, Nawara said.

The redesigned website,, offers an entrepreneur resource center that highlights micro-lending and financial resources, and also has a section for RFP opportunities in Michigan.

The infographic-styled site also features upcoming events, testimonials and the GROW blog.

“Working on this site was a true collaboration from developing the plan — the design — with Gretchen (DeVault) and programming it all to launch such a resourceful site. BluFish is all about collaboration and the GROW website is a perfect example,” said Rebecca Dutcher, senior account executive at BluFish Consulting, which worked with GROW on the redesign.

“This site included integrations and connections with a third-party calendar and donation system, a client-selected designer, optimization and several content contributors. It was especially fun for me being able to work with so many smart, professional women who are true craftswomen in their fields.”

Time is money

It’s generally accepted that engineers are some of the smartest people around. Not only do they use their brains, but they’re often able to build things with their hands.

So it was a bit surprising when a national survey revealed engineers are some of the biggest time-wasters in the workplace — even though it isn’t their fault.

CADENAS PARTsolutions, which produces the strategic part management software suite called PARTsolutions, recently surveyed hundreds of engineers from more than 500 companies with the goal of discovering hidden pain points in their daily routines. The data reveals how engineering firms and manufacturers are wasting costly engineering time by not properly managing standard and supplier parts.

Engineers were asked how much time they spent, on average, per day recreating standard or supplier parts, and how much time they spent searching for parts.

The engineers revealed that, combined, they each lose 1.82 hours a day searching for or recreating supplier parts in their design systems. This comes out to 59 working days per engineer, per year, lost to non-value-added tasks.

“These surveys are a great way for us to have a dialogue with the engineers and provide them a forum to speak about to the issues they face on a daily basis,” said Tim Thomas, CEO of CADENAS PARTsolutions.

“Since we published the report, we had two very common responses. The engineers are relieved they are not alone; this is a common problem, spending so much time on these needless tasks.

“On the other end of the spectrum, the managers and executives are shocked; they cannot believe that almost 20 percent of their engineering time is lost hunting for or recreating supplier parts in their design applications.”

To put that in perspective, most engineers spend the equivalent of Jan. 1 through the third week of March in nonproductive endeavors.

Equal opportunity

What’s the saying about what’s good for the goose being good for the gander?

On Saturday the organizers of a women’s expo in Hudsonville will put that premise to the test. With nearly 90 booths highlighting the wares of Hudsonville-area merchants, visitors should have plenty of choices. The most popular for the ganders (men), undoubtedly, will be the one with the 64-inch TV, root beer bar, grill giveaway and representatives of the Grand Rapids Drive basketball team.

Lindsey Carlon, marketing assistant for the Hudsonville Area Chamber of Commerce, calls it the “man cave.” That’s one way to get the guys out of the house on a Saturday.

The Hudsonville Showcase takes place 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday, at Hudsonville High School.

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