Street Talk: This land is your land

Stout company.

Rockford-based Byrne Electrical, a manufacturer of power products, is putting its weight behind its stated mission of “making connections” by supporting six employees so far this year through the process of earning U.S. citizenship.

“Because Byrne honors diversity, we intentionally seek out men and women from different backgrounds, perspectives and ideas into our workforce,” the company said. “Each of these individuals has their own story, but for many, their dream is the same: to become a U.S. citizen. And over the years, several have done just that. So, in 2018, we began celebrating this important milestone more formally, with the recognition we felt it deserved.”

Added Dan Byrne, CEO of Byrne: “As long as I can remember, our company has celebrated the struggle and unique journey of our employees. Each story is personal, and it’s in our DNA to recognize the struggle and success each step along the way.”

Byrne offers reimbursement on citizenship test application fees, a paid day off to attend the citizenship ceremony and an in-house celebration that includes the gift of an American flag. The business also offers English as a Second Language classes free of charge and access to financial and legal services through The Source.

“Knowing that our own Byrne family originally immigrated to the U.S., and the struggles they went through, we really wanted to honor these team members who have taken the initiative to become citizens,” said Sandy Buchanich, Byrne’s vice president of human resources. “We know it’s a lengthy commitment, and this is just our way of congratulating them on such an important accomplishment.”

In 2020, six Byrne employees celebrated receiving their citizenship, including Dal Pau, a member of the Byrne “Special Forces Team” who is from Myanmar and came to the U.S. after fleeing his country and living as a refugee in Malaysia. After his arrival, he found a job at Byrne, and in the years that followed, he worked hard to learn English and U.S. history with the hopes of becoming an American. After six years, he achieved his dream, and the team at Byrne welcomed him as a citizen while celebrating the Fourth of July.

Alina Albin is a digital marketing specialist at Byrne and a U.S. resident since 2014 who first visited from Romania on a travel program to Beaver Island, where she fell in love with Michigan summers — and her now-husband, John. Albin received her U.S. citizenship on July 28.

Byrne cited a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “America is another name for opportunity,” as its inspiration to keep helping employees achieve citizenship. 

More information about Byrne and its employee benefits is available by contacting Lisa Zabavski, director of marketing and insights, at (616) 240-3589 or

Home brews

While travelers may not be able to visit Munich for Oktoberfest activities this year, Grand Rapids is seen as a good alternative.

Grand Rapids was identified as one of the best cities for beer lovers by From taprooms with outdoor patios to hotels with beer-themed amenities, Grand Rapids is considered an ideal destination to celebrate Oktoberfest this autumn, according to the global travel website. highlighted Founders Brewing Co. — which is the largest brewery in the city and the second largest in West Michigan — but Grand Rapids also is home to numerous other establishments calling Beer City home, including City Built Brewing Co., Brewery Vivant, Speciation Artisan Ales, the Mitten Brewing Co. and more. Just outside the city limits is TwoGuys Brewing in Wyoming, the winner of Grand Rapids Magazine’s 2020 Battle of the Breweries bracket challenge.

The site also recognized beer fans can take advantage of the Beer City Brewsader Passport app to keep track of brewery visits and even redeem rewards for visiting select ones.

The site said the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel is a great accommodation for any beer lovers looking to relax and rewind in luxury. The hotel also has a “Brew and Renew” spa package where guests can indulge in beer-inspired pedicures or polish and massages, along with their beer of choice. also celebrated Denver, Colorado, as a craft beer destination for the fall. The region’s beer tradition started during the 1850s Gold Rush and continued in the neighboring city of Golden, where Coors was founded in 1873. Since then, the brewing business has boomed, from the nationally recognized Blue Moon brand to the city’s first microbrewery, Wynkoop Brewing Co.

Grand Rapids also rubs elbows with Ashville, North Carolina. According to, the southern mountain town joined the craft brew trend in the mid-90s with Highland Brewing Company, soon followed by Asheville Brewing Company and Green Man Brewery.

A popular stop for visitors to Asheville is Wicked Weed Brewery, which offers a “Funkatorium” with over a dozen sour beers and a creative food menu for adventurous travelers.

According to, Portland, Maine, has the most breweries per capita in the U.S. The seaside city is famous for the family-owned Shipyard Brewery, creator of the seasonal favorite Pumpkinhead, and Allagash Brewing Company, which just resurrected the Haunted House Dark Hoppy Ale.

Austin, Texas, has almost 40 craft breweries in the city limits. Many of these have spacious beer gardens and a variety of food trucks. For a more authentic Oktoberfest experience, travelers can taste old-world, European-style beer at Live Oak Brewing Company. Beer fans seeking something new can learn about the “sour-mashes” at Blue Owl Brewing.

Lastly, with 98% of the hops grown in the U.S. coming from the Pacific Northwest, Seattle, Washington, is fertile ground for a thriving beer culture. The city’s first brewery was Rainier Brewing Company in 1884 and the rise of craft breweries in the 1980s revived the industry. Now, travelers come to visit places such as the small-but-mighty Pike Brewing Company at Pike Place Market and the Anheuser-Busch-owned Elysian Brewery, which has three locations.

All in all, puts Grand Rapids in good company when it comes to fun places to raise a glass.

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