The new Madison Avenue SE space in Grand Rapids is four times larger than 2Gen’s former manufacturing facility in Zeeland. Courtesy 2Gen Manufacturing
2Gen Manufacturing this fall opened a plastic injection molding plant in southeast Grand Rapids that is in the process of creating jobs for residents of the 49507 ZIP code.
Kevin Smith is co-owner of 2Gen Manufacturing with his mother, Heidi Smith, and business partner, Lee Ringling.
The company was formed in 2015 as a spinoff business of Wyoming-based 2K Tool — which was established in 2004 and does design, CNC machining, and mold building and repair — and Ringling Plastics. The two companies were partnering on a small number of injection molding projects until it got to the point where 2K Tool owned all of the presses in Ringling’s facility and all of its projects, and so the partners decided to move forward as a new joint venture, 2Gen Manufacturing.
The company was previously located in Zeeland at Ringling’s plant but needed more than the 6,000 square feet of space it had there as it expanded from making automotive parts into ridge vent roofing components and other products for the construction industry, as well.
Enter Amplify GR, a nonprofit focused on economic opportunity in the Boston Square, Cottage Grove and surrounding neighborhoods, defined as Hall Street to the north, Burton to the south, and Fuller and Division avenues to the east and west.
Founded in 2015, Amplify GR has been working since its inception to build partnerships with residents, businesses, community organizations and funders in four areas of impact: jobs and entrepreneurship, housing, education and community well-being.
Amplify GR began talks with 2Gen about bringing jobs into the neighborhood, which led to 2Gen moving into the new facility at 1448 Madison Ave. SE in September — a building that was renovated by Rockford Construction on behalf of Amplify GR after it sat vacant for about three years.
2Gen is leasing the facility from Amplify GR, which owns it.
The new facility in the Cottage Grove business district has about 24,000 square feet of space, or about four times the space for operations that it previously had, which allows the company to operate 30% more equipment than before and increase its output.
Smith said his company employs about 10 people in the location — three of which were new hires from the neighborhood after Amplify GR put 2Gen in touch with the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation, which does workforce development. Smith added it will be 2Gen’s aim to continue creating jobs for neighborhood residents.
“We hope over the next two years, we can bring more sustainable employment opportunities for neighbors,” he said. “With this expansion, 2Gen anticipates hiring more employees from within the 49507 community.”
Danielle Williams, director of economic opportunities for Amplify GR, said the move was beneficial for 2Gen not only in the sense of more space, but because it is just 2 miles north of 2K Tool’s headquarters at 3025 Madison Ave. in Wyoming, which will help create synergies for the two businesses.
“That’s the sort of strategic planning that we are doing as we’re recruiting businesses,” she said. “We aren’t necessarily creating new programs; we’re trying to help build partnerships that then perpetuate this kind of growth for the community.”
Williams said Amplify GR is in talks with additional businesses and manufacturers about moving into other properties it owns in the Boston Square/Cottage Grove neighborhood to stimulate further economic growth in those districts, but can’t reveal specifics until leases have been signed.
Amplify GR also is in the midst of creating an entrepreneurship incubator/hub at 1515 Madison Ave. SE, which it hopes will provide opportunities for innovation and job creation in the area.
“Residents consistently highlight jobs as a top priority for the future and sustainable growth of the local community,” Williams said. “We hope to welcome more companies like 2Gen, dedicated to hiring local talent from the surrounding neighborhood.”