Business Journal selects Newsmaker finalists


As we put 2021 to bed, there is one more piece of business to undertake.

The Grand Rapids Business Journal has selected the finalists for its 2021 Newsmaker of the Year awards. The 48 finalists in 16 categories will be celebrated on Jan. 26 during a breakfast event at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. The Newsmaker show represents the first event in the Business Journal’s new Breakfast Series lineup, which will focus on what’s happening in the West Michigan business community and feature guest speakers and participants from various local industries. Ticket information is available here.

This year, the Journal’s reporters and editors met to discuss almost 200 potential nominees for the honor, finally agreeing on three finalists in each of the following 16 categories: Arts & Entertainment, Beverages, Economic Development, Education, Finance, Food, Health Care, Law, Manufacturing, Nonprofits/Philanthropy, Real Estate/Construction, Retail, Sports, Startups, Sustainability and Technology.

A winner from the three finalists in each of the 16 categories will be revealed at the event, followed by the announcement of the overall 2021 Newsmaker of the Year Award.

The people who made news in 2021 make for an impressive list of leading figures in the business community.

Last year, Chef Jenna Arcidiacono, co-owner and executive chef of Amore Trattoria Italiana, was honored for her generosity, leadership and advocacy for the restaurant industry during its worst year in living memory. That drive and passion for her customers, employees, fellow business owners and hundreds of frontline workers in West Michigan earned her the overall Newsmaker of the Year Award.

Most of this year’s nominees are familiar to West Michigan residents, especially those who follow the Business Journal on a consistent basis, because they are the people who shaped local news in 2021.

A printed supplement profiling the finalists in each category will be included in the Jan. 24 issue of the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

For now, though, here is the first look at the finalists in each of the categories for Grand Rapids Business Journal 2021 Newsmaker of the Year.


Cynthia Hagedorn, The Property

David Hooker, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Sal Semola, Gun Lake Casino


Larry Bell, Bell’s Brewery

Nadia and Shatawn Brigham, GRNoir Wine & Jazz

Tom Borisch, Jason Post and Zack Van Dyke, Wise Men Distillery

Economic development

Ed Garner, Michigan Small Business Development Center West Michigan Region

Jennifer Owens, Lakeshore Advantage

Randy Thelen, The Right Place


Patricia Harris, Kuyper College

Philomena Mantella, Grand Valley State University

Richard Pappas, Davenport University


Eric Foster, Rende Progress Capital

Martin Stein, Blackford Capital

Renee Tabben, Bank of America


Andrea Bumstead, Gaia House Cafe

Alita Kelly and Khara DeWit, South East Market

Rich Wolowski, Gordon Food Service/Square Roots

Health care

Nathan Baar, HealthBar

Tina Freese Decker, Spectrum Health

Peter Hahn, University of Michigan Health-West


Tracey Brame, Cooley Law/Innocence Project

Judge Amanda Sterkenburg, 62-B District Court Kentwood

Stephen van Stempvoort, Miller Johnson


Jim Dillard, Perrigo

Mike Larsson, Dematic

Andi Owen, MillerKnoll


Wendy Falb, Literacy Center of West Michigan

Carly MacDonald, Michigan Veteran Homes at Grand Rapids

Ryan VerWys, Inner City Christian Federation

Real estate/construction

Mike Novakoski, EV Construction

Tim Schowalter, Pioneer Construction

Mike VanGessel, Rockford Construction


John Green, Revolution Farms

Eion Jackson, Eion Jackson Apparel

Tony Sarsam, SpartanNash


Mike Guswiler, West Michigan Sports Commission

Steve Jbara, Grand Rapids Gold

David Marquardt, Indian Trails Golf Course (Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation)


Sarah Laman and Arick Davis, Last Mile Cafe

Jeff Lambert, TiiCKER

Kevin McLeod, C2Dx


Luis Chen Aguilera, Wormies

Janay Brower and Lisa Knight, Public Thread

Chad Howell, Forever Great


Ashlea Souffrou, SxanPro

John Sorensen, Student Achievement Systems/Pulse

Jeff Boore, Anjoy

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