West Michigan produces 20 of state’s 50 Companies to Watch

Kyle Van Strien, left, and Jon O'Connor are the co-owners of Long Road Distillers in Grand Rapids. Courtesy Long Road Distillers

West Michigan has doubled its representation on this year’s list of the 50 Companies to Watch in Michigan.

More than 70 businesses statewide, including the 2018 Michigan 50 Companies to Watch, will be honored at the 14th-annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business awards ceremony on May 3 at the Lansing Center in Lansing. The event coincides with National Small Business Week, which is April 29 to May 5.

Twenty of the companies to watch are located in West Michigan, up from 10 last year.

Michigan Celebrates Small Business is a partnership of several organizations: the Michigan Small Business Development Center, or MI-SBDC; Michigan Economic Development Corporation, or MEDC; Edward Lowe Foundation; Small Business Association of Michigan; U.S. Small Business Administration; and Michigan Business Network.

The MI-SBDC is the managing partner of Michigan Celebrates Small Business in 2018.

Nomination criteria

The program celebrates small business excellence among second-stage companies, defined as having six to 99 full-time employees and generating $750,000 to $50 million in annual revenue or working capital from investors or grants.

The companies must be privately held and headquartered in Michigan.

“This year, we experienced new records for company nominations and applications, with over 600 nominations submitted. This is a reflection of the vibrancy of the Michigan small business community and statewide economy,” said Jennifer Deamud, board chair of Michigan Celebrates Small Business and associate state director of the MI-SBDC.

Award criteria

Judges from the banking, economic development, entrepreneurship development and venture capital communities selected the winners.

The judges evaluated the nominees on intent and capacity to grow based on employee or sales growth, exceptional entrepreneurial leadership, sustainable competitive advantage and various other factors tied to company success.

Local growth

Grand Rapids craft spirits maker Long Road Distillers was selected as one of the 50 Companies to Watch. The recognition follows the company’s continued expansion of its distribution footprint and repeated awards for its vodka, whisky, aquavit and gin, including Best of Show honors at competitions in San Francisco, Denver, New York and Berlin.

“It’s a privilege for us to work in such an exciting industry but also to be a part of the small business community that contributes so much to our state,” said Jon O’Connor, co- founder and co-owner, Long Road Distillers. “We look forward to continued innovation and growth as a company and are excited by the challenge of living up the 50 to Watch title.”

Holland-based Volta Power Systems — a provider of lithium-ion energy storage solutions for small and medium businesses — was named one of the honorees in the SmartZone Best Small Business award category.

Companies recognized in this category were selected by their regional SBDC, SmartZone or Procurement Technical Assistance Center, or PTAC.

Honorees were selected based on their demonstration of successful growth and contributions to the economy of Michigan.

“We’re bringing the same advanced technology used in electric vehicles to the RV, marine, furniture and specialty vehicle industries to provide safe energy solutions to some of those industries’ most pressing issues,” said Jack Johnson, co-founder, Volta Power Systems.  


Tickets, $145 per person, can be purchased online at MichiganCelebrates.biz. Table discounts are available.

2018 Michigan 50 Companies to Watch

ArborOakland Group, Royal Oak

Benkari, Detroit

boldSOCKS, Grand Rapids

Brewery Vivant, Grand Rapids

Bulmann Dock and Lift, Boyne City

Caster Concepts Inc., Albion

Central Industrial Manufacturing Inc., Harbor Springs

Children’s Therapy Corner, Midland

Dave’s Sweet Tooth, Harrison Township

DetailXPerts Franchise Systems LLC, Detroit

E7 Solutions, Troy

Elevator Service Inc., Grand Rapids

GeckoBrands, Grandville

Global Clinical Connections, Portage

Global Telecom Solutions (GTS), Detroit

GMB Architecture + Engineering, Holland

Green Giftz, Grand Rapids

Harvest Creative Services, Lansing

High Level Marketing, West Bloomfield

Human Element Inc., Ann Arbor

Iron Fish Distillery, Thompsonville

Jireh Metal Products Inc., Grandville

Jonas Paul Eyewear, Grand Rapids

Joost Vapor LLC, Wyoming

Kunz, Leigh & Associates, Lathrup Village

Long Road Distillers, Grand Rapids

Lucerne International Inc., Auburn Hills

M3 Group, Lansing

Messersmith Manufacturing Inc., Bark River

MOVE Systems International LLC, Walker

One Well Brewing, Kalamazoo

Oxford Recovery Center, South Lyon

Packaging Compliance Labs, Kentwood

Race-Driven Inc., Escanaba

Ringo Services, Detroit

Shefit Apparel, Hudsonville

SimuQuest Inc., Ann Arbor

Sprinkles Donut Shop LLC, Hudsonville

Station 66, Battle Creek

Symplicity Communications, Grand Rapids

Tetra Discovery Partners Inc., Grand Rapids

TGI Direct, Flint

TorranceLearning, Chelsea

Triterra, Lansing

Tumbl Trak, Mount Pleasant

UTEC, Ann Arbor

Utilities Instrumentation Service Inc., Dexter

Vaughan Industries Inc., Detroit

Venturi, Traverse City

Voices For Health Inc., Grand Rapids

Other Michigan Celebrates Small Business honorees

Innovation Award

KMS Designs Inc., Portage

Michigan SBDC Best Small Business of the Year Award

Saddleback BBQ, Okemos

Michigan SBDC Best Small Business honorees

Chateau Chantal, Traverse City

Chris’ Canines LLC, Cedar Springs

Diamond Solutions Inc., Midland

Kiss Me Specialty Coffee Shoppe, Prudenville

K-Tec Systems, Farmington Hills

Legacy Metal Services, Imlay City

Mid Michigan Upholstery & Awning, Alma

Our Family Friend, Hillsdale

Texas Corners Brewing Company, Kalamazoo

Trenary Home Bakery Inc., Trenary

Michigan 50 Distinguished Alumni Award – Strategically Focused

Redi-Rock International, Charlevoix

Michigan 50 Distinguished Alumni Award – Most Engaged Workplace

Atomic Object, Grand Rapids

PTAC Best Small Business of the Year

Mistequay Group Ltd., Saginaw

PTAC Best Small Business honorees

Elevator Service Inc., Grand Rapids

Fresh Baby, Petoskey

Grand Strategy LLC, South Haven

Moran Iron Works Inc., Onaway

Precision Control Inc., Commerce Township

RB Construction Company, Mount Clemens

Vetcon Inc., Flint

SmartZone Best Small Business of the Year

Proteos Inc., Kalamazoo

SmartZone Best Small Business honorees

4th-IR MI LLC, Bay City

Aberro Creative, Midland

Cogent Hex, Port Huron

Human Balance and Stability Systems, Warren

K-Tec Systems, Farmington Hills

OXX, Grand Rapids

SU2 Systems Inc., Lansing

Volta Power Systems, Holland

SBA Michigan Small Business Person of the Year

Albert F. Zehnder, CEO, Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth

SBA Michigan Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Paul J. Gallager, Jr., president, Genesis In-Home Care LLC

SBA Michigan Veteran Owned Small Business of the Year

Donald G. Heeringa, chair, Trendway

SBA Michigan Women Owned Small Business of the Year

Radhika Kandikonda, CEO, KBTS Technologies Inc.

SBA Michigan 8(a) Graduate of the Year

Ije Charles Osuagwu, president, Brix Corporation

SBA Michigan Small Business Development Center Excellence and Innovation Award

SBDC Upper Peninsula Region

SBA Michigan Women’s Business Center of Excellence Award

Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW)

SBA Michigan SCORE Chapter of the Year

SCORE Kalamazoo/Southwest Michigan

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