Wins win situation with green energy


    Some people talk a lot about their belief in “green” energy, but Win Irwin puts some money where his heart is.

    About 20 percent of the electricity Irwin Seating Co. in Walker buys from Consumers Energy is “green,” according to the utility, which amounts to almost 700,000 kilowatt-hours a year. (The average residential customer uses about 11,500 kWh of energy per year.) So, Irwin Seating has earned Consumers’ Green Generation Customer of the Year award for being the largest participating manufacturer in the Green Generation program in Michigan and the third-largest overall participant.

    But Green Generation energy costs more, so what does Irwin Seating pay?

    “It’s around $6,000 extra. Not huge,” said Irwin.

    “Even before they started their program, we were buying green energy through Consumers,” said Irwin.

    That was in 2002 — the Green Generation option began in 2005 — and Irwin said it cost his company an additional $10,000 back then.

    Today, Irwin Seating is buying more than twice as much green power “for quite a bit less money. It’s good news: The price has gone down through those 10 years.”

    Being kind to the environment has been one of Irwin Seating’s core principles for years. During the 1980s, it was the first company in its industry, according to Irwin, to switch to powder coating as opposed to the conventional solvent-based paint finishing, which releases volatile organic compounds — toxic fumes — into the air.

    And, the factory is in its second year of sending no waste to a landfill. All waste is recycled or incinerated at the Grand Rapids incinerator, which recaptures some energy from the heat.

    By using green electrical energy from wind and biomass generation, “you create a market, so Consumers can sell all that power. Then they’ll go out and find more of it and try to sell more of it, and then we will slowly convert over from coal,” said Irwin.

    “It’s a cost or a donation or whatever you want to call it. That’s what we all are doing. All the people who are doing that are paying a little more so we can have more of it available in the future,” said Irwin.

    Sounds like a win-win situation.

    MCOY’s boys

    The American Subcontractors Association of Michigan has announced six nominees for the third annual Michigan Contractor of the Year award. They include The Christman Co., Dan Vos Construction Co., Elzinga & Volkers, Erhardt Construction, Owen-Ames-Kimball and Pioneer Construction.

    The companies were nominated by ASAM members based on bid ethics, practice, safety, jobsite supervision, communication, schedule coordination, project relations, lien processes, administrative procedures, payment terms and quality workmanship.

    From now through Sept. 17, ASAM members will score the six nominees in the same categories during online voting. The MCOY award gives ASAM members the opportunity to nominate and recognize general contractors or construction managers who exhibit best practices, professionalism and collaboration with Michigan’s subcontracting community.

    MCOY award winners will be revealed at an event on Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Goei Center. Festivities begin at 6 p.m. Event details are available at

    Halloween treat

    The new Grand Rapids Brewing Co., currently being revived by a local couple, moved closer to opening last week when city commissioners approved the transfer of an escrowed liquor license to GRBC Holdings LLC.

    The brewer is locating on the ground floors of 1 and 7 Ionia Ave. SW, two buildings that are being renovated by 616 Development.

    Mark Sellers, who owns the brewing company with his wife, Michelle, told the Business Journal to expect an opening in late October, which should be a nice treat for beer lovers on Halloween. The Sellers plan to make the beer as organic as they possibly can.

    Real estate guys

    A new residential real estate firm recently opened downtown.

    Chad Koster and Nick Vander Wal are the guys behind Paramount Realty Partners. Koster, who has been a licensed Realtor here since 1989, is president of the new full-service firm. Vander Wal will direct operations.

    “I’m a real estate guy — always have been and always will be. My journey in real estate and marketing has led me to start this real estate firm that leverages our experience in 21st century marketing, technology, and the mainstay in real estate: relationships,” said Koster.

    “We treat every assignment as a full-time job and not just ‘inventory,’ and we leverage our technological savvy,” said Vander Wal as to what makes the business different.

    Paramount Realty Partners is located at 32 Market Ave. SW.

    Pigs crowding chickens

    Agricultural science and technology is helping farmers grow healthier food while also using fewer natural resources, according to the Michigan Pork Producers Association.

    Its executive director, Mary Kelpinski, will be talking about that subject at the Grand Rapids North Kiwanis Club meeting scheduled for noon tomorrow at the Cheshire Grill, 2162 Plainfield Ave. NE.

    “Farmers have been working for years to improve the quality of pork,” said Kelpinski. “As a result, pigs today are healthier and leaner. In fact, pork tenderloin is now as lean as a skinless chicken breast and is certified by the American Heart Association as a heart-healthy food.”

    “We know we must always keep learning and working to get better at what we do,” said Kelpinski. She indicated the United Nations projects that 70 percent of the food the world population will need by 2050 will have to be produced using efficiency-enhancing technologies because there aren’t enough tillable acres to keep up with the demand.

    The Business Journal contacted her and learned that Kelpinski actually is a hog farmer, one of 68,000 in the U.S.

    Michigan pork production adds $343 million to the state economy and supports 5,300 jobs.

    “Yes, I do have a small hog farm in Shiawassee County and have been involved in the pork industry for over 20 years,” she replied. “It is amazing, all the changes and improvements I have witnessed in the time I have been involved. Growing up a city girl, I never dreamed I would be this involved with where my food comes from.”


    Ferris State President David Eisler used Thursday’s Rotary Club meeting to announce the university’s latest nod to the region’s growing diversity.

    The Big Rapids campus soon will be home to the new Latino Business and Economic Center, with an eye toward bringing the same services to Grand Rapids in the near future. This would be in addition to FSU’s current Center for Latino Studies.

    Got an itch?

    If your eyes have been itchy and your nose has been runny no matter where you’ve traveled in the state, the following might explain it.

    The Natural Resources Defense Council reported recently that Michigan was seventh of all 50 states in the amount of toxins released into the air from coal-fired nuclear plants. The council also found that the state stood in the 10th spot for the most mercury air pollution from power plants.

    The most toxic state on the list? Kentucky — followed by Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia and Florida. Then comes Michigan.

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