Tag Archives: Michigan

Gone But Not Forgotten Part 3

Well enough of the history lesson, lets focus on the present.  Right now West Michigan area has a small amount of minor league teams:

Grand Rapids
– West Michigan Whitecaps – Baseball
– Grand Rapids Griffins – Hockey

Muskegon
– Muskegon Lumberjacks – Hockey

Kalamazoo
– Kalamazoo K-Wings – Hockey

That isn’t much, especially considering that Grand Rapids was once known as “The Nation’s premiere minor-league destination” during the 1990’s, according to Grand Rapids Press sports writer David Mayo.  Consider that in 2011 Grand Rapids was ranked as 178th on the Sports Business Journal’s list of the Top Minor League Market.  Back in 2005 Grand Rapids was listed as high as 25th, though losing the Grand Rapids Rampage was a large cause for the drop. Even more shockingly is that back in 1997 Grand Rapids was ranked as one of the top ten markets with sufficient capacity for a potential expansion NBA team by the American City Business Journal.

So what happened West Michigan?  Why have so many teams failed, especially after becoming a premiere minor league destination.  It’s obvious that hockey is king in Michigan, and with the Grand Rapids Griffins winning the 2013 Turner Cup, I can only see them getting more popular in the region. In addition being an affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, greatly helps legitimatize the Griffins and helps Red Wing fans in this region have a stronger tie to the Red Wings.  Some of the other hockey teams in the also have some affiliation, like the Kalamazoo K-Wings are like a AA affiliate to the Chicago Wolves (AAA) who are then an affiliate of the Vancuver Canucks (a NHL Hockey Team).  Whereas the Muskegon Lumberjacks are just located in a type of player development league without any professional team affiliation.

But what about the national pastime of baseball?  Baseball has  had a particularly long and sad history in Grand Rapids until 1994 when the Whitecaps finally starting playing.  The Whitecaps seem to be doing well in West Michigan, and one potential cause for this could also be that they are a minor league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. This is a genius idea of both the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers to base at least one of their minor league teams on the west side of the state, instead of having the team in some far away state.  It’s a great way to build up fan support, and give people a connection to the professional team on the other side of the state.

One of my theories on why many minor league teams did not last in the region has to do with West Michigan’s love affair with high school sports. As a transplant to this region I was absolutely shocked, and dumbfounded by the attention that high school sports garnered, in the media, in the community, and in everything.  It blew my mind that high school sports got any attention on regional news broadcasts, and front page treatment on sports sections in the newspapers, and even their own tv shows after the evening news.  Even after living in the region for over 8 years I am still surprised by the attention high school sports get. Now granted I may change my tune in 10 years if my children start playing competitive sports in High School, but for right now I am sticking with my original convictions.  Thinking about high school sports, I find that they would be competing for the same time and money that minor league sports would from potential fans/consumers.  Attendance to high school sporting events, require admission fees, food vendor sales, same evening time-slots, especially on weekends.  So minor league teams have to compete against normal time and money commitments of fans, but also against even more convenient sports entertainment from the local high school teams.

I most likely guilty as anyone for not supporting the teams that we do have.  I can probably count on my hands how many games I have been too since moving to West Michigan, and to date I have only seen the Holland Blast, West Michigan Whitecaps, and Grand Rapids Griffins play.  Though it would be nice to have a nice constant presence of some other teams like in basketball or soccer… you know to give me and the family options on a Friday night…at least until the kids are in high school.

Any other thoughts on theories on the lack of success of minor league sports in West Michigan? Let me know.

Part III in our series on defunct sports teams in West Michigan –
Click here for Part I
Click here for Part II

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Hey! What’s Growing On?

As I am sure everyone knows Start Garden started today.  Start Garden is the next big thing from Rick DeVos and Pomegranate Studios, where people can submit ideas for a chance receive $5,000 in an initial investment.  Each week, 2 ideas will be chosen and given $5,000 and then the winners will be required to come back in 60-90 days and present where they are at with their winning idea for opportunity to get additional funding, in the amount of $20,000.  Ideas that are progressing well and have potential to become viable businesses can in theory receive up to $500,000 dollars from Start Garden.  The fund is backed up $15 million commitment from the DeVos family, so there is plenty of opportunities for many ideas to get a lot of investment dollars.  Throughout the process, ideas receiving funding will be able to get some resources and mentoring from Start Garden to help their idea move ahead.  The public gets to be involved in the process as well by choosing one of the weekly winners and public events will be held to present the progress of previous winners.

Some things I like about Start Garden:

  • Accountability.  Unlike the 5×5 Nights winners, who are not required to update anyone on their progress or what they have done with money that they won, Start Garden requires winners to come back in 60-90 days and update everyone on their progress.  Not to mention that great minds think alike, here is my tweet to 5×5 Night (Pomegranate Studio) on January 24, 2012 and their response.  I asked them if they followed-up with winners on their progress or what they were up to, and 5×5 responded that they didn’t..  I was always curious if there was an mechanism in place besides one own morals which prevent someone from coming up with a fake idea (charity/or good cause) and win the competition and just take the $5,000 and run.  Granted it would be a lot of work for someone to do all that but I am sure there must have been at least some hucksters who submitted ideas with this premise.  Plus people what to know what happens next, its like a cliffhanger and people want to see a resolution or at least the next chapter.  Start Garden did a great thing by adding in this extra step.
  • Helping ideas get off the ground, and giving them money
  • General philanthropy of the DeVos family
  • Getting exposure to some new, great, and interesting ideas (it could potentially give me more fodder for my blog)
  • And this great quote form Mlive “Backed by his wealthy family, [Rick] DeVos…” Wow way to empower all the troll commentators to like to spout negatives about the DeVos family.

Some things I don’t like:

  • All the garden talk.  I know its part of the name, and it helps complete the narrative, but look at this quote from Rick DeVos: ““Start Garden creates the field and brings the water. We ask the people to bring their ideas and plant them. And we ask existing businesses in our region to become the farmers. Because we believe the soil is fertile for business here and we can be the best place for somebody to have an idea and run with it”
  • Never did they really say what is going to happen to 5×5 Night, though by looking at the website, it does say “Site Closed Temporarily closed. Check out our new project Start Garden.”  None of the stories I read mentioned it, even the official press release never states what is going to happen to 5×5.
  • The logo should be green or brown instead of yellow… you know garden, things growing, greenery and soil.

Start Garden, cool idea, that I will be curiously following, and I am especially looking forward for the 60-90 day recaps which I think is the best part.  What are your thoughts?

Culture Clash? Revue Acquires MiBiz

Last week Revue, a monthly West Michigan entertainment magazine, purchased MiBiz, a weekly West Michigan business publication (there has been no official announcement regarding the headlines though).  Both publications are now owned by Revue Holding Company.

As mentioned in the press release, Revue president Brian Edwards (whose name graces a local Grand Rapids PR firm – Lambert & Edwards & Associates) will come on board at MiBiz as editor and publisher of the magazine.  It will be interesting to see how these two seemingly different magazines will operate with each other since it’s stated that they will share best practices.  However, they do share some similarities:

  1. Physical Appearance:  Both publications are of a similar (or same) size, made out of newspaper material, and are in color
  2. Free:  Well to a certain extent.  Revue is free, and you can pick up a copy almost anywhere, whereas MiBiz is free for subscription if you have a fancy title (middle to upper management).  Also both publications make their entire issue/content available for free online
  3. Advertising:  Both heavily rely on advertising for revenue, though their advertisers vary greatly.  Revue – bars, restaurants, and bands.  MiBiz – Banks, Insurance, and other boring/odd ads for businesses like this one.

Per the press release Edwards states that the MiBiz acquisition is just the first of several planned for the next couple of years… I wonder what is next – sports (maybe even high school sports), Rapid Growth (though maybe not after Revue’s Stad DiPonzi’s Vapid Growth comment), what else is there….The Ledger?  Maybe West Michigan isn’t a focus and they are looking to acquire publications in Central or Eastern Michigan.  Or perhaps Revue Holding Company is just positioning itself against Gemini Publications portfolio of magazines which include Grand Rapids Business Journal, Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Family Magazine, Michigan BLUE Magazine, Michigan GOLF Magazine.  By the way, Gemini gets bonus points for all their creative and original publication names.

So what are your thoughts on what’s next for Revue Holding Company or about the acquisition?

Spartan Stores Discontinues Michigan’s Best Campaign

Well that did not last long.  Back in July 2009 Family Fare (Spartan Stores) had started a Michigan’s Best campaign (see my original blog post)which highlighted food and products that are made in Michigan.  They would do this by adding little product tags on the shelves where the prices are listed.

Well they are no longer there.   I did a quick scan through the aisles of Family Fare and didn’t see any Michigan’s Best tags.  I purposely sought out products I knew were produced in Michigan such as Velvet Peanut Butter, and Koeze Peanut Butter (ok so I was in the peanut butter, and jelly aisle)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too bad it was always fun seeing what products were made in Michigan, and I could feel a little better about supporting our state when I did purchase something produced here.  I emailed Spartan Stores to get an answer on why the program was stopped but I have not had any response.  I guess I am not a credible media outlet just yet.

Grand Rapids on a Pedestal

Finally.

In reading Grand Rapids development news over the years, you always come across Grand Rapids emulating other cities or having Grand Rapids proponents arguing that Grand Rapids needs exactly what XYZ city has.  Or if Grand Rapids gets X then we would be just ABC-ville.

For example:

Exhibit A: Urban Market – Emulating: Columbus-OH, Milwaukee,-WI, San Francisco-CA, Seattle-WA

Exhibit B: Streetcars – Emulating:  Portland-OR

Exhibit CTrader Joes & Whole Foods – Emulating:  Every other community that has one

Exhibit D: Whitewater course for the Grand River – Emulating:  South Bend-IN, Wasua-WI, Petoskey and Chesaning-MI

Exhibit EMonorail – Emulating:  North Haverbrook, Odgenville, and Brockway

Anyway Grand Rapids sheep can now become the shepherd, or the tables have finally been turned.  There is a city in the United States that is benchmarking Grand Rapids, and is actually aspiring to emulate our city.

The city is Cedar Rapids, the second largest city in Iowa, built on the Cedar River.  With a population of 128,000 Cedar Rapids is an economic hub in Iowa.  The cities have a lot of similarities besides the whole “Rapids” thing, and based on this story in the Gazette Online, Cedar Rapids aspire to have a medical district like the Medical Mile on Michigan Street that Grand Rapids developed.  I found it fascinating to see Grand Rapids actually being bench marked for a change and not the opposite.  So slow down Grand Rapids take a breath, and enjoy the view from the pedestal.  Oh and thanks for the compliment Cedar Rapids you’re making us blush.

Be sure to read the whole story here.

Any of you readers have more examples of Grand Rapids being bench marked by other communities (maybe with ArtPrize)?

NeoCon 2010 and the Other West Michigan Companies

Hard to believe but yes, there are plenty of West Michigan companies besides Steelcase, Herman Miller, and Haworth who will be participating in this year’s NeoCon show on June 14 through the 16th in Chicago.  It always surprises me how one tradeshow in Chicago, year in and year out gets the local West Michigan media into a frenzy about office furniture.  I guess it makes sense.  According to my informal research through LinkedIn Companies Function – Haworth, Herman Miller, and Steelcase all  have over 500+ employees in West Michigan, so 1,500+ total, plus their families, retirees, and the number of people interested in these companies, the list goes on and on.

But I am here to shed some light on the other players in the furniture industry here in West Michigan, that are participating in NeoCon, and I was quite shocked by the size of the list.  Here we go:

  • 2/90 Sign Systems – Grand Rapids – Sign design, wayfinding, manufacturing of both interior and exterior signs and sign systems, project management, installation and post-installation maintenance
  • American Seating – Grand Rapids – Seating from auditorium to stadium to office to education and transportation
  • BIFMA International – Grand Rapids – A not-for-profit organization that leads, advocates, informs and develops standards for the North American office and institutional furniture industry
  • Compatico – Grand Rapids – Manufactures and supplies new office furniture systems and parts
  • Configura – Grand Rapids – HQ in Sweeden, with their US location in Grand Rapids, provides software solutions Commercial furniture
  • Flexible Montisa – Plainwell – Features file, storage, and furniture product offerings to facilitate innovative solutions for corporate, educational, and medical institutions.
  • FreshFolios – Byron Center – Pre-designed portfolio websites for photographers, interior designers, architects, artists and all members of the creative community who rely on a well sorted portfolio to display their work
  • Gibraltar – Zeeland – Metal manufacturing company serving the office, institutional, and hospitality furniture industries
  • Gill Industries – Grand Rapids – A full service supplier of engineered, mechanical assemblies to a wide variety of markets such as automotive, furniture and multi-use vehicle markets
  • Grand Rapids Chair Company – Grand Rapids – Besides chairs, they also provide tables for commercial environments
  • Great Openings – Ludington -Provider of quality metal filing and storage products to the office furniture industry
  • Gross Stabil Corp -Coldwater – Manufacturer of casters, bases, and gas cylinders for office chairs
  • GT Industries – Byron Center – Foam products, lots and lots of foam based products
  • Guilford of Maine – Grand Rapids – Surprisingly they are headquartered in Grand Rapids, they are a textile provider
  • Izzy+ – Spring Lake – Officer furniture provider for a variety of industries
  • Knu Healthcare – Zeeland – Manufacturer of healthcare furniture, and part of Industrial Woodworking Corporation
  • Leland International – Grand Rapids – Contemporary seating and tables manufacturer whose products are built to order and provide project designers the opportunity to customize features such as color, finish, trim, size and cut out design
  • Light Corporation – Grand Haven – Design and manufacture fluorescent task lights and ambient light fixtures for office furniture industry and high bay fluorescent fixtures for industry, gymnasiums and retail.
  • Nucraft – Comstock Park – Design and manufacture furnishings for conference rooms, lobby and reception areas, private offices, and training areas
  • Pulse Design – Grand Rapids – Manufacturer of a desktop connection system with touch-control electronics to hide or reveal the unit on a desk
  • Sparkeology – Holland – New line of office furniture developed by Worden in collaboration with Via Design and Square One Design.   The products target locations are  public buildings’ lobbies and lounges, even libraries because of their flexibility and mobility, and being able to be used in multiple functions and configurations.  Plus based on their twitter feed looks like they are going to give away a lot of loot bags.  Wonder what is inside- anyone want to get me one?
  • Stryker – Kalamazoo – This was an odd one but looks like they are providing some furniture solutions for the healthcare industry
  • Symbiote, Inc.- Zeeland – Manufactures laboratory and technical furniture systems emphasizing custom product solutions, looks like they feature ergonomic solutions
  • Trendway – Holland – Not officially at NeoCon but they will have something going on in their showroom at the merch. mart.  Office furniture manufacture famous for their On Time guarantee.
  • VanerumStelter – Grand Rapids – Provider of products and services for their interior environments.  Chairs, desks, tables, workstations for all levels of education and for office environments.
  • Workstuff – Grand Rapids – Provider of adjustable keyboard systems and ergonomic workplace solutions.

So what do you think?  I am really surprised by the number of companies from Zeeland representing.  Anyways this just goes to show that there are plenty others in West Michigan besides the Big 3 who are part of the office furniture business (even though some of these companies are not directly related to the industry).

Additionally, here is a short list of other players in the furniture industry who are not attending NeoCon.  Do you have any more companies to add to the list?

  • Avian Boards – Grand Rapids – Manufacturer of lightweight board to be used for a variety of applications
  • Charter House Innovations – Holland – A seating and decor company with a wide range of solutions for a variety of industries.  Big focus on sustainability.
  • OMT Vehyl – Holland – The result of a merger of two German companies to provide products for the office furniture industry
  • RT London – Grand Rapids – Has a emphasis on furniture for the education segment with learning and dorm room solutions
  • Worden – Holland – Maker of furniture for the educational and library markets, also behind Sparkeology.

Breaking the Chain – O’Charley’s becoming Twister Rooster

A couple of weeks ago it was announced that four Michigan area O’Charley’s Restaurants (one in Holland, one in Grand Rapids, two on east side of the state) owned by Meritage Hospitality Group (MHG) were going to be dropping the O’Charley’s franchise and the restaurants will be re-launched as the Twisted Rooster within two years.  The Grand RapidsTwister Rooster will be launched on July 21st.  Alright well what is the Twisted Rooster, sounds like another chain.  Well it is kind of, it is a local chain that was developed by locally owned MHG.  According to The Grand Rapids Press article the Twisted Rooster will feature a “concept to adapt to consumer preferences that favor unique, local eateries using local ingredients.”   Apparently MHG was “underwhelmed by the performance of O’Charley’s” and decided to make a change.

This of course sounds great and I will be interested to check out the new restaurant and see just how “twisted” the menu is.  But even more fascinating to me is the transformation of a national franchise chain into a local area restaurant.  Oddly enough the Grand Rapids area has experienced one of these transformations in the past.  Anyone remember the various Pizzeria Unos that dotted Grand Rapids, well they were all transformed into a restaurant called Malarky’s in 2008.  As far as I can glean it was the same reasons why O’Charley’s will be flipped into Twisted Rooster, restaurants were under performing, franchise fees were expensive, and the owners thought they could do better by themselves.

So what do you think is this going to be a continuing trend, the “unchaining” of restaurants?  Can we expect more restaurants to go this route?  What are your thoughts and is this a good thing or bad thing?

Oh yeah for all you social media nuts out there here is Twisted Roosters stuff – Twitter (interesting how they are engaging the consumers asking for opinions and ideas.  Very cool how they interacted with GRSocialDiary regarding vegan dining options). Facebook page.

See what West Michigan’s restaurant reviewer had to say about Malarky’s.

Update: See my updated thoughts about Twisted Rooster in my new post.
Update #2: Per Twisted Rooster, there are no longer plans to reopen in Holland, there is now a for sale sign at the old O’Charley’s building