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A Groundbreaking Vision

On a hot and hazy Thursday afternoon in August, a small crowd spilled from a white event tent on a construction site in Kalamazoo, Michigan. A dozen shovels jutted from the brown dirt nearby, symbols of the groundbreaking on 180 East Water Street, a $70 million, 290,000-square-foot mixed-use development. Patti Owens, vice president and managing director for Catalyst Development Co., the project’s lead developer, stepped to the podium.

An Economic Cornerstone

Successful urban planning and development depends on partnerships—business and government leaders, commercial and residential developers, and major institutions like hospitals and universities—all of which contribute significantly to the economic vitality of a community and region. A recent study shows that Western Michigan University (WMU) is a big-time player in the regional economy.

The study, commissioned by WMU and regional economic development catalyst Southwest Michigan First, suggests that the university contributed $1.6 billion, directly and indirectly, to the economies of Kalamazoo, Van Buren, and Calhoun counties during fiscal year 2016-17.

Impeccable Taste

National Flavors LLC


National Flavors completed construction of a new 36,000-square-foot headquarters at 3680 Stadium Park Way in Oshtemo in 2018. Its multi-million dollar investment created space for new offices, labs, manufacturing, and distribution. It continues to maintain a location on Crosstown Parkway in Kalamazoo for warehousing and distribution.


Do you Hear the Music?

Maestro is a forward-thinking design agency creating things that you probably wouldn’t imagine get made in Kalamazoo.

We’ve been here for 11 years, and we work with huge Fortune 500 companies like Southwest Airlines, Johnson & Johnson, and Google. I would say design is the core of everything that we do. We create brand experiences in all formats.

Right now, we’re working with Southwest Airlines to create an onboarding experience for its new employees. Southwest flies every new hire, no matter what their role is, to its headquarters in Dallas. We’re creating the companion phone app they use for the onboarding experience. The app will have everything from onboarding documents, campus maps, and even an integrated augmented reality experience.

Stryker’s Expansion Boosts Michigan’s Medical Technology Industry

With its jobless rate hovering around 4.0 PERCENT, the Southwest Michigan region may be experiencing what many economists deem “full” employment.

This statistic is a positive one when describing the area’s economic health, but a challenging one to overcome for companies seeking to hire new employees. To attract job seekers, companies must differentiate themselves in this highly competitive market.

Full Steam Ahead

Western Michigan University (WMU), Mechanical Engineering, B.B.S. ’17

Scotts, MI

Application Engineer, Steam and Condensate Department, Armstrong International

I have been working at Armstrong International since March 2018. Armstrong designs and manufactures mechanical solutions for steam, air, and hot water applications. Our products are used everywhere from education and healthcare to the food and beverage industry. As an application engineer, my job is to directly support Armstrong’s third-party representatives by thoroughly answering any and all technical questions. Sometimes, my team has to calculate a quote for a big project. Other times, there may be an issue with a product, and we have to troubleshoot it. I never know what question I am going to get.

It’s Down to a Science

Caledonia, Michigan

Western Michigan University
Chemical Engineering Major; Biology Minor; Life Sciences Focus
Expected Graduation: Spring 2019

Process Engineer Intern

Industrial consulting firm CRB’s engineers (chemical, mechanical, civil), along with critical utility specialists, and an array of other experts, collaborate to design solutions for clients. We work in four phases: conceptual, schematic, design, and then construction. As a process engineer intern with a background in chemistry and biology, I help design detailed plans for life science projects. I also create instrumentation diagrams that visually represent the process of how chemicals will be made.

Take the Long Road

The perfect cocktail is a beautiful thing.

It can be a refreshing gin drink on a Michigan summer’s day or a bold bourbon concoction that warms you as winter rolls in. That’s why it may not come as a surprise that craft distilleries across the country grew by nearly 20 percent in 2017, with over 50 of them calling Michigan home. Craft spirits are on the rise, and they are altering the state of cocktails.

“The craft spirits industry has seen tremendous growth over the past couple of years,” says James Loughmiller, Spirits Category Manager at Imperial Beverage. “Michigan alone has been making strides, producing some of the highest quality spirits in the nation. We are usually known as a craft beer state, but recently spirits have started to take hold, and we are seeing a surge of new distillers open throughout the state with a dedication to craft and quality. The craft segment of the spirits category is growing at a rapid pace, and we don’t see it slowing down anytime soon,” Loughmiller confirms.

LEADER2LEADER: Dannie Alexander and Nicole Marques


Dannie Alexander: I identify a great leader as someone who treats everyone the same as the next person. They don’t cater to folks they feel will be more influential or more powerful.
A leader is someone who can connect with all people.

Nicole Marques: A lot of people are leaders, but when I think of a great leader, it’s someone who looks at every person to figure out their strengths and weaknesses and leads accordingly. Outstanding leadership is not one size fits all.

HOW DID I GET HERE? – A Journey with Southwest Michigan’s Preeminent Female Leaders

Women make up over 50 percent of the regional population in Southwest Michigan.

Though workforce participation has skyrocketed, challenges still exist for women in the workplace, such as unequal pay, under-representation in managerial roles, and fewer degrees earned in university subjects such as engineering and computer science.

To address these issues head-on, Southwest Michigan First recently hosted an all-star panel of female leaders for a candid discussion as part of its First Leaders event series. Four women from very different industries spoke about the challenges they faced at the start of their careers and gave informed advice to emerging leaders starting out in today’s evolving corporate culture.