MLIVE: Group of millennials behind Kalamazoo event center proposal

Published on July 14, 2018
KALAMAZOO, MI — A Southwest Michigan First task force charged with finding solutions to attract young people to the region revived long-stalled plans for an events center in Kalamazoo.

The region’s economic development organization assembled civic and business leaders under the age of 35 last year. Southwest Michigan First CEO Ron Kitchens said the group was created to elevate the voices of the “next generation,” and members were picked through an informal nominating process.

Read the full article.

Michigan Association of Land Banks highlights Kalamazoo County Land Bank

Published on July 12, 2018
Michigan Association of Land Banks highlights Kalamazoo County Land Bank as a case study in a statewide economic impact study. This study clearly demonstrates and quantifies the enormous economic impact land banks have on Michigan communities.

Michigan’s land banks can now place a dollar value on the impact they have in their communities. Over the last nine years, the Kalamazoo County Land Bank has put nearly $20 million back into the local economy and created an estimated 270 full time jobs in construction, landscaping and related industries!

This report validates what we have all known for years: Land banks matter, land banks make a difference and land banks are an integral part in benefiting families, neighborhoods and local communities. Michigan is a pioneer in the land bank movement and has remained at the forefront for more than a decade. Michigan isn’t just the Great Lakes State. It’s the Great Land Bank State too!

Read now.

WKZO: Southwest Michigan First Business Update

Published on July 11, 2018
KALAMAZOO (WKZO-AM/FM) — WKZO’s Ken Lanphear is joined by Southwest Michigan First’s senior partner & ceo, Ron Kitchens, to talk about regional job announcements and infrastructure.

Listen here.

WOODTV.COM: Events center needed to revive downtown Kalamazoo

Published on July 10, 2018
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The pieces of the puzzle may be falling into place for an event center in downtown Kalamazoo.

Supporters, Kalamazoo County and Western Michigan University would have to all work together to make it a reality.

Watch now.

Michigan Strategic Fund Supports Community Revitalization Project in Kalamazoo

Published on June 27, 2018
Kalamazoo, Mich. – 400 Rose, LLC plans to redevelop vacant land and a surface parking lot located at 400 S. Rose Street in downtown Kalamazoo. The completed project will be a four-story, mixed-use infill development that will include residential units, commercial space and parking. The project is expected to generate a total capital investment of $25.5 million and create seven full-time equivalent jobs, resulting in a $4.4 million Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based loan participation. The project will bring much-needed residential space to the area and will reactivate a long-vacant, blighted property into an inviting and attractive community asset.

In addition, the City of Kalamazoo Brownfield Redevelopment Authority received MSF approval of $3,632,517 in local and school tax capture to alleviate brownfield conditions at the site.

View the Press Release

MSF supports Stryker’s $109.8M expansion of medical-products manufacturing facility

Published on June 26, 2018
LANSING, Mich. – One of the state’s core innovative companies with deep Michigan roots, Stryker Corporation, will expand capacity of its medical-device products with a $109-million investment at its 79-acre industrial site in Portage, located in Kalamazoo County.

View the Press Release

WWMT.COM: Backers of a new downtown events center say facility could be Kalamazoo’s crown jewel

Published on June 15, 2018
KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Southwest Michigan First is behind the new push to build an arena in downtown Kalamazoo, several years after plans hit a standstill.

Watch now.

WKZO: Economic Outlook for Kalamazoo with Southwest Michigan First

Published on June 13, 2018
KALAMAZOO (WKZO-AM/FM) — WKZO’s Ken Lanphear is joined by Southwest Michigan First’s senior partner & ceo, Ron Kitchens, to talk about the hot economy and more as we enter summer 2018.

Listen here.

From farm to table

Packers Canning Co., dba Honee Bear Canning Co.


72100 M 40
Lawton, MI 49065

Honee Bear Canning was founded in 1943 and Packers Canning in 1967. The two entities existed as a partnership between the grandfather of Steve Packer, current president and chief executive officer, and another family. The Packer family became sole owners in 1967.

A Conversation with Sondra Phillips


SKP Design is a boutique interior design company—in fact, we are the only interior design firm in Kalamazoo. We have both residential and commercial clients and can do everything from new construction to remodeling. Clients come to us because they’re changing, moving, growing, or launching a new product line. If a client wants people to think a certain way when they walk in their space, we figure out how to make that happen. Essentially, our job is to make sure that an area makes sense visually.


Interior design employs a lot of psychology and sociology. We have to understand people and how they behave. We consider how people interact with an environment and what effect a physical space will have on an individual.

Only the select few foresee never-ending opportunities

Team members at SELECT Products Limited in Portage have a great story to tell. The geared continuous door hinge they produce survived an independent test of 25 million open-and-close cycles. The test required over four years to complete. Every other component in the door failed except the hinge.

That’s a product the team is proud to develop, produce, sell, and support! In fact, the company has a never-ending warranty.


Andy Cullen

Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC)
Web Design and Development (A.A.S.) ’17

Software Development (A.A.S.) ’17

Bellville, Michigan

Junior Software Development Engineer, National Flavors

My job at National Flavors spans both the development and IT worlds, so my responsibilities consist of everything from fixing surprise bugs in our homemade business software, constructing new capabilities in our data software, and building a new online customer portal. My previous experience as a lab assistant helped me fit into the company culture quite well, but the main thing that helps me thrive in this position is the wide range of experiences I have gained from my instructors at KVCC.


Kayla Poole

Jackson, Michigan

Western Michigan University (WMU)
Accounting and Aviation Management Double Major

Expected Graduation: Spring 2018

Staff Auditor Intern at Consumers Credit Union


When I first started my internship program, all the new hires began in a group together to do training and orientation. Then, we moved into different departments to learn specific skills. For continuing professional development, interns meet every week as a group with the HR Department. They have different people come in to talk about resume building, interviewing, and other skills. Consumers Credit Union wants to grow you as a person as much as possible.

Can it!

There are nearly 300 breweries, microbreweries, and brewpubs operating in Michigan with over 30 operations just in the 269 area code.

“You are never more than an hour from a fresh pint of hand-crafted beer. Brewing operations are located in communities throughout the entire state, many of which are revitalizing main streets and resurrecting historical buildings,” according to the Michigan Brewers Guild. “Brewery tap rooms and restaurants are diverse, unique gathering places that are connected and committed to their local communities. Additionally, local breweries have a profound impact on Michigan’s economy.”

Positivity, Passion, and a Kaleidoscope

Just one look at the desk of WSI President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff O’Brien reveals a lot about his company. Since 2001, WSI, a recruitment and staffing specialist currently with offices throughout the Midwest, has impacted thousands of lives by helping people get full-time and temporary work assignments. Over the years, WSI has also dramatically increased the number of companies using its selection model to test the caliber of candidates. Beyond these successes, the one thing that O’Brien is most proud of is his team. He says, “I’ve never had a more collaborative, effective, enjoyable group of people to work with than I do currently. And that makes what we do fun.”

Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart and Randy Street is about culture interviews and cultural fit. Its systemic approach to finding the right candidates and how to interview to discern between good and bad fit is quite powerful.

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