Author: Andrew Olson

Movie Star’s Michigan Hometown Makes Great Winter Weekend Escape

The Jiffy storage silos tower 135 feet above Chelsea’s Main Street, a symbol of the role that the world’s leading manufacturer of baking mix has in the community. Just seeing the brand’s familiar blue and white boxes evokes feelings of an earlier era, such that Jiffy has been labeled in business circles as “retro hip.”

The grain silos at Chelsea Milling Co. stand over 135 feet tall.

You might say the same about Chelsea itself. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, downtown Chelsea features an eclectic mix of shopping, dining, arts and entertainment — all in a walkable space that feels like you’re strolling through a Norman Rockwell painting.

Chelsea truly is something else, a great place in Michigan to discover something special.

In the midst of the holiday rush, keep in mind that not every gift can be ordered online, packaged in a box and shipped to your door. Nor should it. Sometimes, the most extraordinary gifts are something else — something outside the box.

How about sharing the experience of a small-town getaway this winter? Follow this guide to plan an excursion to Chelsea in a jiffy:

Vibrant arts

As a historic place, downtown Chelsea itself is a gallery of art featuring quaint streets lined with Victorian homes and a business district with beautiful Italianate architecture. It looks like the set of a movie.

Emmy Award-winner Jeff Daniels, a Chelsea native, founded The Purple Rose Theatre in 1991.

Chelsea also is the setting for The Purple Rose Theatre, which brings original works by Michigan artists as well as American classics to the stage. The professional theatre company founded by actor/singer/playwright Jeff Daniels, a Chelsea native, performs in an intimate, 168-seat venue right downtown.

Daniels’ own “Diva Royale” is being performed at The Purple Rose through Dec. 29, with the curtain set to go up Jan. 17-March 16 on the world premiere of “Never Not Once.” The Purple Rose 2018-2019 season also features Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” from April 4 through June 1 and the world premiere of “Welcome to Paradise” from June 20 to Aug. 31. Performances are nightly from Thursday through Saturday, with matinees on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Get tickets here.

 

 

 

Whatever your palate and dining style, you can find a restaurant you’ll love in downtown Chelsea. For fine dining, Common Grill is routinely ranked as one of southeast Michigan’s best restaurants. People travel from all over for the upscale bistro’s premier seafood and seasonal menu, and it does not disappoint.

Try local craft beers at the Chelsea Alehouse Brewery or go for craft spirits at Ugly Dog Distillery.

If your mouth waters for an old-fashioned burger or steak, stop by Cleary’s Pub. The classic Irish pub features outstanding food and live music in a space with old brick walls and a turn-of-the-century original tin ceiling.

Smokehouse 52 BBQ this fall was voted one of the 10 best barbecue restaurants in Michigan. The all-American BBQ sports a cow hanging from the sign outside the door.

For local craft beer paired with bites from a deli-style kitchen, check out Chelsea Alehouse Brewery, which hosts live music on Wednesday nights this winter. Across the street you can sip craft spirits at Ugly Dog Distillery.

Valiant Bar & Grill is a new sports bar that opens in December with a perfect mix of food, drink and sports. The diverse menu features everything from All-American burgers to Mediterranean cuisine to Tex-Mex along with a variety of beers, specialty cocktails and wines.

Pizza lovers will enjoy classic hometown pies at Thompson’s Pizzeria. And, in Chelsea, the Michigan chain Jet’s Pizza takes the form of a sports bar with unique craft beers and live music in The Rumpus Room next door.

Live music and open mics also are hosted regularly at Zou Zou’s Café in a French-themed setting where you can pair delicious cinnamon rolls and scones with a beer.

RELATED: This is what happens when Michigan housewives go looking for romance in Big Apple!

Unique shops

Whether you’re on the hunt for that perfect Christmas gift or shopping for yourself, there’s something for everyone in downtown Chelsea. If someone on your list is a challenge to buy for, check out Bumble’s Dry Goods. The store offers all kinds of hard-to-find items, unique artwork and homemade furniture.

Speaking of furniture and home décor, Merkel Furniture offers three stories of it in downtown Chelsea and is an inspiring place to wander around and dream. La Maison is a boutique home décor store that features Chalk Paint® by Annie Sloan and holds workshops on refinishing furniture.

 Elsewhere downtown you can browse the shelves at Serendipity Books, peruse old-world quality at La Jolla Fine Jewelry, find a one-of-a-kind pieces at Chelsea Antiques or visit the fitting rooms at one of Chelsea’s boutique clothing stores to try out a new style (inspired, perhaps, by the costume design at The Purple Rose!). Then, take a break and unwind at Wines on Main, be pampered at Amber Indigo Facials, grab a snack at Chelsea Bakery or treat yourself at Hair By Trios, a certified organic salon.

Extraordinary activities

On Feb. 8-9, Chelsea will transform into the world headquarters of chocolate and curling. The community will set up four sheets of ice for the Curling Fest that involves competition, lessons, beer, food trucks and fire pits. That same weekend is the Chocolate Extravaganza when stores in Chelsea give out free samples of everything chocolate.

Chelsea Milling Co. has been making Jiffy baking mix for 90 years.

Just outside of town in Michigan’s largest state park in the Lower Peninsula you can find some of the best mountain biking and hiking around. The DTE Energy Foundation Trail inside the Waterloo Recreation Area features more than 20 miles of trails, including one loop that’s been named the best in Michigan. The recreation area also is home to the Eddy Discovery Center, a nature center with hiking loops through Michigan’s great outdoors.

And, of course, the Jiffy Mix plant is open for tours. “It’s actually fascinating to watch them fill thousands of boxes of mix,” said Monica Monsma, executive director of the Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce. “It’s really a huge operation. They’re one of our largest employers and it’s what we’re really known for.”

Relaxing places to stay

The Chelsea House Victorian Inn is just a few steps away from The Purple Rose Theatre in downtown Chelsea.

Just a few steps from The Purple Rose and the rest of downtown, Chelsea House Victorian Inn bed-and-breakfast offers period-decorated rooms and an intimate carriage house suite. So much of the home’s interior, from the woodwork to the furniture, is original to the 19th century with details perfectly preserved.

A short drive out of town is the Waterloo Gardens Bed & Breakfast, a country inn in a beautiful setting close to hiking and biking trails and near the Triple Crane Monastery that offers yoga and meditation classes.

If a B&B isn’t your style, check in to the Chelsea Comfort Inn where you can relax in an in-room whirlpool or lounge by the indoor pool.

Start building your small-town Michigan getaway with tickets to a Purple Rose play and go from there!

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

Car Enthusiast Bucket List: R.E. Olds Transportation Museum

 

Long before Henry Ford’s assembly line produced the first Model T, and before General Motors was even conceived, Pliny Olds moved his family up from Ohio to Michigan’s capital city and started a small machine shop. It was there in the late 1800s that P.F. Olds & Son built steam engines, and young Ransom Eli Olds tinkered with development of a horseless carriage.

When R.E. Olds built a three-wheeled vehicle with a steam engine in 1887, it worked — just barely. His father quipped that “Ranse thinks he can put an engine in a buggy and make the contraption carry him over the roads.”

Said the elder Olds: “If he doesn’t get killed in his fool undertaking, I’ll be satisfied.”

Good thing R.E. Olds was foolish enough to keep trying. A decade later he had built a four-wheeled carriage with a gasoline engine and, at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour, that “contraption” attracted the attention of financiers who helped start the Olds Motor Vehicle Co.

Utilizing a progressive assembly line — a precursor to Ford’s moving assembly line — the inventive Olds was able to build the world’s first mass-produced automobile. Pricing the Curved Dash Oldsmobile at an affordable $650, Olds sold thousands of them before Ford ever built a single Model T. By 1905, Lansing had become the car capital of the world with both Olds Motor Works and the new REO Motor Car Co. making vehicles in the city.

Chosen as the home of state government because of its central location, Lansing was transformed by Olds’ tinkering into the center of an emerging automotive industry that would revolutionize the city and beyond. Automotive production hasn’t stopped since, and to this day Lansing remains a major automotive player by making popular vehicles including the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave, the Cadillac CTS and the sporty Camaro.

“If it wasn’t for R.E. Olds, Lansing wouldn’t be Lansing,” said Bill Adcock, director of the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum. “He brought industry to this place. It built the middle class.”

The story of R.E. Olds is chronicled at the downtown Lansing museum, where visitors can see his early vehicles like the Curved Dash Oldsmobile and one of the four original gas-powered carriages. More than 60 classic vehicles are on display including the REO Speedwagon, REO Royale and “Baby REO,” the world’s first fully functional miniature car.

Plus, there are exhibits on R.E. Olds’ other exploits like patenting the first power lawn mower, designing yachts and developing Oldsmar, a residential community in Florida. There also are artifacts from the Olds family mansion, which, ironically, was torn down in 1971 to make way for the I-496 Olds Freeway.

Of course, long after R.E. Olds passed away, Lansing continued to make Oldsmobile cars and REO trucks, and many of these models from the last half of the 20th century are on display at the museum, too. Each car has its own story, and a common heritage that goes back to R.E. Olds.

“It’s a wonderful walk down memory lane,” said Lori Lanspeary, museum president.

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday throughout the year. An especially good time to visit is during the upcoming Car Capital Auto Show on Saturday, July 28. The free event celebrates Lansing’s automotive heritage by showcasing more than 200 classic cars and collectible vehicles on the streets near the Capitol Building. Proceeds benefit the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum.

Another great opportunity to visit the museum is Wednesday, Aug. 22, when the Old US 27 Motor Tour stops in Lansing. This premier event starts in Coldwater with hundreds of classic cars that make stops in DeWitt, St. John’s, Ithaca, Alma, Clare, Grayling, Gaylord and more on the way to Cheboygan as they travel historic Old U.S. 27 over the course of five days.

Any time of year you visit the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum, you can also drive around Lansing to see the city’s historic automotive sites — from the River Street site of the original P.F. Olds & Son machine shop to the GM Grand River Assembly plant where vehicles are still made today. There are signs at seven MotorCities National Heritage sites around the city detailing the development and legacy of the automotive industry.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

Why ‘You Can Accelerate Your Career’ in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region

Fireworks blast over the Saginaw River in Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region, which is a great place to launch your career.

Two years out of college, Cassi Miller is doing work that she loves, helping to re-invent an industrial-era downtown in the heart of one of the 10 most-populous states in the country. She lives minutes from Saginaw Bay where she loves to fish, close enough to Detroit for big-city excitement and a short drive to incredible natural resources all over the Great Lakes State.Plus, she’s already a homeowner.“My boyfriend and I were able to buy a house already when I was 23,” said Miller, an assistant economic developer who manages the city of Saginaw’s Downtown Development Authority. “We got our jobs set and had steady paychecks, and the housing is so affordable.“I have a lot of friends who live other places and they can’t even picture buying a house in the near future.”In addition to affordable housing, extraordinary career opportunities await young professionals like Miller who bring their talents to Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay region — an 8-county destination in the middle of the Lower Peninsula that’s home to state universities, world-class employers and a community-oriented culture where you can play a part and make a difference right away.If you’re looking for a place to start your career, or ready to take your next step, consider the Great Lakes Bay region for these reasons:

  • Strong downtowns — From Midland to Mt. Pleasant and from Bay City to Saginaw, the Great Lakes Bay region is full of bustling downtowns that are the commercial and cultural centers for some 600,000 people. Each city has its own unique character, offering distinct experiences of shopping, nightlife, entertainment and recreation. “There’s always things going on, something to do every weekend,” Miller said.
  • Diverse places to live — Want to live by water? The Great Lakes Bay region has 77 miles of freshwater coastline. Prefer an urban skyline? A tree-lined suburban street? A country farmhouse? The region offers a variety of living opportunities. Miller and her boyfriend bought a foreclosure house, between where she works in Saginaw and where he works as a controls engineer for General Motors in Bay City, and renovated it. After only a year, they’ve already built equity into the house.
  • Outdoor recreation — When Miller first moved to the region, she rented a house right on the Saginaw Valley Rail Trail that she biked all the time. “That was one of the first times that I thought this would be a really cool place to live,” she said. The region’s also full of hiking, snowmobiling and off-road vehicle trails through tens of thousands of acres of st

    The longest canopy walk in the country opens this fall in the Great Lakes Bay Region, taking people 40 feet up in the air through Whiting Forest in Midland.

    ate forests, has over 1,000 miles of rivers perfect for kayaking and canoeing and hundreds of lakes for fishing and boating including Lake Huron, the fourth largest lake on the planet.

  • Large companies — Dow Chemical headquartered in Midland is one of the largest companies in the world, but it’s far from the only major employer in the Great Lakes Bay region. Fortune 500 company Lear Corp. has a presence here, and successful manufacturing and engineering firms such as Hemlock Semiconductor, Hutchinson Aerospace, Magline, Nexteer and Vantage Plastics operate across the region.
  • Business friendly — Communities throughout the Region are prepared to help companies grow and locate new businesses. The Great Lakes Tech Park offers FREE pad-ready land for approved projects, with 148 acres available. It is an AT&T Fiber Ready Site, a designated Energy Ready Site by Consumers Energy and a Michigan Certified Business Park! The Region’s dynamic infrastructure, affordability and skilled workforce are ideal for advanced manufacturing. Interested in engineering, electronics and precision components? Then Tech Park occupants such as Fullerton Tool and Saginaw Control & Engineering may be a great fit for your career.

    The Great Lakes Tech Park outside Saginaw offers free, shovel-ready land to businesses.

  • Affordable place to live and play — With a cost of living below the national average, the Great Lakes Bay region offers affordable housing and commercial properties. For example, the median home value in Carrollton Township where Miller bought a house is just $65,000. Your paycheck goes a lot farther at the microbrewery here than it would many other places. “People are nice, plus it’s in the middle of everything in Michigan,” Miller said. “You can go to Detroit quickly, up to Traverse City, over to Ludington (on Lake Michigan). It’s still a fun place to stay home for the weekend as well.”

RELATED: 5 reasons free land in Michigan is a good site for business expansion
For all the advantages of living and working in the Great Lakes Bay region, there remains a gap between the number of qualified professionals and the number of jobs that are available. That’s why area employers are teaming up to host a “Coming Home” mixer where young professionals can learn about the region and discover all the immediate and long-term opportunities that await them here.
The mixer is 3-5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21, at Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU). It’s free to attend. RSVP here.

  • RELATED: Discover Great Lakes Bay on Instagram
  • It wasn’t until Miller, 24, began dating a student at SVSU that she ever visited the Great Lakes Bay region. A Goshen, Ind. native, Miller studied at Ball State University and earned a degree in urban planning and development.

But rather than start her career in a big city, Miller found exactly what she was after in Saginaw: an urban center small enough for her to make connections with community leaders and start making a difference right away. She landed a job in economic development and got involved with the DDA, which works to make downtown Saginaw a more vibrant place.

The SVRC Marketplace opened in downtown Saginaw in summer 2018.

Momentum already was building in Saginaw before Miller arrived, with renovation of the former Saginaw News building into a new multi-purpose marketplace, construction of a downtown campus for Delta College and more. Her work has complemented that redevelopment, striving to make downtown more walkable with public spaces and plazas where people can gather.

“I really love community development and making places livable and fun to be in, that make you feel like you’re part of a community,” Miller said. “Saginaw, before I came, was already working on a lot of that, but I’m really happy that I’ve been able to be involved as much as I have here.”

Working in a city with a population of about 50,000 has enabled Miller to form relationships and get things done sooner than she’d be able to in a city of 500,000 or 5 million people.

“I think Saginaw’s about the perfect size, especially for what I do,” she said. “A lot of the companies are a lot smaller than you’ll find in large cities. It’s a lot easier to know the people in charge and make the moves you want.”

“You can accelerate your career by choosing to live here, not just in Saginaw but the whole Great Lakes Bay region. We’ve debated leaving to go back home (to Indiana), but if the opportunities keep coming to me the way they are we’ll be staying here.”

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

How Many Engineers Does It Take To Serve A Cup Of Froyo?

 

For the end customer, the world’s first robotic frozen yogurt vending kiosk is pretty cool. You order by touchscreen, which triggers an animated video and launches a robotic arm that takes a cup, fills it with froyo and lathers it in your favorite topping.

You’re going to start seeing lots of Reis & Irvy’s robots in shopping mall food courts, movie theater lobbies, hospital cafeterias and other venues around Michigan and beyond.

“The show is a big part of the appeal,” said Elliott Potter, co-founder of Houston-based Rethink Motion, which designs the robotic arm that powers the Reis & Irvy’s machine. “There’s always a line of people watching the robot do its thing.”

What the customer doesn’t know is that it takes a lot of engineering expertise to make a cool gadget like a robotic froyo kiosk into a viable commercial product that operates at a price point people are willing to pay.

As former NASA engineers, Potter and fellow co-founder Aaron Hulse are working to commercialize the kind of technology they worked on in the space program. They know what they’re doing when it comes to robotics. They know how to program the touchscreen interface, for example, and they know how to design the printed circuit boards that control the robotic arm’s motors and sensors.

But even though Potter and Hulse can design the products and make them work, they aren’t experts on how to make the circuit boards inside those products inexpensive and efficient to mass-produce. So, they turn to an electronics contract manufacturer (CM) with a deep pool of its own engineering expertise for help.

“Beyond the bill of materials and some basic rules of thumb, it’s hard to know what makes a printed circuit board assembly expensive or cheap, so I rely on feedback from the engineers at Saline Lectronics to say ‘We can do this, but this thing that you’ve done adds 30 percent to the cost of the board,’” Potter said.

“I definitely rely on them to go over the design and say ‘Gosh, the pads on this sure are small’ or ‘Without thermal relief on these pads we may have assembly issues.’ Their input on this is critical in terms of commercial success.”

How many engineers does it take to serve a cup of froyo? The question may sound like the beginning of a joke, but the reality is the more engineering expertise you can devote to solving a problem the better. That’s especially true for an electronics CM.

Not every electronics CM staffs the same level of engineering knowledge and experience. Some CMs have a greater breadth and depth of engineering talent, and that has a big impact both on the customer’s experience and on the quality of the final PCBA or box build.

PCBAs and other electronic manufacturing projects require a team effort between multiple types of professional engineers, who each bring the unique perspective of their specialty to the table.

Here’s a look at several different types of engineers that a technically-proficient electronics CM should have on its team:

  • When a CM receives an order, like for a PCBA that enables a robotic hand to sense when it’s grasping a yogurt cup, a Pre-Production Engineer reviews the customer’s documentation and requirements during a “pre-release” meeting that involves the entire engineering team. This meeting should include electrical, chemical and mechanical engineers. The CM’s engineers evaluate the documentation — instead of blindly following it — and identify the unique demands of the PCBA, including any special processes and potential problems that might arise. Having engineers with excellence in a variety of fields enables the CM to develop the optimal manufacturing plan for turning out PCBAs that meet the customer’s needs.
  • Once a manufacturing plan with instructions for the build have been developed up front, a Component Engineer reviews the Bill of Materials and works with the Purchasing Department to get all the parts and specialty components necessary to complete the PCBA. With many parts in short supply these days, some CMs will come back to their customers and say “we can’t find these 10 parts, so please find alternatives.” But it’s a huge time saver for customers like Rethink Motion when their CM has the technical capability to say “we can’t find these 10 parts, so please approve these 10 alternatives.”
  • An Associate Engineer translates the customer’s documentation into the CM’s standardized work instructions that technicians will use to implement the manufacturing plan devised in the pre-release meeting. Once the project is released to the production floor, a variety of engineers work with technicians to ensure the assembly proceeds successfully:
  • Process Engineer monitors the manufacturing process, troubleshooting any issues and finding opportunities for improvement. This may require support from a chemical engineer for special processes like conformal coating or potting processes, for example, or from a mechanical engineer for electro-mechanical box build products. It’s helpful to have specialty engineering expertise in house to oversee manufacturing and communicate with customers.
  • Test Engineer works closely with the customer to develop cost-effective testing that validates the PCBA performs as it should. This can include an In-Circuit Test (ICT), Flying Probe or other functional testing that helps improve product quality.
  • Quality Engineer works on the production floor and watches the entire process like a hawk, taking notes and making tweaks to make sure that the finished PCBA meets the customer’s needs. This engineer also is responsible for documenting compliance with any special certification requirements such as ISO13485, for medical equipment, or AS9100, for aerospace equipment.

Check out this eBook to learn more about how proper engineering training, degrees and industry certifications directly affect an electronic CM’s ability to implement best practices and superior solutions.

A diverse pool of engineering expertise is necessary for an electronics CM to optimize circuit board design and the assembly process — so that the manufacture of PCBAs avoids time-consuming inefficiencies and costly mistakes so that products like a frozen yogurt vending machine can come to life.

“That’s really a huge added value, not just having these engineers on staff at Saline Lectronics but having them work with me,” Potter said.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

This Will Happen if You Shift 1 in 10 Online Purchases to a Local Retailer

By shifting just one of 10 online purchases back to a local retailer, Michigan residents can support more than 10,000 new jobs in the state and $1.2 billion in new economic activity.

 

You could maybe save a couple bucks by making your next purchase online. Or you could help generate $1.2 billion in new economic activity by buying from a local Michigan retailer.

New research finds that people in Michigan would benefit by much more than a couple bucks if they shift just one of every 10 online purchases back to a local retailer. That would create nearly 10,600 jobs and increase wages by $350 million, according to a study commissioned by the Michigan Retailers Association and conducted by Public Sector Consultants.

 

“Even a modest switch back to local purchasing could have a notable positive economic impact,” the study states. “Ultimately, this small change in purchasing behavior could mean a big economic impact for Michigan’s future.”

Nationwide, e-commerce sales have more than doubled over the past decade, from less than 4 percent of total retail sales in 2008 to around 10 percent today. In Michigan, residents last year spent an estimated $18.5 billion on off-site retail purchases either online or via catalog or TV shopping channels. That accounted for more than 13 percent of total retail sales in the state — nearly $1 of every $8 spent. And that ratio is much higher when taking groceries and gas out of the equation.

But while individual consumers might save a few dollars buying online, in no small part due to tax advantages for online sellers, there’s a downside to the trend: As more people shop online, the share of retail spending at brick-and-mortar stores in Michigan is falling, and local retailers and their employees are feeling the pinch.

The trend’s not only bad for Michigan businesses, but also for everybody in Michigan since retailers are big employers and economic contributors — accounting for nearly one-fifth of the state’s total economic activity. When Michigan’s retailers struggle, the entire state feels the pain.

“While the growth in remote sales has provided some consumer benefits, this growth has not come without costs,” the study states.

So, what can we do about it? The Michigan Retailers Association is responding to online trends with its Buy Nearby campaign, which encourages consumers to keep their shopping dollars in Michigan and educates them on the benefits of doing so.

Retailers in Michigan employ more than 877,000 people — about one of every five jobs in the state — and they pay those employees $21.6 billion per year in wages. In addition to jobs and pay for employees, Michigan retailers indirectly support additional jobs for people working in other sectors by buying goods and services such as cleaning services, security, legal, accounting and more.

The ultimate impact is significant: Between the direct and indirect jobs that retail supports, and the money that retail employees in turn spend, the study projects that Michigan would gain 10,578 new jobs and more than $350 million in new income if people shift just one of every 10 online purchases back to a local store. Economic activity would grow by $1.2 billion.

If people shifted even more of their shopping back to Michigan stores the impact would be even bigger. On the other hand, if people increasingly buy products online, people in other states and countries will benefit from Michigan dollars.

“Why would we not want that money to stay in Michigan? Our Buy Nearby campaign encourages people to be intentional about their purchasing habits,” said James P. Hallan, president and CEO of Michigan Retailers. “Think before you click: Can you easily find that same item at a store down the street?

“If it costs a bit more locally, isn’t it worth the customer service and expertise you receive with an in-store purchase? What would you do if that store closed because more dollars were being funneled to online competitors? Keep your money in the Mitten.”

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

How Apprenticeship Lands Student High-Tech Career, Debt-Free College Experience

KALAMAZOO — When Jarod VanDyken graduated from Kalamazoo Valley Community College with an associate degree in computer numerical controlled (CNC) machining last summer it was a worthwhile accomplishment, sure, but not at all unusual — even if CNC is hardly a household word.

No, the real feat here is that VanDyken already has a secure, high-paying job with an advanced manufacturing company — and his employer, Texas-based Flowserve Corp.’s Kalamazoo plant, completely paid for his education, meaning VanDyken has zero college debt.

“This worked out for me better than I could have ever possibly imagined,” said VanDyken, 26. “You’d never know that for four years, I sat in the back of classrooms at Kalamazoo Central High School and did next to nothing. I was the student that teachers warned other teachers about.”

VanDyken said he wasn’t unruly, but admits his laziness frustrated both his teachers and his parents. His disinterest kept him from applying himself in a manner that would allow him to thrive in the public education system, but he doesn’t blame the system. Rather, he takes full responsibility for his own actions — or lack thereof.

“I just didn’t want to do anything,” he said. “I guess you could say I had senioritis the first day of my freshman year and I never changed.”

Thanks to the Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT2) program at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Jarod VanDyken was able to earn a debt-free college degree and now has a career with Flowserve, a high-tech manufacturing company in southwest Michigan. Courtesy photo.

Inspiring turnaround

But then VanDyken’s mother told him about the Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT2) program, the apprenticeship program developed by Michigan’s global industry leaders and the Michigan Talent Investment Agency. Now, as a graduate of the program, he’s on track for a long-term career with a wide range of upwardly mobile options.

“Everybody I trained with told me that I was probably going to be the head of a company someday soon,” VanDyken said. “I laughed at first, but when I kept hearing that — and when the other MATstudents told me they were hearing the same thing — I started to realize how incredible this program is. There really isn’t anyone else with this knowledge and skill set who’s as young as we are. One year of MATput me light-years ahead.”

He credits his parents, Mark and Julie VanDyken, for inspiring his transformation and is especially grateful to his mom for introducing him to MAT2.

“I’m lucky to have a great family. I finally realized it was important to me to live up to their expectations and uphold the standards they set,” VanDyken said. “My parents knew what I was capable of before I did. I owe them so much and I know I can never repay them, but I have goals to work toward now, and I know they’re proud of me for turning my life around.”

And their support included allowing him to live at home as he went through the program, although he’s not sure how much longer that will last.

“I can’t believe they put up with me this long, but I’m looking to move out sometime next year,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the time they gave me. Now that I have a good foundation of savings, I have more options of the type of home I want to start building my life in.”

MAThelps make it happen

VanDyken was taking classes as a part-time student at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and working at a local greenhouse, when he was encouraged to apply for a MATapprenticeship in 2015 by his mom, who heard of the program through her job as a Flowserve purchasing agent.

KVCC is among four colleges in Michigan participating in the MAT2 program by recruiting students who are interested in earning a paycheck now while becoming the technical manufacturing leaders of the future. KVCC’s focus with MAT2 is addressing the need for high-tech workers in southwest Michigan, which expects to add almost 60 new jobs annually for employees trained in CNC machine tools, according to Sue Gardner, the college’s dean of business, industrial trades and public services.

“We want people to know an innovative new path exists in Michigan to obtain a tuition-free associate degree, paid for by a local employer, while getting on-the-job training with pay in a high-tech, in-demand field,” Gardner said.

Careers include work as CNC tool operators and process control technicians. Flowserve, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of industrial and environmental machinery, is among the employers that have successfully recruited and employed MATapprentices.

Get paid to go to school, earn a great job

Applying to MATis similar to applying for a job, and the MATapplication process is competitive. You need a resume and references, which students submit to participating MATemployers through the Pure Michigan Talent Connect site at MiTalent.org/MAT2.

Students have the option of applying to all MATemployers throughout Michigan or just identifying those working in areas that are of interest, such as automotive, boating and aerospace, as well as other advanced manufacturing, research and design companies.

Once a MATemployer hires the student, students enroll at the corresponding college for the appropriate program and the employer pays the tuition. MAT2student-trainees rotate between attending classes and working at a company for the program’s first three years.

During the school periods, student-trainees receive a stipend from their employers, who pay for college tuition as well. In between those periods, students transition into apprentices who put their new skills into action at the worksite, along with earning a regular paycheck. Upon successful completion of the program in three years, the student-apprentices receive an associate degree and a full-time job with their employer.

‘The best decision I ever made’

“Applying for the MATapprenticeship with Flowserve is the best decision I ever made,” VanDyken said. “Plus, I’m extremely excited about everything I’m doing with the company. Flowserve’s business is going great, and with all the advancements being made in our industry we’re broadening our capabilities to meet the demands of our customers.”

VanDyken said he may pursue an advanced degree in either engineering or engineering management to give him more career options — paid for by Flowserve. He would encourage Kalamazoo-area high school students who are considering advanced manufacturing careers to explore the choices offered through MAT2.

“If anybody is even remotely considering this program, I’d say do it,” VanDyken said. “If it worked for me, it can work for anyone. I had no skills, I wasn’t good at math or science and I had terrible study habits. But they laid out all the information I needed in a way that allowed me to learn quickly and retain it.

“If you have any fears of learning something new, throw them out. MAT2 is set up to let you succeed in the greatest way possible.”

More information about MAT2 is available at MiTalent.org/MAT2.

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

MSU Revolutionizing Future of Mobility Through Pioneering, Interdisciplinary Research

MSU researchers are leaders in the field of sensor fusion, using lidar measurements, advanced algorithms and high-resolution 3D maps to make automated vehicles smarter and safer.

With 60 lane-miles of roadways, more than 120 miles of sidewalk and nearly 40 traffic signals, Michigan State University’s campus in East Lansing is not unlike many population centers across the country.

Except that MSU’s population includes hundreds of researchers driving the future of mobility with innovative, interdisciplinary work on how people will live and move in a connected world of automated vehicles and smart infrastructure.

The 5,200-acre MSU campus is transforming into a one-of-a-kind hub of mobility experimentation and innovation. With 8 square-miles of contiguous urban, suburban, industrial and rural zones, a highly-mobile student body and tens of thousands of visitors during football and basketball game days, the campus offers an unparalleled, self-contained ecosystem for research, development and real-world validation of emerging mobility technologies.

“This is a living, breathing test environment,” said Satish Udpa, MSU’s executive vice president for administrative services. “You’re talking about a city that’s 70,000 strong. This is a great opportunity.

“We are excited to showcase this holistic approach and invite partners to join us as we work to revolutionize the way people and goods move throughout the world.”

Faculty and students in MSU’s Connected and Autonomous Networked Vehicles for Active Safety, or CANVAS, program are at the cutting-edge of several technical aspects of self-driving cars including sensor fusion, which seamlessly merges multiple data streams to create a picture of the world that’s broader and more accurate than any single sense can provide.

Lidar detection technology captures a precise 3-D representation of MSU’s West Circle Drive during a data-gathering test drive with a driver behind the wheel.

Imagine you’re in a room with a crowd of people and the noise makes it difficult to hear. You’d probably lean on one of your other senses, such as your sight, to recognize that someone at the far end of the room is calling out to you. But what if you could sense what everybody else in the room is seeing and hearing, and what if even the walls of the room could give you information?

MSU is developing exactly that capability for automated vehicles by fusing traditional radars, laser radars – or lidars – visible and infrared camera views, computer software and artificial intelligence algorithms to integrate the vehicle with its environment. Together, the technologies give self-driving cars better situational awareness than humans could ever have, reducing the risk of vehicle error.

“Think of it as a superhuman level of perception,” said John Verboncoeur, associate dean for research in MSU’s College of Engineering.

Sensor fusion is just one of many ways MSU is leveraging expertise across a range of disciplines to make human mobility safer, smarter and more connected.

  • Self-powered energy-harvesting sensors installed on the Mackinac Bridge for structural health monitoring could also be installed in street pavement where they can send signals that let automated vehicles “see” where the road lanes and markings are — even if the pavement is covered in snow. The sensors would allow automated vehicles to operate safely even when visibility is dramatically limited. They also are designed to communicate issues with infrastructure, such as potholes or damaged bridges, so city leaders are aware of construction needs and dangerous roadways.

“You cannot have a smart city without smart infrastructure,” said Nizar Lajnef, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at MSU.

Because much of the country’s road system is off the grid, powering sensors is a challenge. But the sensors developed at MSU convert the vibrations of passing vehicles into an electric charge that will keep them communicating for the entire life of the roadway.

  • Biometrics technology that MSU developed for facial recognition software used by law enforcement also may prove handy for automated vehicles by allowing the car to recognize who is occupying it. For one, that could prevent theft. It also could be used to set up different sets of rules for different users.

“When your teenage kid gets in the car, they’re capped with a certain speed limit,” Verboncoeur said. “They can’t take it to the beach during school. Maybe they can only use it at certain times of the day.”

  • MSU’s expertise in wireless communications and electromagnetics is being used to develop lidar technology and high-frequency radar that provides automated vehicles with machine vision, or high-tech eyes. The lidar detection technology captures a precise 3-D view of the travel environment, while the radar can quickly identify both stationary and moving objects — even in fog or snow.

Combined with advanced algorithms, automated vehicles use lidar and high-frequency radar to make predictions for how objects in the travel environment will behave and then maneuver safely through the landscape.

“Humans make errors. Their attention is limited, their vision is limited,” Verboncoeur said. “A machine can continuously look 360 degrees around.”

MSU is developing technology that enables automated vehicles to identify objects in the travel environment and make predictions for how those objects will behave

Take all that brainpower and apply it to the MSU campus, and the entire landscape becomes a real-life lab for development, testing and validation of automated and connected vehicle technologies. For example, MSU is planning to use automated snow plows, dubbed snow-bots, to clear snow from sidewalks and pedestrian walkways, and robo-mowers will be tested on the university’s two golf courses. Plus, an automated transport shuttle will debut on campus in the spring.

Already, high-definition cameras are positioned above campus intersections to collect terabytes of data that can be used to optimize traffic flow and synchronize traffic signals. Sensors are being installed so automated vehicles can communicate both with the street infrastructure and with each other, making it possible for automated vehicles to share data with each other and with the roadway.

An entire section of campus, the Spartan Mobility Village, will soon be the home of MSU’s mobility labs where roadways and parking lots can be closed so researchers can put training wheels on emerging automated vehicle technologies and put them to the test in all-season conditions.

Lessons learned at MSU will be applicable to urban, suburban, industrial and rural settings across the country, regardless of weather and congestion.

“Spartan Mobility Village is going to be a real-live test bed, so we can try out technologies before releasing them to the larger campus,” said Leo Kempel, dean of MSU’s College of Engineering.

Michigan was the birthplace of the automobile and now the state is transforming into the mobility capital of the world.  MSU’s holistic, interdisciplinary approach will help insure mobility will be a boon to Michigan’s economy in the future.

“If you look at who supplies more engineers to the state’s workforce, it’s Michigan State University,” Verboncoeur said. “Having the research and development here eventually turns into the talent, which goes out to the companies of Michigan and applies that new technology.

“We have a competitive advantage in some of these areas. We certainly have the lead.”

 

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.

Brownfield Flip for Grand Rapids Downtown Market

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality provided financial incentives and technical assistance to help the City of Grand Rapids clean up and safely reuse a contaminated property that had been populated with blighted manufacturing buildings and warehouses. The area is now home to the city’s Downtown Market, a collection of food vendors, restaurants, demonstration kitchens and a greenhouse in an inviting, environmentally friendly building.

Check Out Our Latest Brownfield Videos, https://www.youtube.com/MichiganDEQ

More information on other Brownfield Flip projects is available at, https://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3311_29262—,00.html.


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Michigan Waterfalls: 3 With Easy Access and 3 for a Good Day’s Hike

The geological features that created Michigan’s natural beauty and attracts thousands of visitors every year also formed a lesser known, if not equally as stunning, physical phenomenon many don’t realize exist here: Waterfalls.

The state recognizes more than 300 waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula and at the epicenter of Michigan’s waterfall popularity is Munising, home to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where 17 falls can be found. The sites range in access from roadside stops to challenging hikes and from small, stream-like drops to cascading cliff falls.

“It’s amazing because people have no idea how many waterfalls there are,” said Phil Stagg, a photographer who has published five guidebooks on Michigan’s waterfalls. “You can find them all across the U.P., but in Alger County, and Munising specifically, there are really remarkable falls that are some of the most spectacular you’ll see anywhere.

“The variety makes a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy them at any time of the year.”

The changing seasons give waterfalls a unique look whenever visitors travel north to explore, Stagg said.

In the spring, water volumes are at a peak with the snow melt. Come summer, lush green growth of trees and other plants present a colorful and vibrant scene. Fall, Stagg said, is mesmerizing from the contrasting colors of the changing leaves. Winter offers a chance to see water seemingly frozen in midair.

“There’s always something new,” said Stagg.

Cori-Ann Cearley, president of the Munising’s Visitors Bureau, said she frequently recommends self-guided waterfall tours or Pictured Rocks boat trips that offer waterfall views to prospective tourists or guests who stop in for information. She’s usually greeted with words and looks of disbelief.

“I have to convince them that there are actually waterfalls all around us,” she said. “Once I show them pictures and describe what they’ll find, there is a lot of excitement and interest. They come back and are thrilled to have seen something they never had before.”

Cearly said waterfall enthusiasts and first-time visitors can tailor their tour to their level of adventure. The most popular falls are usually the most accessible and the more secluded the fall, the more you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon one of the most beautiful places on earth.

“They will really take your breath away,” she said.

Here are some of Cearly’s recommendations:

Most popular falls:

Munising Falls: In the city of Munising, this 50-foot waterfall is only ¼ mile into the woods and is accessed via a paved trail and a viewing platform. Interesting rock formations are highlighted in every season and this fall is also known for great ice formations in the winter.

Miners Falls: The impressive 50-foot fall is a 20-minute walk from a parking lot of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There are two platforms for viewing and the park service advises to take the time to enjoy the views of the Miners Basin.

Wagner Falls: A short walk on a gravel path takes you to a peaceful spot where you can take in the 20-foot drop of the Wagner Falls, which is fed by Wagner Creek. This is one of the most photographed falls as it features stepped areas with multiple rock ledges.

Most challenging hikes:

Chapel Falls: One of the larger straight drops, the 60-foot falls are at the end of the Chapel Road Drive and about a 2 1/2 mile hike to Lake Superior, where the famous tree and rock formation is found. Pictured Rocks boat tours are available to this majestic setting, one of the few where falls cascade into the Great Lakes.

Bridalveil Falls: A one-of-a-kind view is found on the 140-foot sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks and is part of an eight-mile loop that will also take you past the previously mentioned Chapel Falls. Boat trips from Munising will also grant you looks that will last a lifetime.

Spray Falls: A 70-foot waterfall located along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore can be observed by land or water. The remote area requires walking the trails along the cliffs and the Spray Falls are located 1.75 miles Northeast of Chapel Rock. If guests aren’t up for the hike, the falls are best viewed from a tour boat, kayak or personal watercraft.

Learn more about Munising and its waterfalls here

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