Michigan’s Good News from MLive.com and MLiveMediaGroup.com

Tag: Featured

How West Michigan Bank Shows ‘Importance of Being Good Neighbor’

Ada Delgado doesn’t have blond hair. Nor does she wear wooden shoes. Yet, the Holland woman of Puerto Rican descent is serving as vice-chairwoman of the annual Tulip Time Festival.

Ada Delgado

Ada Delgado

Her primary role: Make sure the popular event rooted in the community’s Dutch heritage is “inclusive of what Holland is today” by involving a range of community groups.

“I’m a true testament that you don’t have to be Dutch to be part of Tulip Time,” said Delgado, who works as a retail operations consultant for Holland-based Macatawa Bank.

Striving to ensure the entire community gets to participate in Tulip Time is a fitting task for Delgado, given Macatawa Bank’s emphasis on community service. The bank has been recognized for the past eight consecutive years as one of “West Michigan’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For” due in part to this guiding principle: We believe our responsibility is to support our community with our time, talents and resources.

That principle enables Delgado and hundreds of other Macatawa Bank employees to participate in community events and causes that are important to them. For example, Delgado has been active with Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP) as a translator, volunteer coordinator and youth mentor, in addition to her work with Tulip Time.

In both cases, Delgado’s community involvement has been nurtured by Macatawa Bank.

“During my 14 years with Macatawa Bank I have not only had the opportunity to serve, but I have received the encouragement and support to get involved and be a part of what I believe in,” Delgado said. “I feel at home working for an organization that truly believes in giving back to the community and in letting our employees volunteer their time and talents for local organizations that matter to them.”

Macatawa Bank employees are active across West Michigan where the bank has 26 locations in Kent, Ottawa and Allegan counties. The bank also runs community events on its own, such as this spring’s annual Recycle Days.

Cars lined up at the bank’s Riley Street branch in Holland shortly after Tax Day when more than 20 bank employees wearing orange T-shirts helped unload boxes of confidential documents and securely destroy them in a Rapid Shred truck. Several other Macatawa Bank branches also made shredding trucks available to both customers and non-customers in April.

“Our annual Recycle Days event is something everyone looks forward to every year – employees and the community alike,” said Jodi Sevigny, chief marketing officer for Macatawa Bank. “Our employees love the chance to serve their community by taking in sensitive documents and shredding them right on site. Our community is so appreciative that we can help them keep their identity secure, while at the same time helping to care for our environment.

“The local leaders that founded Macatawa Bank had a vision of what a true community bank could be. Today, we still live that vision.”

Macatawa Bank’s foundation of community support translates into daily banking operations, too. A full suite of banking services has been built with the needs of customers at the forefront, and decisions are made right here in West Michigan where the bank’s customers live and work.

In fact, wanting to work for a community-based bank with closer ties to customers was a big reason Andy Schmidt came to Macatawa Bank six years ago after more than two decades working for large regional banks. With a local management team making decisions, Macatawa Bank empowers Schmidt to look beyond the numbers and develop more personal relationships with his customers.

Andrew Schmidt

Andrew Schmidt

As printed on the orange shirts worn by Macatawa Bank’s Recycle Days volunteers, “we’re not revolutionizing banking, we’re humanizing it.”

“When you work with smaller, family-owned businesses, you become a much more valuable resource to them,” said Schmidt, a commercial relationship manager. “You become part of their team that helps plan their business. You get to know their kids, their spouse. They think of you as one of their key advisors.

“It’s a much more fulfilling occupation when you know you’re helping someone achieve their goals.”

That opportunity to come alongside West Michigan businesses only comes along if the community itself is thriving and successful. So, it makes sense that Macatawa Bank goes out of its way to support the community through events such as Recycle Days and so many other ways that employees volunteer their time.

Another of Macatawa Bank’s guiding principles states that we believe West Michigan is the best place to live and work. Schmidt believes that, and he’s doing his part to make sure it rings true for as many people as possible.

“In West Michigan, we understand the importance of being a good neighbor,” said Schmidt, who also serves on the board of Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. “We recognize that we’re all connected, and that the health of our businesses, our families and our community all depend on us caring for and helping each other.”

Wine Tasting! 5 Tips to Find Your New Favorite Vino

Traverse City is located right on the water, halfway between the North Pole and the equator, in an ideal region for growing wine grapes. So, it’s no wonder that the area is full of artisan vintners.

As a result, the Traverse Wine Coast attracts seasoned wine drinkers who know all about grape varietals, residual sugars and tannins. In fact, The Travel Channel named Traverse City one of the country’s New Top 10 Cities for Wine Snobs.

But that doesn’t mean novice wine drinkers should feel intimidated when walking into one of the area’s 40 wineries. On the contrary, an upcoming monthlong celebration in Traverse City is the perfect chance to learn about the region’s wine.


The Traverse Wine Coast grows 55 percent of Michigan’s wine grapes and is the fifth-largest wine-producing region in the country.

The Traverse Wine Coast grows 55 percent of Michigan’s wine grapes and is the fifth-largest wine-producing region in the country.

Traverse City Uncorked runs throughout May with social wine tastings, lively winery events and discounted lodging packages. No matter how much or little you know about wine, the variety of events presents ample opportunity to do the most important thing you can do to learn more about wine: Taste it!

“Get to know what you like,” said Coen Saltes, general manager of a tasting room for Brengman Brothers, which has vineyards on the Leelanau Peninsula. “Taste wines you’re not familiar with. Taste wines you know you don’t like.”

Not sure where to start discovering your new favorite wine? Check out all the Traverse City Uncorked events here.

Lodging packages include a $30 winery gift certificate and a “Super Ticket” that you can redeem for one pour each, for two people, at every Traverse Wine Coast winery. While you’re in the area you can also enjoy the springtime majesty of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, the awe-inspiring Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and the incredible beauty of cherry blossoms as they bloom in May.

5 Tips to Find Your New Favorite Vino

As you prepare to visit, take a look at these wine-tasting tips:

  • Look – Hold up your glass and check out the color and clarity of the wine. The wine’s hue or shade foreshadows its taste. A lighter-colored white wine might be more acidic and taste crisp and refreshing, for example, while a deeper, golden color hints at a richer flavor. (Pro tip: Hold the glass by the stem rather than gripping the bowl. The heat from your hands can alter the temperature and taste of the wine, Saltes said.)
  • Swirl – Shake your glass a bit to move the wine around and expose it to more oxygen. This coats the glass with the wine and releases its aromas, giving the wine stronger aromatics, Saltes said.
  • Smell – Bring the glass up to your nose for a sniff. Then, dip your nose in a little deeper and inhale. The wine’s aroma, or nose, is an integral part of the experience and can clue you in to how it will taste.
  • Drink – Take a sip, rolling the wine around in your mouth to taste the different notes of flavor. Be sure to ask your server questions: “Where is this juice coming from?” Saltes said. “That’s a huge question. Is this grown on-site or is it from outside of Michigan?”
  • Discuss – Whether a wine is good or bad is entirely up to your own opinion. And the people you’re tasting with might have an entirely different opinion! That’s okay. It’s part of the fun. When and where you’re tasting can have an impact, too. You might like a dry, white wine in the middle of a warm afternoon, for example, and prefer a heavy red wine in the evening. “Wine is so situational,” Saltes said. “It depends on occasion. It depends on mood.”

Traverse City Uncorked features a variety of events throughout May including social wine tastings, lively winery events and discounted lodging packages.

The Traverse Wine Coast produces 55 percent of the wine grapes in Michigan and is the fifth-largest wine-producing region in the country.  A big reason for that is the area’s ideal geography: the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas are located at the same latitude as major wine regions in France and Italy. Plus, the presence of Lake Michigan creates the ultimate micro-climate for growing wine grapes.Each winery along the Traverse Wine Coast puts its own touch on the grapes that grow out of the region’s blessed soil. That’s why a chardonnay at one winery tastes different than a chardonnay at the winery down the road, for example. Even a wine of a particular vintage will taste different than one from the same winery that’s made with grapes from a different growing season.

The artisan wine of Traverse City truly gives you a taste of the vine in Michigan.

“You’re tasting authenticity,” Saltes said. “You’re tasting a family’s land. That’s a beautiful thing.”

What Michigan wine will you discover this spring?

 

Dining out experiences: Learn about Lansing restaurateurs’ view on food, life

It won’t take long after meeting Sam Short to realize that his effusive personality makes a stranger feel like a long-time friend in minutes.

And his Potent Potables restaurants – Punk Taco, Zoobie’s Old Town Tavern, The Cosmos and The Creole – were created with the same spirit, providing an engaging look at food, people and the life around them.

Sam, who is one of three partners in the Lansing gathering spots with Aaron Matthews and Alan Hooper, recently sat down with MLive’s John Gonzalez and Amy Sherman to talk about what makes the restaurants hum, how they’ve connected with employees and made a difference in the lives of others.

“There’s a movement toward locally owned restaurants, but that only goes so far if you’re not doing something that sets you apart and makes an impact, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” Sam said off-camera.

“If I’m going out and spending my money at a restaurant, I’m going for an experience. It should be a bit nostalgic, fun-filled, a bit geeky. So, our focus is on delivering happiness. We just sell food. The thing that differentiates us is our people. That’s why we focus on them and helping them grow and give the community what it wants.”

The entrepreneurs have created establishments with a neighborhood vibe and a focus on chef-driven, fresh food. The teams at each restaurant curate menus to challenge their skills and extend the palate of guests. The parameters, Sam said, are: “We want (the chefs) to make it interesting.”

Everything at the restaurants is hand-made, Sam said. That includes dressings, cheeses, breads and more.

“We do it because we’re geeked about food,” he said. “To us, it’s important that the food doesn’t come out of a can or a box, that it’s not the same as you get everywhere else. We ask ourselves ‘how can we make this better,’ whether that’s a sausage that goes on a pizza or a tortilla for a taco.”

Sam and his partners want the food to stand-out in the same manner they seek to create a work environment that cultivates and incentivizes employees to be their best. They offer benefits, such as a wellness program, 401k match and flexible spending accounts, not often available in the food industry. There are also opportunities to reward and recognize fellow employees – with financial bonuses – by noting how they’ve pitched in to help their colleagues.

“We try to think as holistically as possible,” Sam said, adding they also have reciprocal discounts at a yoga studio and other local establishments. “We want to motivate and reward people. If you want to learn something and grow as a person, we’ll help you. We have kitchen managers that started as dishwashers, but they wanted to do more than that. That’s exciting, and we encourage that.

“The thing people need is a passion about food. That’s number one. We can teach you other things, but people need to be engaged and interested.”

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.

From Hot Sauce to Craft Beer: MSU Agri-Food Leadership Makes Huge Economic Impact

It wasn’t long ago that Scotty and Suzi Owens were typical gardeners who enjoyed sharing some of their harvest with friends. The hot sauce they made with homegrown peppers got rave reviews, and people said they should go into business selling it.

When Scotty got laid off from his work in tool and die during Michigan’s economic downturn, he and his wife did just that.

Fast forward to today and bottles of Scotty O’Hotty hot sauce and salsa are in grocery stores around the country. The couple’s business is operating with seven employees out of a 17,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, and in 2019 they’re on track to go nationwide in Kroger stores and begin exporting their award-winning products to China.

So, how in the world did that happen?

The Michigan State University Product Center recognized Suzi and Scotty Owens as 2018 entrepreneurs of the year.

“We had the dreamiest stars in our eyes, but I was almost at a brick wall at what to do,” Scotty Owens said. “MSU really steered us in the right direction.” The Owens came across the Michigan State University Product Center in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. There they received guidance on the rules and regulations involved in making a food product, took classes on bottling, learned about labeling and in 2012 got licensed to work out of a commercial kitchen.

A year later Scotty O’Hotty was on the shelves in small grocery stores that the Owens connected with through MSU’s Making It In Michigan food show, and the business has been growing ever since. Earlier this year the MSU Product Center named Scotty and Suzi Owens their entrepreneurs of the year.

Scotty O’Hotty is just one of many success stories at the MSU Product Center, which helps start or expand businesses in the agriculture and food sector. Just last year, the Product Center helped launch 87 new Michigan businesses that invested $35 million into the economy and created 350 new jobs.

But the MSU Product Center is just one way that MSU has been helping to grow the state’s food and agriculture system over the past 160 years. As the country’s pioneer land-grant institution, the then-Michigan Agricultural College has been a leader in practical, science-based education from the start, and even though the name has changed agriculture remains an important  area of research, with a big impact on the Michigan economy.

“The idea of us being here to help support and build and grow the agriculture and natural resources industries of the state goes back to the very beginning,” said Douglas Buhler, director of MSU AgBioResearch and assistant vice president of research and graduate studies.

Back in the mid-1800s, MSU was established by federal law as an agricultural school — the first to teach scientific agriculture. It became the prototype for the nation’s land-grant institutions, which were created to promote both the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes. Though MSU now carries out that mission across a wide range of disciplines, the original focus was agriculture.

Before the start of the 20th century, MSU had birthed groundbreaking agricultural advances including the development of hybrid corn to increase yields and the discovery that a swath of Michigan is fertile ground for sugar beets. Pioneering work has continued on everything from the process used in the homogenization of milk to how Michigan farmers can grow hops for the state’s booming craft beer sector.

Nearly 5,000 students are studying in dozens of degree and certificate programs through Michigan State University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

And today MSU is a global leader in agricultural education, using scientific research to address real-world problems and help agri-food businesses implement solutions.

MSU has played no small role in Michigan’s massive food and agriculture economy, which fuels more than 800,000 jobs and makes an annual impact of more than $100 billion, according to a 2018 study. Here are just a few glimpses of the breadth of MSU’s engagement in the industry:

Preparing tomorrow’s agricultural leaders

Today, MSU’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources includes nearly 5,000 students studying in dozens of degree and certificate programs in forestry, animal science, crop and soil science, horticulture and many others.

“Through our educational programs we train the next generation of agri-food leaders both in the public sector and in the private sector,” said Bill Knudson, a professor in MSU’s Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics. “We have a lot of two-year programs as well, geared primarily toward people who will be working on the farm both in the crop area and the livestock area.

Michigan State University student Loren G. King is studying how technology such as drones and autonomous vehicles can make farm operation more efficient.

“Not only do we train our workers, but we also train our regulators. We’d have a much less safe food supply (without MSU’s leadership).”

Among those thousands of students is Loren G. King, who comes from a family farm in southwest Michigan and is learning about agriculture technology. Looking at global population estimates during his lifetime, the 20-year-old knows that the food and agriculture system will have to produce more and, to remain sustainable, do so while using fewer inputs such as fertilizer.

So, he’s studying how farms could deploy autonomous vehicles and drones to become more efficient. He envisions a completely cloud-based farm where managers can use mobile devices to gauge moisture and nutrient levels to see how crops are doing.

“It’s about expanding the efficiency of the farmer right now,” King said. “You’ve got to feed more people while using less.”

Bringing innovation into everyday life

Embedded in the DNA of a land-grant institution like MSU is the drive to use cutting-edge scientific tools to address problems and forge new opportunities. Because of that, food and agriculture study at MSU is definitely “not a science for science’s sake operation,” Buhler said.

A benefit of MSU’s research is that Michigan has developed the country’s second most-diverse agricultural economy. In addition to staples such as corn, milk and eggs, the state’s agriculture sector is full of smaller, specialty crops from asparagus to wine grapes.

Some of Michigan’s fruit varieties, for example, have been developed by MSU on nearly 20,000 acres that are used for agriculture and natural resources research and education throughout the state.

Michigan State University professor Rufus Isaacs is a leading researcher on the invasive spotted wing drosophila insect.But that diversity also breeds new challenges. Fortunately, MSU also is at the forefront of combating new crop diseases and pests. For example, professor Rufus Isaacs this month made a list of the world’s most Highly Cited Researchers for his work on the spotted wing drosophila, an invasive insect that damages fruit crops. Isaacs is just one of many MSU food and agriculture experts on the list.

“The large companies that are there to support major corn, soybean and dairy are not available for a lot of these smaller, more specialized industries,” Buhler said. “If we’re not there to help them with their latest insect, there aren’t a lot of options. If we weren’t here I don’t know who would fill that gap in all these specialty areas.

“Not many years ago there were almost no hops grown in Michigan. Had MSU not been here to help people learn how to manage hops and control diseases I don’t think it would have happened.”

Aside from immediate threats, MSU also is researching long-term challenges from food waste to world hunger through efforts including the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy. Climate change poses another problem, and MSU’s Plant Resilience Institute is working to improve the ability of crops to handle weather extremes.

“Minor changes in weather could have a real impact on us,” Buhler said.

Helping communities grow

Not only does MSU do research to support Michigan’s food and agriculture system and educate the next generation of industry leaders, the university also takes what it learns and shares it with the broader public. That work takes many forms including the new “Food @ MSU. Our Table” program, which helps people make better-informed choices about food.

In an era where the population is both growing and becoming more urbanized, it’s easy for people to be even more disconnected from the sources of the food they eat. That’s why MSU also is active in urban agriculture around the state, including the new MSU Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation.

Michigan State University’s first urban food research center is being established in northwest Detroit through the new MSU Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation.

MSU is establishing its first urban food research center on a 2.5-acre former school site in a northwest Detroit neighborhood. The findings on everything from soil remediation to fertilizer and pesticide use will inform urban growers around Michigan and beyond.

“When you’re growing food in an urban setting it’s very different than in an open space,” said Dave Ivan, MSU Extension director of community, food and environmental programming. “This new center really will provide an opportunity for us to plant a flag in an area, working with a lot of the existing leaders in the Detroit urban ag movement in terms of how we can help you address the challenges you’re facing.“

We have a lot of credibility in communities, so people trust the information that we provide. They know that we’re scientific in terms of guiding our recommendations or framing an issue.”

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.

Sharing Michigan’s Best News for stronger communities. Brought to you by MLive.com and MLive Media Group.

Use of and/or registration on any portion of this site constitutes acceptance of our User Agreement (updated 5/25/18) and Privacy Policy and Cookie Statement (updated 5/25/18).
© 2018 Advance Local Media LLC. All rights reserved (About Us).
The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Advance Local.
Your California Privacy Rights.