MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – The end of the year is typically a time for reflection, to look back at what happened and to take stock of what there is now. But the end of the year is also an opportunity to look towards the future, to catch a glimpse at what lies ahead.
Muskegon County is currently in a time of transition. New buildings and businesses are coming to Muskegon, while the Brunswick bowling plant and the Sappi paper mill were torn down this year. City and county officials are looking for ways to spur economic growth by taking advantage of the area's natural connection to the water, setting up a casino or encouraging national chains to set up shop.
Among those changes is a quiet shift that is slowly taking place. Members of a new generation are coming of age and are starting to take an active role in Muskegon's civic, business and community spheres. Soon, they're the ones who will take over the reins.
The Muskegon Chronicle's 40 Under 40 list takes a look at 40 young individuals who are poised to potentially become the county's future leaders and movers-and-shakers.
Those featured on this list are working to make Muskegon a better place to live, work and play. They come from all over the county and represent a variety of communities.
The list was compiled by members of the MLive Muskegon Chronicle staff. To be considered, each individual needed to meet three basic criteria: he or she must be younger than 40 years old, must live in Muskegon County and must have contributed to the community through his or her professional and/or personal activities.
The individuals on this list have accomplished much, as the short biographies below will show. But they're also an active group who are giving their energy and time to the place they have decided to call home.
They're creating their own fun, setting up the types of events they want to attend and bringing new entertainment to the area. They're establishing new businesses, participating in local government and joining community groups to help improve the Muskegon community.
And soon, they'll be the ones calling the shots.
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MUSKEGON, MI – The room was filled at the Grand Valley State University alternative energy center Friday morning, Dec. 6, as more than 70 people came to hear the Michigan Agri-Business Association’s idea of a river-barge operation in Muskegon.
The river barge concept for the Port of Muskegon was outlined by Lansing-based association president Jim Byrum as the effort turns to getting the U.S. Coast Guard to make a regulatory decision to allow the barges to travel from the Chicago area up as far north on Lake Michigan as Muskegon.
Participating in the meeting at the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center on Muskegon Lake were agricultural and manufacturing interests from around Michigan, along with interested maritime parties from across the Lake Michigan basin.
Most importantly, the port operators in Muskegon were in force and looking to put their collective efforts together to make Muskegon a key port for river barge traffic that could link West Michigan to the Mississippi River system all the way south to the Gulf of Mexico.
Part of the MABA’s effort to expand river barge traffic into the Port of Muskegon are locally-based Sand Products Corp. and its Mart Dock, Andrie Inc., Verplank Trucking, Great Lakes Dock and Materials, and Consumers Energy, which has the largest and newest deep-water dock on Muskegon Lake at the B.C. Cobb Generating Plant. The Cobb plant is expected to end operations and be demolished after 2016.
“The fundamental message we have for the Muskegon community is that this is a game-changer,” Byrum said after the two-hour meeting at MAREC. “This could change the dynamics of industry and logistics. The cost of logistics drives basic decisions on purchases from widgets to containers of grain.”
The word from Port of Muskegon operators such as Port City Marine – a Great Lakes transportation company of Muskegon-based Sand Products – is that the facilities already located on Muskegon Lake can accommodate barge traffic with no major investment in facilities or infrastructure.
“We’ve got the dock facilities that we need on Muskegon Lake,” said Ed Hogan, a longtime Great Lakes captain and head of the Great Lakes marine transportation company. “We are already all working together on scenarios on how this could work on Muskegon Lake.”
What’s needed, Byrum said, is a coordinated, consistent lobbying message from the community, local governments, private companies and state legislators to the U.S. Coast Guard, which was represented at the Friday morning meeting.
Coast Guard representatives said they attended to take “plenty of notes.” The regulatory decision on Muskegon river barge operations will begin in the Coast Guard’s Milwaukee Lake Michigan headquarters and then be moved to 9th District headquarters in Cleveland and eventually to Washington D.C., said marine consultant Capt. Glenn Dawson (Dawson Marine Services of Chesterton, Ind.).
“We have to move up the ladder with the Coast Guard to get to the people who can make this happen,” said Dawson, who is a Great Lakes boat captain, former Chicago-area barge operator and former Illinois state legislator.
The Great Lakes regulations are already in place to allow for river barge traffic from Chicago to Muskegon Lake. Milwaukee, St. Joseph and Muskegon received the potential of river barge traffic in the 1990s from the U.S. Coast Guard, but only Milwaukee has gone ahead and received specific Coast Guard permission for such an operation.
Byrum said the Coast Guard approval process has already begun with a letter to federal officials. With proper support from the community, political forces and private sector, a Coast Guard decision could be made in the next six months – allowing for a test of barge traffic as early next Great Lakes sailing season, officials said.
“The Coast Guard knew that Muskegon would be requesting such approvals but they have wondered why it hasn’t come to their attention until now,” Byrum said.
“The message to everyone here this morning was that the opportunity is there but the private sector needs to figure out how to make it work,” said Byrum, who heads up a trade association of 500 members – everyone from huge agricultural corporations to local grain operators. “If we can create the opportunity with the approvals of the Coast Guard, the private sector will go out and make it happen.”
Also attending the MABA river barge meeting in Muskegon were representatives of the city of Muskegon and Muskegon County, including county Commissioner Terry Sabo – head of the county’s Public Works Board and special port development committee.
Byrum said that the Muskegon river barge coalition now is looking for letters of support from the public and private sector, resolutions from local and state governments and the support of Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration. The State Office of the Great Lakes and other state agencies attended the river barge meeting, he said.
Carrying the issue back to Lansing were Muskegon’s legislative delegation, including state Sen. Goeff Hansen, R-Hart, and state Reps. Marcia Hovey-Wright, D-Muskegon, and Collene Lamonte, D-Montague. All participated in the Friday morning meeting along with U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga’s district staff.
Working with the West Michigan private sector both in agriculture and manufacturing are staff from the Muskegon Area First and the Grand Rapids-based The Right Place – local and regional economic development agencies.
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MUSKEGON, MI – Buildings are being erected and steel has been raised into the air as the new downtown Muskegon Farmers Market continues to be constructed along West Western Avenue.
The T4 Group of Muskegon designed and managed development is on track for a May 1 grand opening for the start of the 2014 farm market season, according to Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce President Cindy Larsen.
“The look and feel of the project is starting to take shape,” Larsen said of recent progress on construction, including the community kitchen building, market vendor spaces and initial paving of the parking areas.
“Now you can understand the scale of what has been proposed,” said Larsen, who at the chamber has spearheaded the new farm market project on behalf of the community-based, non-profit Downtown Muskegon Development Corp. “You can now understand the exact location and how it fits into the downtown. Being able to see the structures, it is calming fears of those not understanding the advantages of this location for the market and for downtown.”
The DMDC is heading the $3.8 million new market project in conjunction with the city of Muskegon. The facility will be donated to the city of Muskegon, which has agreed to relocate its farmers market on Yuba Street to the downtown and manage the new facility.
The 3-acre site at West Western Avenue and Terrace Street has been donated by the DMDC – a non-profit organization of the chamber, Foundation for Muskegon County and the Paul C. Johnson Foundation.
The private fundraising for the new market facility continues, Larsen said. The fundraising committee remains about $370,000 short of its $3.8 million goal with significant outside foundation support continuing to be donated, she said.
The excitement and change in attitude toward downtown Muskegon with the new farmers market construction is noticeable, Larsen said. The DMDC has pushed the new market to provide a catalyst for other retail and residential developments downtown.
“The new market is positioning downtown for more growth and development as people understand how it will generate traffic for neighboring establishments,” Larsen said.
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NORTON SHORES, MI – Korina Young was sitting in her office at 255 Seminole Road, trying to conduct a job interview when a constant flow of people to the closed Coffee House became distracting.
She ended the interview with a candidate for her Jackson Hewitt Tax Service business with a confession: “I will hire you, but right now I have to end the interview … I have to buy a coffee shop.”
Young knew about the defunct coffee shop in the commercial building at Seminole Road and Seaway Drive at the entrance of the city of Norton Shores, but she said she didn’t realize its significance to former customers. The Coffee House abruptly closed in early September because of what the former owners called a “business dispute.”
Young eventually leased the coffee shop location from the building owner and reopened Oct. 21 as the Brew House. It is the Spring Lake businesswoman’s first venture into the food service world of coffee.
“I looked out to see customers that looked lost,” Young recalled of the days after the coffee shop closed. “They seemed to have nowhere to go. They were going non-stop through the drive-through. They gathered in the parking lot … lost.”
Young said she contacted building owner Tim Fredricks of FCC Inc. General Contractors of Caledonia. Fredricks built the commercial building that includes the Brew House coffee shop, Muskegon Yoga and other businesses and offices.
The general contractor eventually ended up with the ownership of the building and consolidated that with ownership of the equipment in the old coffee shop. With a name change and about a month of hard work to get the business back into a condition to open, Young said she has been greeted with plenty of smiles.
“So many people come in here and it is their office,” she said of the Brew House. “It is a community gathering place. I used everything I had to open this back up.”
The Coffee House was originally opened by Curt Cotner and a silent business partner in December 2007. The establishment was a community focal point at an extremely busy intersection.
Nicolas Mika and Matt Varley took over the ownership and operation of the Coffee House in early 2013 but closed it in early September due to what the new owners called a “business dispute.” The former owners have moved on to open the Electric Cadillac Delicatessen in Grand Haven.
“What Nic had was a grunge-style coffee shop that had become a hangout,” Young said. “I wanted to bring back a community business where everyone feels comfortable. This is a family establishment.”
After a month of cleaning, restocking and learning the coffee business, Young was ready to reopen. A grand opening celebration is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 22 at noon.
The Brew House has associated itself with Uncommon Coffee Roasters of Saugatuck, which has provided the coffee product from Honduras, equipment and staff training. The Brew House operations really began Nov. 4 with a new, hand-built espresso machine from Florence, Italy, she said.
Beyond the espresso drinks and other beverages served up by an initial staff of nine employees, the Brew House offers food from the popular The Village Bakery in Spring Lake with a menu of baked goods, soups and salads that includes vegan offerings. Young will select future Honduras coffee from specific farmers on a trip this winter to Central America as the beans are freshly roasted in Saugatuck.
Young – a 1990 graduate of Muskegon Catholic Central High School – has a degree in graphic design from Kendall School of Art and Design and Aquinas College in Grand Rapids. Before starting a family, she taught art for Muskegon High School and the career tech center. Married with three children, she was able to restart her professional career with the ownership of the Jackson Hewitt outlets in Grand Haven, Holland and in the near future co-ownership in Muskegon.
“With the Brew House, I’ve gone at it head first,” Young said of a down time for a traditional tax preparation business. With a 10-year lease on the Brew House space, Young said she is all in.
“I’m here to stay,” the owner said. “The community will tell me through their support whether I am successful. So far, my supporters have been phenomenal.”
The Brew House is open Monday-Friday 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
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MUSKEGON, MI – Not only are Muskegon city commissioners elated with the expansions that have been occurring with ADAC Automotive, but also in the company’s hiring practices.
City Affirmative Action Officer Dwana Thompson and city commissioners were quick to praise ADAC officials prior to the commission’s unanimous approvals of a series of four tax breaks for a $7.3 million expansion in the company’s two Muskegon facilities that will create 90 jobs.
According to information provided the commission, ADAC – a leading maker of door handle assemblies for a global automotive manufacturing market – already has 731 employees in its Muskegon operations. ADAC is the second-largest industrial employer in Muskegon County behind Alcoa Howmet in Whitehall.
Of those current workers, 36 percent are minority employees and 53 percent are female, according to city reports. This is in a city that has 43 percent of its population non-white and 52 percent of its population male.
“This is a company that best represents this community,” Thompson told the commission.
Commissioners approved a 12-year, 50 percent tax abatement on $725,000 in building improvements at 2050 Port City Blvd. and $926,270 in building improvements at 2653 Olthoff Dr. – both in the city’s Port City Industrial Park.
The investments with the tax breaks will generate $23,599 a year in savings for the company and new revenue for the city’s taxing units. In addition, the new employment should generate an additional $14,414 in annual income tax for the city.
The city commission also unanimously approved a personal property tax break for $5.7 million in new equipment at the two facilities, in which the city will forgo 100 percent of its portion of the taxes for 12 years.
ADAC executive John Shape told the commission that the Grand Rapids-based company is creating a new paint line on Port City Boulevard and a new assembly operation on Olthoff Drive. This comes in the wake of an $18 million investment at its 1801 Keating Dr. facility in Muskegon with a new paint line that is creating 130 new jobs over two years – an expansion that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder dedicated in July.
“We look at the city as an important partner in our success,” Shape told city commissioners. “We will be here in Muskegon for a long time.”
The most recent expansion that received the city tax breaks was investment and work that could have gone to Mexico, local economic developers said. The decision to keep the investment and work in Michigan was assisted with a $650,000 Michigan Business Development Program “performance-based” grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
Along with the city of Muskegon, local economic development agency Muskegon Area First worked with the company on its expansion projects. Muskegon Area First President Ed Garner told commissioners that manufacturing business is booming in the city’s industrial park.
“The Port City Industrial Center is overflowing with all of the expansions we’ve had,” Garner said, pointing to ADAC, the Port City Group, GE Aviation, Aero Foil International and Fleet Engineers.
Commissioners were most impressed with ADAC’s hiring policies that have resulted in such a large number of minority and female workers.
“This company really reflects the community as a whole,” Commissioner Eric Hood told company officials. “I’d like to thank you and commend you for that.”
Shape said that the company’s next round of hiring will be both entry level and skilled positions with 30 percent of the new hires being in the “technical” category. The company trains its workforce through Muskegon Community College and uses temporary employment agencies to find new workers, he said.
Shape explained that the temporary agencies are used to balance the demand for labor so that full-time employees do not face layoffs. Temporary workers that perform well are offered full-time employment, he said, indicating about 10 percent of the company’s workforce might be from temporary agencies at any given time.
“Well, your reputation speaks for itself,” Commissioner Willie German Jr. told company officials. “Thank you for working with the city of Muskegon.”
Read the article here on MLive.
MUSKEGON, MI – Unruly Brewing Co. brew master Eric Hoffman will take 120 gallons of water, 255 pounds of English two-row Barley, some roasted malt, four pounds of hops and a liter of slurry yeast, producing something that should make Muskegon proud.
Hoffman’s sixth batch of beer in the Unruly basement brew-room, in the lower level of the Russell Market at 360 W. Western, was Big Red Imperial Ale, a 7.5-percent-alcohol craft beer.
Here is the beer-brewing process for this Muskegon product honoring the tradition of the Big Reds of Muskegon High School:
• The Unruly three-and-a-half barrel production system begins with 120 gallons of water, treated for chlorine and prepared with salts and minerals.
“It is kind of like cooking soup … it depends upon what flavors you want,” Hoffman said of preparing the water for boil.
• Unruly has three kettles -- the boiler, mashtun and hot liquor tank. The water is moved among the three tanks in the beginning of the process with the 255 pounds of two-row English barley added when the water is in the mashtun.
• Roasted crystal malt is added for color and flavor and roasted barley to give it the red appearance.
• The beer is boiled in the kittles for about 45 minutes.
• About four pounds of hops are added, coming from the West Coast, but Hoffman is on the lookout for Michigan grains for an all-Michigan beer. The mixture is boiled for another hour.
• Once done, the beer is cooled to about 65 degrees.
• A fermentation vessel is sterilized and prepared with about a liter of a brewing yeast slurry and the beer is pumped in to it. There it will sit at room temperature for about two weeks.
• The beer is then sent to the “brite” tank where it is chilled to 38 degrees, clarified and carbonated. That is a two-day process.
• At that point, the beer is ready to be transferred into kegs and stored for serving by the glass or for bulk sales. The whole process takes two and a half weeks.
Hoffman said the “hoppier," stronger dark beers age longer but most of the craft beers will need to be consumed in three or four months.
Unruly began its brewing with a batch of Pale Ale Newmeister in honor of the first beer commercially brewed in Muskegon in 1867. The second and third batches were a Port City Porter -- robust and flavorful, Hoffman said. Some of the Porter will be flavored with coffee from Drip, Drop Drink, which shares the Russell Market with Unruly.
The fourth batch was Unruly’s 1890 Pre-Prohibition Style Cream Ale, named for the year the Russell Block Building was built, Hoffman said. The fifth batch was a Revel Rouser IPA – a bold West Coast India Pale Ale, Hoffman said. It was named for the brewing company’s marketers at Revel – a Muskegon communications company.
In the works will be an oatmeal stout, a pumpkin beer, a traditional German wheat beer and American-style wheat beer, Hoffman said. Unruly will have the capacity to tap up to a dozen beers for its tasting room, he said.
Operating as a “community brewery,” Unruly will allow veteran home brewers to bring recipes to the brew room for commercial production and sale in the tasting room. First in will be Chris Carr with a French Saison, a peach-flavored beer with a light, fruity taste, Hoffman said.
“We are open to all of our friends in the home-brewing community,” Hoffman said. “If they have a good proven beer, we’d like to have them brew with us.”
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MUSKEGON, MI – With word that Consumers Energy has plans to demolish the B.C. Cobb Generating Plant in Muskegon after April 2016, one would think Muskegon is becoming Demolition City.
The Jackson-based public utility’s announcement of its plans for Cobb and two other old, coal-fired power plants comes in the immediate aftermath of the Sunday, Oct. 27 demolition of the former Sappi paper mill power plant.
The B.C. Cobb Generating Plant was built 65-years ago and still has two coal-powered units. It is located on the east end of Muskegon Lake at the Muskegon River outlet.
Chronicle file photo
The closure and removal of the Cobb plant would make the only Muskegon Lake shoreline industry the Cole’s Bakery plant, which makes frozen garlic bread. With no Sappi paper mill or Cobb power plant, Muskegon Lake would begin a whole new era.
“This announcement of a demolition is the best thing that could have ever had happened to the Muskegon Lakeshore region,” said Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. “This will remake and ever-change Muskegon.”
As sad and discouraging as it might be for Muskegon’s historical industrial structures to be brought down, it is sure better than the alternative, community leaders and economic developers say.
“The planned demolition of the plant is a positive thing,” Muskegon Mayor Steve Gawron said, adding that the plant closure had been expected since the company announced in late 2011 that it would suspend operations in early 2015.
“We did not want that plant sitting mothballed,” Gawron said of past plans of Consumers Energy. “It is negative that it will cease operations but positive that it will be demolished for future uses.”
Muskegon Area First President Ed Garner agrees. A lasting eye-sore of a closed plant in a community is bad for community image and bad for business, he said.
“It is good that this will not drag out years, years and years,” said Garner, head of the Muskegon County economic development agency.
Muskegon is home to enough vacant, abandoned industrial legacy buildings, officials said. The community is much further ahead when old industrial companies close facilities and they are removed before they become a blighting influence, they said.
That has been the case with the former Sealed Power plant on Sanford Street, the old Lift-Tech International plant on West Broadway Avenue and the Brunswick facility on West Laketon Avenue. Now it looks as if the Cobb plant on the east end of Muskegon Lake will end with the same fate -- closure and demolition.
Consumers Energy officials said the company will not move forward with closure and demolition of the Cobb plant, located on the Muskegon River where it empties into Muskegon Lake, until a special bond issue is approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission and the final closure is approved by the company board of directors. State approval is expected by the end of the year, company officials said.
As difficult as it will be to lose the property tax base – Cobb has been Muskegon County’s leading taxpayer – and the well-paying jobs – about 115 are employed at the plant – community leaders are pleased to be looking forward rather than backward.
“This certainly will speed up the planning for the redevelopment of the site,” Garner said of the 300 acres immediately on the Cobb site and the 1,000 acres that the electric company owns along Muskegon Lake and the Muskegon River.
Muskegon Area First worked with Consumers Energy on an initial study of the reuse of the Cobb plant’s six-year-old, huge lake freighter dock – able to accommodate the largest Great Lakes ships which bring coal to the plant.
Garner said that a second phase of the redevelopment study will look at potential redevelopment uses for the entire Cobb site. A consultant’s report is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
The current thinking in Muskegon with city, county and community leaders is to redevelop the east end of Muskegon Lake with port development that supports clean manufacturing industries. The removal of the smokestacks at Sappi and Cobb will change the lake views and the community image.
“We will not have heavy, smokestack industries on the waterfront anymore,” Larsen said. “Industry is still alive and well in Muskegon, but the factories are in the industrial parks where they belong.”
That leaves a more aggressive redevelopment of the remainder of Muskegon Lake’s south shore from downtown Muskegon to the Muskegon Channel for residential, recreational and tourist developments, Larsen said.
“If you travel the state, you realize the amazing qualities of Muskegon Lake,” Larsen said. “Unfortunately, they have been hidden in the shadow of the big Cobb stack. There are pretty lakes, beautiful lakes and magnificent lakes. People will discover with Cobb gone that Muskegon Lake is magnificent.”
Certainty of the potential closure and demolition of the Cobb plant would give community leaders time to prepare for the loss of tax revenues but also for a redevelopment plan.
“We need to move ahead and make a positive out of all of this,” Gawron said. “With our waterfront properties, we need to further the new vision of Muskegon as the Port of Michigan.”
Muskegon County Commissioner Terry Sabo heads up the county’s Public Works Board and a special port committee. The closure of the Cobb plant is no shock but a reality that county and community leaders have been planning to confront, he said.
“As an optimist, I think we need to press on with greater achievements for our waterfront for the future,” Sabo said of the county’s port committee, established in part because the Cobb plant was eventually going to be closed. “We face a new era of industry on the lake. We don’t know exactly what that will be, but we are getting regional and statewide interest.”
Muskegon Area First has worked with The Right Place in Grand Rapids to create the West Michigan Economic Development Partnership, which has brought together Muskegon and Kent county governments, including the city of Muskegon.
The special state-sanctioned authority will push specific shovel-ready properties awaiting redevelopment. In Muskegon, the state incentives and marketing efforts will be directed toward the port development potential of the east end of Muskegon Lake, the economic developers said.
For Garner and Muskegon Area First, it’s time to get to work.
“This paves the way for future development,” Garner said of the Consumers Energy announcement on the Cobb plant. “That is what we need. It’s change. We need to look to the future.”
Read the article here on MLive.
MUSKEGON, MI – New Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson is continuing his get-to-know-the-community campaign, offering a glimpse of a “community improvement strategy” he will introduce to Muskegon city commissioners.
Peterson was before the Muskegon Rotary Club Thursday, Oct. 31 with a high-energy presentation emphasizing improved community image, generating new investment, upgrading aging infrastructure and eliminating neighborhood blight. He's also been to neighborhood association meetings and began trolley tours of the city with various groups.
Peterson outlined some of the strengths he finds in the city and in the community from strong elected leaders, a skilled workforce, a diverse urban center, a strong employment base, active philanthropic institutions and fresh water resources many communities can only dream about.
But the city and the community face challenges. A financially sound municipality, the city still has had years of budget cuts, which have strained its ability to provide services, said Peterson, the former city manager of Springfield, Mich. outside of Battle Creek who came to lead Muskegon City Hall in September as longtime City Manager Bryon Mazade retired.
“And our roads, right of ways and neighborhoods need some love,” Peterson said of the general appearance of some areas of the city.
New Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson took a tour of the city with community and business leaders Monday Oct. 14 with a critical eye on what needs to be improved to further the city's image.
Peterson outlined a plan that could be described as “tough love.” He said he will work with the city commission to step up code enforcement in the city’s neighborhoods, pressing the issue with higher fines and penalties for owners of residential and commercial property not meeting basic standards.
The upside of being a waterfront community with relatively low property values is that such a combination encourages redevelopment, the city manager said. The down side is that the same combination attracts out-of-town land speculators who will sit on property, adding to community blight, he added.
The city’s infrastructure will also get the new city manager’s attention. Peterson will begin to put together a long-term strategy of re-investing in the city’s roads and utilities. A road improvement plan is high on his agenda.
“We need to get a funding plan in place,” Peterson said of what sounds as if it will be a method of raising more local revenue. He said that cities like Muskegon can’t wait to have Lansing or Washington come to the rescue.
“We will need the support of citizens and businesses to get this done,” he told the Muskegon Rotary luncheon at the Shoreline Inn Conference Center. “But such action will encourage new investment and attract new residents. We need to spend some political capital on this. I have only been here for six weeks so I have no political capital but others do.”
The community must invest in its own future as it looks to attract outside investors. Muskegon can’t wait for a federal grant, new state road funds, a port development or even an Indian casino. He said he will have the courage to take action to move the city and the community forward.
“We can’t wait because nothing is guaranteed,” Peterson said. “But then again it is hard to fail if you have not done anything.”
At the heart of Peterson’s message to the leading community civic organization is that Muskegon needs to take control of its image, both internal and external. The city will take the leadership in educating the public about the advantages and positive attributes of Muskegon and how to express them to the outside world, he said.
“I need to say that if you have the means, let’s invest in this community,” Peterson said. “And, we need to invest in ourselves and our infrastructure.”
Read the article here on MLive.
MUSKEGON, MI – Todd Johnson has brought the “third wave” of coffee experience to downtown Muskegon.
The former fast-food restaurant regional manager has opened Drip Drop Drink Coffee Bar in the Russell Block building, 360 W. Western Ave.
The intimate, independent coffee shop joins the West Michigan Symphony offices, its Block performance center and the developing Unruly Brewing Co. in the downtown market building.
The first “wave” of coffee experience was found in a can with names such as Maxwell House and Folgers and the second "wave" came out of Seattle with espresso coffee drinks made by Starbucks and others, Johnson said.
“The ‘third wave’ is the ma-and-pa coffee shop where we slow the process down and pull away from the fast-food aspect of coffee,” Johnson said of Drip Drop Drink, which features a drip-style coffee brewing process.
Drip Drop Drink has been exposing Muskegon to its brand of coffee experience since last December when it began providing “poured” coffee at the downtown indoor winter market two doors down the street from the Russell Block. The coffee shop, which had a soft opening in the Russell Block two months ago, is scheduled to have a grand opening Saturday, Nov. 2 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
“My first instinct was to try my coffee shop idea in Grand Rapids,” said Johnson, a Muskegon native and resident. “After talking to Terry MacAllister about the Russell Block, I decided to give my hometown a try and see how receptive everyone would be. So far, so good.”
Many in Muskegon think “coffee” is the drink served at Wesco, Speedway or a dozen fast-food restaurants or fancy, sweet drinks from places like Starbucks, the coffee shop owner said. Customers have to get used to the time and cost of "good" coffee, said Johnson’s son Brooke.
“It is a huge difference in price and time for some people,” Brooke Johnson said of serving cups of pour-over coffee that cost from $2.65-$4 a cup and takes about five minutes to brew.
“But we have people say this is the best cup of coffee they have ever had,” the elder Johnson said. “We have already created a lot of repeat customers. The drip process is a show for those who come in and everyone gathers around to watch.”
The drip-style process allows the brewer to control all elements: the amount of coffee and water, the temperature of the water and how long the water is in contact with the grounds, Johnson said.
The process begins with the fresh grinding of coffee beans placed in a ceramic “drip cone” with a paper filter. The filtered, 200-degree water is then slowly poured over the grounds to drip through to a collection pot at the bottom, taking three or four minutes.
Drip Drop Drink has a couple of coffee varieties available at any given time, including No. 46 – a traditional coffee blend from six growing regions around the world, Johnson said. It is a coffee blend that kick started the early “counter culture” coffee movement, he said.
All of the shop’s coffee comes from the Counter Culture Coffee of North Carolina. Johnson discovered the company on the Internet in researching his coffee shop business plan.
“I’ve been hooked ever since and have never had bad coffee from Counter Culture,” he said, adding that he learned of the drip process in San Francisco coffee shops on a California trip two years ago.
Besides pour-over coffee, Drip Drop Drink has an espresso machine for lattes and cappuccinos but flavors are limited to vanilla, hazelnut and almond – all homemade by the Johnsons. The shop also sells “cold brew” coffee over ice and Boylan Cane Sugar Soda, an all-natural product.
Bagels in the shop come from Grand Rapids Bagel and are all organic. Drip Drop Drink also has baklava and cinnamon buns from time to time.
Johnson said that he is excited to be a part of the growing Russell Block, especially as Unruly brewery opens later this year. Other food vendors are being sought, including a pizza outlet, he said.
“What we are trying to create at the Russell Block is a vibe that is unique for Muskegon,” said Johnson, who graduated from Muskegon High School in 1991 and worked for a Chicago-based franchise operator of Taco Bell-KFC outlets in West Michigan. “We haven’t had a brewery in Muskegon in my time.
“We want to be the place that becomes the Muskegon destination,” he continued. “We want to be the place for everyone’s morning and afternoon coffee … a place for everyone to meet. A place where good deals go down and conversations happen. My big hope is that this place stays relevant for a long time.”
Saturday’s grand opening will feature a sampling of products and coffee demonstrations by Counter Culture Coffee’s Josh Dugue.
Drip Drop Drink’s current hours of operation are weekdays 7 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Those hours will be extended in the evenings once Unruly opens, Johnson said.
In the future, the coffee bar owner has plans for evening music, poetry readings, community discussions and the occasional “mild, political boxing matches,” he said.
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MUSKEGON, MI – Many community leaders who gathered on the west end of the former Sappi paper mill site believed they watched the end of one era and the beginning of another Sunday morning Oct. 27.
The spectacle of the 200-foot, 10-story industrial power plant crashing to the ground as explosive charges sheared the building at its foundation wasn’t the only thing that excited those gathered under a tent provided by property owner Doug Melching.
There was anticipation in the eyes and in the voices of those that contemplated the significance of the Sappi demolition. Many believe local historians will find the demolition of the 109-year-old paper mill property on Muskegon Lake ushered in a new era of non-industrial waterfront development.
Watch the former Sappi Fine Paper plant come down from four angles
Four different views as explosives bring down a 200-foot tall section of the former Sappi Fine Paper in Muskegon on October 27, 2013.
Unstated is the expectation of a new owner for the property. Melching – president and owner of Melching Inc., a West Michigan demolition company – again said that work continues behind the scenes preparing for a new owner of the 120-acre former industrial site.
Witnessing the 10:40 a.m. demolition event was Michigan Department of Environmental Quality executive Anne Couture, who is the state’s “brownfield” redevelopment expert. She has been working with Melching, Sappi and state officials to work through the complicated environmental and legal issues facing the property now that it is being cleared of more than 1 million square feet of obsolete industrial facilities.
Couture said that negotiations -- now including the unnamed buyer group -- continue and have reached a “sensitive” period. Melching said that he received information from his attorney last week that significant progress is being made as the new buyer group works through its “due diligence” on the former Sappi property.
Those familiar with the negotiations indicate that difficult legal arrangements are being negotiated that would address deed restrictions that Sappi Fine Paper of North America placed on the property when Melching purchased it for $2.3 million in August 2011. Those restrictions, in part, keep redevelopment limited to industrial uses, although Melching, community leaders and the public want to see a mixed-use waterfront redevelopment.
“I’ve got two attorneys working on the issues,” Melching said before Sunday’s demolition event. “I heard last week that we are making head way.”
Muskegon Mayor Steve Gawron, along with several members of the Muskegon City Commission, watched the demolition from the Melching tent.
“We at the city and this owner are getting the property ‘shovel ready,’” Gawron said of the promise of future development. “The most significant thing is that this property is being cleared in a quick time period. We are not being left with a massive, empty facility as we see in other communities around the nation.”
Few have a historical perspective as Terry MacAllister, a former city commissioner and chairman of the Muskegon Planning Commission. MacAllister likens the Sappi demolition to the 1975 demolition of the former Occidental Hotel that made way for Muskegon Mall. MacAllister went to Chicago that April Sunday morning in 1975 when the downtown hotel came down because it upset him so much.
That was not the case this Sunday with the Sappi power plant.
“This is totally different,” MacAllister said, praising the likely end of industrial operations on the Sappi site. “We are in a transition. This kind of use on the lakeshore is over. We are hopeful of a new buyer. There is the opportunity for a whole lot of exciting things in the future.
“I am encouraged to see the plant come down,” MacAllister said. “It has served its purpose. We move on. Change is good.”
State Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright’s husband Bill helped build the paper mill’s power plant in the 1980s, she said. He didn’t want to watch the building be razed but the Muskegon Democrat was on site to witness local history.
“This makes way for a new, cleaner development that will produce jobs for our community,” Hovey-Wright said. “This is a huge day for economic development in our community.”
Now that the 3,000 tons of twisted steel and concrete sits in a 60-foot-high pile to the north of where the plant once stood, Melching said his crew will begin this week scraping and recycling the debris. The pile should be removed from the site in the next three weeks.
The Melching demolition team, along with explosive experts from Trinity Industrial Services of Atlanta, will be back on the property next April to bring down the two remaining 275-foot smokestacks, Melching said. Environmental contamination issues with the stacks have those coming down separately, he said.
Demolition work will continue as the industrial foundations of the paper mill buildings will be dug up and removed, he said. Heavy demolition work will last for at least eight more months and the site will be cleared and leveled by about this time next year, Melching predicted.
Remaining will be the historic Hackley piano factory building, a brick three-story structure directly on Lakeshore Drive along with a 30,000-square-foot industrial building on the lakefront that Melching is using for its operations. Melching said that the unnamed buyer group has plans for both structures.
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