Chamber named 2017 Newsmaker of the Year

Chamber Blog |Jan 2, 2018|3 min read

Business Journal names Newsmaker nominees

December 18, 2017

West Michigan may be battling a talent shortage, but it’s not at the upper levels.

When Grand Rapids Business Journal reporters and editors met to discuss nominees for the 2017 Newsmaker of the Year honors, more than 225 choices were considered before settling on the top three nominees in each of the following 16 categories: Arts & Entertainment, Beverages, Economic Development, Education, Finance, Food, Health Care, Law, Manufacturing, Nonprofits/Philanthropy, Real Estate/Construction, Retail, Sports, Startups, Sustainability and Technology.

Last year, Adam Kramer, executive vice president of strategy for Switch, the massive technology firm and data center currently making its home in the former Steelcase Pyramid building in Gaines Township south of Grand Rapids, was the overall winner.

Most of the nominees are familiar to West Michigan residents, especially those who read the Business Journal on a consistent basis, because they are the people who shaped local news in 2017.

The Business Journal will honor West Michigan’s top decision makers on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at its annual Newsmakers of the Year breakfast at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids. Tickets for the event, which begins at 7:30 a.m., are available online.

The top selection from each category will be recognized with an industry Newsmaker award, and a Newsmaker of the Year will be selected from among the winners of those 16 categories.

The top Newsmaker in each category and the overall Newsmaker of the Year will be announced during the event.

A printed supplement profiling the nominees in each category will be included in the Jan. 29, 2018 issue of the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

For now, though, here is the first look at the finalists in each of the categories for Grand Rapids Business Journal 2017 Newsmaker of the Year.

2017 Newsmaker of the Year finalists

Arts & Entertainment

David Hooker, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Rich MacKeigan, SMG

Scott Sprague, Gun Lake Casino


Dave Engbers and Mike Stevens, Founders Brewing Co.

Daryn Kuipers, Boxed Water

Jon O’Connor and Kyle Van Strien, Long Road Distillers

Economic Development

Dick DeVos, Grand Action

James Gill, Gerald R. Ford International Airport

Cindy Larsen, Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce


Betsy DeVos, U.S. Department of Education

Thomas Haas, Grand Valley State University

Kevin Quinn, Aquinas College


Stephen Duarte, Kent County

Sandra Jelinski, Lake Michigan Credit Union

David Quade, Horizon Bank


Steve Cooper, Continental Dairy

Herb Herbruck, Herbruck’s Poultry

Rich Wolowski, Gordon Food Service

Health Care

Norman Beauchamp Jr., MSU Grand Rapids Research Center

Mark Eastburg, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

Kevin Lobo, Stryker Corp.


Matt Fenske, Ottawa County

Kevin Lobo, Stryker Corp.

James Saalfeld, Kent County


Marc Bitzer, Whirlpool Corp.

James Keane, Steelcase Inc.

Kevin Prindable, GE Aviation


Jon Ippel, Amplify GR

Scott Jonkhoff, Next Step

Ryan VerWys, Inner City Christian Federation

Real Estate/Construction

Adam Kramer, Switch

Mike VanGessel, Rockford Construction

John Wheeler, Orion Construction


Hank Meijer, Meijer Inc.

Phil Russo, Russo’s International Market

Robert Schermer Jr., Meritage Hospitality Group


Dan DeVos, Grand Rapids Griffins

Mike Guswiler, West Michigan Sports Commission

Steve Jbara, Grand Rapids Drive


Bob Baltera, Cirius Therapeutics

Julie Burrell, Pumpndo

Feliciano Paredes, AgHelp


Dave Koster, Holland Energy Plant

Jason Meyer, Blandford Nature Center

Mike VanGessel, Circuit West


Dan Irvin, 123Net

John Keller, Metro Health-University of Michigan Health

David Van Andel, Van Andel Research Institute