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11/15/2016 // ZEELAND, MICH – Lakeshore Advantage presented Fred Bauer, chairman and CEO of Gentex, with the Innovation Trailblazer award at the organization’s annual meeting that celebrated innovation in West Michigan. This video tribute to Fred Bauer, who started manufacturing fire safety products at Gentex in 1974, was shared at the meeting prior to him receiving the award.

“Lakeshore Advantage is doing great things, working with businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Bauer in remarks after accepting the award. “It’s important for established business leaders to walk along and mentor entrepreneurs to ensure and contribute to their successes.”

During the presentation, Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage, shared that among the top ten manufacturing employers in Ottawa County over the last 30 years, Gentex steadily climbed to the top. Gentex went from the 10th largest manufacturing employer in Ottawa County in 1996 to the largest manufacturing employer in Ottawa County in 2016.

“Employers who innovate grow,” said Owens. “Gentex is an organization that embodies our culture of innovation in West Michigan. They continually improve and find new and different ways to research, discover, develop, implement and provide quality products that customers need, decade after decade.”

Fred Bauer revolutionized the fire protection industry with the world's first dual-sensor photoelectric smoke detector - a device less prone to false alarms yet quick to detect slow, smoldering fires, as Gentex’s first manufactured product. Today, Gentex is an industry product development leader in the aerospace, fire protection, and automotive industries, with products including the auto-dimming car mirrors and aircraft windows.

Three hundred investors and guests gathered to celebrate “Innovation in Action” at the Lakeshore Advantage annual meeting. Highlights included:
·       A video compilation of innovation at a sampling of area companies and organizations: Hamilton Community Schools, BizStream Academy, Ottawa County, Tiger Studio and Jolt Energy Storage.
·       An Innovation In Action handout to be scanned using the LAYAR app to then view the full versions of each innovation story from the compilation video.
·       An Innovation Showcase, with founders of some of the region’s up-and-coming startups and their products: Encoris, Fathom, PrograMax, Ring Cam, Tiger Tech and Volta Power Systems.
·       A Lakeshore Advantage update, including a year-to-date return on investment of $151 for every $1 invested.
·       The Grand Rapids Community College Discover Manufacturing Mobile Lab with virtual welder, 3-D printer, mini-mill and CAD stations for attendees to tour.

“Along the Lakeshore, innovation occurs naturally for a great number of our organizations. It’s in our regional culture,” said Lakeshore Advantage board chair Mike Ramirez. “Continue to innovate, to look through a new lens to do things better, differently.”

Businesses are encouraged to share their innovation stories with Lakeshore Advantage throughout the coming year. Quotes submitted by area business leaders in the region were shared throughout the program to serve as words of wisdom on what inspires them to innovate at their organizations.

“Continued innovation demands that the organization combat complacency by creating a culture of perpetual restlessness.  You can never allow the organization to feel that it has arrived.  Instead, everyone must be driven by and focused on the excitement of coming up with the next big thing,” commented Fred Bauer, on creating a culture of innovation in the workplace.

Pioneer Construction, Fifth Third Bank and Edify North sponsored the meeting. Lakeshore Advantage announced they will be hosting an investor meeting where the organization will unveil their year-end numbers in January, 2017.

Assets from the 2016 Lakeshore Advantage Annual Meeting, including presentation, video and program can be found here

Lakeshore Advantage Annual Meeting 2016: Innovate

The Lakeshore Advantage annual meeting celebrated Innovation in Action in our region. 

View the full program

View the presentation

Download the Innovation In Action video card

View the following Innovation In Action videos:


10/05/2016 // JAMESTOWN CHARTER TOWNSHIP, MICH –Injection molded plastic components manufacturer Royal Technologies Corporation announced today they will invest nearly $33.7 million to build a warehouse and separate manufacturing facility in Jamestown Charter Township, MI, and create 66 new jobs. The company, headquartered in Hudsonville, MI, currently has three manufacturing facilities in Michigan in addition to regional operations in Texas and Alabama.

“For nearly 30 years, Royal Technologies has experienced substantial growth, much to the credit of the world class employees, leadership and business support we experience in West Michigan,” said Jim Vander Kolk, president of Royal Technologies. “Our expansion is an investment in the area’s workforce, industry and culture of continuous improvement and mutual success that exists here.”

Lakeshore Advantage has assisted Royal Technologies with expansions in the past, including infrastructure projects that brought road, water and sewer improvements to the Jamestown Commerce Center.

“We are pleased to connect Royal Technologies to the resources they need to grow in West Michigan,” said Jennifer Owens, president, Lakeshore Advantage. “Their expansion creates great jobs at a top-notch company with a reputation for excellent employee development opportunities.”

Royal Technologies was the first company to locate in the industrial park off of Quincy Street in 1999, creating what is now the Jamestown Commerce Center. The new warehouse and manufacturing facilities will be located east of the original 400,000 square foot Royal Technologies building.

Royal Technologies manufactures plastic components for a variety of industries including office furniture, automotive, and consumer products manufacturers. The company offers a wide array of services, such as project management, engineering services, product design, prototyping, validating and testing services.

“Royal Technologies’ continued investment in the community through this project is substantial for Hudsonville,” said Michelle Fare, executive director, Hudsonville Area Chamber of Commerce. “It is only with partners like Royal Technologies, supporting and investing in the community, that we continue to be a destination for families to live and work.”

Jamestown Charter Township has offered support to the project in the form of a 12-year P.A. 198 property tax abatement to support the company’s growth locally.

“Royal Technologies is an anchor in our community and we are delighted that they are growing. They have a stellar reputation and are an excellent partner with which to work. Congratulations, Royal!” Said Ken Bergwerff, Jamestown Charter Township supervisor.

Royal Technologies was awarded a $400,000 performance-based grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to help offset construction costs and to ensure a long-term sustainable relationship to West Michigan and its workforce for years to come. Royal Technologies chose to expand in Michigan over another location in the U.S.

“Royal Technologies’ expansion in Michigan rather than other locations means well-paying jobs for Michigan residents and underscores the strength of the state’s manufacturing talent,” said Steve Arwood, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which administers incentives and programs on behalf of Michigan Strategic Fund. “The decision by Royal Technologies to invest here offers further evidence of Michigan’s manufacturing leadership and our commitment to helping companies grow and generate new jobs for our residents.”

Royal Technologies is also receiving a grant from West Michigan Works! for $92,000 to assist with employee recruiting, interviewing, hiring and training.

"West Michigan Works! Is focused on providing a pool of qualified talent for our region's employers," said Jacob Maas, CEO of West Michigan Works!. “We're pleased to support Royal Technologies’ expansion and the growing West Michigan economy."

Individuals interested in careers with Royal Technologies should visit


9/30/2016 // ZEELAND, MICH – Leaders from Lakeshore Advantage, the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids’ Start Garden presented “Building a Regional Entrepreneurial Ecosystem” at the International Economic Development Council Annual Meeting this week in Cleveland, OH. The team was chosen to present methods and lessons learned to a gathering of international economic developers that included how to combine efforts to grow and retain entrepreneurs with long-term sustainability and private sector participation. 

“To successfully support new businesses and ideas, you need to be nimble like a new business. This means working together, building on strengths, filling gaps and using resources efficiently.” said Jennifer Owens, president, Lakeshore Advantage. “We’re honored to have been chosen to present our model on a global scale, so that other regions can apply what will work for them for the benefit of their entrepreneurs and communities.”

The West Michigan regional model for supporting entrepreneurs and innovation includes the Holland SmartZone, a satellite of the Grand Rapids SmartZone, and the programming, resources and lessons learned each share. The City of Grand Rapids SmartZone has contracted with Start Garden to lead West Michigan innovation and entrepreneurship efforts. The organizations work together to create entrepreneurial programming and events, while efficiently deploying resources and eliminating effort duplication through systems and communication. The Holland SmartZone is administered by Lakeshore Advantage. 

“Simplification is key in creating an ecosystem in which entrepreneurs are supported in achieving their next milestone. With regional resources working together, we can focus on providing startups needed services for their success,” said Mike Morin, CEO of Start Garden. “When business ideas come to life, it’s a win for everyone.”

Kara Wood, economic development director for the City of Grand Rapids, presented on the importance of public/private participation to achieve long-term sustainable growth and how innovation knows no boundaries, despite the SmartZone’s geographical tax capture. Owens and Morin discussed their working relationship, including how to achieve regional cooperation and how to leverage service providers to grow a healthy ecosystem that supports entrepreneurs at all stages of business development. 

About SmartZones
SmartZones are specially created "certified technology parks" designated by the State of Michigan, designed to spur the growth of technology-related or research-oriented businesses and employment opportunities. Holland received their satellite SmartZone designation in November 2015. Lakeshore Advantage is the administrator of the Holland SmartZone.
Start Garden:
Holland SmartZone:

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