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2016 Dolphin Tank Entrepreneur YOU Business Plan & Pitch Competition Under Way

Women-owned (at least 51% ownership) or women-led businesses based in Michigan are welcome to apply. Interested applicants must submit a two-page concept paper to be reviewed by a panel of business and industry professionals. 20 finalists will then be selected and matched with mentors/coaches, who will help them hone their business plan and pitching skills before presenting to a final panel of judges for a chance to win $2,500, $5,000 or $10,000 in cash.

Important Dates
May 2, 2016 – Call for Entries opens
May 27, 2016 – Concept papers and applications due
June 20, 2016 – Announcement of finalists
November 2016 – Dolphin Tank, Business Plan and Pitch Competition

Applications and two-page concept papers are now being accepted at

An application fee of $10 is due at registration.

Michigan-based businesses that are woman-owned (at least 51 percent) and/or woman-led (primary decision maker, e.g. CEO) at any stage of business in any industry are welcomed to apply.

The program is presented by MWF, in alignment with its mission of advancing the economic, professional and social well-being of women and girls in our state. A 501(c)(3) organization, MWF has been devoted to achieving social and economic equality for women and girls in Michigan for 30 years. MWF is supported financially and programmatically by many of the state's top female executives and community volunteers through events like its annual Women of Achievement and Courage Awards and Power of 100 Women donor group. For more information, visit



5/18/2016 // HOLLAND, MICH – The Kraft Heinz Company (KHC), the world’s fifth largest food company, today announced the planned expansion of their Heinz manufacturing plant in the city of Holland, Michigan. Lakeshore Advantage worked side-by-side with local company leaders in catalyzing the partners, information, incentives and support tools needed to make the business case to invest in the Holland facility, versus alternate locations.

“Through generations of hard-working employees, we’ve seen product lines evolve in Holland from pickles and vinegar to barbeque sauce and now Grey Poupon, in the Kraft Heinz portfolio,” said Brian Baculik, factory manager at Kraft Heinz Company. “This expansion of iconic product lines is creating exciting career opportunities at all levels here in Holland.”

Following the merger of Kraft Foods Group and H.J. Heinz Company in July 2015, the company shares a portfolio of iconic brands that include Kraft, Heinz, Capri Sun, Jell-O, Kool-Aid, Lunchables, Maxwell House, Ore-Ida, Oscar Mayer, Philadelphia, Planters and Velveeta. Kraft Heinz’s decision to expand operations at 431 W. 16th Street and invest $17.2 million will create 50 new jobs over the course of the project.

“Kraft Heinz Company’s decision to expand here is a testament to our community’s strong food processing employee skillset, along with many other factors that add up to a solid location for worldclass businesses," said Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage. “Our ongoing relationship with Heinz enabled us to understand their needs and mobilize the resources needed for this anchor company to expand.”

In 1897, Henry John Heinz had the vision to expand his operations into Holland, Michigan, driven by the area’s rich agriculture and eager workforce. Nearly 120 years later, the Heinz facility remains Holland’s oldest employer. Currently, Heinz produces various products in Holland, including yellow mustard, barbeque sauce and pickles. With the new investment, the company will insource and expand their yellow mustard production capacity, and consolidate 100 percent of the company’s Grey Poupon brand mustard production in Holland.

“Heinz Holland emerges as a leading product innovator again,” said Nancy DeBoer, mayor, City of Holland. “With hard work, flexibility, and loyalty, Holland's workforce catches the attention of the nation and the company is able to expand within their current location in the city. We have much to celebrate!”

The City of Holland has offered to support the project in the form of a12-year property tax abatement on the new building construction.

“Heinz is an employer with a long-standing commitment to the Holland area,” states Jane Clark, president of the Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce. “We are excited that this expansion adds to the diversity of the products produced here and increases their impact as an important job provider in our local community.”

West Michigan Works! also was a key partner in supporting this growth effort, offering more than $50,000 in workforce recruitment and training support. The funds will be used to train both new and existing Kraft Heinz employees.

"West Michigan Works! is focused on providing our region's employers with a skilled and qualified workforce so that they can meet the demands of a growing economy,” stated Jacob Maas, CEO of West Michigan Works! “We're especially pleased to support the many attraction and expansion projects happening on the lakeshore.”

As a result of the company’s investment and new job creation, the project has been awarded a $500,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. Kraft Heinz Company chose their current facility for the expansion over competing sites in other states.

“Heinz has a long history in the Holland community, providing jobs, supporting local agriculture and industrial businesses, and playing a vital role in West Michigan,” Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO Steve Arwood said. “We’re excited that Michigan will be home to one of the largest mustard producers in the world and the iconic Grey Poupon brand. This expansion demonstrates to other global companies Michigan’s standing as one of the great agriculture centers in the U.S. with a business climate that enables their success.”

To apply for a job at Kraft Heinz Foods, go to or stop by 431 W. 16th St. Applications will be available onsite at the Gate House.



5/11/2016 // JAMESTOWN CHARTER TWP, MICH – Kent Quality Foods, maker of franks, sausage and specialty meats for commercial customers, today announced the planned construction of a food processing facility in Jamestown Charter Township. Lakeshore Advantage worked for nearly a year in catalyzing the partners, information, incentives and support tools needed to finalize this location decision.

“The addition of a second manufacturing facility in West Michigan is very exciting for us,” stated Kent Quality Foods president Steve Soet. “The MEDC, Lakeshore Advantage and Jamestown Township worked closely with us to identify the site, and they were extremely helpful throughout the entire process. As our business continues to grow, this expansion will allow us to meet growing demand as well as provide the opportunity to expand our product lines.”

Kent Quality Foods, Inc., founded in 1967 in Grand Rapids, has gained new contracts, serving customers throughout the Unites States, and has reached capacity at its existing facility. The company’s second manufacturing facility, planned in Ottawa County’s Jamestown Charter Township, represents a $34.8 million investment by the family-owned company. The project is expected to create 140 new jobs over three years.

“It was a great pleasure to work along side the company, community and state leaders to secure this growth for our community," said Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage. “Kent Quality Foods will greatly complement our expansive community of growing food processors.”

As a result of the company’s investment and new job creation, the project has been awarded a $750,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. Kent Quality Foods chose Michigan over a competing site in Ohio for their new manufacturing facility.

“Kent Quality Foods’ decision to invest and add jobs in West Michigan demonstrates our state’s leadership in agriculture and food production with a business climate that enables the success of growing companies,” said Michigan Economic Development Corporation chief executive officer Steve Arwood. “It is through the efforts of Jamestown Charter Township and Lakeshore Advantage that this expansion is taking place, and we are pleased to support the collaboration.”

Jamestown Charter Township has offered to support the project in the form of a 12-year property tax abatement on the land and building improvements.

“We are delighted to welcome Kent Quality Foods as a partner in our community,” said Ken Bergwerff, Jamestown Charter Township supervisor. “Ours is a community in which business, agriculture and residents collaborate to be of mutual benefit to each other.”

West Michigan Works! also was a key partner in supporting this growth effort, offering more than $100,000 in workforce recruitment and training support. These funds will be used to train both new and existing Kent Quality Foods employees.

"West Michigan Works! is focused on providing our region's employers with a skilled and qualified workforce so that they can meet the demands of a growing economy,” stated Jacob Maas, CEO of West Michigan Works! “We're especially pleased to support the many attraction and expansion projects happening on the lakeshore."

The Lakeshore Advantage team worked diligently for nearly nine months on this location process. Nearly 15 local and state organizations joined the Lakeshore Advantage team in winning this expansion for Jamestown Charter Township.

Consumers Energy and DTE Energy were key parts of that growth team. Consumers will provide electric support to the new location and DTE will provide natural gas service.

“Our utility partners stepped up on various components of the site selection process to ensure Kent Quality Foods had the infrastructure they needed to power this expansion project,” Owens said.

About Kent Quality Foods
Since 1967, the company has been creating some of the finest franks, sausages and specialty meats in the world. Family owned and operated for three generations, Kent is able to invest all their time and energy into making higher quality, better performing sausages and franks for customers from hot dog stands to national restaurant chains, food service companies, broad line distributors and the further processing industry. More at

About Lakeshore Advantage
Lakeshore Advantage is a non-profit organization that catalyzes resources to drive economic growth in West Michigan. In 2015, Lakeshore Advantage assisted companies with 22 growth projects resulting in over $110 million dollars in new private sector investment and 780 new jobs. Lakeshore Advantage links area companies with the tools and resources needed for continued growth in Ottawa County.

My Take: Economic Development and Tulips

by Jennifer Owens, president, Lakeshore Advantage
as it appeared in The Holland Sentinel on May 8, 2016

“I don’t know exactly what you do, but I know you do great work.”

This is a common praise our team hears from those not in the field of economic development, but benefitting from growing businesses in our community. We completely understand the comment as our profession is unique, designed to be nimble and evolve to the ever-changing business community we support.

As we kick off National Economic Development Week and celebrate our community’s blooming beauty, it seems like an ideal time to tiptoe through the tulips and explore how economic development works in our community.

Most of our tulips were planted with care, many very purposefully. Some sprout up unexpectedly. The sun shines and warms the ground, awakening them from the winter slumber. Groundskeepers fertilize them and bees pollenate them for future generations. The tulips do the work of blooming, supported by their ecosystem, to be enjoyed by all in our community.

Think of the tulips as our community’s emerging and established primary employers. These employers are the economic base of our community. They create a product or service that is principally sold outside of our region, generating new money and profits that are brought back into our region. Supporting these existing employers is our team’s number one priority. We work to catalyze the resources needed to drive their health so they can create great jobs for our residents now and in the future.

Our current economy is like a healthy field of tulips abloom with opportunity and the promise of great weather ahead. The vibrant tulips exist when all the pieces of the ecosystem coordinate well together. As the catalyst driving economic vitality in our region, Lakeshore Advantage could be likened to bees, going from tulip to tulip, learning from our primary employers what they require from their community to support immediate and long-term challenges and opportunities they face.

Our team takes the bee’s-eye view of the tulip field and measures business health through a data driven approach and not purely gut feel. This allows us to collectively determine how best to support continuing business growth. We work to grow our garden at all stages of development, from a two-person company to a primary employer. We recognize the importance of retaining our mature businesses, while looking forward to support our future business leaders.

Our work cannot be done alone. We serve as the super-connectors to introduce primary employers to organizations at the state and local levels, business support groups, workforce development organizations, as well as the K-12 and post-secondary education systems. We provide guidance to our employers, helping them understand which of these tools will best meet their needs.

A majority of economic development is done in the background in the same way nurturing a tulip field happens. We are fortunate to live in a community where tulips and businesses thrive. Lakeshore Advantage is honored to be the steward of our community’s business ecosystem, connecting primary employers and emerging businesses to resources that assist their growth, keeping the whole community healthy. Although our community’s residents may not be aware of all the moving parts that go into supporting our business garden, we hope all will benefit from the vibrant, diverse employers that make our community flourish.



Partnership with Grand Rapids SmartZone Will Strengthen Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Ottawa County, Mich. // April 29, 2016 – Twenty months after Holland first considered becoming a satellite SmartZone of Grand Rapids, the Holland SmartZone application has been approved by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and the State of Michigan Treasury, allowing for tax increment financing (TIF) capture of state education taxes for economic development within its geographic boundaries to support emerging businesses and entrepreneurs.

“In the startup world, there is a saying, ‘nothing worthwhile is easy,’ and that were never more true than for our SmartZone initiative here in Holland,” said Craig Hall, chairman of the Holland SmartZone. “The path that got us here, while challenging and often frustrating, is the start of a 15-year journey to bring financial, social and intellectual capital to our emerging startup ecosystem.”

During the next 15 years, the Holland SmartZone plan anticipates tax capture of more than $7.5 million to be invested back into the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Tax capture will begin in 2016 and will continue for 15 years. Final approval was needed by mid-May for tax capture to begin in 2016.

“After nearly two years of hard work from public, private and non-profit leaders throughout West Michigan, our SmartZone is official. I am beyond proud of our regional team that got us to this point. We are looking forward to working side-by-side with technology entrepreneurs to help bring their ideas to reality,” said Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage, the organization that will administer the SmartZone.

Holland was recently named by WalletHub as the best small city to start a business. SmartZones provide technology companies, entrepreneurs and researchers a place to cluster, collaborate and share resources. Being located in a SmartZone allows startup businesses to tap into certain pre-seed microloan and other business accelerator funds. These growth tools can help accelerate businesses, open new markets and provide local jobs.

“This is the final affirmation we needed at the state level to move ahead with this locally supported initiative, making our region even more attractive to innovation and job growth. It’s another tool that deepens our resources as the best small city for business in the nation.” said Nancy DeBoer, Mayor of Holland.

The Holland SmartZone geographic region includes approximately 1,000 land parcels within 450 acres of the City of Holland and Holland Township. Some of this includes downtown Holland, Lake Macatawa waterfront and the Michigan State University Bioeconomy Institute, creating a true regional approach to economic development.

“This approval gives us the go-ahead to formally leverage our community assets and be more attractive to talent and businesses, putting us a step ahead and keeping our economy strong,” said Terry Nienhuis, Holland Charter Township supervisor.

The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland area supported initial start up costs for the Holland SmartZone.

“This is an important initiative that will bring our region together to support future business endeavors and will help ensure our community continues to thrive long into the future. We are excited that it now has final approval,” said Mike Goorhouse, president of Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area.

The application approval process could not have moved forward as it did without the strong legislative leadership from both Representative Daniela Garcia and Senator Arlan Meekhof.

“The Holland SmartZone will help continue the spirit of entrepreneurship that is already embedded in our community,” said Representative Daniela Garcia. “It’s the right fit for our community to support innovation and physical infrastructure improvements that make us attractive to talented workers and high-tech businesses.”

The approved SmartZone plan identifies anticipated creation of approximately 180 high-tech businesses and 360 associated high-tech jobs during 15 years, with a significant number of these businesses (72) and jobs (144) being created in the final years of the plan beginning in 2026 and ending in 2030.

“This long-awaited approval brings new opportunity to our community,” said Senator Arlan Meekhof. “Smart use of resources will make it possible for technology entrepreneurs to grow in West Michigan.”

Holland Charter Township approved the Holland SmartZone budget on April 21. The City of Holland held a working session on April 27 and will vote on the SmartZone budget May 4. The Holland Local Development Financing Act (LDFA) board will meet on May 18 to finalize the annual SmartZone budget.

“The Holland SmartZone is advantaged by having strong leadership, but also the ability to look at Michigan’s 16 other SmartZones and replicate their successes during the first 15 years of this program,” said Fredrick Molnar, vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at the MEDC. “Our expectation is that this satellite will lead to deeper regional collaborations with the neighboring SmartZones within West Michigan.”

About SmartZones
SmartZones are distinct geographic locations designed to spur the growth of technology-related or research-oriented businesses and employment opportunities. SmartZones provide technology companies, entrepreneurs and researchers a place to cluster, collaborate and share resources.

The designation allows the community to use tax increment financing to collect 50 percent of any increase in property tax value and invest that growth back into those designated areas to support technology business development.

Grand Rapids is home to one of eleven SmartZones throughout Michigan. Holland received their satellite SmartZone designation in November 2015. Lakeshore Advantage is the administrator of the Holland SmartZone.

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