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6/28/2016 // HOLLAND, MICH – JR Automation Technologies, LLC, a global leader in custom automation solutions, announced their intention to expand in Holland Charter Township, Michigan. JR Automation’s decision to expand operations in Holland and invest $5.6 million will create 250 new jobs in the area over the course of the project.

“West Michigan and the talented people who choose to work at JR are huge contributors to our continued success and expansion.  Having the supporting structure of Lakeshore Advantage, MEDC, Michigan Works! and Holland Charter Township allows JR to focus on our operational business growth in Michigan,” said Bryan Jones, CEO, JR Automation. “West Michigan is a great place to live and raise a family and we are excited to be offering hundreds of new job opportunities to both experienced engineers and new grads. We look forward to the continued opportunities that will be generated in our community through this expansion.”

Lakeshore Advantage played a key role in supporting the West Michigan-based company through the decision making process by catalyzing organizations and available resources to help the company grow here. JR Automation currently has multiple facilities in the Holland area, and the bulk of the jobs being created are in engineering.

"JR Automation is a true example of a local company that started in a garage now developed into one of region’s major employers,” said Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage. “The systems developed by the JR team are sure to equip manufacturers throughout the world for efficiency and growth."

Since 1980, JR Automation has provided custom automated equipment and services to customers in a variety of industries, including automotive, aerospace, medical device, pharmaceutical, food processing, construction, and more. The company has experienced substantial growth since 2009.

“As an innovative, engineering-focused organization, JR Automation fits nicely into our local business community’s sweet spot.  Their continued growth and success is no surprise, as JR has grown 475 percent since 2009,” said Jane Clark, president, Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce. “Anyone familiar with the company’s strong culture, customer focus and innovative technologies can be confident that we will continue to see great things from JR Automation.”

JR Automation chose to expand in Michigan through a national search. As a result of the positive impact this expansion will have on the community, the company has been awarded a $2.2 million Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant.

“JR Automation’s decision to expand in Michigan rather than in another state means good-paying jobs for Michigan residents and reflects the depth of our state’s manufacturing talent,” MEDC CEO Steve Arwood said. “JR Automation is an important employer in the Holland area, and this investment will make the region even stronger for years to come.”

Holland Charter Township’s support was an important factor that led to the decision to grow in the area. Holland Charter Township has offered a12-year property tax abatement to the company.

“The Board members and staff of Holland Charter Township are excited about the JR Automation expansion project,” states Don Komejan of Holland Charter Township. “The company is a very good corporate member of our local community and we look forward to their continued success in the township.”

West Michigan Works! is providing up to $190,000 in grants and workforce support to JR Automation. These funds will allow the company to have the skilled and qualified workforce they need to be successful.

"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,” said Jacob Maas, CEO of Michigan Works!. “We're especially pleased to support the many attraction and expansion projects happening on the lakeshore."

Those interested in employment at JR Automation should visit

Have a Big Idea? Enter 5x5 and win $5,000

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. June 23, 2016 – Start Garden, the entity organizing West Michigan’s regional startup ecosystem, today announced the return of 5X5 Night, the renowned pitch competition, with a monthly series of events in cities and neighborhoods in the area that haven’t been previously reached. The first revived 5X5 Night will take place at the City Flats Hotel in Holland, Mich on Thursday, July 21. Anyone can submit an idea starting today at


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.

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