Young professionals make pitch for brewery in Muskegon
Published: Friday, December 16, 2011, 1:37 PM
By Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle MLive.com
MUSKEGON – A group of local young professionals are passionate about the “beer tent capital of the world” becoming home to a craft brewery or brew pub.
They love Muskegon to the point that 13 of them stripped to swimsuits and went into chilly Lake Michigan last weekend.
The goal was to grab the attention of the folks at New Belgium Brewery, who are looking at a second location for their craft-beer production. Press reports indicate the Fort Collins, Colo., craft brewer has narrowed its look for an eastern U.S. location to four sites, including Asheville, N.C., and Philadelphia.
Chances that the Muskegon group's “guerrilla marketing” campaign will be successful are slim but the idea was to generate interest in Muskegon and gather the forces that will promote the community to the outside world.
“Muskegon has so much to offer," said Jonathon Seyferth. "It's the perfect location for a brewery, with abundant fresh water and a vibrant home brewing culture.”
The LOVE MUSKEGON photo shoot last Saturday was hatched at the recent holiday party of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. Seyferth is an economic developer for Muskegon Area First.
For years, Muskegon's festivals have proven that the community draws those who love beer. The “beer tent capital” nickname comes from events such as Parties in the Park, Shoreline Spectacular and the former Muskegon Summer Celebration.
While fun and beer have been synonymous in Muskegon for decades, no serious plans for a microbrewery or brew pub have developed.
“Locals have long been anticipating a quality, craft beer brewery here,” said Seyferth, co-organizer of the New Belgium marketing effort. “We know that we're late to the game in trying to get New Belgium, so we thought we needed to do something bold to get their attention.”
The group of young professionals entered the 38-degree waters of Lake Michigan in subfreezing air temperatures to get the needed photo, captured by Riversedge Photography in Muskegon. They each held a sign, collectively spelling out LOVE MUSKEGON along with a map outline of Michigan with a “heart” marking Muskegon's location.
“We love this place,” said co-organizer Jennifer Cross, owner of the downtown retail business, Continuity. “We want others to also … and to share in the pride that we have for Muskegon.”
Also helping in the Belgium Brewery effort were the owners of Revel, the Muskegon-based marketing and communications firm. Revel's Andy Maciejewski was one of the Lake Michigan waders.
“We were just getting cold for a good cause,” Maciejewski said.
The group has sent New Belgium Brewery its Lake Michigan photos to follow up a formal presentation that Seyferth provided the company on Muskegon's attributes. To generate interest and buzz in Muskegon and in Fort Collins, the group is using Facebook and Twitter in an attempt to get Muskegon's name out, Cross said.
Seyferth said New Belgium has a great corporate culture and is being highly sought after by many communities. New Belgium is the third-largest craft brewery in the nation behind Boston Beer Co. and Sierra Nevada.
Founded in 1991 as a basement brewery, the company that produces the Sunshine Wheat, Fat Tire, 1554 and Blue Paddle varieties produced 700,000 barrels of beer this year with profits up 15 percent. New Belgium products are distributed in 28 states, but not Michigan.
“We haven't gotten any acknowledgment from them yet,” Seyferth said. “Hopefully, this will draw some attention. If it's New Belgium, all the better.”
New Belgium Public Relations Director Bryan Simpson told The Chronicle that his company is pretty far along in locating a plant in the "untapped region in the Northeast." However, in the future the company will have plans to announce for Michigan.
Baker College of Muskegon attracting more out-of-state students
Published: Wednesday, December 14, 2011, 6:03 AM
MUSKEGON — When Payton Pugh graduated high school in June 2010, she had lots of options on where to go for culinary school.
The Winchester, Va., resident was accepted at culinary schools in California, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. But when it came time to seal the deal, she made a choice that at first blush seems a bit unusual: She came to Muskegon.
Pugh, 19, enrolled at Baker College's Culinary Institute of Michigan, 336 W. in downtown Muskegon, and is working toward an associate degree in culinary arts. She's expecting to graduate by next summer.
“I saw Baker, I saw where it was located, and I just sort of fell in love with it,” she said.
Pugh is part of what is turning out to be a growing demographic at Baker College of Muskegon — out-of-state students.
The number of out-state-students attending Baker has nearly tripled in the past six years, jumping from 36 in 2005 to 107 in 2011. While the students represent only 2 percent of the college's enrollment of 5,200, the trend hasn't escaped administrators.
Lee Coggin, president of Baker College of Muskegon, said he is pleased that more students are choosing Baker College. Coggin said he believes the increase reflects two things: Quality programs and affordable tuition.
The average cost of one year's tuition at Baker College of Muskegon for a full-time student is $7,500. Baker College, unlike public universities, doesn't charge out-of-state students a different tuition rate than students from Michigan.
Coggin said students are becoming more savvy about choosing where they attend college.
“Students are getting much more sophisticated about where they shop for certain programs,” Coggin said.
Baker is a private, nonprofit, Michigan-based career college with 11 campuses throughout the state.
Many of its out-of-state students are from nearby states, such as Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, but some have come from places such as Tennessee, Florida, New York, California and Texas.
For Pugh, the decision to come to Baker boiled down to several factors. She saw Baker's culinary program as strong, and while she loved the area's beaches, she also was attracted by the amount of snow and cold weather that Muskegon gets each year.
“I just love the cold,” she said. “I wish it would snow all the time.”
Out-of-state students are enrolled at numerous programs at Baker, but Coggin said the Culinary Institute of Michigan has been one of the school's major draws. Numbers detailing how many out-of-state students were enrolled at the Culinary Institute were not available.
Other programs attracting attention are physical therapy assistant, occupational therapy assistant and veterinary technician, administrators say.
“I think the Culinary Institute has certainly increased our national profile,” Coggin said. He said the induction of Robb White, the institute's Dean of Culinary, into the American Academy of Chefs has helped elevate the standing of the school.
Kendra Alexander, of Huntington, Ind., said she chose Baker's Culinary Institute because she was looking for a school that was less expensive than those in Indiana, and one of her friends who already was attending another Baker campus in Michigan praised the school.
“I wanted to try something out-of-state, something new,” said Alexander, a first-year student. She said she looked at other culinary schools, but “they just weren't in my price range.”
Alexander has enjoyed her time at the Culinary Institute, where she's studied baking and pastry, but she recently switched directions and enrolled in Baker's Emergency Medical Technician program.
“I don't really have an explanation for it,” she said. “I just want to do something more for people than cooking. I figure that as an EMT I can help people.”
Coggin says beefing up its marketing might have accounted for part of the increase in out-of-staters. Baker, which has 11 campuses throughout the state, now has representatives who visit high schools in Illinois and Indiana.
The college has also attempted to reach out to students using social media websites, such as Facebook, and recently purchased a full-page ad on the back of a nationally renowned culinary magazine.
“It's a pretty comprehensive strategy to get our name in front of students,” he said. “Our biggest hope is that they will come pay us a visit.”
It wasn't a certain program that lured Anthony Parrott of Chicago to Baker College of Muskegon. It was his sister, Letha.
She was attending Baker in Muskegon, but she was homesick and thinking about leaving, he said. The Jacksonsville, Fla., school at which he was studying carpentry had closed, so Parrot, 24, said he decided to come to Baker and enrolled in the fall of 2006.
“I didn't want her to quit school,” Parrott said. “I had the ambition of rescuing her, but I also didn't have a lot going on, and I knew the importance of education.”
He decided to pursue a bachelor's degree in human services, saying he was attracted to the topic because he likes to help people through tough situations.
“It's just something that comes naturally to me,” he said. “Talking with people and helping them rationalize.”
What also made Baker a reasonable choice for Parrott, who took time off from Baker after enrolling in 2006 because of a death in his family, was its tuition. He'll graduate with a bachelor's degree this spring.
“If I had out-of-state tuition, I probably wouldn't be here,” he said. “That would definitely make a difference.”
GE Aviation gets big Southwest Airlines engine contract, airfoils made in Muskegon
Muskegon's Mercy Health Partners plans $15.4 million renovation, addition
Published: Wednesday, December 07, 2011, 7:30 AM
A proposed $15.4 million renovation and addition at Mercy Health Partners’ Mercy hospital campus would continue a facility consolidation in Muskegon that began with the 2008 merger with Hackley Hospital.
The project, representing the largest remaining space consolidation since the merger, would enable Mercy Health Partners to relocate inpatient and outpatient diagnostic labs from the Muskegon General campus on Oak Street and generate efficiencies by reducing lab locations in Muskegon from three to two: The Mercy Campus and the Hackley hospital campus.
In closing inpatient services at the 25-bed Oak Street campus, Mercy Health Partners will save $1.2 million annually in utility and maintenance costs and $820,000 in labor costs, plus avoid $10 million in needed capital improvements at the site, according to a certificate-of-need application the health system filed with the state.
Pending state approval, the renovation work could begin this winter, said Jim Roberge, senior director of facilities services at Mercy Health Partners.
The proposed two-story, 39,495-square-foot addition, plus 10,358 square feet in renovated space, would accommodate the lab work relocating from Oak Street and the future expansion of clinical services at the Mercy Campus that’s presently “very tight” on space, Roberge said.
Mercy Health Partners plans to leave one floor of the addition vacant for now and decide on its use later, Roberge said.
“That gives us some flexibility on what is really the best use of clinical space,” he said. “There’s a variety of options that we’ll evaluate to do with that space.”
Mercy will also review options for the Oak Street campus and will “very likely” issue an RFP to developers next year to generate ideas, Roberge said. The future use of the Oak Street campus “is all about demand and need and so forth,” he said.
“We hope there may be a better use for that property in the future,” he said. “It’s really a re-purposing of the property, we hope, at some level. Anything is a potential possibility, I would suspect.”
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