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Water Resources Institute expansion plays into Muskegon's 'blue' strategy

Published: Friday, February 10, 2012, 4:37 PM     Updated: Friday, February 10, 2012, 5:38 PM

Dave Alexander | 
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 </script> By Dave Alexander | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it The Muskegon Chronicle

MUSKEGON – The Grand Valley State University upgrade of the Annis Water Resources Institute plays right into the community’s economic development strategy of advancing the Blue Economy.

M0903BUOY7Chronicle file photoTechnician Tom Holcomb, a recent Central Michigan graduate and 2007 Mona Shores graduate works to reattach the structure cable to the GVSU Muskegon Lake buoy observatory last summer. The buoy is a project of the Annis Water Resources Institute.

The university announced Friday that it will invest $3.4 million to construct a new field research building adjacent to its Lake Michigan Center on Muskegon Lake. Construction should begin by fall.

The facility upgrade will allow the Water Resources Institute to expand its fresh water research activities as the current Lake Michigan Center facility is full, Director Alan Steinman said. The GVSU researchers will be moving into other areas of investigation, such as climate change and invasive species issues in the Great Lakes.

“We will be able to address the critical issues facing the Great Lakes well into the 21st Century,” Steinman said, adding the new field research building will be equipped with the most up-to-date instrumentation.

AlSteinman.jpgChronicle file photoInstitute director Al Steinman talks to a group from on board GVSU's research ship the W.G. Jackson, which is birthed in Muskegon.

The Water Resources Institute was launched by the founding director Ron Ward in 1986 as a one-scientist operation. When the institute moved to Muskegon in 2001, Steinman said there were 25 employees. Today, the institute employs 65 full- and part-time employees in Muskegon, he said.

“The continued development of water research capabilities is important for the community,” said Ed Garner, president of Muskegon Area First – the local economic development agency. “Their work has been used as a catalyst for economic development strategies going forward. It is all about the Blue Water economy dealing with water and wastewater systems.”

A Brookings Institution researcher spoke to the January Business for Breakfast event of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, addressing the Blue Economy. That is described as economic activity involving water, including water treatment, water conservation or water use for manufacturing, recreation or tourism.

GVSU’s Water Resources Institute has eight principal investigators with a ninth expected to be hired by summer, Steinman said. The new research scientist will be a climatologist, who will have a new faculty position within the university, he said.

GVSUBuilding.jpgGVSUAn artist's drawing of the planned $3.4 million GVSU field research building on Muskegon Lake shows a facility that is expected to be open in 2013.

The institute already has scientists researching environmental biology and environmental chemistry. It also has a division for education and outreach along with an information services center.

Among the primary research projects under way is a second year of a Muskegon Lake data collection buoy and investigation of nutrient problems in Bear Lake. The Water Resources Institute also has been involved in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration restoration of the south shore of Muskegon Lake, improving lake sturgeon populations in the Muskegon River watershed and storm water issues in the rehabilitated Ruddiman Creek.

The education and outreach operation of the W.G. Jackson research ship in Muskegon and D.J. Angus in Grand Haven reached a combined 140,000 passengers. Information services has been combining the mapping of environmental resources the economic analysis of the value of those resources.

As GVSU freshwater research expands in Muskegon, the water’s importance to the community’s economic future is becoming better appreciated, Garner said.

“Clearly, one of our more valuable assets is our lakefront and our water,” the economic developer said.

   

Muskegon economic developer Jonathan Seyferth featured in MEDC video on talent attraction

Published: Monday, February 06, 2012, 10:04 AM    

Dave Alexander | 
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 </script> By Dave Alexander | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

MUSKEGON -- Muskegon Area First economic developer Jonathan Seyferth is one of two people featured in a Michigan Economic development video on talent attraction to Michigan.

JonathonSeyferth.jpgJonathan Seyferth

Seyferth is a young professional featured in the 2:27 video that introduces the state's MichAGAIN initiative of bringing former Michigan residents back to the state for business and professional development. The business development specialist for Muskegon Area First is a Muskegon native who recently had a job in Wyoming before coming back to Michigan and his home town in 2012 to work for the local economic development agency.

Training, attraction and retention of skilled workers is going to be a major public issue in 2012. Both President Barack Obama in the State of the Union address and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in the State of the State address highlighted worker training and development of highly-skilled individuals.

And locally, Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce is expected to work extensively on worker training and attraction of talent this year.

One of the issues facing the state and its communities is the so-called "brain drain." Michigan's best and brightest young people many times receive their college education here but their first jobs are outside of Michigan. The MichAGAIN program attempts to bring that talent back home.

"When I was in Wyoming, what I missed about Michigan is the close proximity to the water," Seyferth said in the video. "I also really missed going to Detroit Tiger (baseball) games."

Also appearing in the MichAGAIN promotional video that is part of the Pure Michigan brand is Nicole Meloche, president of Organik Consulting in Traverse City and a Marquette native. She returned to Michigan from California when it was time to begin raising a family, she said in the video.

Seyferth is a 1997 graduate of Whitehall High School who went on to receive his bachelor's degree in political science and master's degree in international administration from Central Michigan University. He worked in the educational and political sectors including being an district staff assistant to former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, in the congressman's Muskegon office.

Seyferth spent a year as a career adviser at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo. before returning to Muskegon to take the position with Muskegon Area First.

"I am who I am because of the education I received in this state and in growing up in this state," Seyferth said of returning to his roots.

   

Muskegon County jobs picture to brighten in 2012, Upjohn Institute predicts

Published: Friday, January 27, 2012, 7:31 AM     Updated: Friday, January 27, 2012, 11:17 AM

Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle By Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle The Muskegon Chronicle
 
erickcek.jpgGeorge Erickcek

The annual Ecomomic Outlook for Muskegon County from Upjohn economist George Erickcek shows overall a 1.3 percent increase in employment this year. Erickcek's annual economic forecast was presented to a packed Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce Business for Breakfast event Friday at the Holiday Inn Muskegon Harbor.

The Kalamazoo-based Upjohn Institute analysis shows the 2012 job growth should come from the goods-producing sector, which should have an employment increase of 2.7 percent. The service sector also should see a 1.5 percent gain in jobs.

But it is the government sector that should continue to loss employment with a 1.7 percent decline this year, Erickcek said. State and local governments have been hurt by declining revenues since the 2008 beginning of the Great Recession and have cut staff.

Muskegon County's flat job picture in 2011 was a tale of two sectors. The goods-producing sector was up a solid 3.4 percent in employment, while the goverment sector declined 3.2 percent. Services was also down but only a modest 0.5 percent.

The Upjohn forecast for 2013 is less robust than this year. An overall 0.9 percent increase in jobs forcasted for 2013 is a combination of a 0.4 percent increase in goods-producing and a 1.4 percent in services but still a 1.6 percent decline in government jobs, Erickcek said.

Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

   

A new L3: Historic Muskegon manufacturer becoming a leader in wind energy

Published: Saturday, January 21, 2012, 8:09 AM     Updated: Saturday, January 21, 2012, 10:23 AM

Dave Alexander | 
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By Dave Alexander | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it MLive.com

MUSKEGON — L3 Combat Propulsion Systems' move into utility-scale wind turbines would put its magnet-motor technology on steroids.

GamesaWindTurbine.JPGContributedA Gamesa is a Spanish wind turbine manufacturer and wind farm developer that has joined the Michigan Wind Energy Consortium. The company is investigating a commercial wind farm at the Muskegon County Wastewater Management System.

But before any wind energy equipment is produced in the company's Getty Street plant that is the historic home of Continental Motors, L3 has joined a Michigan Wind Energy Consortium to develop the industry in the state.

The group was co-founded by L3 and Rockford Berge in Grand Rapids — the wind energy logistics, construction and operations company between Rockford Construction and Spanish-based Berge. The consortium is investigating the development of a Michigan Energy and Technology Center on Muskegon Lake.

The electric generator needed for a wind turbine would be a huge piece of equipment compared to L3's development of small electric motors that are part of its new GreenTaxi system. The electric-motor taxiing system for jetliners, along with wind turbines, are new commercial products that could complement L3's historic military production.

L3's operations in Muskegon are accustomed to producing large equipment through its production of engines, transmissions and suspensions for tanks and military vehicles.

L3 Magnet-Motor — a German-based research and development company L3 acquired in 2006 — has been exploring wind turbines for its advanced magnet technology for some time. The magnetic direct-drive generators could be produced in Muskegon, L3 Combat Propulsion President Michael Soimar said.

“Magnet-Motor is a pioneer in direct-drive turbines, and we'd like to promote that business in the United States,” Soimar said. “It is tough to convince some people to go in that direction as there is such a debate on the wind issue.”

But direct-drive technology would eliminate the need for the turbine gear boxes, which have leaked oil and been the cause of fires, Soimar said. L3 Magnet-Motor would be looking for a turbine manufacturer as a partner on a direct-drive unit, he said.

While L3 was exploring developments in the wind turbine industry, wind energy burst on to the scene in West Michigan with a controversial plan for wind farms on Lake Michigan and a land-based development at the Muskegon County Wastewater Management System.

All of the wind development activity led to the Michigan Wind Energy Consortium, which is being co-chaired by L3 Marketing Director Philip Chizek and Rockford Berge's Bruce Thompson.

The consortium's concept for a Muskegon-based Michigan Energy and Technology Center was announced in November. Besides L3 and Rockford Berge, the consortium includes Consumers Energy, Energetx Composites, Verplank Trucking, Sand Products Corp. and Gamesa — the Spanish turbine manufacturer and wind farm developer investigating a project at the county wastewater site.

Joining what has become a private-public wind development effort in Muskegon has been the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and local economic development agencies Muskegon Area First and The Right Place in Grand Rapids. The city of Muskegon and Muskegon County officials have joined the discussions, Chizek said.

“Alternative energy has a bright future in Muskegon with research and development, manufacturing and port activities,” said Cathy Brubaker-Clarke, economic development and planning director for the city of Muskegon. “We want to be partners with these companies.”

The consortium has divided into eight working groups to tackle various issues surrounding the Michigan Energy and Technology Center such as attracting a turbine manufacturer, land-use issues along Muskegon Lake, grant funding, energy storage and interface with the electrical grid, Chizek said.

“The MEDC has absolutely stepped up, along with the local agencies,” Chizek said. “Everyone is helping make this happen.”

By the end of spring, the group should be able to update the community on its progress, Chizek said. A specific site for the energy center has not yet been identified.

“This is going to become a phased approach over many years,” he said of the Muskegon Lake energy center. “The bottom line is to show how to repurpose Muskegon's port. We have some of the best deep water … it's a best-kept secret.”

   

A New L3: Innovative "GreenTaxi" has big potential in global aviation market

Published: Friday, January 20, 2012, 6:27 AM    
Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle By Dave Alexander | Muskegon Chronicle MLive.com

MUSKEGON — When L3 Combat Propulsion Systems President Michael Soimar speaks about his company's GreenTaxi initiative, there's a sparkle in his eye.

IMG_3322.JPG

L3 Combat PropulsionCapt. Bernhard Zinser, a Lufthansa Airlines technical pilot, uses a joystick to move the Airbus A320 on the new GreenTaxi system from L3 Combat Propulsion Systems in Muskegon.

The exciting potential of the new product might have something to do with the fact that the electric-motor taxi system for commercial jets could be added to about 10,000 aircraft flying worldwide today.

“We are sitting on an incredible opportunity,” Soimar said of the Muskegon-based defense contractor that has been in a recent slump due to the ending of two wars and constraints of the federal deficits.

The GreenTaxi was rolled out to the aviation industry in December when a prototype system was installed in an Airbus 320 in cooperation with Lufthansa Airlines. The L3 Magnet-Motor device was temporarily installed in the aircraft's main landing gear wheel hubs for the test run on the Frankfurt Airport tarmac in Germany.

“The intention is to build this product in our Muskegon plant,” Soimar said. “Our Magnet-Motor people designed the technology. We will industrialize it, but the brains and credit go to them.”

IMG_3165a.jpg

L3 Combat PropulsionFrom left, Wofgang Engler, Airbus A320 chief engineer, Josef Kalla of German Aerospace Research and Manfred Heeg, president of L3 Magnet-Motor, look at the GreenTaxi system as it was demonstrated late last year at Frankfurt Airport in Germany.

L3 Combat Propulsion's GreenTaxi project is an example of the innovation in the manufacturing sector that Gov. Rick Snyder is looking for from Michigan companies. New developments like the GreenTaxi help communities like Muskegon, according to Cathy Brubaker-Clarke — the city of Muskegon's economic development and planning director.

“I think this is a plus for the community and not just for L3 as it looks for alternatives for its own company,” Brubaker-Clarke said.

The GreenTaxi system is the first nondefense product coming out of the L3 Combat Propulsion in generations. In 2006, L3 purchased Magnet-Motors — a German research and development company — to use the company's motor and generator technologies for both military and commercial applications.

Magnet-Motors' knowhow is also behind L3 Combat Propulsion's exploration of utility-scale wind turbines. L3 has joined Grand Rapids-based Rockford Berge to begin exploring the development of a Michigan Energy and Technology Center on Muskegon Lake.

Soimar knows the European market well, as he is a former member of the faculty at the Technical University of Bucharest. In Romania, he became an engineering expert in engines before coming to the United States to work in industry.

DSC00583.JPG

L3 Combat PropulsionMagnet-Motor technology is at the heart of L3 Combat Propulsion Systems' new GreenTaxi system.

The European countries are driven by the high cost of fuel — $10 a gallon for gasoline, Soimar said. The cost of energy has accelerated the European push for alternative and renewable energy, he said.

“They have to save fuel everywhere they can,” Soimar said of the early development of the GreenTaxi concept.

Moving huge aircraft at slow speeds for extended periods of time at large, congested airports gave birth to the GreenTaxi idea. It is an electric-wheel drive system for commercial jetliners. The system can be retrofitted into existing planes or be standard equipment on new aircraft, L3 Marketing Director Phil Chizek said.

The GreenTaxi system consists of the electric motor in the hub of the plane's rear wheels, a joy-stick cockpit control device, a cooling system and electronic controls that draw on the aircraft's existing auxiliary power supply. The auxiliary power unit — a small turbine that produces electricity — also powers the jet's navigation, communication and air conditioning systems.

IMG_3045.JPG

L3 Combat PropulsionLufthansa staff watch the demonstration of the GreenTaxi at Frankfurt Airport late last year.

Standard procedure is to have the commercial jets running their main turbine engines as they move around the airport before takeoffs and after landings. This is the most inefficient use of the jet engines, and they produce the most pollution while idling, Soimar said.

“The use of those turbines today at airports is a killer … a fuel sucker,” Soimar said.

The advantages of GreenTaxi are many: fuel savings, reduction of greenhouse gases, noise reduction, less wear on brakes, reduced engine maintenance and improved turnaround time while on the ground.

“Right up in the cockpit, the pilot is in complete control of the airplane through the electric hub,” Chizek said of the successful product test at the Frankfurt Airport. The Lufthansa Airbus 320 had a GreenTaxi installed, tested, disassembled and the jet returned to service within 10 days, he said.

L3 Combat Propulsion is now assembling a GreenTaxi team of customers such as the airlines and aircraft manufacturers, Soimar said. The goal is to get the GreenTaxi certified for commercial use on airline planes.

   

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