Category Archives: Community

Five West Michigan Entrepreneurs & Professionals Share Their New Year’s Resolutions


For many, New Year’s Resolutions are strictly personal goals: exercise, eat healthily, travel more… finally sign up for that photography class. While those are great goals to prioritize for the year, a new practice worth integrating is to make resolutions for your professional life, as well.

There is always room for improvement in every organization, in every leader, entrepreneur or employee. The New Year is a great time to evaluate, set goals, and create a concrete resolution. If you actively make efforts to achieve it throughout the year, you might be surprised how it can impact your success!

The Grand Rapids Chamber asked five West Michigan entrepreneurs and professionals to share both their career-related and personal resolutions for the year.

Joshua Tyron
Owner & Lead Creative, SideCar Studios

Professional Resolution: To move faster and do more with less.  New tech is fun, but great work comes from the heart.  The best camera you own is the one you have with you.

Personal Resolution: 2018 will be a year of purging. I am focused on dropping any personal items that do not bring me joy.  Seriously, anyone need some tent stakes or one of the three corkscrews I have in my kitchen?

Tracy Fahselt
Digital Marketing Manager, AHC+Hospitality

Professional Resolution: My theme for 2018 is to streamline. The number of accounts we manage online continues to grow at a rapid pace. I am incorporating new software to make managing them smarter, not harder. Efficiency is my friend.

Personal Resolution: I want to travel more this year. Whether locally or globally, I enjoy visiting places I’ve never been and doing something I’ve never done before. What should it be this year? I can’t wait to see!

Brandon Voorhees
Co-Owner, Gray Skies Distillery

Professional Resolution:  Improve Time Management.  One of the many challenges of owning a small start-up business is deciding the most efficient and valuable way to spend time.  Every day there is a seemingly never-ending ‘to-do’ list, and if you are not careful, it is easy to get bogged down with the “low hanging fruit” tasks instead of diving into the more value-adding (yet more time-consuming) projects.  I look forward to improving time management efficiency in 2018.

Personal Resolution:  I know this is boring and cliché, but I must be honest.  My big resolution this year is to improve physical health by exercising more and updating my diet.  When life gets fast, it is easy to fall into a rut where both mentioned items can easily be neglected – which is exactly where I found myself the past couple years.  I’m more excited than ever to get back on track in these areas.  I have started a fitness challenge at a local training facility and have adopted a meal planning strategy to help achieve my goals.  Cheers to becoming healthier in 2018!

Elyse Wild
Editor-in-Chief, Women’s LifeStyle Magazine

Professional Resolution: I usually don’t make resolutions, but this year I set goals for what I want to learn. For my career, I want to learn basic code and start learning statistics. As a writer, interpreting data is essential, and I want to be able to “find the story in the numbers,” as they say.

Personal Resolution: I want to learn how to play the violin and how to knit. It is said that learning a musical instrument at any age improves your cognitive function, and I love the sound of the violin. As for knitting, my mom can make anything with a pair of knitting needles, and my great uncle was a well-known fiber artist; I admire their work and like the idea of training my hands to do something other than scroll through my news feed.

Javier Olvera
President & Co-Owner, Supermercado Mexico

Professional Resolution: We plan to focus on efficiency this year. If we’re more efficient, we’ll grow even faster – so we’ll be focusing on efficiency in terms of our employees and our standards.

Personal Resolution: I’d like to meet more new people and make new connections. I would also like to be healthier through exercise and playing basketball. Of course, I’d also like to spend more time with family! That’s important as well.

Like what you’re reading? Check out our Chamber Blog to read our Member Spotlights, feature articles, and other great content!

The Chamber’s Easy Guide to Giving Back During the Holiday Season

While we’re all drawing up our wishlists for the holidays, it’s important not to forget that this time of year is about more than just getting presents, eating your heart out, and family festivities. It’s also a time to be generous and compassionate, especially to those less fortunate than ourselves.

Small acts of kindness can have a more significant impact than you might think. Not only are you bringing joy to someone else, but you elevate your own mood, and inspire others to give back as well. It has a ripple effect.

Here are some little ways you can give back before the year ends:

  • Collect canned goods and donate them to a food bank
  • Gather old clothes and donate them to a homeless shelter
  • Run an errand for someone you know.
  • Give someone an unexpected and genuine compliment
  • Generously tip your next server or Uber driver
  • Leave a positive note on someone’s desk or windshield
  • Bring a box of toys to a children’s hospital
  • Have a nice photo of you and a loved one framed and send it to them
  • Bring pet food, toys or blankets to an animal shelter

Read more: The 2017 Chamber Guide for Supporting Local on Small Business Saturday

If you’re looking to donate to a local charity or nonprofit this holiday season, we’ve got you covered. To help make giving back more manageable, we asked members of our Chamber staff to tell us about the non-profit organizations and charities they’ll be donating to this year.

Anna Young
Digital Content Specialist

Chosen non-profit: A local non-profit that I love is the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan. They work to educate the community about recognizing mental health illnesses. The health of your mind is just as important as the health of your body, and the Mental Health Foundation is working to get past the stigma of mental health illnesses so people can seek the treatment they need!

Why she gives back: Giving is so incredibly important any time of year, not just during the holiday season. Everyone can find an issue that matters to them, and in a great community like Grand Rapids, there is probably an organization you can connect with that is working on what you care about!

Ashlie Johnson
Talent Development Program Coordinator

Chosen non-profit: The Boys and Girls Club is a great one to give to.  I believe that our youth are incredibly important because they are the future – PERIOD! Without them being encouraged and mentored, they stand the unfortunate chance of being left behind or falling through the cracks.  This organization makes it possible for youth, without immediate access to guidance, tap into their own genius to reach their full potential. It takes time, commitment, money, and resources for those who serve in this capacity to do so every single day.  Even if you do not have millions of dollars to give, you can be philanthropic with your time. Help someone else tap into their greatness!

Why she gives back: Giving back is something that we should do all year round, not just during the holiday season.  It should be a part of who we are at our core.  We should be constantly seeking ways to serve others. When you give back, it comes back to you through the positive change you make in the lives of those you helped.

Mary Beth Kenyon
Membership Coordinator

Chosen non-profit: I contribute to the United Way. They have a wide variety of Agency Partners, and you can designate who you wish to support. Everything from housing and family crisis needs to education and financial security.

Why she gives back: Giving back is something that was instilled in me ever since I was very young. I have been blessed with never having to worry about food or shelter so we try to do what we can all year round to help those that are not as fortunate, and especially during the holidays when the need seems to be greater.

Kenneth James
Talent Development Program Manager

Chosen non-profit: I always give to Angel Tree. They identify people in need over the holidays, and you can provide gifts to children that normally wouldn’t have any gifts under the tree. My family gets an Angel Tree tag, goes shopping together, and we pick something to donate that we would want to get as a present.

Why he gives back: Sometimes we take things for granted. Growing up, organizations with donation programs helped my family. Now that I’m in a position to give back, I make sure to do my part. There are people less fortunate than I am and I want them to experience a pleasant holiday if they can.


Like what you’re reading? Check out our Chamber Blog and read our Member Spotlights, feature articles, and other great content!

The 2017 Chamber Guide for Supporting Local on Small Business Saturday

Competing with the big boys at Target and Amazon can get tricky this time of year. Small Business Saturday (on November 25, 2017) is just one way we can show some much-deserved love to the local organizations that bring that special touch to our community while supporting our economy all year round.

As the big day approaches, we at the Chamber met up with six local West Michiganders and asked them about some of their favorite local spots that they’ll be hitting around the holidays. Forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday – support local this holiday season!

With the help of six West Michigan locals:

George Aquino
Vice President & Managing Director, AHC+ Hospitality

Favorite local spots: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t eat, drink, or shop at Aperitivo in the Downtown Market. How can anyone resist some wine and cheese and all the other goodness Aperitivo includes on their “Monger’s Choice” board? When you’re on the West Side, you have to try the ginormous roasted chicken at Butcher’s Union and the Spicy Supreme pizza slice at Fratelli’s on Bridge Street (preferably after 2 a.m.).

Holiday gift ideas: For the hip guy in your life, go to Apothecary Off Main. I bought a Bawston & Tucker “solid cologne”, an old school razor, and replacement blades that only cost three dollars. Nobody would turn down booze as a gift – so splurge on three bottles at Gray Skies Distillery, like their Utility Vodka, Michigan Single Malt Whiskey, and their BFH Gin. While you’re at it, why not throw in a shirt too?

Why he supports local: I love to support local as long as the quality is there. Fortunately, we have quite a number of local establishments that are worth supporting. But let’s not pinhole every “chain” as a foreign entity because a lot of these chains are owned by locals and employ locals like you and me. They are just as much a part of the local ecosystem as the small business retailer or food truck operator. Maintaining a balance is the key to a successful model for business success in downtown GR.

Shlynn Rhodes
Administrative Manager, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

Favorite local spots: My favorite is Parsley, the fabulous Mediterranean restaurant downtown. The two owners and staff are amazing. They work super hard and are nice to everybody. That’s what I appreciate about small businesses: You come in, and they remember you and what you like. Another one is Dear Prudence. It’s a beautiful little boutique. They have great jewelry, clothes, and other unique little things. I love the way they take care of their customers.

Holiday gift ideas: 6.25 Paper Studio always has unique items. I know I’m going to find something super cool as either a gift or for my own personal use. One time I bought these hilarious birthday cards with cuss words on it!

Why she supports local: I feel better spending my money locally because I feel like I’m supporting my neighbor, friend, or coworker. I’m helping somebody grow their business and hopefully helping them stay in business!

Tuan Tran
Supply Chain Guru, The Stow Company

Favorite local spots: Terra is a great spot for a healthy brunch. Emonae has amazing and authentic Korean food and it provides you with that whole indoor barbecue experience. Field & Fire is a lovely breakfast spot with fresh croissants and other pastries. For staying in shape, I go to FZIQUE for cycling and CKO Kickboxing when I really want to go all out.

Holiday gift ideas: You can’t go wrong with the Downtown Market. With all the shops there, you’ll get a wide variety of choices from fancy olive oil, pink sea salt, or even a selection of cheeses. If you’re feeling lazy, you can just get gift cards from basically any of the stores there, like Pho 616, Fish Lads, MadCap, or Aperitivo.

Why he supports local: Supporting local means supporting Grand Rapids, and I’m all about that.

Lisa Cooper
HR Business Partner, HR Collaborative

Favorite local spots: I love Sovengard as I’m of Swedish descent. It reminds me of my grandmother’s cooking – only better! The Rockwell Republic is another favorite. While they’ve been around for a few years, their sushi and cocktail menu is always on point!

Holiday gift ideas: Due to the proximity to HR Collaborative, I enjoy the West Side. It’s an up and coming area! I like shopping at Denym. There’s also a great secondhand store over there called the Conscious Collective.

Why she supports local: As the wife of a small business owner, I am pleased to support our local businesses. I think you can find the best hidden gems and unique items in smaller organizations. Amazon is great, but there are a lot of locally made and cultivated things that you just can’t find on Amazon!

Ace Marasigan
Banking Center Manager, Old National Bank – Downtown Grand Rapids

Photo by Two Eagles Marcus

Favorite local spots: The JW Marriott’s has incredible flatbread and excellent service. Angel’s Thai Cafe, right downtown, has delicious shrimp rolls. I can easily eat two orders of them in one go, with an extra side of shrimp rolls! Indian Masala has out of this world butter chicken and garlic naan. Cafe Boba is great for their tapioca pearl drinks if you’re looking for something sweet after a heavy meal.

Holiday gift ideas: Boxed GR gives you the best local items all in one neat box – delivered right to your doorstep! Vault of Midnight is a good spot if you’re looking for a present for one of your nerdy hipster friends. They have fun board games, comic books, and other cool trinkets. Eastern Floral is nice for when you want to impress that special lady in your life. For me, that’s my wife!

Why he supports local: Every dollar that you give to a local business owner feeds our local economy. $50 spent at Eastern Floral (vs a website like supports the local expert who arranged the flowers and the local clerk who handled my transaction. They both have jobs because of customers like you and me. They get paid by their local employer and, in turn, they hopefully go out into the Grand Rapids area and spend that money locally. In the end, that helps all of us.

Gricelda Mata
Owner, Lindo Mexico

Favorite local spots: El Pollo Loco is one my favorite Mexican restaurants. Another place I go to a lot is Bistro Bella Vita. My son loves it there! I also really admire Jason and Kris Spaulding of Brewery Vivant. To me, they’re an inspiration for being so involved with the community.

Holiday gift ideas: If you’re thinking of getting me a gift, I’d say go to Wealthy Street Bakery! It’s awesome. For ice cream and other sweet treats, Furniture City Creamery and Love’s Ice Cream in the Downtown Market are very good.

Why she supports local: All the money stays in the community! That is the most important thing. It allows us to grow together because the money doesn’t go somewhere else.


Over 80 percent of our 2,500 Chamber members operate companies with 50 or fewer employees? Check out our Business Directory if you’re looking for more local gems!

Don’t forget to hashtag all your new finds with #SmallBizSat, #ShopSmall, and #SmallBusinessSaturday when you post online!


Meet the 2017 EPIC Award Recipients!

On the 18th of October 2017 at 20 Monroe Live, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the 2017 EPIC Awards – where local organizations and professionals were recognized for their outstanding success stories and contributions to West Michigan’s thriving economy.

“We are proud to support businesses and individuals growing, innovating, collaborating, and creating right here in West Michigan,” said Rick Baker, President & CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber. “They are the economic engines driving growth in the Grand Rapids region.”

Twenty local entrepreneurs and non-profit organizations were in the running as finalists for seven EPIC Award categories. Recipients and finalists alike are honored for their support of the community, their growth and innovation in business, and for their work with others as mentors and as collaborators.

Each finalist was required to complete a comprehensive application as part of the nomination process. Seven selection committees comprised of both Chamber members and sponsors were then formed for each EPIC award category. After careful review of all nominee applications, each committee selected three finalists to interview before finally selecting a winner.

And the 2017 EPIC Award Recipients are…

Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Elizabeth Schenk, Posh Petals

Owner Elizabeth Schenk and the Posh Petals team

WHAT THEY DO: Posh Petals designs and creates fresh flower arrangements in a variety of styles for weddings, events and everyday occasions. They love sharing the beauty they get to experience every day and their passion shows in their work.

Woman-Owned Business of the Year
Mixed Staffing & Recruiting

Sara Sherry Knoester, President of Mixed Staffing & Recruiting

WHAT THEY DO: A certified Woman-Owned professional staffing agency that focuses on meeting their clients’ needs 100% of the time. They work with individuals and find the best fit not only for their clients but their candidates as well. They focus on placing the right people with the right employers, finding today’s talent and tomorrow’s success.

Minority-Owned Business of the Year
Preferred Construction Group

Troy Yarbrough, CEO of Preferred Construction Group

WHAT THEY DO: PCG helps elevate healthcare, educational and commercial facilities in the greater Grand Rapids area through exceptional construction management and general contracting services.

Learn more about Troy Yarbrough and PCG here.

Veteran-Owned Business of the Year
Elevator Service Inc.

Nate McFadden, President of Elevator Service Inc.

WHAT THEY DO: Headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan for over 30 years, Elevator Service Inc. provides safe and quality construction, modernization, and repair services for all elevator applications in many of Michigan’s most noteworthy institutions.

Small Business of the Year

Sara Moylan, owner of SheFit

WHAT THEY DO: A performance-enhancing women’s apparel company with an emphasis on fully custom adjustable sports bras for women of all ages, sizes, and athletic levels.

Non-Profit of the Year
Dégagé Ministries

Marge Palmerlee, Executive Director of Dégagé Ministries

WHAT THEY DO: Daily, Degage Ministries offers dignified and relationship-oriented services to 400-500 individuals who are experiencing homelessness and numerous hardships.

Excellence in Business
Sun Title 

Lawrence Duthler, Owner & President of Sun Title

WHAT THEY DO: Sun Title attracts, retains and supports the very best title professionals, who are able to provide unparalleled levels of expertise and service to professionals and their clients throughout the entire real estate transaction.

And that’s a wrap.

See you at the 2018 EPIC Awards!

It’s always a good time with Chamber Team!

Back to the Future … with Cheese

By Andy Johnston, Vice President of Government & Corporate Affairs

“The future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one.” – Emmet “Doc” Brown

In the 1989 time-travelling classic, Back to the Future II, Marty McFly travels to 2015. The future world imagined by the filmmakers got a number of things right (automation, biometrics) and other things wrong (internet, mobile phones).

Based on trends at the time, they did their best to predict 26 years into the future. While today’s society may not have hoverboards (real ones!) and flying cars, the filmmakers didn’t do too bad. And the inaccuracies? So, what! (They still might come true.)

As chamber leaders, we need to try our best to predict 26 years (or maybe just 6 at our current rate of change) into the future and develop a plan to position our organizations for success. To provide value for our members and the community, we must lead by anticipating what the future holds and doing our best to create and lead the change. In a world cluttered with noise and information, leaders must cut through, synthesize and actualize new information, or we’ll be left behind.

This brings to mind the lessons learned in the classic, “Who Moved My Cheese?” The world is changing and we need to keep our running shoes on.

It illustrates how we must be ready to change, to burn our current platforms early and mercilessly. We must paint the picture of the future for our members, know our stakeholders, reward innovative behavior on our teams and not get hung up on “who moved the cheese”.

A complimentary concept is to think about how to keep your organization on the “bleeding edge.” Defined as “the very forefront of technological development”, chambers can live in this space by demonstrating a willingness to take on a new development that is so new that it could be risky. Scary, right?

One of my Institute classmates had a great insight … She rejected the adage “fail fast.” Instead, she suggests we consider new initiatives “experiments.” I love this. It implies to the Board, staff and community that you are trying something new and sets that expectation that it may fail. And that’s OK.

Plus, I think it’s a concept that a scientist like Doc Brown would really like! He experimented and imagined what could be. When presented with new technology, like the ability to make the car fly, Doc embraced it and incorporated it into the DeLorean.

For Chambers, let’s continue to embrace new technology and trends. Our stakeholders are doing it and if we are leading the business community, we should be the first to do it.

With technology changing at faster pace, our organizations needs to be early adopters, so we can bring the lessons we learn to our members and communities. These efforts will maximize our value and provide a strong return on member investment.

To position your organization for success and get started planning for the future, ACCE’s report, Horizon Initiative: Chambers 2025 is a great reference for Chambers.

At the end of the first Back to the Future, Doc, Marty, and Jennifer are about to head 30 years into the future. Marty is concerned that Doc isn’t giving himself enough road to get up to 88 miles per hour and Doc responds, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” And the DeLorean flies off. Awesome.

Ultimately, we want to have the same insightful answers like Doc Brown. We need to keep our sights on the future and fly towards it.

About Andy Johnston

Andy Johnston serves as Vice President of Government & Corporate Affairs for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and is responsible for managing the Chamber’s public policy efforts on behalf of over 2,400 members before local, state and federal stakeholders.

He serves as a member of the Chamber’s Leadership Team, responsible for strategic planning and execution, organizational development, day-to-day decision making, marketing and communications. Andy also manages the advocacy efforts of the West Michigan Chamber Coalition.

We have the recipe for a longer life

What are you doing to live a longer life? It’s easy to do.

There are simple things you can do every day to set yourself up to live life to the fullest and achieve the longest life possible. At the Health Care Summit on June 16 (register here!), Tony Buettner from the Blue Zones Project will be joining us to discuss what we can do as a community, and individually, to improve our health and lower health care costs.

To get you thinking about how daily activities can impact your life-span, we’ve put the Blue Zones Power 9 principles in action. The Power 9 tips for longevity make it easy to make positive behavioral changes. You can make your home and work place your own personal Blue Zone.

Join us at the Health Care Summit on June 16.

This is just the beginning of the chance for a longer life. At the Health Care Summit, you’ll join community members and local leaders to discuss how West Michigan can add years to your life. Blue Zones Project expert Tony Buettner will share the Secrets to a Longer Life. Don’t miss it.

Register today!

The first things you should do is pause for three minutes and take the vitality test found here. The test will show you how many years you can add to your life by adopting the simple changes outlined in your personalized improvement plan. Once you have your plan, look at the Power 9 list. Which three can you implement today? Start small and pick the easiest ones. To make them a habit, wait 12 weeks before adding the next three.

Longevity: The Power 9

The Power Nine covers the following life domains: What to do to optimize your lifestyle for a longer, healthier life; how to think; how to eat; and how to build social relationships that support your good habits.

  • Move Naturally: You don’t have to exercise in a gym to see results. By working natural exercise into your daily routine, you’ll receive the benefit without the hassle. Park on a higher floor, ditch your riding lawn mower, and hide your TV remote.
  • Purpose: Do you know your purpose? You should. Being cognizant of your purpose adds 7 years to your life. Get started by creating a personal mission statement. Why do you get up in the morning? What is truly important to you?
  • Down Shift: Stress is a killer. Force yourself to take mental and physical breaks. Use this time to meet with friends, family, or to spend time alone. Find what helps you relieve stress and anxiety and allow yourself to take a break.
  • 80% Rule: Feel full? Stop eating! When you feel 80% full, push the plate away. Eating the extra 20% could be the difference between losing and gaining weight.
  • Plant Slant: They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away. In truth, a plant-based diet adds years to your life. Fill up on soy products, olive oil, and vegetables. We aren’t saying go full veggie, but limit your intake of meat to 3-4 ounces five times a month.
  • Wine @ 5: You read that right. 1-2 glasses of wine with friends and food will do your body and mind good.
  • Belong: Attending faith-based services four times a month will add 4-14 years to your life. Not religious? Find a non-denominational community. Sharing common ideals, feeling togetherness, and even the act of singing hymns will enhance your physical and mental being.
  • Loved Ones First: Where does your family fall on your priorities list? What about your grandparents? Investing in your loved ones, young and old, will add years to their life and yours.
  • Right Tribe: We live longer with a little help from our friends. Healthy behavior is contagious. Long-lived people choose friends or were born into circles that impact their behavior in a positive way.

To make it easy, we’ve created a recipe for the perfect blue zone day.

6 a.m. Wake up and remember your purpose. Really! Think about what you’ll do today to feed your purpose. Make your breakfast. This should be the biggest meal of the day. You’ll need that energy. Hand grind your coffee for a little exercise. Hold the bacon.

7 a.m. Get you and your family out the door. Walk or ride your bike to work. If you are driving, park on a higher level or at the back of the parking lot. Don’t forget to hydrate!

8 a.m. Look at your work load. Build in time to rest and destress throughout the day. This should be the first time you look at your cell phone for the day.

10 a.m. Take a five minute break. Get outside and soak up some sun. Have a handful of nuts. Drink a large glass of water.

12 p.m. Grab your co-workers and eat a small plant-based meal. Include a dash of olive oil and soy for protein. Relax and take your time. Stop eating when you’re 80% full. Take a ten minute walk after you’ve eaten.

1 p.m. Once back at your desk, reassess your work load.

3 p.m. Make a cup of herbal tea and call a relative. Make plans to see them in the upcoming week.

5 p.m. Meet your friends for happy hour. Have a glass (or 2) of wine and connect with your group. Unplug. Do. Not. Look. At. Your. Cell. Phone. Seriously, don’t.

6 p.m. Time to go home. Don’t let traffic get you down. Here are some tips. Think about what you did today to serve your purpose. Enjoy a plant-based meal with your family. Encourage conversation and connection at the dinner table.

7 p.m. Take an after dinner walk or bike ride with your family. Cement healthy behaviors and make exercise accessible and fun. When you get home, put that cell phone away for the night.

8 p.m. Meditate. Whether you do yoga, stretching, or simply sitting without noise, take time to listen to your inner monologue. How do you feel? How did the day go? What can you try tomorrow to improve?

9 p.m. Start your bedtime routine. No cell phone. No TV. No blue lights shinning on your face in the dark. Make your plant-based lunch for the next day. Quiet your mind and prepare to sleep. Think about your purpose.

Health Care Summit focus gets national attention

On June 16, we welcome Tony Buettner to share his expert knowledge about the Blue Zones Project at the Health Care Summit.

A Blue Zone is a region that produces a high number of people who live to be 100 years old. Blue Zones look at communities from a system-level, determining how to redesign and refocus a city around what matters to the health and happiness of the citizens that live there.

At the Summit, we’ll discuss what becoming a Blue Zones community could mean for our region, our life spans, and our health care costs.

Register for the Health Care Summit today!

See for yourself.

Blue Zones was featured on the Today show on May 30 and 31. Learn about what makes a Blue Zone in this short segment.

Dan Buettner, Tony’s brother and Blue Zone expert, brought Today reporters to a Blue Zone in Costa Rica to show them the Blue Zone lifestyle first hand.

Change your life and business. Join us on June 16 at the Health Care Summit.

Grand Rapids Parking Conversation

Is Parking Cash Out Right For Your Business?
Upcoming April 19 Downtown Commuter Benefits Workshop

To further the understanding of the urgent need to address challenges related to monthly parking permits for businesses downtown, we’ve partnered with the City of Grand Rapids and Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. to offer a FREE informational workshop on Parking Cash Out.

Parking Cash Out programs offer funds to employees in place of monthly parking permits. The employee is free to use these funds as they deem fit for their needs. This workshop will help businesses determine if the Parking Cash Out concept is right for their organization and provide plans on how to structure the program.

We are committed to ensuring parking and mobility is not a barrier to business and job growth in Grand Rapids. Employer-driven programs like Parking Cash Out can help make more efficient use of our existing public parking assets and offer interested employers greater flexibility in managing their growth.

When: Wednesday, April 19, 2017 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Where: Start Garden, 40 Pearl Street NW, Suite 200, Downtown Grand Rapids
Who Should Attend: Employers and human resource professionals in Downtown Grand Rapids who lease parking spaces and provide free of subsidized parking for their employees.
Register Now: Seating is limited. Simply send an email to to reserve your spot.

Chamber Provides City of Grand Rapids Entities with Parking Recommendations
Update from March 27

This week, Josh Lunger, Director of Government Affairs with the Grand Rapids Chamber, sent parking recommendations to the Mayor, City Commission, and key City staff. The Chamber supports an “all of the above” approach to mobility to ensure that monthly parking accessibility to downtown is never a significant obstacle to business and job growth.

See our parking recommendations.

The Parking Conversation Continues
Update from March 9 GR Parking Commission Meeting

We hear you. Last month’s parking open forum garnered a standing room only crowd and encouraged lively discussion regarding the parking concerns in downtown Grand Rapids. On the morning of March 9, Josh Lunger, Director of Government Affairs with the Grand Rapids Chamber, went in front of the Grand Rapids Parking Commission to continue the conversation.

While event and visitor parking remains readily accessible, the continued growth has created new pressures on the availability of monthly parking permits downtown. This is a good problem to have. It signifies that more people are visiting, working, and living downtown. But we also know that parking and mobility should not be a barrier to business growth.

Lunger urged the Parking Commission to recognize the urgency on the parking problem. The commission noted the addition of a 293 space surface lot on Ionia Ave. between McConnell St. and Logan St. across from the Downtown Market and 500 other mixed use parking solutions that may become available in the coming months. These spaces may help to alleviate some of the current parking pain.

Lunger reminded the Parking Commission to keep the Chamber as a resource and include us in the conversation. The Chamber can drive education, engagement, and communication surrounding the parking conversation with our members and business owners in Grand Rapids. We will continue to explore the conversation with business owners and give them voice at future meetings.

Parking is one of the top issues our members face
Updates from February 8th Parking Open Forum

The continued growth and vibrancy of Grand Rapids is creating increased parking pressures in the urban core, particularly for employee parking. At a standing-room-only parking meeting, members were able to engage with city staff and the Chamber about downtown parking, including the impact it has on business growth opportunities.

“I’m glad that we’re having this conversation [about parking], because it means we have a vibrant and growing downtown and city,” said Josh Lunger, Director of Government Affairs with the Grand Rapids Chamber.

Read more: Parking in Grand Rapids at 95% capacity

The Chamber is your advocate, and we look forward to working with you and other stakeholders, including City of Grand Rapids and DGRI, to advance solutions.

Send us your feedback and taking the parking survey!

Josh Lunger also joined Michael Patrick Shiels on Michigan’s Big Show on Tuesday morning. In preparation for the parking meeting, he talked about parking in Grand Rapids and what it means for downtown businesses and Chamber members.

A member’s perspective of the Diversity & Inclusion Forum

charissa-huangAttorney Charissa Huang looked around the packed house at the Chamber’s Diversity and Inclusion Forum on November 18 and felt “a sense of relief.

As the Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, Huang often feels isolated. That is not true within her firm, which actually includes Diversity & Inclusion in its organizational charter and by-laws.

Instead, Huang said, “it is not every day you get to hang out with other D&I people.”

“Diversity and Inclusion is a struggle for all organizations trying to hire diverse talent. But at the Forum, I saw that everyone is in this together. A lot of people there were interested and engaged and trying to make the workplace and the community more inclusive.”

The Chamber’s Diversity & Inclusion Forum brought together three national experts with presentations designed to encourage learning and discussion on ideas, plans and methods to promoted inclusion in the workplace.

Keynote speaker Mary-Frances Winters said, “Inclusion is about the opportunity to participate, to come to a place and feel appreciated for who you are. It should be something that is integrated into your every day.”

To be more inclusive, she explained, we need to understand ourselves first, become more self-aware. “All of us come from our own values systems and beliefs, and so do the other people whom we meet. We need to realize that, and work to break down barriers to find mutual understanding.”

Dr. Alan Richter’s breakout session, “Heads, Hearts and Hands” presented a systemic approach to understanding the cognitive, emotional and behavioral needs of people with whom we interact.

Marguerite Fletcher conducted a breakout session entitled “Diversity & Inclusion Strategies for Leaders.” She advised participants to challenge their assumptions about people who are different, conduct anonymous surveys of employee experiences with D&I and
broaden the group of people with whom we socialize at work, and network outside our organization.

Charissa Huang found especially eye-opening a breakout session she attended that challenged participants to “become” a hypothetical person from a different race or culture.

“It was interesting that people were more comfortable selecting their own race or culture and its challenges with which they were familiar.”

The learning opportunities came in discussing how personal perceptions and potential bias surfaced when people selected “identities” outside their own race or culture.

To continue your own education and growth, join the critical conversation in one of the Institute for Healing Racism: Facing Racism programs in 2017.

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Inside Grand Rapids

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This article first appeared in the May 2016 edition of The Chamber News, written by AliciaMarie Belchak, Senior Communications Specialist at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. Visit to find more thought leadership like this.