Announcing the Measure What Matters Workshop Series

Local First today announced the launch of its 2017 Measure What Matters Workshop series, which is part of Good for Grand Rapids and aims to equip Grand Rapids companies with tools and resources to help them create high-quality jobs, stronger communities and a healthier Great Lakes region. The first workshop will take place Tuesday, May 9 at Catalyst Partners from 3-5 p.m.

“Our Measure What Matters Workshop series provides business owners with the tools, resources and insights they need to use their business to make a positive social and environmental impact in our community,” said Local First President Elissa Hillary. “These workshops are a great opportunity for businesses to get involved with Good for Grand Rapids and receive guidance for using their business as a force for good.” 

Catalyst Partners, consultants in LEED certification and green building design and construction practice, will lead a conversation on “Renewable and Efficient Energy Use.” This workshop will feature a panel consisting of energy experts and practitioners who will share their success stories, energy efficiency resources and the results of their sustainable business practices. Panelists include:

  • Kris and Jason Spaulding of Brewery Vivant who will share their journey to renewable energy as a small business.
  • Eric Doyle and Keith Winn of Catalyst Partners who will explain how they can help small businesses shift to energy saving practices.
  • Bill Wadsworth of Consumer's Energy who will highlight the different programs Consumers Energy offers for small businesses, including their Demand Response Program and Energy Efficiency Program.
  • Daria Gosztyla of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks who will talk about their Carbon Conscious Program and how it can work for businesses.
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“Catalyst Partners is excited to help Local First kick off the first Measure What Matters Workshop of 2017 and educate business owners on creating an energy efficient building,” said Doyle, a senior project manager for Catalyst Partners. “We’re looking forward helping business owners identify ways they can conserve energy while saving operating costs.”

“We want business owners to understand they have options when it comes to reducing their environmental footprint,” said Spry. “Consumers Energy is committed to helping businesses be leaders in energy efficiency, and we’re excited to be part of the Measure What Matters Workshop series.”  

The Measure What Matters Workshop series covers a variety of topics, from sustainability best practices to implementing diversity and inclusion policies. Participants will also learn more about the Good for Grand Rapids campaign and Local First’s Quick Impact Assessment. Below is a list of upcoming Measure What Matters Workshops:

June 21: “Implementing Policies Promoting Inclusion and Equity” at LINC UP
nJuly 19: “The Importance of Diversity in Small Business” at Start Garden
nSept. 20: “Business Ownership Options” at Atomic Object
nOct. 11: “Shifting to Local Supply Chains” at Consumer’s Credit Union *more info coming soon*

Workshops cost $10 for Local First members and $15 for non-members. Register for the May 9 workshop today.  Follow the conversation on Facebook and Twitter #Good4GR

Measure What Matters: The Rental Company

This blog post is part of Local First’s Measure What Matters series, where we interview Local First Members who have taken the Quick Impact Assessment, and learn about how the assessment has helped them use their business as a force for good and be Good for Grand Rapids.

When Robyn Allison purchased The Rental Company in 2004, she made it her mission to create amazing events and provide excellent customer service while making a positive impact in West Michigan. With a passion for keeping the Lakeshore beautiful, planning green events and giving back to the community, The Rental Company is a great example of using business as a force for good.

The Rental Company offers event supplies and accessories including chairs, tables, tents, glassware, flatware, lighting, linens and many other supplies that can be rented for weddings and special events. A core part of their business model is helping clients reduce their environmental footprint by helping them plan eco-friendly weddings and special events.

“Protecting the environment is important to us and we want to make sure that we do our best to protect our lakes, beaches and wildlife,” said Allison, owner of The Rental Company. “We care about preserving nature for future generations, so it’s our goal to help our clients reduce waste and pollution that they may have never thought about when planning an event.”

The Rental Company has been a Local First member since 2008 and first took the Quick Impact Assessment in 2015. Although giving back is a big part of The Rental Company, they saw the Quick Impact Assessment as an opportunity to assess the impact they’re already making in West Michigan and identify opportunities for growth.   

“Taking the Quick Impact Assessment was a very positive experience,” said Heather Gill Fox, general manager for The Rental Company. “It was a great blend of encouraging and challenging moments, and it pushes you to think beyond what you’re already doing as a business.”

There are a number of ways The Rental Company has been giving back to their community, from donating to local nonprofits to reducing waste. However, Fox says the Quick Impact Assessment encouraged her team to make sure they had these practices written down so they become a permanent part of their business.

“One of the benefits of the assessment is the conversation that happens afterwards with employees,” said Fox. “This allowed us to reflect on what we’ve been doing and see if there are any opportunities to make a bigger impact.”

Fox says that even though The Rental Company is a small business, they’re committed to giving employees time to volunteer and encouraging them to get involved with community organizations. The Rental Company also gives back to West Michigan through their Compassion Connection Program where they encourage clients to donate to West Michigan nonprofits,  including their 2017 recipients: Kids Food Basket, Home Pkgs, Nestlings Diaper Bank, Outdoor Discovery Center and Renew Therapeutic Riding Center.

The Rental Company gives back to nonprofits in three ways:


  1. In-kind donations and discounts on rental inventory for nonprofit fundraisers, events, open houses, etc.
  2. Cash Donations: A client can receive a 10{6be771524f35e681d5eb1711abbe9ad08f29540a742404ae9fff00be7e8f65de} discount (with a cap of $250) off their order when they donate that amount or greater to one of The Rental Company's selected nonprofits.
  3. The Rental Company staff is encouraged to volunteer with these organizations and they also promote each nonprofit through social media, blog posts and in their showroom.
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“West Michigan has a culture of people who are passionate about giving back to their communities,” said Fox. “We care about our community and this translates into the work we do for our clients. Through our Compassion Connection Program, we’re helping our clients and employees make a positive impact here in our community and that’s something we feel fortunate we can do.”

In addition to giving back, The Rental Company is also passionate about reducing their environmental footprint. From the beginning, protecting the environment has always been important to Allison. The Rental Company is committed to recycling and delivering products to clients in a sustainable way.  

“The nature of our business is to reuse materials and reduce waste,” said Allison. “Even though we are working hard to recycle, there is still a lot we can do in our community to increase sustainability efforts and make a positive environmental impact. We would like to see other businesses come up with creative programs like ours to give back to the communities that support us. ”

Looking ahead, Fox and Allison hope to expand their Compassion Connection Program and continue to increase their employees’ involvement in the community. They’re also working to make sure they continue to provide a high-quality customer experience and running a business that’s doing good in the community.

“If your business is thinking about taking the Quick Impact Assessment, we recommend sitting down as a group with your leadership team to complete it,” said Fox. “This process will provide so much value to your business and help identify ways to measure your impact.”

Interested in learning how your business performs against best practices on employee, community and environmental impact? Take the Quick Impact Assessment today to learn how much good your business is doing for the local economy and community at

From Tokyo to Grand Rapids: Building strong, local economies around the world

Last week, Local First had the incredible opportunity to host a group of business management consultants from Japan, who were visiting the United States for the fourth-annual Harvard Social Enterprise Conference in Boston.

With a special focus on social enterprise, workforce development and public/private partnerships, the group came to the U.S. to learn about best practices for building a sustainable economy and to visit a city that’s already implementing those practices.

Hiroshi Amemiya, the group’s leader and a professor at Meiji University in Tokyo, initially reached out to me about six months ago after hearing about the work Local First is doing to strengthen our local economy, as well as Cascade Engineering’s workforce development programs. After telling them more about Grand Rapids and our local B Corp network, they decided to plan a trip to West Michigan.

Our tour began bright and early on Tuesday, March 29, at the Gluten Free Bar where we toured its facility and chatted with owners about how they’re using their business to make a positive impact in West Michigan. Throughout the day, we explored Grand Rapids and toured different B Corps across the region, including Cascade Engineering, 616 Development, New City Urban Farm, Brewery Vivant and Essence Restaurant Group.

There were a number of interesting observations Hiroshi’s group made about West Michigan’s local economy. Read the full article on