A strong local economy starts with you

The U.S. retail industry is changing. Acquisitions are happening every day. Big-box stores like MC Sports and Sears are closing or re-thinking the way they target today’s consumer. And earlier this summer, Amazon announced its $13.7-billion purchase of Whole Foods.

Many grocery store and small business owners are all asking the same question: How will Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods potentially affect me? While it’s still too soon to tell how it will impact the U.S. retail and grocery industries, we need to pay attention to how it will impact our local communities, local farms that grow our fresh fruits and vegetables, local distributors that deliver products to store shelves and local businesses that employ our friends and family members.

Here in West Michigan, we are blessed to have a strong local economy. We are home to a significant number of successful family-owned businesses and companies with deep roots in our community that have local, national and global reaches. Residents are proud to support their local grocery stores, coffee shops and car repair shops. They purchase local goods whenever possible. Thanks to the amazing community support of our local businesses, West Michigan is thriving in an ever-changing global economy. 

Our strong local businesses, big and small, are what support our continued growth, attract families and professionals and make our community a great place to live. As we spend our dollars locally in our community, we are supporting families and returning those dollars to our neighborhoods through taxes and other local spending. In fact, studies show that 73 percent of revenue stays in the community when it is spent at a locally owned business versus a chain or franchise with a physical presence in our community. Up to 100 percent of all money spent online departs from our community the moment you close the transaction. And in 2016, over 50 percent of all online sales went to Amazon. We’re practically on the verge of turning it into a verb.

Read the full article at grbj.com

What’s for dinner? A large helping of community strength

When Gerald and Gert Sytsma opened the doors of Byron Center Meats in 1946, many folks in the area were buying their first home freezer. Seventy-one years later, their customers can order goods using HarvestBox.com and a hand-held device or a personal computer.

While many things have changed since then, Byron Center Meats – now in its third generation of family ownership – still holds the same values: customer service and their community are top priority.

And it shows. When Byron Center Meats lost a large section of their building to a fire, employees, vendors, and their Byron Center community helped them get back up and running in two days.

”That outpouring of support for our business was such a blessing and made a lasting impact to us as a family and a business,” says Laura Sytsma, co-owner.

The lasting impact took form as a new mission statement for the business: To provide quality products with superior service to customers with professionalism and integrity that is honoring to God while providing for our associates, Christian ministries, and our community.

This fall, in addition to getting excited to join Local First at Fork Fest, they are gearing up for the holidays. HarvestBox.com offers a number of premade gift boxes that include grass-fed beef, free-range chicken, Wagyu beef, free-range pork, and wild-caught salmon.

“We are excited to help people send a little bit of Michigan all over the country!” says Sytsma.

Find out more about how Byron Center Meats uses the local supply chain at Fork Fest, coming up on October 26 at Romence Gardens.

1st Annual “City Hacks GR” Tech Weekend & Hackathon

The Midwest Tech Project has partnered with Theta Ventures to organize the 1st Annual “City Hacks GR” Tech Weekend & Hackathon Sept. 14th-17th, with the intended purpose of growing our community's tech talent pipeline & continuing the work of exposing the citizens of Grand Rapids to the vast & varied opportunities in west Michigan's growing technology ecosystem.

Midwest Tech Project founder Jonathan Jelks has been instrumental in the growth of not only tech in Grand Rapids, but entrepreneurship in general. Jelks describes the mission of his organization “Midwest Tech is about connecting youth, in particular youth in our communities of color, to high earning jobs.”

Jelks and his cofounders have lined up an entire weekend of programming for people interested in learning about tech jobs, as well as a platform for showing off their existing skills. Check out all of the events below!

Thursday Sept 14th – Forum

GRMI Still The Furniture City – Or America's Next Tech Hub?
nLocation: Start Garden 40 Pearl Street Suite #200
nTime: 6-8pm

Presenters include:
nMike Morin – President & CEO Of Start Garden
nAaron Schopp – Founder & CEO Of The Factory, Elevator Up, & CoLearning West Michigan
nMeredith Bronk – President & CEO Of Open Systems Technologies
nLuis Perez – Founder Of Loop Coding Center
nMary Oneil – COO & Managing Partner Atomic Object

Friday Sept 15th: “GR's Tech Night Out” Technology Fair

Time: 6-8pm
nLocation: Grand Rapids City High School 1720 Plainfield Ave NE
nLink to more information:
nCity/Hacks GR: Tech Night Out!

Saturday September 16th: Fabian Elliot Keynote Address

Time: 1-3pm
nLocation: The Factory GR 38 Fulton St W Suite # 400
nLink to more information:
nCity Hacks GR Keynote: Fabian Elliott Of Black Tech Mecca

Sunday September 17th: City Hacks GR Winners Awarded

Time: 2pm
nLocation: Grand Rapids City High School 1720 Plainfield Ave NE

Learn more at facebook.com/The-Midwest-Tech-Project

Love local food? Support local grocers!

Locally owned and operated grocery stores increase access to locally produced food, support local food entrepreneurs, and keep your dollars circulating in our community. Supporting local grocers is one of the easiest ways to gain a voice in our food system. In West Michigan, we are fortunate to have many incredible grocery stores available to us. Not sure where to go? Check out one of the stores listed below!

Byron Center Meats

At Byron Center Meats, they are proud to be a third-generation, family-owned meat processing company.  For nearly 70 years, they have provided their customers with delicious, high-quality meats at an unbeatable value. They are blessed with a wide variety of customers: families who grocery shop in their retail store, restaurants and organizations that rely on them for delicious meat items for their menus, and farmers that trust them to custom process their animals for their customers. Their commitment to exceptional service can be seen in every sale. Learn more

Harvest Health Foods

Over 65 years ago, Harvest Health Foods began with a passion for bringing wholesome, nutritious foods to your neighborhood. Today that passion still holds true. Harvest Health is your go-to natural and organic foods store, providing you with a large selection of certified organic produce, bulk items, herbs and spices, gluten-free foods, dairy-free, nut-free and other allergen free foods, organic beer and wine, an array of local Michigan products, body care & supplements that meet our established product values. Learn more 

Health Hut

The Health Hutt opened for business in 1977! They sell high quality vitamins and supplements, many of which are whole food and organic. The Health Hutt also provides you with a large selection of certified organic produce, bulk items, herbs and spices, gluten-free foods, dairy-free, nut-free, and other allergen free foods. They also sell beauty products with natural and organic ingredients that are not tested on animals. Learn more

Horrocks Market

Horrocks Market opened in October 2002, the outgrowth of a family business begun by Jerry Horrocks over 50 years ago. From day one, they've strived to create a respectful, team-oriented environment where people love to work or shop every day. Their team gets stronger every year, and it shows — in the quality and care of their products, knowledge of what they sell, and their relationships with each other, their vendors, and customers. Horrocks’ commitment to excellent customer service often makes people who shop at their store feel more like family and friends than customers. Learn more

Russo’s International Market

For 112 years, Russo’s International Market has provided West Michigan with the largest selection of wine, beer, gourmet food and housewares. Today, the store has a 45 foot deli case with over 300 meats and cheeses from around the world, olives, fresh baked breads, oils, private label pastas and sauces, their own homemade Villa Russo frozen entrees and more. In 2017, G.B. Russo & Son celebrates their 112th anniversary as a (4th generation) family owned and operated market. Now called Russo’s International Market, the Russo family continues to serve West Michigan with the best selection of wines, cheese, groceries, and more! Learn more

Ken's Fruit Market

Beginning in 2010, Ken’s has strived to bring the best quality product at the best prices, all while providing the best service they can. At Ken's, you will find the freshest produce with local selections available in season. You will find the best cuts of meat prepared daily by their in-house butchers; not to mention the selection of groceries, candy, garden center products, and beer and wine. You might even see a familiar face or two around as well. So stop in to one of their three locations and see what Grand Rapid's newest locally owned farm market has to offer. Learn more

Kingma’s Market

Kingma’s is a locally owned market that has been serving the Grand Rapids community for 80 years. Offering unique, local products along with the essentials in a friendly, convenient shopping experience. Kingma’s carries 250+ bulk offerings, 300+ domestic and imported cheeses, all natural, local meats, 800+ domestic and imported wines from some of the best growing regions in the world, 500+ local craft and imported beers, and an extensive selection of Michigan made fresh produce, roasted coffee, syrups, honey, peanut butter, jams, pasta, sauces, ice creams, and dairy products. Learn more

Martha’s Vineyard

Established in 1981, Kameel Chamelly took a small stop and go shop in the heart of Heritage Hill and worked it to become a thriving neighborhood wine shop and deli. Today, Martha’s Vineyard is more than just fine wine, it is a hub for all things delicious! Shopping local groceries can be difficult, but at Martha’s, they make it easy! Check out their “Made in Michigan” section or try some of the goodies they make in house! Their growing selection of fresh produce is exquisite. They source locally when in season and offer the most vibrant and naturally produced fruits and vegetables around. Learn more

Supermercado Mexico

The family of Supermercado Mexico started back in 2006 with a small store call “La Tapatia.” The goal of this store was to offer a comfortable place for people to shop and to please all clients with impeccable service. In 2010, they purchased Supermercado Mexico on Chicago Drive with the same intentions of offering great service and shopping for their Hispanic products. They pride themselves on owning a grocery store that is attractive and gives customers a taste of home. Learn more