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MiBiz with Mark Sanchez

Mark Sanchez
Mark Sanchez

West Michigan offers craft beverage ‘talent cluster’

Patrick Center: Wednesday afternoon, time for our bi-monthly conversation with MiBiz senior writer Mark Sanchez. Craft beverage industry, it's been exploding over the years. For many, you could consider West Michigan a talent cluster and especially now when it comes to a lot of changes in the industry. There's a big one taking place right now.

Mark Sanchez: We think about talent clusters and we hear this talked about with economic developers and what we do really well here in Michigan, West, Michigan? Well we make things; obviously we do really well with furniture. We're also beer city USA, remember? So we've got the expertise in this craft beverage industry. First the craft brewers, then in last few years we've seen these craft distillers come up and rise up and really taking a position in the marketplace. Out of that has come the acumen in running these types of business, this expertise in understanding the business, understanding the finance, the distribution… in many aspects of that industry. And from that we have a really interesting story by my editor Joe Boomgaard in MiBiz this week. This is a situation where the former chairman of Founders Brewing Company, John Green, (unintelligible) a mostly West Michigan group of investors, successfully made a long-shot bid to acquire what’s called Natterjack Irish Whiskey. In Ireland, this is a company, a distiller, that started a few years back by a couple of entrepreneurs, wasn't working and an investor was looking to liquidate the company there in Ireland and somehow John Green heard about this and he put together this group of investors working with some folks locally and they convinced the Irish court to let them take over the company. So they’ve acquired it, they're going to stabilize it, grow it, and hopefully expand. But what this really represents, again, is this cluster of business expertise in this niche industry that’s now emerging and they made some investments in the past when Dale Grogan, who’s in this group, he’s made about a half-dozen investments and put together groups for investment. A few years ago we did a story, he was part of a group that invested heavily in what's called Papa’s (unintelligible) it’s a road distillery in Key West. So again, there’s this acumen that’s come together here in Grand Rapids, in West Michigan that is moving further into this industry and investing in it and there’s going to run some of these companies, at least the back room operations, here out of Grand Rapids.

PC: Found it fascinating, within the story, the timeline. But it also tells you a little bit about that acumen that you are speaking to.

MS: Yeah. They put together this deal in eight days. They were able to bring together a group and bring together that capital needed to buy this company and acquire this company and then were able to convince the Irish court saying we are the group; we are the ones to take this company forward. A lot of times courts will look at it. Boy, if there's a group that has the capability of taking a company and keeping the company alive and hopefully thriving, that’s better than liquidation. So again, you can’t stress that enough, It’s an interesting business dynamic here and this acumen that’s come together in this clusters talent, that’s come together here in Grand Rapids for this industry, and we may expect to see more this, especially as some of these larger brewers’ executive retire or exit those businesses - what do they do with the capital they’ve acquired? They know the business, they're good at it, look what they built. And so now they’re applying that expertise in another area of the industry.

PC: What do you do with the money? Question everywhere. Lakeshore Advantage is considering what to do with 57 million dollars in American Rescue Plan funding.

MS: Well, at least a portion of that 56.7 million dollars that Ottawa county has available ARPA money and Ottawa county over the summer and into the fall has been going through a process of: how do we distribute this money? This is the American Rescue Plan Act funding that many communities and every county got. Ottawa county is going through a really deliberate process. They're looking at business stabilization, how to help out those businesses out there that are still maybe having some lingering effects of the past two and a half years and broadband expansion. There are areas here in Ottawa County that don't have good access to broadband service, and then affordable housing is an issue all over the place. Lakeshore Advantage, the economic development group here in Ottawa County is managing that business stabilization aspect and last week they opened up basically a process to have proposals submitted. If you have an idea on to use a portion of this money to help all businesses, to stabilize business. Lakeshore Advantage wants to hear from you. If you go to their website or go to the story on the MiBiz.com website you can find a link to that funding, at least where to go for more information and submit a letter of intent Lakeshore Advantage is taking these proposals up until September 22nd. And I should add also that Ottawa county is just one community that is going through this process. Back to the second story we have in MiBiz this week Grand Valley State University has a team of researchers that have been looking at. Where's the money going in the cities and communities and counties that have secure some of this money. How are they spending it? Some communities are putting it to specific projects such as parks and recreation, there's a lot of causes out there a lot of needs and we’re seeing this played out in several communities across the state and across the country. And when we talk about there's a lot of money, here's just some of those numbers: Ottawa County 56.7 million available, Kent County 127.6 million dollars in ARPA funding available. The city of Grand Rapids has 92 Million. Muskegon 33.7 and Allegan County almost 23 million dollars. So there's a chunk of money out there for cities and counties to decide where are they going to deploy this capital? What are the needs? What are the areas where it can be best used?

PC: We're talking with MiBiz senior writer Mark Sanchez, your story this week, nursing advocates say proposed bill would help keep practitioners in Michigan.

MS: Yeah. This is a story we had in this week's edition of the MiBiz. It’s the list of hot jobs that the state publishes annually: “The top fastest growing jobs over the next 8 years through the end of this decade”. Topping the list this year is nurse practitioners and number 2 is physician assistant, in the top 50 hot jobs in Michigan. That's because we're seeing just an ongoing change in health care where nurse practitioners, physician assistants are taking over more that rule of primary care. Some of the basic primary care functions are transitioning and continuing to transition from the position to NP’s and PA’s. And there's some legislation here in Michigan, still sitting in the Legislature, that would open up what’s called a “full scope of practice” for nurse practitioners who under present law must have a contract with a practicing physician for supervision. What this law would do, if enacted and passed in the law, would eliminate that requirement and allow nurse practitioners to practice independently. And talking to an individual (unintelligible), she’s with the Michigan Counsel of Nurse Practitioners, she is also a professor at Michigan State. She talked about, what you mentioned, there's a shortage all across the economy right now with talent. It's really a few in health care, including the area of nurse practitioners. We know we're going to need more and part of her argument is that if a nurse practitioner isn’t allowed to practice his or her full scope of practice in full ability, a lot of them coming out of college are not staying in Michigan. They're going to states where they do have a full practice authority and they're certainly not coming here. So that kind of finishing the loop of how they view the legislation to help build that particular talent pool a little bigger and to keep the talent that we have.

PC: Is there talk of salary increases? I know the pandemic put a lot of pressure on wages.

MS: Well, wages and health care and everywhere, for that matter, have been going up. In fact, in some of the stories we've done, over the course of several months, about health care and hospital finances are really tight right now. A lot of that is due to the wage pressures. Remember late last year when Spectrum Health put a boat load of money into higher wages and bonuses, retention bonuses, sign-on bonuses. We've seen many health systems, Mercy's as well, U of M Health West in Grand Rapids. They put more money into the wages. So, yes, those wages for health care workers have been going up. And you've also seen these travel nurse organizations, that have been hiring people away or hiring nurses away from your health systems and charging a pretty good rate to hospitals that have that shortage.

PC: MiBiz writer, Mark Sanchez, thank you so much.

MS: Thank you, Patrick.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.
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