Raise A Glass: Grand Rapids Ranks In Global Food And Drink Competition

Foodies rejoice: Grand Rapids has been recognized for its exceptional food and beverage tourism in a global competition. Michigan Live reports that Grand Rapids was just recognized by the FoodTrekking Awards, ranking second in the Best Food and Beverage Destination Experience category. Ontario, Canada took the top spot.

“We are looking for the world’s best destinations with exceptional food and drink experiences,” the category description reads. “Why is your destination the best? Do you offer an outstanding food and drink culture? Do you hold any gastronomic events or do you have simply the best farmers markets? All organizations that function in a “tourism promotion” function are eligible to apply.”

Grand Rapids, twice named “Beer City USA,” fits right into this category, according to the seven international food, drink, and tourism gurus who judged the competition. The judges select winners from applications submitted on the organization’s website. Kate Herron, the Director of Marketing with Experience Grand Rapids, said in a statement to Michigan Live that the ranking was well deserved.

“Beer City USA pairs perfectly with the emerging culinary scene in Grand Rapids,” she said. “We have a plethora of artesian culinary businesses popping up, and high quality restaurants as well which all contribute to this award in their own way.”

This recognition comes with the rise of digital “foodie” culture, with both Grand Rapids residents and tourists constantly posting photos of their culinary experiences. Breweries and similar businesses, for example, are hotspots for these social sharers, with over 11 million Instagram posts currently tagged #craftbeer. This has given local small businesses an entirely new way to find customers, as 51% of smartphone users discover new companies or products while searching on their mobile devices.

But social media users aren’t the only ones taking note of the growing Michigan restaurant scene. Grand Rapids foodie culture has been documented in national publications including Thrillist and Bon Appetit.

“Grand Rapids has tons of breweries and brewpubs and beer bars and beer-focused gastropubs, several of which we highlight here,” Nicole Rupersburg writes in Thrillist. “But that’s not all G-Rap is about! There is a huge focus on farm-to-table cuisine (easy for them, because the city is quite literally surrounded by a hundred miles of farmland in every direction), in-house butchery and charcuterie, and a pointed Michigan mindfulness.”

Michigan Live reports that applications for the 2018 FoodTrekker awards will open again in October of this year. Will Beer City USA rank again? Let your taste buds decide.

Air Force Disregards New Michigan Water Law Due to Legal Loophole

Despite the fact that Public Act 545, an amendment to Michigan’s Safe Drinking Water Act, took effect in January to essentially force the U.S. military to supply area residents with safe drinking water, it doesn’t look like the Air Force has any interest in complying.

Signed by Governor Rick Snyder, the bill was meant to help inhabitants of Oscoda whose wells were polluted with toxic chemicals. These toxic fluorocarbons — known as perfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS) and perfluorinated chemicals (or PFCs) — have been leaching from the now-closed Wurtsmith Air Force Base for the last few decades. The chemicals are an unfortunate result of the use of firefighting foam during the 1970s, but no one knew about the seepage until the late 1990s.

Only 1% of the water on Earth is suitable for drinking as it is. Public Act 545, sponsored by Senator Jim Stamas (R-Midland), was enacted so that the state or federal government would have to provide an alternative water supply for impacted residents, so long as state health officials have issued a drinking water advisory and that the pollution’s source can be traced back to the government.

However, the U.S. Air Force says it doesn’t have to comply with the law because they say the law itself is unfair.

Mark Kinkade, spokesperson for the Air Force, cited the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which states that the federal government doesn’t have to comply with a state law if it’s discriminatory. However, the Air Force may be taking some license with the term “discriminatory” in this case.

“The Michigan law does discriminate as it only applies to federal and state agencies, not to all entities and persons,” Kinkade explained. Therefore, he says, the “Air Force is not authorized to comply with the mandates of Act 545 to provide an alternative water supply or to reimburse the state of Michigan when it provides an alternative water supply.”

Senator Stamas actually decided to sponsor the bill after he was told by military officials that the Air Force would provide alternative sources of drinking water to those impacted if Michigan’s laws were amended to require it. Their complete 180 is a source of frustration for Stamas.

“I am extremely disappointed in the U.S. Air Force for not living up to its word and its responsibilities,” he said. “The federal government needs to be held accountable for what they did, and I will be asking Attorney General Bill Schuette to pursue action to enforce the law.”

At present, site enforcers still do not know the extent of the chemical plumes or their exact threat to human health. In animal testing, they’ve been tied to problems with the thyroid, kidney, liver, and reproductive organs, as well as other issues.

Amidst Threat of EPA Funding Cuts, Michigan Kids Prove Knowledge is Power

Last month, the Donald Trump administration announced that they plan to cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency by up to 31% and to essentially eliminate the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Should the president make good on this proposal, both the economy and ecology of the state of Michigan could sustain serious damage.

Every year, around 16,000 chemical spills from trucks, trains, and storage tanks occur, often polluting valuable resources and potentially causing harm to countless animals. Back in 1965, chemical sludge being held by unlined wastewater lagoons spilled into a stream that empties into Muskegon Lake — a body of water very close to Lake Michigan. Millions of dollars in government funding were eventually used to clean up that lake and restore it, but not before fish were poisoned with chemicals and petroleum.

Now, the same funding that saved Muskegon Lake is threatened by Trump’s 2018 “skinny budget” proposal, which would completely slash the funds given to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million to nothing.

Kathy Evans has seen the good of the GLRI firsthand. Her father regularly caught fish in Muskegon Lake after the spill, but he would throw them back when the chemical stench was too much to bear. Now, as the environmental program manager for West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission, Evans knows how important it is to protect the planet’s most valuable resources.

“I am grateful that we have the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” said Evans to Crain’s Detroit Business. “We are finally able to remove the toxic mud from our lakes and streams and make the needed improvements to the quality of our water, fish and wildlife, communities and economy.”

Of course, it’s not just toxic spills that threaten the earth. It’s estimated that 1 million birds, 100,000 turtles, and countless other sea animals die every year by ingesting plastic and other waste. The average American will actually generate up to four pounds of trash every day, and inevitably some of that waste will end up in the environment.

In the Great Lakes region, it’s often the water, mud, and sediment that’s poisoned by such pollution, threatening lives both wild and human.

A failure to provide federal funding for these efforts could also present a financial crisis for the region.

“The issue isn’t just about the environmental benefits, it’s economic,” said Cameron Davis, vice president of environmental engineering firm GEI Consultants Inc. “[GLRI] is significant for coastal communities that endured a long legacy of pollution; making sure those areas are restored ecologically, but also to make them prime destination spots, increased tourism and a lot of other economic benefits.”

Davis went on to say, “The upper Midwest is so critical in so many ways; having these areas cleaned up is good policy. In this case, what’s good for the environment is good for the tax base. I’ve always told our legislators that [GLRI] is small-case environment and upper-case economy.”

The positive economic impact of cleanup efforts is well-documented, too. Even the smaller portions of Muskegon Lake that were cleaned up before GLRI took effect brought benefits for the region. In 2009, a $10 million grant from the Troubled Asset Relief Program led to an ROI that was 6.6 times that amount. In removing toxic sediment from the shoreline, property values in the area increased by $12 million, which added $600,000 to the annual tax revenue. The efforts also brought 65,000 more tourists to the lake.

If budget cuts took effect, it would be up to state leaders and local residents to clean up the Great Lakes without any federal help. But, already, some local kids are doing their part to make a difference.

In Alpena, two members of a new group called Plastics FLOAT (an acronym for “For the Love of Alpena Today”) recently traveled to local restaurants to warn about the dangers of plastic waste.

Ten-year-old Sylvie Luther said, “We’re trying to inform people about Zero Waste Week. We’re asking the restaurants to not give people straws unless they ask for them.”

Why straws? They’re among the most harmful and most common types of marine debris, says Luther.

Zero Waste Week is intended to show the public how small changes can help improve the state of the planet. Sydney Silver added that she hopes her efforts will help change some minds, especially for the sake of kids in the future.

“I want to protect younger generations from what other people are putting out there for our generation to fix,” she told The Alpena News. “I don’t want my sister to deal with an ocean with a bunch of litter.”

While these small changes might not seem to be as effective as multi-million-dollar cleanup efforts, they are a reminder that it takes a village. Even Michigan residents who are decidedly pro-Trump are uneasy about the proposed cuts to the EPA.

Candace Miller, Macomb County Public Works commissioner and former Republican U.S. representative, said, “I am in support of many of the things Trump is trying to do, but this is a principal advocacy of mine. This is a really small amount of money, really, and it’s of great significance to the states that voted for him. These states can’t absorb [this cut]. This is a time where I hope the president will reconsider.”

U.S. Manufacturing Business on the Rise

There has been a gross and steady increase in the American manufacturing market since last fall. A survey of executives reports employment is its highest it has been in six years.

Since February, the manufacturing index has fallen slightly from 57.7% to 57.2%. However, the number has stayed above positive 50% and, out of 18 industries tracked by ISM, 17 of those are looking to expand. In 2012, alone, machine manufacturing shipments totaled around $407.4 billion.

Gus Faucher, deputy chief economist at PNC Financial Services, has noted, ““The industry is benefitting from continued consumer demand, a turnaround in energy production, and an end to the strengthening of the U.S. dollar.”

The investment of new energy programs, like the forward momentum of recycling tungsten carbide whose hardness falls only slightly behind diamonds on the Moh’s hardness scale, has certainly contributed it’s fair share to the influx of industry jobs. And other countries are starting to take notice.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the up and coming Italian Siliconature Corporation putting some roots down in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Upon it’s completion, it will create 26 highly technical manufacturing jobs, bringing in a performance-grant of $286,000 from the Michigan Business Development program.

David Arado, president of Siliconature, has said, “The West Michigan area offers a
great base of talent for manufacturing & technical jobs that are critical to our success. As well, the area offers the urban infrastructure of a larger city with natural and rural areas very nearby.”

This marks Siliconature Corporation first factory investment into America. It holds factories in both Italy and Asia, but Grand Rapids marks it’s first American manufacturing branch. It is estimated America’s growing manufacturing market may very well contribute to the successful partnership with Siliconature Corporation, which may lead to more factories throughout the rest of the country, should America’s upward climb continue. Until then, the future of the American manufacturing industry appears very promising.

Michigan Furniture Competitors Join Forces For Huge Holland Showroom

Typically, furniture is the third-most expensive thing people buy, after their homes and cars. But being able to find affordable furniture isn’t always an easy task. Fortunately for Michigan residents, two local furniture giants have come together to provide a wider range of options.

Klingman’s Furniture and Design and Hegg’s Gallery of Fine Furniture have joined forces to open a 50,000-square-foot showroom in Holland. While both businesses will maintain their other separate locations in Grand Rapids and Hart, they’re eager to serve the community with their combined location.

“We are thrilled about this new opportunity,” said Jason Israels, president of Klingman’s. “Hegg’s Furniture has served the lakeshore for decades by providing quality home furnishings and accents. We at Klingman’s Furniture and Design are excited to continue their practice while tying in our tradition of offering our customers a large selection of home furnishings at the very best value with superior service.”

Stacie Hegg, who owns Hegg’s Gallery of Fine Furniture, felt the companies had two choices: they could either continue to compete against each other, or they could merge on this venture and capitalize on a formerly inaccessible market.

While Hegg says her company currently caters to the mid-to-upper levels of the furniture market, Klingman’s specializes in higher-end pieces and clients. By working together, each company can reach customers they previously were unable to target.

Both businesses have a long history in the West Michigan area. Klingman’s has served local residents since 1896, and Hegg’s is now in its fourth generation of ownership since opening in 1946. At the new showroom, staff members from each company will work together, creating a new chapter for both brands.

West Michigan seems to be experiencing a bit of an interior decorating boom. Storage manufacturer California Closets recently announced that they’ll be building a manufacturing facility in Grand Rapids. Its construction will cost over $5.7 million and the facility is expected to create over 60 new jobs for area residents.

President of California Closets, Eric Wollf, said, “West Michigan is attractive to us due to many factors. The location offers proximity to our customers and supply base, but more importantly a strong talent base in manufacturing and design. The West Michigan area has been a leader in forward-thinking and furniture-related industries, which fits our direction and future.”

Up-and-Coming Michigan Chefs Earning High Praise From Popular TV Chef

Michigan’s culinary professionals have been gaining popularity recently thanks to the help of a popular television show and an even more popular television personality.

Hell’s Kitchen Chef Gordon Ramsay — who has also been awarded a legendary 16 Michelin stars in his culinary career — recently gave praise to two of Michigan’s most prominent up-and-coming chefs.

Kimberly Ann Ryan and Aaron Smock were featured on the show’s Season 16 Premiere titled, “When the Wall Comes Tumbling Down.” Ryan represented the red women’s team while Smock was part of the blue (losing) men’s team.

“I did this for my 4-year-old daughter,” said Ryan, who studied at the Culinary Institute of Michigan. “I want to show her you don’t have to work at a job that you hate. You can find something you love to do.”

Ryan’s signature dish that brought her so much praise from the famous Chef Ramsay was her seared scallops with mango jalapeno salsa and spicy toasted rice crispies.

Although Atlantic sea scallops can have large shells (up to 9 inches in length), and Bay scallops grow to about 4 inches, it’s not too often one of the most famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) chefs in the world tastes, enjoys, and praises a scallop dish.

“It’s delicious,” said Ramsay. “5 out of 5.”

Another chef who actually got his start on the Hell’s Kitchen program is on his way to Michigan and other states in hopes of bringing his dishes to the masses.

According to Times Leader, Chef Michael Langdon appeared on the Season 11 of the Fox reality program and cooked alongside Ramsay as well.

Langdon graduated from Coughlin High School and the Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh, and has since traveled the U.S. as a professional chef. He began his career working for Cameron Mitchell Restaurants and helped create new restaurants in Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan.

“It’s been amazing so far,” said the 37-year-old chef. “My mom can come here and eat my food now.”

After Langdon’s travels, he plans on running his own place in Pittston, Pennsylvania.

Michigan Study Finds Wooden Cutting Boards Are More Sanitary Than Plastic

In your home, hardwood and bamboo flooring options are popular due to their attractive appearance and overall durability. In fact, Strand bamboo floors are even stronger than traditional hardwoods, with a very high Janka rating of at least 3646 to 3780.

But while we love wooden floors in our living rooms and even in our kitchens, they weren’t always our first choice when cooking in those kitchens. For a long time, plastic cutting boards were thought to be more hygienic than traditional wooden cutting boards, but a study conducted by the University of Michigan suggests that we’re actually much better off with wood and bamboo cutting boards to match those gorgeous hardwood floors.

The popular belief is that porous wooden surfaces allow for more bacterial absorption, making them more hazardous to our health than plastic options. But what this theory doesn’t consider is the fact that when we use plastic cutting boards, our sharp knives will create cuts and grooves in the material where bacteria like to hang out.

It is true that bacteria will be absorbed into wooden surfaces, but they will not multiply and will eventually die off. In addition, manual cleaning tends to be quite effective for wooden cutting boards. However, the study found that “more bacteria are recovered from a used plastic surface than from a used wood surface.”

Another study out of the University of Wisconsin showed that wooden cutting boards outperformed plastic ones when they came into contact with dangerous bacteria like Salmonella, E.coli, and Listeria.

And while a brand new plastic cutting board can easily be disinfected, one that’s covered in knife cuts is practically impossible to disinfect completely, either by hand or with help from a dishwasher. That means that many home cooks are unknowingly using contaminated surfaces over and over again.

The good news is that with an increased focus on sustainability and natural materials, wooden cutting boards are making a comeback. They last longer, keep knives sharper, and are often produced by small, craft-oriented businesses. If you’ve been loyal to the plastic kind, it might be a good time to invest in some high-quality wooden cutting boards to ensure the health of your family.

Lead #LikeAGirl Program Receives Award at Grand Rapids Trade Show

Back in 2015, Canton Leisure Services launched a new program inspired by a popular Super Bowl ad. The ad, produced by Always, was created to turn an old-fashioned gendered insult on its head, making viewers rethink what it really means to do things #LikeAGirl. The phrase “You throw like a girl!” has historically been used to shame both girls and boys, and it’s especially damaging to pubescent young women. The commercial shows how pivotal it is to change the connotation of the phrase “like a girl” and highlights just how strong and amazing girls are.

Encouraged by the cultural importance of the advertisement, the Lead #LikeAGirl program was born. Directed towards at-risk, diverse women between the ages of 11 and 15, Lead #LikeAGirl is meant to change the way both the community and the program participants think about female leadership, relationships, self-confidence, and struggles.

Now, the program has been recognized for its impact with an award. In February 2017, Lead #LikeAGirl received an “Innovative Recreation Programming Award” at the mParks Michigan Recreation and Park Association’s annual Conference and Trade Show.

The expo, which is held in Grand Rapids, covers all kinds of topics, from sustainability and overall health to gender identity and tech. And while the top three goals for trade show exhibitors are brand awareness, lead generation, and relationship building, the Lead #LikeAGirl program was recognized for other achievements: namely, their dedication to informing and inspiring young women throughout their monthly workshops.

The Canton Leisure Services staff worked tirelessly to form collaborations with other local organizations, including the Canton Public Library, Canton Public Safety, Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, and even Michigan State Representative Kristy Pagan.

During its first year, 15 young women had graduated from the program as of June 2016. Not only do those ladies now understand what it means to Lead #LikeAGirl, but so do their friends, family, and community members.

Popular Ann Arbor Restaurant Opening New Location in Grand Rapids

palioPalio Ristorante — a longtime Ann Arbor favorite — has announced that it will be expanding to Grand Rapids. The new location is set to open on Medical Mile sometime in the spring.

Mainstreet Ventures owns Palio Ristorante in addition to the Chop House in Ann Arbor and in downtown Grand Rapids. Other restaurants owned by the company include Gratzi, Carson’s, Real Seafood Company, La Dolce Vita, and several others in 12 cities across five different states.

The new Palio location will be where El Barrio Mexican Grill on Michigan Street NE was operating previously. Before opening their new location, Mainstreet will completely renovate the old space.

The company has put forth a budget of $400,000 for a complete floor-to-ceiling remodel of the building’s interior. Some of the new additions will include a pizza oven in full view of the restaurant and a brand new bar. Mainstreet prides itself on creating venues in which patrons can watch their food being made, and that’s their goal in the new location as well.

The menu will be filled with Tuscan-inspired dishes such as fettuccine, carbonara, pizza, and lasagna. For the 10% of U.S. adults who largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet, this might not be a go-to dining establishment. But in addition to all of those dishes, the menu will offer craft beer, cocktails, and an extensive wine list.

The original Palio location in Ann Arbor opened in 1991 and was named for the famous horse race that occurs in Italy twice annually. The original location actually features a wall covered in pictures of the race’s victors over the years.

The new Grand Rapids location will be open for lunch and dinner, seating approximately 150 people indoors and another 50 on an outdoor patio during warmer months. The new location will begin accepting applications on March 19.

The new restaurant is certainly a welcome change for many residents in Grand Rapids, as well as something to look forward to in the coming spring.

West Michigan Home and Garden Show Offers Focus on Smart Veggie Gardening

It may be February, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate a garden or have to wait to improve your green thumb. The annual West Michigan Home and Garden Show will be back next month for its 37th season, and this year, there’s a big focus on vegetables.

Among the 350 exhibitors at this year’s show is an entire series on smart vegetable gardening. Whether you’re a total gardening novice, want to determine whether your soil is healthy, or would like information on how to start a garden in a small space, these sessions — hosted by The Michigan State University Extension’s Smart Gardening team — will tell you everything you need to know.

Other seminars offered on March 2 and 3 will focus on community gardens, beekeeping, and selecting the right type of vegetables that provide the biggest boost to your health.

While gardening may be thought of as a niche hobby, it’s become extremely popular. In spring of 2014, 113.5 million people said they gardened within the last 12 months. But it’s also been shown to have a wide variety of surprising health benefits — and not just due to the types of fresh veggies gardeners grow.

Studies have shown that gardeners tend to have a lower BMI and a decreased likelihood of being overweight or obese. Those who garden often find it easier to lose weight because it’s an enjoyable activity that allows you to accomplish more than just a good workout. In addition, gardening may reduce your risk of heart disease, help you develop better coordination and strength, and even boost your immune system.

Gardening may provide physical advantages, but it can also help with your mental and emotional state, too. NASA researchers found that working with plants in space provided stress relief and positive mental stimulation. And other studies have shown that being surrounded by nature can have amazing effects on our emotional well-being.

No matter your reasons for wanting to garden, the seminars at the Home and Garden Show can help you get started on a fulfilling and healthy hobby. Those who register by February 16 can receive a 20% discount, and all registrants will receive a free pass to the Home and Garden Show. More information about the smart veggie gardening sessions is available on the show’s website. You’ll learn how to improve your health with a vegetable garden at home or in your community just in time for spring planting.