Moolenaar Visits Simonds International

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Pictured (L-R): Dave Campbell of Simonds International; Jennifer Heinzman, MCACC; Congressman John Moolenaar; Jim Sandy, MCDC; Tom Hogenson, City of Big Rapids.
Congressman John Moolenaar of the U.S. House of Representatives visited with Dave Campbell of Simonds International, Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jennifer Heinzman, Big Rapids Mayor Tom Hogenson, and President of the Mecosta County Development Corporation Jim Sandy to discuss recent federal legislation regarding tariffs on steel imports. This new legislation will have a direct impact locally on businesses, like Simonds, that rely heavily on imported steel to maintain production costs. Following a tour of Simonds International’s facilities, Moolenaar heard from several members of Simonds staff and members of the community as they voiced their concerns regarding current governmental issues. Moolenaar pledged to help local manufacturers voice their concerns to the current federal administration and will continue to support the prosperity of manufacturing in Mecosta County.
“We really appreciate that Congressman Moolenaar took the time to meet with us today,” said Heinzman. “Our ultimate goal is to keep as many local manufacturing jobs as possible in Mecosta County. Having the support of our state and federal representatives is imperative to the continued prosperity of the region. It is our hope that Congressman Moolenaar will continue to be a supportive voice for us in Washington.”

Congressman John Moolenaar represents the residents of Michigan’s Fourth Congressional District. He is currently a member of the House Appropriations Committee.


Renew You: A message from our director

As we head into spring we are filled with thoughts of renewal, rejuvenation, and growth, making this the perfect time to concentrate on revitalizing ourselves. We all know that eating well, getting adequate sleep, staying hydrated, and exercising are necessary for proper physical well-being, but what are you doing to stimulate your psyche in business and in life? Do you focus on positive affirmations? Do you try to avoid negative people? When is the last time you purged your work space to free yourself of clutter? How long has it been since you’ve taken a vacation? Do you have an outlet that allows you to fully relax? Here at the Chamber of Commerce, we are constantly looking for ways to help you improve your businesses so we thought it was only fitting to talk about taking care of the most important asset you have… you!

In today’s hectic world, it seems everywhere you turn there are people who are stressed out, burned out, and exhausted; you may be one of them. In situations like this it is important that you take time out to restore your energy or run the risk of creating both mental and physical issues. A lack of time is one of the biggest complaints of businesspeople – that’s why it’s vital to budget the time, whether you plan a big block of time for strategic planning or just a few minutes each day for meditation, you can add self-care to your to-do list – it is important and will benefit you and your business in the long-run.

When you wake up, it’s easier to feel like you have plenty of time since the whole day is ahead of you. Try to take advantage of that feeling by providing self-care first thing in the morning, before you even start to work on your business. Go to the gym, eat a protein-packed breakfast, meditate, write in a gratitude journal, prep your meals, read a book, whatever brings you solace. There’s no right or wrong way to provide self-care. The key is just carving out the time. Include self-care in your regular schedule even if that means you need to schedule in extra hours of sleep.

Don’t want to get up earlier to implement these strategies? Try one of these small changes throughout your day to feel rejuvenated instead: work smarter to win back more of your time, attempt to prioritize yourself and take breaks when possible, make time for meal breaks; turn technology off, don’t try and multi-task, just enjoy your meal, start work late from time to time, finish work early from time to time, say “no” to more things, and focus on achieving in all areas of your life, not just in your business.

Taking care of you and being the best version of yourself will benefit you, your family and your business so make yourself a priority now and always!

As always, if there is anything we can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask!pexels-photo-415380.jpeg

Be Engaged: Making the Most Out of Your Chamber Membership.

We here at the Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commcerce are really happy to introduce one of our new initiatives for the year with our “Be Engaged” plan for member engagement.  You may have heard the phrase regarding the chamber, “you get out of it what you put into it.”  But what does that mean? How can you be more involved with the chamber?

With that in mind, we created the 8-4-2-1 plan, to give you a little bit of a road map for engagement.  We think that if you can try it out, and commit to these opportunities, your community connections and engagement will give you a better appreciation for all that the chamber can do for your business.  Let me explain the four parts of the plan: Attend, Vocalize, Volunteer, and Invest.

Attend: 8 Times.

The chamber hosted over 60 events last year.  From our big events like the Holiday Gala to our monthly Business after Hours and Rise and Shines, there are many opportunities to interact with your fellow members and the community at large. This year we are expanding out Lunch and Learn Series to take place monthly for even more educational opportunities. But we realize that attending every event that the chamber puts out is nearly impossible. But, if you can commit to attending just 8 of these events, many of which are free of charge, you really will appreciate the chance to grow your network and relationships within the community. Take advantage of these opportunities.

Vocalize: 4 Times.

Our electronic newsletter reaches nearly 1,100 inboxes weekly and our monthly print newsletter is included monthly in the Big Rapids Pioneer, reaching all subscribers, chamber members and the community at large. How do we pick what news and events are included in these outlets? They are submitted by you, the members! If you have any news or events coming up regarding your business, share them with us! We can help spread the word. Put your events on our online community calendar, so visitors to our web page know what you have coming up. You are able to access your chamber page and create events yourself, but if not, give us a call and we can help you. We also can, when appropriate, help you to share big news via e-blasts and social media. You are welcome to share more often, as many of you do, but if you are just starting, aim for 4. If you share just 4 times a year, it will help to keep your business’ name at the forefront of the community’s mind.


Volunteer. 2 times.

The chamber is staffed by four people: your Executive Director, Jennifer Heinzman;  Megan Eppley, Programming and Events Coordinator; and our Administrative Assistants, Jayna Wekenman and Whitney Buffa. We create and host over 60 events a year. We absolutely could not do it without our volunteer committees! We have many opportunities for volunteers: help us plan an event, join one of our advisory committees, be an ambassador, or if you can’t commit to that, offer to volunteer at an actual event. There is always something to be done, so join us and volunteer at least 2 times. It is an easy and fun way to interact with the chamber and your fellow members.

Invest. 1 Time.

As a chamber member, you are included in our annual membership directory, and when people call our office and look for referrals, we always recommend chamber members first. You can enhance that community recognition, by taking advantage of one of our many sponsorship opportunities.  From premium memberships, to event sponsorships, there are a number of chances for you to have your business more prevalently featured in Mecosta County. There is a list of sponsorship opportunities on our website, but if you don’t see something that seems to fit your business, come and talk to us. We will find something that is just right for you. As previously mentioned, we have a number of Lunch and Learns coming up, and we would love to have some lunch sponsors for those, so if you are interested, let’s talk!


That was a lot of information, but we really think that if you give this plan a try and commit to following this model, we are confident that you will definitely feel a greater connection with the chamber and the community as a whole. And as always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask! Call the office at (231) 796-7649 or email for more information.

Financial Literacy

Content provided by Isabella Bank

Isabella Bank offers several resources online to encourage kids and adults to save.  A good way to start is to identify your savings goal and talk about the importance of saving money with your family.  For example, if your child would like to purchase a special item, but it is currently out of their reach, this would be a great opportunity to talk about saving money and budgeting.  We recommend a 30/30/30/10 savings plan; 30% spend, 30% short-term savings, 30% long-term savings, and 10% donations.  You can download a copy of this savings plan on our website at

Our Kids Club account offers a Premium Credit to our young savers who grow their savings throughout the year.  Young savers are welcome to a piggy bank in the branch to help them save money at home.  Additionally, Isabella Bank hosts a drawing for kids to win a Melissa & Doug Lemonade Stand in the summer to encourage entrepreneurial savings.  Kids can use their stand to raise money to place in their savings.  Online tools are available at any time on our website.

There are many savings options to fit your need.  Traditional Savings, College Savings Programs, Investments, and Certificates of Deposits are all good options to help your child save for the future.  Each option offers different features and benefits to help the customer meet their goal.  If your teen is ready for the next step in budgeting, a checking account with  debit card, can be opened at age 16.  (A parent is required to be on the account as well.)

Call, click, or visit us today to learn more about saving money or request a presentation for your group.

Upcoming Webinar Opportunities

Webinars offered by the Michigan Small Business Development Center
Small Business Employment Eligibility – What You Need to Know About I-9 Forms
3/22 – 11:00am – 12:00pm
We know that as a small business you may have specific challenges and concerns related to legal employment eligibility of your staff and the Form I-9 can be daunting. Let us help take care of your questions and concerns during this 1-hour webinar. If any of the following questions have ever come to mind when completing the Form I-9 you will want to join us for these key lessons on what every employer should know about the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Form! · What should version of the Form I-9 should I use? · What if my employee’s documents are lost, stolen, or damaged? · How long must I keep the Form I-9? · What if I get audited? · Are Form I-9 and E-Verify the same? Don’t miss out on this opportunity to hear directly from experts at the Department of Homeland Security on Form I-9 proper completion!
Speaker(s): Jenny Nelson and Joel Grauer – Management and Program Analysts on the Outreach and Training team at E-Verify. E-Verify is a division of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service within the Department of Homeland Security.

Key Lessons About E-Verify for Small Business
3/29 – 11:00am – 12:00pm

Have you ever wondered how you can reduce your risk of liability when hiring? As a small business it can be hard to find simple and cost effective ways to do just that. Join us to learn how you can enroll in the FREE E-Verify program so that you can quickly and easily reduce your risk of liability during employment verification. During the session you hear from the E-Verify experts about the benefits of this system for employers, the steps on how to enroll, simple use for new hires, as well as answers to any of your E-Verify questions!
Speaker(s): Jenny Nelson and Joel Grauer – Management and Program Analysts on the Outreach and Training team at E-Verify. E-Verify is a division of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service within the Department of Homeland Security.
Technology Tips and Tricks for Small Business
3/27 – 11:00am – 12:00pm
Learn more about essential tips and tricks to help stay secure online. Join us as we discuss several tips and tricks that will help you stay more secure while online. We’ll walk you through a quick-paced webinar, ask a few poll questions of the audience, and give you time for question and answer with the Michigan SBDC’s Cyber Security Awareness Program Specialist, Scott Taber.

You’ll leave the webinar with:

1. Easy to understand examples of these tips and tricks
2. Explanations of why these topics matter for your small business
3. Key steps you can easily implement in your small business

Protect Your Non-Tech Business From Data Breach Disasters
4/24 – 11:00am – 12:00pm

Do you have a technology plan to prepare for the worst? Join us as we discuss how to be prepared for a data breach and what to do after you experience one. We’ll walk you through a quick-paced webinar, ask a few poll questions of the audience, and give you time for question and answer with the Michigan SBDC’s Cyber Security Awareness Program Specialist, Scott Taber.

You’ll leave the webinar with:

1. Easy to understand examples of these tips and tricks
2. Explanations of why these topics matter for your small business
3. Key steps you can easily implement in your small business

What The Heck Are Data Protection Policies?
5/29 – 11:00am – 12:00pm

Do you have essential data protection policies in place for your small business? Join us as we discuss the importance of data protection policies and how they protect your business. We’ll walk you through a quick-paced webinar, ask a few poll questions of the audience, and give you time for question and answer with the Michigan SBDC’s Cyber Security Awareness Program Specialist, Scott Taber.

You’ll leave the webinar with:

1. Easy to understand examples of these tips and tricks
2. Explanations of why these topics matter for your small business

3. Key steps you can easily implement in your small business

The Impact of Literacy in a Community

By: Tirzah Price, Big Rapids Community Library

At Big Rapids Community Library, we believe that building thriving communities starts with literacy. Strong literacy skills are the gateway to future success in all fields and professions, but unfortunately, Michigan is failing in this regard. According to a report released by the State in 2017, 55.9% of third grade students were not reading proficiently. Students who can’t read proficiently in the third grade are four times more likely to not graduate from high school. The problem is so serious that beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, the Michigan Third-grade Reading Law will hold back students who aren’t reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

The Big Rapids Community Library works to ensure that literacy practices are routine in children’s lives before they even reach elementary school. It begins with Catch ‘Em in the Cradle, a program giving every baby born in Big Rapids Spectrum Hospital a new board book, and their parents important information on how to start reading to their children. The 1,000 Books before Kindergarten program encourages parents to read at least 1,000 books with their children before they start kindergarten because reading, talking, writing, playing, and singing all foster early literacy skills that will help children succeed in school. The Library hosts Story Time programs twice a week, providing children and parents a fun, structured, and social outlet for reading fun.

To ensure access for all children in the community, the Big Rapids Let’s Read program allows every student enrolled in a Big Rapids school to obtain a library card, provides free resources for teachers, and helps to provide curated selections of excellent books in every classroom. The Summer Reading program is open to all kids and adults, incentivizing reading and making learning fun with reading challenges and free events to keep kids occupied all summer long. The 2018 Summer Reading program theme is Music and the program kick off is June 15th from 11am – 2pm at the Library.

Perhaps the most significant indicator of childhood literacy is parent literacy. Not only can parents read to and with their children, but they can set excellent examples by reading themselves. Using the Library resources demonstrates to children that literacy and the Library are important aspects of any community. Teens and adults are encouraged to check out books, utilize our research databases, join a book club, and attend programs and events. Literacy can also extend beyond the ability to read and write, and include computer, health, and food literacy. The Library offers weekly technology classes, a seed library, community gardens, and continuous free programming on a variety of events throughout the year.

Education and open access to information have a direct link to economic success and quality of life. Business owners should care about literacy because studies show that more than 36 million American adults lack the literacy skills to engage in the workforce, and 43% of adults with low-literacy skills live in poverty. As a result, low literacy costs businesses and taxpayers $225 billion each year in government assistance and unemployment. The Library is committed to offering free and equal access to information to all; ensuring citizens are healthier, happier, and civically engaged.

10 Reads for Business and Life

By: Jayna Wekenman, Administrative Assistant, Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

By Tom Kelley and David Kelley, 2013

You are creative, I am creative, we are all creative.  This book facilitates readers in discovery of creative potentials and embracing personal creativity.  Whether utilizing creativity for customer retention, design solutions, workplace dynamics, or personal projects – grab a notebook.  You’ll be glad you did.

The Answer to How Is Yes

By Peter Block, 2003

In many situations, questions like: How are you planning to do that? or How will this benefit us?  suggest doubt.  The person asking might doubt the outcome, doubt the process, doubt the idea person, or simply doubt their understanding of all the aspects of the idea.  How questions can simply get in the way if the parties asking the questions need to be convinced of the idea or competencies of the idea person.  Based on my personal experience, answering how questions quickly eats up ambition especially if how questions are followed by more how questions.  If how questions are intentionally used to dismiss ideas (i.e. it sounds great, but how…? or How are we going to find the time to …? ) a simple no with feedback is quicker and more confidence building.

Formulating an idea usually means the idea person already knows How.  Trust them, move forward with Yes answers, and re-frame the questions to get the answers you actually need.  i.e. What are the next steps?  What needs completed by the end of the week?  Who is responsible for… ?  Help me understand…  What do you need me to do?  etc.

How might we …? is an exception that moves ideas through phases of exploration.

Notes to Inspire

By Simon Sinek

 Daily inspirations through emailSign up at:  Videos of Sinek’s talks can be found on YouTube or

 Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence

By Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, & Annie McKee, 2013

Backed with research and theory, readers are facilitated through reflections and insights on why they do what they do and ways in which they might change leadership strategies and outcomes.

Finding Flow

By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1997

Have you ever been totally engaged in a project, looked at the clock, and realized an hour flew by?  If so, you may have experienced the state of “flow.”  This read conceptualizes Flow Theory by the relationship of challenge and skill, and suggests ways in which the state of flow can serve people in both their professional and personal lives.

The model described can also help with understanding engagement of employees based on that relationship of skill and challenge.  For instance, if employees are highly skilled yet experience boredom, perhaps increase the challenges they engage in.  Or, if an employee experiences high anxiety to tackle a project, employers might consider offering skill development that aligns with project challenges.

  1. Anything Brene’ Browne. 

Period.  Like Sinek, Browne has videos and Ted Talks online also.

Environmental Enrichment for Captive Animals

By Robert J Young, 2003

 This may seem far from relevant.  However, the research and techniques of Enrichment transfers to the human species as well.  Shop Class as Soulcraft (Matthew Crawford, 2009), Flow Theory by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (mentioned), and articles on employee engagement are the human-focused application of Enrichment theories addressing motivation, choice, stimuli, species-specific behaviors, etc.  Anyone responsible for creating space, engaging, or managing people (or animals) should invest in these reads.

Any bilingual children’s book you find

 Each page has the story in both English and another language so you main build familiarity or brush up on language skills while following the story line.

 A Clockwork Orange

By Anthony Burgess, 1962

This is my wild card.  However, it makes my list for the skills developed through reading.  Burgess used Nadsat, a slang invented for this book.  Words like droog (friend), rooker (hand), and malchick (boy) pepper every page, forcing the reader to use context clues to decipher the storyline.  I don’t know about you, but I use these skills of decoding, deciphering, and drawing together conclusions when tackling projects, understanding messages, and more.

And for all you out there moving things forward and submerged in tasks, I’ll leave you with this:

To Be of Use by Marge Percy

The people I love the best

jump into work head first

without dallying in the shallows

and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element,

the black sleek heads of seals

bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,

who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,

who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,

who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge

in the task, who go into the fields to harvest

and work in a row and pass the bags along,

who are not parlor generals and field deserters

but move in a common rhythm

when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.

Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.

But the thing worth doing well done

has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

Greek amphoras for wine or oil,

Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums

but you know they were made to be used.

The pitcher cries for water to carry

and a person for work that is real.

A Letter from the Director


As employees of the Chamber, we serve in jobs covering most of the disciplines found in other small businesses – communications, finance, marketing, customer service and event planning; additional responsibilities include advocacy, providing educational opportunities, serving as an information hub for the community, acting as Public Notaries, etc. Our mission is to “promote quality of life through the economic, educational and cultural development of Mecosta County”.

In general, we focus to some degree on five primary goals: building communities to which residents, visitors and investors are attracted; promoting those communities; striving to ensure future prosperity via a pro-business climate; representing the unified voice of the employer community; and reducing transactional friction through well-functioning networks. We share a common ambition for sustained prosperity of our communities, built on thriving employers.

With that being said, we often get involved in projects that may seem out of our wheelhouse but do, in fact, have a major impact on our members. We are currently working on initiatives involving childcare, robotics, manufacturing, and literacy in an effort to alleviate barriers to employment. We are focusing on literacy this month because March is Reading Month.

The Chamber, the Great Start Collaborative, SLD Read, the Big Rapids Community Library, the Mecosta County Development Corporation, the public schools, the MOISD, Ferris State University, and others, have joined together and created Mecosta County Reads, an initiative that aims to increase literacy in all sectors of our community. Along with providing information on available services and promoting literacy, this group aims to bring awareness to the depth of the problem in our area and create a safe space where people can seek assistance without social repercussions.

This group has been collecting and analyzing data, discussing ways to promote reading with young children, looking into alternatives for adults with literacy issues, and collecting information to be easily shared in one spot for all ages. Although we have a long road ahead of us, our goal is to change the culture that is currently allowing 50% of our kindergarteners to enter school below reading level in Mecosta County. According the West Michigan Regional Dashboard, that number increases to 56% below reading level by the third grade.  These statistics grow into far too many adults with literacy issues. By improving literacy at all ages, we will cover the gamut, changing the culture and creating a more literate community across the board, and, in turn, increasing the workforce.

A solid foundation in literacy can be an essential aspect of job attainment, career advancement, and potential successes. For safety reasons, literacy is essential in many manufacturing jobs, for example, employees need to be able to read warning signs and instructions. Individuals with literacy issues would have difficulty performing these types of jobs, if they were even offered the opportunity. For many office positions, a requirement of the application process is to write a cover letter along with submitting a resume; a solid literacy foundation would play a vital part in the successful composition and presentation of such materials.

If you or someone you know could benefit from one of the many services offered in Mecosta County aimed to help improve literacy, please contact the Chamber for more information or log on to the Big Rapids Public Library website to see a complete list of available options.

As always, if there is anything we can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask!