Lunch and Learn: Marijuana Policy and Your Small Business

Wednesday, February 13, 2019Green MJ STD
11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Big Rapids Department of Public Safety
435 N. Michigan Avenue
Big Rapids
With the passing of Proposal 1, the recreational use and possession of marijuana is now legal in the state of Michigan. With this new legislation comes new questions and challenges when it comes to small business.
On Wednesday, February 13, join us for this free event as Micah Babcock, of the Small Business Administration of Michigan helps us to tackle some of the burning questions you may have about:
– Marijuana on a federal level, and what it means for your business
– What legalization means as an employer
– Drug testing
She will also share her thoughts and recommendations on the next steps for the law.
Also, to give a local perspective, City of Big Rapids’ City Attorney, Eric Williams will be on hand to discuss local marijuana policy and the outlook for the City’s marijuana economy.
This event is free, but RSVP is required. Register HERE. If you have any questions, please contact Megan at

Michigan Works! West Central Announces Approval of Nearly $350,000 to Train Local Employees

MI WOrksThe state announced today it has awarded nearly $350,000 to Michigan Works! West Central to help employers with workforce development. The money was made available through the Going Pro Talent Fund (formerly the Skilled Trades Training Fund or STTF). Companies applied for funding through Michigan Works! during the application period in September and October.

“The state received more than 1,200 applications this year and as a result the scoring process was extremely competitive.” said Michigan Works Executive Director Paul Griffith. “We submitted a total of 32 applications, to train or upgrade the skills of nearly 650 employees, including 15 apprenticeships in all six of our counties, and over 50% of those funding requests were approved. It shows how popular this fund has become.”

In Mecosta, Newaygo, and Osceola counties, 7 companies, received nearly $153,000 in grants to train more than 100 employees. They include:

Mecosta County:

  • Hamtech Inc.
  • Original Footwear Manufacturing

Newaygo County:

  • M.B. and D. LLC (The Commons of Fremont/Fremont Lanes)
  • Nestle – Gerber Products

Osceola County:

  • Cargill Salt Hersey
  • Logic Plus, Inc.
  • Reed City Group, LLC (formerly Reed City Tool)

Business Services Director Jonathan Eppley worked with companies in Mecosta, Newaygo and Osceola counties who filed applications. “Some funding was set aside for a special application called an “Industry Lead Collaborative (ILC), that does not have a deadline, and companies can apply for year round.” Eppley said. “We already expect to file one ILC application in January and we encourage other companies to collaborate and do the same.”

Companies that weren’t initially approved have been placed on a waiting list and may be awarded funds as monies become available. This is the sixth year of the program, which was implemented by Governor Rick Snyder in 2013, and administered by the state Talent Investment Agency.

A Taste of Mecosta: A Taste of Home!

Copy of Copy of Copy of Copy of A Taste of HomeThe Mecosta County Area Chamber of Commerce invites you to attend the 14th annual Taste of Mecosta County! This year, the Taste of Mecosta offers you A Taste of Home! Join Mecosta County’s best restaurants and caterers as they offer up their most delectable signature dishes and comfort food. Just a reminder that you don’t have to travel far to enjoy world class cuisine; it is right here in your own backyard!
Tickets are $15.00 in advance, and are available HERE or at the Chamber office (Children 2 and under are free, ages 3 to 8 are $5.00). Proceeds from this event benefit the Leadership Mecosta program in the form of scholarships.
Interested in featuring your restaurant or caterer at this year’s event? Contact the Chamber at to register.

Our January Member of the Month is Lowe’s #2532!

Lowes-logo-w268-w300Lowe’s has been supporting the Big Rapids area since 2004 by providing the right home improvement products, with the best service and value, across each channel and community we serve. From the start, our store has consistently earned accolades for providing exceptional customer service, and even achieved Lowe’s “Customer Focused Store of the Year” in 2014 based on your feedback.
Recognizing that great service goes beyond the aisle, each year Lowe’s invests in the community through “Lowe’s Heroes” projects. We provide funds, products, and manpower to repair, rebuild, or renovate local facilities such as schools, parks, playgrounds, veteran’s facilities, and participation in Habitat for Humanity projects. Our associates also choose to donate their time through our “Give Back” program, empowering them to make a difference in the community in their own ways.
Lowe’s is continuously adapting to the needs of the community and the customers we serve. Recently Lowe’s has acquired Craftsman® Tools and we are actively expanding our product selection for your DIY or Professional needs. Customers looking for help with their exterior projects can take advantage of free in-home estimates for installed decking, siding, windows, roofing, HVAC and more. Our interior installation categories include flooring, cabinets and counter tops, plumbing and electrical fixtures, all the way to kitchen and bath remodeling. Our Pro Business customers have access to every day discounts on all purchases, reduced delivery rates, buy-in-bulk savings, customized purchasing options, and personalized service by a team of dedicated sales specialists.
Contact us at 231-580-2000 or visit us in store or on for help with your next project today!

GFWC Distributes Warm Clothing to Local Charities

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GFWC-Big Rapids is thankful for the response from the community as well as its members for the donations to the 2018 Mitten Tree.  With the support of Chemical Bank to house the tree and Patterson’s Flowers to loan the tree, 78 items – mittens, gloves, scarves, hats and miscellaneous other items – were delivered to Project Starburst and WISE.  GFWC hopes that these items will assure that the families who utilize the services of these agencies will be able to keep their children warm during the winter season.

Picture – Haeli Johnson, Mecosta County Outreach Coordinator for WISE and Mary Beth Vanderlist, GFWC Member

Big Rapids Lions Club Distributes Dictionaries

Students at Brookside Elementary receive their dictionaries.

As part of its outreach to help the youth of the community, the Big Rapids Lions Club provides dictionaries to all of the 3rd grade students in Big Rapids.  This year they handed out over 200 dictionaries in 10 classrooms including Riverview Elementary, Brookside Elementary, Cross Roads Academy, St. Peter’s, St. Mary and Big Jackson.  Teachers throughout the schools indicated they use the dictionaries in their classroom activities and truly appreciate having them for all of their students

A Letter from the Director

Whether your company experiences an annual slow season or you’re simply going

Jennifer Heinzman, Executive Director

through a slump, off-season marketing techniques allow you to combat this issue. While there may not always be a way to avoid the slump entirely, strategically marketing during the off-season can improve sales and reinvigorate your client base.

When your business is busy, you barely have the time to stay on top of everything. However, the slow season gives you the opportunity to catch up with projects and ideas that fell by the wayside. Those blog posts you didn’t get to, the social media profiles that need updating, the email campaign idea you’ve been thinking about… Now is the time to give all these initiatives the attention they deserve.

When did you last send a targeted message to potential leads? Those interested parties may only need to hear from you to re-engage their curiosity about your company. Focusing your off-season marketing efforts on people who have already shown interest in your business is an easy way to grab that low-hanging fruit.  As you reach out to these leads, use the analytics generated from your email marketing software to clean out your subscriber list. Remove any users that didn’t open your messages, deleted them, or ones that bounced back. Once you’ve cleaned out your subscriber list, your messaging will only be delivered to those who are interested in shopping your business.

Most businesses find success by building a loyal customer base. Reward their loyalty by offering your regulars exclusive discounts that are only good during the off-season. Sweeten the deal by adding complementary products and/or services when they make a purchase. Also, your regular clients are an untapped resource for potential leads. Ask these individuals for referrals and send them a coupon or gift certificate to show your appreciation. This will only encourage these people to continue using your business.

If your business needs more customer reviews, entice clients to take this action by providing an incentive to do so. When a customer writes a review on Google, LinkedIn, Yelp, or Facebook for your company, give them something to show your appreciation, such as a one-time offer for an exclusive service/product.

There’s always a reason not to get involved when your business is busy. However, while things are slow, invest the time in partnering with a non-profit organization. Socially responsible businesses draw higher brand loyalty, increased opportunities to generate leads, and improve public image. Brainstorm how your company can ingratiate itself into the community. For example, work with other small businesses in the area to market products and services together. Sponsor a local children’s sports team to help get your name out there. Offer to write guest blog posts for local news sites. The possibilities are endless.

Sometimes the most effective strategy for building a business is working with a smaller target audience. If you are attempting to grab everyone’s attention, your message may go unnoticed. However, niche audiences appreciate having their specific needs addressed. Rather than trying to engage everyone, reach out to the niche audience that can use your products or services. Find unique ways to whet their appetite to drive purchases. These niche audiences can quickly convert into regular customers if you engage them now.

Just because it is your off-season, doesn’t mean you should slow down your marketing efforts. Continue publishing blog posts. Keep posting content regularly on your social media channels. Off-season marketing means rethinking your tactics, not discontinuing them. Find seasonal tie-ins for marketing techniques to engage your target audience. Take the time to update your information with the Chamber as we are often referring your business to your future customers. Make sure you are taking advantage of all the promotional opportunities available as part of your membership and as always, if there is anything we can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask.

Merry Christmas!