Rising tide of optimism eddies around Battle Creek River naturalization project

BATTLE CREEK, MI  — Ripples of hope are being felt by an organization that has been working since 2014 to naturalize a portion of the Kalamazoo River in the city’s downtown.

In late April, Battle Creek Unlimited issued a press release about the city’s acquisition of buildings that formerly housed Ralston/TreeHouse and Graphic Packaging International. Members of  Battle Creek Whitewater Inc., the nonprofit that wants the river restored to a natural-looking state, say they are encouraged by these latest developments.

“Those acquisitions are the result of gifts made to the city by the developer that acquired those properties,” says John Macfarlane, founder of Battle Creek Whitewater and an attorney in Battle Creek. “That’s significant because the state of Michigan allocated $13 million in 2022 to acquire property, accomplish demolition, and do environmental work. The fact that the city has received these properties gratis clears more money for other work. There’s considerable expense for the demolition work.”

There are approximately 3,800 feet of concrete river channel with an additional 1200 plus feet of river restoration to the Monroe Street Dam and the Dickman Hwy River crossing, says Joe Sobieralski, President and CEO of Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU) which is spearheading the effort to naturalize the river.

“This will not only address a wide variety of fish and wildlife ecosystems and related environmental issues, but it will also increase recreational opportunities by connecting 46 miles of river, improve pedestrian access, and connect the downtown with the surrounding businesses and neighborhoods to spur economic opportunities in and around the downtown Battle Creek community,” he says.

Photo courtesy of John Grap

The Kalamazoo River flows to the west south of Hamblin Avenue near downtown Battle Creek. Proponents of a plan to remove that channel say that it has exceeded its life expectancy. They use words like “ugly,” “eyesore,” and “a detriment,” to describe the 4,000-foot channel and the way they view the concrete embankment constructed as a flood deterrent during the late 1950s and early 1960s by the Army Corps of Engineers.

“This project is located in the downtown Battle Creek area of the Kalamazoo River from the Dickman Highway Culvert going downstream northwest approximately one mile to the convergent with the Battle Creek River,” he says.

Macfarlane says he’s heard from the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) and they support the project. However, that was not always the case.

ACE was at one time reluctant to endorse modifying the river because they didn’t believe there was an alternative design within the existing footprint that would accommodate for possible flooding.

“The acquisition of the former Ralston/Treehouse and GPI structures allows for a lot of other options to be explored for widening the river and creating little floodplains or oxbows as ways of dealing with increasing water levels when rain or snow is dumping water into the river,” Macfarlane says. “The Army Corps  appreciates that the city has that property.”

Ted Dearing, Battle Creek Assistant City Manager, agrees there is reason for optimism.

“I’m glad we’ve reached a point where the logistics and land ownership in that area have put us in a position to move forward,” Dearing says. “This is going to take a while. The last couple of years we’ve been studying the feasibility of the project and had to have the Corps of Engineers on board saying ‘Yes, it’s feasible.”

Photo courtesy of Battle Creek Whitewater

One possible way the river could look if it were freed from its concrete channel.“It is very important to help restore the downtown vibrancy by removing abandoned industrial facilities and allowing for the river restoration to take place within this project area,” Sobieralski says. “This allows the project to be feasible by having more land to restore the river, create a linear park, and redevelop adjacent property with mixed-use development.” 

The estimated timeframe for the project is between seven and 15 years because there are so many moving parts, he says.

“The Army Corps of Engineers needs to have this project authorized and to have this project be included in the final Water Resource Development Act (WRDA) passed by the Federal Government. Then after the WRDA is passed the second big goal is to have Federal funding appropriated to this project. Then the United States Army Corps of Engineers would be able to conduct its GI (General Investigation) study,” he says. “We are hopeful that this could take place within the next three to five years. The GI study could take up to three years to complete. Then the project would need to seek additional federal appropriations and local funding match needed for the implementation of river restoration that could include the removal of the concrete channel. So, this final completion stage could take place in the following three to seven years.”

The Army Corps of Engineers has a program that provides financial support and assistance for river naturalization projects.

Under the authority provided by Section 1135 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, the Corps may plan, design, and build modifications to existing Corps projects, or areas degraded by Corps projects, to restore aquatic habitats for fish and wildlife, according to the Army Corps of Engineers website.

Sobieralski says BCU will be seeking additional funds to augment whatever the Corps of Engineers contributes.

“The large amount of federal funding we are pursuing is through the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA), followed by state funding grant opportunities from the DNR Department of Natural Resources and EGLE (Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy) and pursuing other local and community grants.”

Photo courtesy of John Grap

he Kalamazoo River merges with the Battle Creek River southwest of downtown Battle Creek.Part of Battle Creek Whitewater’s involvement in the naturalization project as it moves forward will include fundraising, Macfarlane says.

“While there are many grant opportunities and funding at the state and local level, any grant sources want to see some level of local involvement and the way to do that is fundraising and showing people in the community who are willing to donate to the cause.”

In addition to the fundraising, Macfarlane says he believes his group also will be involved in the selection process for a consultant who will focus on creating a comprehensive design for the project and pre-engineering work.

“I’m very interested in doing that because I have very definite ideas about the type of engineering firm we should be looking for. There are several companies in the country devoted to river restoration work and they create kayak courses.”

Dearing says project stakeholders will want to engage the public in the design and what the possibilities are when the project is at that point.

Although still very much in the planning/feasibility design phase, Sobieralski says once completed there is the potential for recreational activities that “could include but are not limited to, non-motorized trail to connect into the Battle Creek Linear Trail, a fishing pier, universal design boat launch for kayaks and canoes, playground and youth-focused recreational activities.”

The naturalization project is vital to continuing efforts to increase a sense of vibrancy in Battle Creek, Macfarlane says.

“I think it’s going to have a huge transformative effect on the city and invigorate a real sense of community pride — and give the community a wonderful gathering space,” he says.

Editor’s note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave’s On the Ground Battle Creek series.

Battle Creek Hosts Americas Competitiveness Exchange (ACE) Delegation on Michigan Tour

May 9th, 2024

BATTLE CREEK, MICH – Battle Creek was host to over 70 senior-level government, business, policy, and economic leaders from 20 countries as part of this year’s Americas Competitiveness Exchange (ACE) tour of Michigan.

The delegation toured two locations, considered among Michigan’s best of the best in Southeast and Southwest Michigan: WK Kellogg Co and Duncan Aviation. Each company showcased Battle Creek’s penchant for innovation and our continuous growth in key industries. Both WK Kellogg Co and Duncan Aviation have made significant investment into the Battle Creek community in the past year.

For their first tour, delegates were treated to a visit with the iconic Tony the Tiger as well as breakfast provided by WK Kellogg Co.  They also learned about the company’s history in Battle Creek as well as their recent investment into the city. Stacy Flathau, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for WK Kellogg Co, remarked: “Participating in ACE Michigan presents a fantastic opportunity for WK Kellogg Co to highlight our longstanding heritage and commitment in Battle Creek, as well as our vision for the future. It is an honor to be recognized among Michigan’s best, and we are grateful to the ACE team and the MEDC for promoting and supporting business here in our hometown.”

Next on the visit to Battle Creek was Duncan Aviation to showcase their top-of-the-line work in the aviation industry. Participants were able to tour the original Duncan facility as well as their recently completed expansion. Duncan shared insight into their industry and their global impact as well as their history in Battle Creek. Travis Grimsley, Vice President of Aircraft Services, stated “Duncan Aviation is thrilled to have been chosen as a tour site by ACE. This chance has enabled us to highlight not only our innovative business and company culture but also our commitment to our community. We are thankful to ACE and the MEDC for selecting Duncan as a site to be featured among the best of the best in Michigan.”

President & CEO of BCU, Joe Sobieralski, stated: “This event highlights Battle Creek among the best cities in the state of Michigan due to companies like WK Kellogg Co and Duncan Aviation that continue to invest in Battle Creek. We are thrilled to showcase Battle Creek and are grateful to the MEDC for choosing our city as an ACE tour location and to both WK Kellogg Co and Duncan Aviation for opening their doors for this opportunity.”

ACE is the premier economic development, innovation, and entrepreneurial network of the Americas. Beginning in 2014, tours have been held in rotation between two different countries. Each location must go through a bidding process to be considered. Displaying an aptitude for innovation, investment, and leading industries, Michigan was selected. In addition to Battle Creek, delegates toured Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Ann Arbor. The 16 total ACE events have resulted in over 1160 showcased projects.

###

ABOUT BATTLE CREEK UNLIMITED

Established in 1972, Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU) is a private, non-profit corporation which serves as the economic development arm for the City of Battle Creek and manages the Fort Custer Industrial Park. The Fort Custer Industrial Park is home to over 80 businesses, including 25 international companies, and employs over 13,000 people. BCU’s mission is to build a strong community by driving strategic investment and job creation. Visit BCUnlimited.org for more info.

MEDIA CONTACT

Joe Sobieralski

President & CEO

Battle Creek Unlimited

www.bcunlimited.org

TEL 269-962-7526

sobieralski@bcunlimited.org

 

Battle Creek Unlimited Receives 2024 Mac Conway Award for Excellence in Economic Development

Mac Conway 2024 Award Logo

BATTLE CREEK, MICH – Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU), has been awarded a 2024 Mac Conway Award for Excellence in Economic Development by Site Selection Magazine. The award is named for Conway Data founder Mac Conway was created to “recognize the efforts of those who worked tirelessly to bring projects large and small to their communities.”

Economic development organizations who receive the award are being recognized for their diligence in attracting new projects of all sizes to their communities for the greater good of the entire region. Organizations were determined by an index of corporate facility investment according to Site Selection Magazine’s Conway Projects database. Six criteria determined scoring: total projects, total investment and jobs associated with those projects, and per-capita calculations by those same metrics.

BCU was chosen based on a wide range of projects of all sizes including the expansions and future investments made by WK Kellogg Co, Denso, United Federal Credit Union, SJS Electric, New Holland Brewing, and Duncan Aviation. The Battle Creek Food Reimagined (BCFR) initiative was also recognized as a community-led effort and inclusive food innovation hub for food and beverage start-ups in Battle Creek. Additionally, Ford Motor Company Blue Oval project located in Marshall, part of the Battle Creek Metro Area, which was spearheaded by the Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance (MAEDA) and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) was highlighted.

President & CEO of BCU, Joe Sobieralski, stated: “BCU is honored to receive the Mac Conway Award. This award reflects the hard work that our team has put in to promote growth and prosperity in Battle Creek and the value of our partnerships in the community and throughout the state. Prosperity is a team sport in Calhoun County, and I also want to acknowledge our partners MAEDA and the MEDC on their monumental success with Ford Motor Company. As part of the Battle Creek Metropolitan Area the Ford project signifies that our area will continue to rise and set the pace for the region, and we look forward to continued growth in the years to come. We thank Site Selection Magazine for the recognition and award, but also recognize MEADA and the MEDC’s role in bringing the Ford project to the region.”

Site Selection Magazine is published by Conway Data Inc and began publication in 1883. Since then it has grown to reach over 45,000 readers across business, consulting, and real estate. It serves as the leading publication in corporate real estate, economic development, site planning, and direct investment. The Mac Conway award was created in 2016 and replaces the former Top Groups award for the publication.

###

ABOUT BATTLE CREEK UNLIMITED

Established in 1972, Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU) is a private, non-profit corporation which serves as the economic development arm for the City of Battle Creek and manages the Fort Custer Industrial Park. The Fort Custer Industrial Park is home to over 80 businesses, including 25 international companies, and employs over 13,000 people. BCU’s mission is to build a strong community by driving strategic investment and job creation. Visit BCUnlimited.org for more info.

MEDIA CONTACT

Joe Sobieralski

President & CEO

Battle Creek Unlimited

www.bcunlimited.org

TEL 269-962-7526

sobieralski@bcunlimited.org

 

New Mill Capital Holdings Partners with Battle Creek Unlimited to Demolish Former Graphic Packaging Facility

New Mill Capital Holdings to donate land to BCU after demolition.

April 23, 2024

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – New Mill Capital Holdings and Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU) have partnered together, as part of the ongoing River Naturalization project, to demolish the 350,000 square foot former Graphic Packaging International (GPI) facility. Work has been underway on the interior for months and major demolition work is set to begin within weeks. Upon completion of the demolition, New Mill Capital Holdings will donate the land to support the overall river naturalization and redevelopment plan.

The GPI facility officially shuttered its doors in August of 2022 and is located on the banks of the Kalamazoo River at 79 E. Fountain Street. The demolition, projected to be completed over 10-month period, will include the removal of the parking lots between the former Ralston/Treehouse facility and GPI. New Mill Capital Holdings previously donated the Treehouse facility to BCU, which spans 450,000 square feet, to support the same river naturalization and development project.

“New Mill Capital Holdings is proud to partner with the Battle Creek Community and BCU on this monumental redevelopment effort. We believe we have created a win win for everyone involved and although the full-on naturalization/redevelopment may be years out, we are excited to see the naturalization project come to fruition,” Greg Schain, Principal New Mill Capital Holdings.

Prior to this project BCU controlled nearly 40 acres along the river, all of which will be a part of the overall river naturalization and redevelopment of the area; increasing Battle Creek’s vibrancy and serving as a hub for the greater community. In 2022 BCU secured $13 million dollars from the state budget for activities associated with beginning the process to naturalize the river and additional grant dollars are being pursued as the project evolves. The 4,000 ft aging concrete channel, placed as a flood control measure in the late 1950s, has exceeded its lifespan; bringing the opportunity for an environmental and community asset to be developed.

Joe Sobieralski, President & CEO of Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU) stated, “Partnering with New Mill Capital Holdings on these donations have given us a leg up and has shaved years off the process to naturalize the river. It has also allowed us to stretch the $13 million dollar grant from the state and make those dollars go further. We are grateful for their partnership and understanding of Battle Creek’s vision to redevelop this area.”

 

###

ABOUT BATTLE CREEK UNLIMITED

Established in 1972, Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU) is a private, non-profit corporation which serves as the economic development arm for the City of Battle Creek and manages the Fort Custer Industrial Park. The Fort Custer Industrial Park is home to over 80 businesses, including 25 international companies, and employs over 13,000 people. BCU’s mission is to build a strong community by driving strategic investment and job creation. Visit BCUnlimited.org for more info.

 

MEDIA CONTACT

Joe Sobieralski, President & CEO

Battle Creek Unlimited

269-962-7526

sobieralski@bcunlimited.org

 

 

 

 

 

Gov. Whitmer Announces New Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation, Enhancing State’s Defense and Aerospace Ecosystem

Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU) applauds Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the MEDC on the creation of the Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation (ODAI). BCU is focused on growing the Defense/Aerospace industry in Battle Creek, especially in the advanced air mobility (AAM) sector.

The Defense/Aerospace sector is critically important to Battle Creek. The city is home to more thank 6,000 servicemen and civilian employees working at the Fort Custer Training Center, the Defense Logistics Agency at the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center, 110th Wing at the Michigan Air National Guard Base, and Battle Creek VA Medical Center. BCU is also hard at work developing MICH-AIR, a hub for large commercial drone manufacturing and operations. In 2018, BCU received a $150,000 grant from the Michigan Defense Center, the ODAI’s predecessor, to conduct a study to determine Battle Creek’s attractiveness to the AAM industry. In 2023, BCU received a $7 million state appropriation to develop MICH-AIR; funds will be used to upgrade the airspace surveillance system to accommodate remotely piloted and autonomous aerial vehicles.

BCU looks forward to ODAI’s incoming executive director Col. John Gutierrez and his team to grow this industry in Battle Creek.

https://www.michiganbusiness.org/press-releases/2024/04/office-of-defense-and-aerospace-innovation/

Gov. Whitmer Announces New Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation, Enhancing State’s Defense and Aerospace Ecosystem

Monday, April 22, 2024

Col. John Gutierrez, USMC (Ret.) announced as executive director with decades of military expertise

defense-northern-strike_750x500.jpg

 

LANSING, Mich. — Today, Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) in announcing the new Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation (ODAI), which will help grow the state’s defense and aerospace industry.  

ODAI will build on the storied legacy of the Michigan Defense Center, increasing awareness of Michigan’s capabilities, supporting attraction and expansion of businesses that champion Department of Defense-related activities, and enhancing commercial and defense-related aerospace segments poised for growth.  

“Michigan is all-in on defense,” said Governor Whitmer. “With our new Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation and its new director, we are positioning Michigan to build on its long, proud legacy of leadership in these sectors. We will compete with other states and nations to grow our defense and aerospace economy, harnessing our strong base of talent and building on our powerful ecosystem of businesses in this space. Let’s keep growing and diversifying our economy while supporting our service members and uplifting our industry partners.” 

The office also announced Col. John Gutierrez, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret) as its new executive director. Col. Gutierrez has more than thirty years of experience in acquisition, operational, and joint assignments. He began his military service in 1990, enlisting in the U.S. Naval Reserve as a Hospital Corpsman and served until 1995. In 1996, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps and served until 2024. He most recently served as the portfolio manager for Logistics Combat Element Systems, U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command. 

Gutierrez-headshot-edit.jpgCol. Gutierrez holds a B.S. in biology from Arizona State University, an M.S. in management from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, an M.A. in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval War College, and a masters of military studies from the U.S. Marine Corps University. He has also completed post-graduate studies in project management at George Washington University and in advanced project management at Stanford University. He is also a graduate of the Joint Forces Staff College.  

Additionally, Col. Gutierrez holds multiple personal, unit, campaign, and foreign awards, is a member of the Defense Acquisition Corps, and holds the highest level certifications in program management and contracting. 

“I am deeply honored and excited to serve as the executive director for the newly established Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation,” said Col. Gutierrez. “I feel privileged to join this critical effort at such a pivotal moment in our nation’s history. Democracy is under threat on a global scale, not seen since the Cold War. Recent events, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and China’s attempt to disrupt freedom of navigation in the Taiwan Straits, along with ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, underscore the challenges confronting the United States and its Allied Nations. Michigan, renowned as the Arsenal of Democracy and a beacon of industrial prowess, holds immense potential. I look forward to working with government officials, business leaders, stakeholders, and partners to leverage Michigan’s defense and aerospace capabilities in order to meet the evolving needs of our nation and its allies at this decisive time.” 

“Michigan has a proud legacy as the Arsenal of Democracy and this new office will ensure our state continues to be a national leader in this critical mission,” said Sen. Webber, R-Rochester Hills, who co-chairs the bipartisan Michigan Legislative Aerospace and Defense Caucus. “I commend our legislative, administration, and MEDC leadership for their shared vision and dedication in charging forward to grow our state’s aerospace and defense industry.” 

“On behalf of the Michigan House of Representatives and the bipartisan Michigan Legislative Aerospace and Defense Caucus, we are proud to build on Michigan’s legacy as the Arsenal of Democracy and usher in a new era of industry and national security leadership with the Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation,” said Rep. McKinney, 14th House District and caucus co-chair. “I am committed to working with my colleagues and the Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation to bring additional investment and economic development to our great state.” 

“I am exceptionally proud of the work that we’ve accomplished over the course of the past several years at the Michigan Defense Center, and I am excited to see this important work advance to the next level within the Michigan Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation under Colonel Gutierrez’s leadership,” said Mark Ignash, interim executive director of the Michigan Defense Center and senior sector development director and defense advisor for the MEDC. “It’s an honor to welcome him in and I look forward to working hand in hand with him to continue to drive growth within Michigan’s robust aerospace and defense industry, as well as elevate and support our second-to-none defense community here in Michigan.” 

 

Michigan’s Defense and Aerospace Ecosystem 

The defense industry contributes $30 billion in economic activity for the state of Michigan, supporting more than 116,000 jobs and representing nearly 4,000 Michigan businesses serving the defense, defense aerospace, and homeland security industries. 

The Michigan National Guard also boasts five major installations and additional armories, including the National All-Domain Training Center in Grayling and one of the largest Air National Guard bases in the nation at Selfridge in Macomb County. 

ODAI will support the growth of defense and aerospace-related jobs in Michigan while increasing federal Department of Defense spending and industry-related R&D in the state.  

The new office will also support growth in advanced aerial mobility innovation, testing, and attraction in both defense and commercial-related applications, leveraging the work of the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification (OFME) around Advanced Aerial Mobility.   

 

Additional Support for the new Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation and its executive director, Col. Gutierrez: 

“Michigan has always played a pivotal role in the security of our nation,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, adjutant general of the Michigan National Guard and director of the Michigan Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “The budding relationship between the ODAI and the Michigan National Guard will help us promote the full potential of our training facilities through investment and awareness. This combination will help us live up to our professional obligation to provide service members with the most relevant and demanding training experience so they will excel on the battlefield of tomorrow.” 

“The NDIA Michigan Chapter is pleased to hear the MEDC has selected Col. John T. Gutierrez, USMC (Ret) as the new Executive Director for the Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation,” said Valde Garcia, president, NDIA. “Col. Gutierrez is a known entity here in Michigan, and we look forward to supporting him and the MDC, to continue to move Michigan’s defense sector forward to bring additional recognition, funding and programs its way.” 

“In 2022 defense contract awards performed in Michigan reached $5.5 billion, ranking Michigan 22nd among states. There’s great potential to rank even higher, with tremendous opportunity for our defense and aerospace industry to compete, win, and drive greater economic impact,” said Tammy Carnrike, chief operating officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber and civilian aide to the secretary of the Army (CASA) Michigan. “Establishing an Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation in Michigan shows the state is invested in protecting and growing this sector and the jobs that come with it.”  

“For years Macomb County and our partners across the region and state have helped protect and grow the defense industry,” said Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel. “Through private sector innovation and installation modernization we have positioned ourselves as the defense center of the Midwest. With the announcement of the creation of the Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation, we have made another major commitment to ensuring that we continue to protect those who protect us.” 

“Oakland County would like to thank retired Colonel Gutierrez for his service to our country and we look forward to partnering with him as we advance defense and aerospace initiatives and opportunities,” said Oakland County Deputy County Executive Sean Carlson.   

  

Learn more about the new Michigan Office of Defense and Aerospace Innovation and the state of Michigan’s robust defense industry.  

 

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit www.MichiganBusiness.org. For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at www.michigan.org. Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.

DoubleTree by Hilton Battle Creek wins Governor’s Award for Innovative Tourism Collaboration

April 11, 2024

BATTLE CREEK, MICH – Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU), along with members of the board, the City of Battle Creek, and the Calhoun County Visitor’s Bureau were in attendance to accept the Tourism Industry Coalition of Michigan (TICOM) award for “Innovative Tourism Collaboration – Non-Traditional Tourism Partnerships” at the “Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism” hosted in Kalamazoo, Michigan on April 10th, 2024.

The awards were created in collaboration with the Governor’s Office to boost the image of Michigan’s tourism industry and promote innovative collaboration. The DoubleTree by Hilton was recognized for its innovative approach to community involvement and partnerships throughout its current and future development. Key areas of focus for the award were philanthropic partnerships, training and development, downtown business collaboration efforts, and the focus on the project being an asset to the community as well as travelers.

Located in the heart of downtown Battle Creek, the space was formerly the McCamly Plaza hotel, which had been proven functionally obsolete. Rather than allow the property to further deteriorate in its vacant state, BCU and several community and state partners collaboratively rallied together to create a vibrant community asset. BCU established a for-profit entity called 50 Capital Ave. Development Corp. (50 CADC) and took ownership of the hotel in November 2020 after resolving a legal dispute with its former owners.  Given BCU’s mandate to boost Battle Creek’s development, it made sense for BCU to step in as a developer to renovate and upgrade the hotel for the benefit of the community. This marked a strategic shift for BCU, marking their first foray into the role of a private developer.  With the collaborative efforts of these community partners, the hotel has become a truly one-of-a-kind experience with an elaborate training initiative in the SUITE Collaborative, promotion of downtown businesses, local sustainability efforts, and community involvement. The property is set to open in August of 2024.

President & CEO of BCU, Joe Sobieralski, stated: “Creating a community asset requires more than just renovating a building – it demands a collaborative effort. We appreciate our partners and the community for their contributions to this project, which will positively impact Battle Creek for years to come. Thank you to the state and TICOM for the recognition for this hard work. We are eagerly anticipating the opening of the hotel to the community and visitors in August.”

The generous soft capital and grant contributions from our partners have played an instrumental role in our success and show the incredible amount of community support for this project. Thirteen organizations contributed over $50 million to make the project possible including Battle Creek Unlimited, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 50 Capital Ave Development Corporation, The City of Battle Creek, The State of Michigan, Calhoun County, The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), The Miller Foundation, Calhoun County Visitor’s Bureau, Battle Creek Downtown Development Authority (BCDDA), Kellogg’s 25-Year Employees’ Fund, Bronson Battle Creek Hospital Community Partners, and the Consumer’s Energy Foundation.

PHOTO:  Erick Stewart, Bridgette Jones, Heather Ignash, Sara Wallace, and Joe Sobieralski

###

ABOUT BATTLE CREEK UNLIMITED

Established in 1972, Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU) is a private, non-profit corporation which serves as the economic development arm for the City of Battle Creek and manages the Fort Custer Industrial Park. The Fort Custer Industrial Park is home to over 80 businesses, including 25 international companies, and employs over 13,000 people. BCU’s mission is to build a strong community by driving strategic investment and job creation. Visit BCUnlimited.org for more info.

MEDIA CONTACT

Joe Sobieralski, President & CEO

Battle Creek Unlimited

www.bcunlimited.org

TEL 269-962-7526

sobieralski@bcunlimited.org

 

BCU’s Newsletter Winter 2024

BCU is pleased to share its Winter 2024 Quarterly Newsletter 

This edition includes:

  • From the President’s Desk;
  • WK Kellogg Co to Invest $44 million in Battle Creek;
  • Groundbreaking Ceremony Held for Next Spec Building;
  • SUITE Collaborative Launched to Develop Careers in Hospitality;
  • Roundabout Recognized as “Project of the Year”;

….plus other news and information. The newsletter is available to view as a PDF

Our goal is to provide useful information to people who live and/or work in Battle Creek. We welcome your feedback and story ideas. Email your comments to BCUNewsletter@bcunlimited.org. You can also follow BCU on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. 

WK Kellogg Co expansion in Battle Creek will retain 170, create 43 high-wage jobs, boost state’s agribusiness industry

MEDC – December 12, 2023 – WK Kellogg Co was established in 2023 as a standalone company, resulting from the separation of the former Kellogg Company into two separate entities, Kellanova and WK Kellogg Co. WK Kellogg Co is focused on its founder’s original business – ready-to-eat cereal. The company employs approximately 750 employees – nearly one-third of its total North America employee base – in Michigan and will continue to be headquartered in Battle Creek, where it has spent the past 117 years as Kellogg Company.

In 2021, Kellogg Company announced that by the end of 2023, it would move production of some of its Battle Creek cereal plant volume to its cereal production facility in Ontario, CA. This project would have idled two of the three lines currently operating in Battle Creek.

Recently, WK Kellogg Co leaders decided to retain that volume at its Battle Creek facility, where the company will drive efficiency through investment in more modern technology, as well as train employees in high performing work systems, making them more competitive in their manufacturing network. These changes will result in the retention of approximately 170 jobs in Battle Creek and – along with the partnership and support of the state and city of Battle Creek – help to position the plant for future investment and potential growth.

The project is expected to generate a total capital investment of at least $44 million and create at least 43 new high-paying jobs – in addition to the 170 roles being retained – with the support of a $5 million Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. The Michigan Strategic Fund also approved a 15-year MSF Designated Renaissance Zone in support of the project.

“We are pleased to maintain cereal production in Battle Creek, the Michigan community where it all began more than a century ago and where it begins again with WK Kellogg Co,” said WK Kellogg Co Chairman and CEO Gary Pilnick. “We are proud to be doing so in partnership with our employees and their union, along with the support of Battle Creek Unlimited, the city of Battle Creek and the State of Michigan.”

In addition to investing in machinery and equipment, the project will include training current employees to enable the high-performing work team model necessary to drive future success. In total, the project will retain and/or create at least 213 jobs, all with wages and health care benefits that are among the best in Michigan manufacturing.

In addition to the state grant, the Battle Creek City Commission approved, and Mayor Mark Behnke signed, the application for the Renaissance Zone and Battle Creek Unlimited has offered a $250,000 grant in support of the project.

“Battle Creek Unlimited applauds the leadership at WK Kellogg Co, the MEDC and the city of Battle Creek for their efforts to keep these positions in Battle Creek,” said Battle Creek Unlimited President & CEO Joe Sobieralski. “The manufacturing jobs at WK Kellogg Co’s Battle Creek facility are some of the highest-paid in Michigan. The MEDC went above and beyond to find a creative solution to support this project, which not only retains 170 jobs but also adds more than 40 new positions and sets the stage for future opportunities. We greatly appreciate WK Kellogg Co’s commitment to Battle Creek and are excited for what’s to come.”

“Mayor Behnke, the City Commission, and Battle Creek Unlimited have been committed to economic development innovations and investments that seek to grow and improve our Battle Creek community,” said Battle Creek City Manager Rebecca Fleury. “We are pleased to see WK Kellogg Co receive the state of Michigan’s support in retaining and investing in well-paying jobs in Battle Creek and are excited to see this historic company’s growth in ways that will bring the company, employees, and the community future success.”

Read the full release here for all of the details:  https://www.michiganbusiness.org/press-releases/2023/12/msf/

 

 

 

Industrial Partners USA to build second spec building on Watkins Road

Battle Creek Enquirer, Monday, Dec. 11, 2023

A rendering of a new industrial speculative building on Watkins Road. The first half of the building is expected to be ready for tenants next fall.

A rendering of a new industrial speculative building on Watkins Road. The first half of the building is expected to be ready for tenants next fall.

BATTLE CREEK — As the sun broke through the clouds along Watkins Road on Friday morning, Joe Sobieralski turned to face the crowd with a smile on his face.

“These are the days that are fun,” Sobieralski, president and CEO of Battle Creek Unlimited, told the crowd. “When we get to come out and turn some earth, it’s really fun.”

Equipped with hard hats, vests and shovels, local officials joined Sobieralski Friday to celebrate the groundbreaking of Industrial Partners USA’s second industrial speculative building in the Cereal City.

Local officials ceremonially break ground at the future site of Industrial Partners USA's new speculative building in Battle Creek on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023.

Local officials ceremonially break ground at the future site of Industrial Partners USA’s new speculative building in Battle Creek on Friday, December 8, 2023.

The new building will feature 504,000 square feet of industrial space and be built in two stages. Plans call for the building to have 32-foot ceilings, 6-inch concrete floors and 34 dock doors, with additional knockouts available for future development.

The total investment is expected to cost approximately $20 million. The first half of the building is expected to be ready for tenants next fall. IPUSA began work on the project the last week of October.

“This building will go a long way toward addressing the shortage of industrial space in Battle Creek, and this is a great place to do business,” Sobieralski said. “There’s tremendous demand for turn key buildings that are move-in ready and this one-of-a-kind facility will work to attract new investment to Battle Creek.”

The 34-acre parcel, located on Watkins Road along Interstate 94, just off exit 92, was owned by the Battle Creek Tax Increment Finance Authority, which is managed by Battle Creek Unlimited.

The site plan for Industrial Partners USA's second industrial speculative building along Watkins Road (Phases 2A/2B) is shown.

The site plan for Industrial Partners USA’s second industrial speculative building along Watkins Road (Phases 2A/2B) is shown. 

This new investment marks the second phase of a project that began in July 2020, when BCU sold 55 acres to IPUSA. The developer built a 270,000 square foot spec building on the site, which has since been completely leased by the animal health company Zoetis. The developer also sold five acres to Consumers Energy, which will be used for a future substation.

The development by Industrial Partners USA is a joint venture between Clark Logic and Great Lakes Capital.

Clark Logic is based in Portage and provides warehousing, real estate management and transportation and logistics services. Established in 1969, the company owns more than 45 properties with more than 2 million square feet of space in Calhoun, Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties.

Great Lake Capital is a real estate private equity firm based in South Bend, Indiana. It has developed seven industrial speculative buildings in northern Indiana, which now house companies including Amazon, AM General and Borg Warner.

“We are excited to continue the momentum of our 270,000 square foot Phase 1 building in Battle Creek,” Jeff Smoke, managing director and principal at Great Lakes Capital, said in a statement. “BCU has been a great partner as we seek to add modern, cross-docked industrial space to the Fort Custer Industrial Park. This 252,000 square-foot building, which can be expanded to 504,000 square feet, will be completed in September of 2024. We are ready seeing significant tenant interest for Q3 2024 delivery.”

Battle Creek Mayor Mark Behnke speaks to attendees at the future site of Industrial Partners USA's new speculative building in Battle Creek on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023.

Battle Creek Mayor Mark Behnke speaks to attendees at the future site of Industrial Partners USA’s new speculative building in Battle Creek on Friday, December 8, 2023. 

Battle Creek Mayor Mark Behnke admitted he’s “struck by how large and impressive” IPUSA’s neighboring spec building is, and he expect the second building to be just as impressive and visible to all, “if not more.”

“This is wonderful for the Battle Creek community,” Behnke said. “With the past downturns and the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am proud to see developments like this moving forward with great success.”

In support of the spec building project, BCU partnered with the City of Battle Creek to upgrade Watkins Road, which provides access to the site. The road was resurfaced and widened to add a dedicated turn lane. The intersection at Watkins Road and Mercury Drive was also widened.

The road improvements were completed in 2022 at a cost of approximately $1.6 million.

Contact reporter Greyson Steele at gsteele@battlecreekenquirer.com

https://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/story/news/local/2023/12/11/new-20-million-industrial-development-coming-to-battle-creek/71855302007/?fbclid=IwAR2vF-L93YhqUavkGvKHToA3O7CGrfDLjnskLzJxbO8o0Nf7VS4MQhw5hJo

 

 

Contact Us

  • Email Sign up

Our Partners