Eimo Celebrates Plant Opening

By Sue Moore

It was a major event last week at the new Eimo East plant on W. Prairie Street. Dignitaries, managers, workers, all converged upon the shiny manufacturing plant in the Leja Industrial Park to congratulate each other on getting a 70,000-square-foot building completed and fully operational in seven months.

The emphasis was on the teamwork that it took to accomplish this Herculean feat, according to Gary Hallam, general manager of Eimo One. He served as master of ceremonies as a parade of dignitaries stepped to the podium to congratulate the company.
The company produces decorative and precision plastic injection molding.

Hallam pointed out the state-of-the-art new molding machines and the fully functioning plant that didn’t exist seven months ago. Junya Suzuki, president and CEO of Nissha Printing Co., Ltd, the parent company in Japan, praised the employees in the plant for their dedication and hard work. He challenged them to achieve the next target of $200 million in revenue.

Ron Kitchens, CEO of Southwest Michigan First, told the audience of several hundred guests and employees that they’re the CEOs of their own responsibilities. He celebrated the men and women who come to Eimo every day to work. Great companies have great people and are passionate about their great products, he told them.

Bill Adams, Vicksburg village council president, cited a Japanese saying, “Kaizen” meaning change for the better. He believes that his governmental entity at least has adopted that approach, making it as easy as possible for companies like Eimo to expand in the village.

Frederick Construction, headed by Mike Frederick, got the building done on time and on budget. What it took was a team of designers, engineers, and great vision from the customer (Eimo) to make it happen, he said. “We had 150 people involved in the project in the seven months. It got done because these folks bought in to the process.”

Plant Manager Randy Bongard had a lot to do with the success of the project, Hallam said, when he came up with the mantra “Own It”. Bongard challenged every employee to take personal responsibility to make something better. He urged the 300 employees to make a conscious decision to “own it” and act on that every day.

Jim Sertic, former president of Accro-Seal and now a consultant, cited the good culture at Eimo, realizing that the employees try to do the right thing every day. “Results matter. It’s contagious.”

Stryker representatives were invited to the opening because the company is one of Eimo’s biggest and best customers. That company, Whirlpool and General Motors comprise about 90 percent of Eimo’s business.

Eimo East plant employees were singled out for mention by Hallam. They included Rob Bell, with 38 years of employment beginning with Victor Plastics; Steve Busher, who began in 1983 and has only missed one day of work in that time; Jody Crouch, with 28 years of service; and Gary Arndt, a 2014 hire, who has just been appointed quality assurance manager.

Following the speeches, everyone in the three Vicksburg-area Eimo plants was invited to lunch prepared by local restaurants.

Corporate Executives from Japan Come to Vicksburg

By Sue Moore

“Empowering Your Vision”–through leadership, passion, capability and technology–is the watchword of Junya Suzuki, the president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board of Nissha Printing Co., Ltd., in Japan, the parent company of Eimo in Vicksburg.

“In business and society, your nationality doesn’t matter. We share the same philosophy, that’s why we live and work together so successfully,” said Suzuki, who brought a contingent of the company’s sales staff with him for the Vicksburg open house.

“We are continually pushing ahead with product development activities. The goal is to apply our printing technologies to new areas and give Nissha a fresh image that represents a departure from the past,” the company says in its annual report.

Nissha was started as a printing company in Kyoto, Japan, by Suzuki’s grandfather in 1929. It specialized in high-end printing products at that time and still does. Junya’s father, Shozo Suzuki, took over in 1959 and began to grow the company globally. It entered the new field of printing on curved surfaces; Shozo Suzuki became the first person in Japan to produce a wood-grain transfer foil.

That’s where the purchase of Eimo in Vicksburg came into play for Junya Suzuki. The company figured out how to print on plastic products and came up with a film that could be transferred into mold making for any kind of art graphics that a customer wants. Eimo had been a customer of Nissha when the Vicksburg firm was making mobile phone cases. That sparked Nissha’s interest in owning the company.

When that business went to China, Eimo had to reinvent itself. It has been able to utilize Nissha’s technology that facilitates simultaneous molding and printing to decorate three-dimensional plastic surfaces. The new Eimo East plant was needed because new business has been scheduled that couldn’t be met with the current facilities. The company needed to expand and quickly, according to Gary Hallam, Eimo’s president.

Besides the plants in Michigan, it has production in Mexico, China, and Malaysia, all doing plastic molding to produce decorative molding parts, with the parent company providing the film. “Our next step is to upgrade our technology to achieve open innovation which would shorten our lead time in getting product to market. The goal is to restructure the company’s portfolio to concentrate on the automotive, home appliances, and medical fields,” Suzuki said.

“We can’t count on one single customer,” says Wataru Watanabe, vice president and senior director of corporate strategy planning. “We will stick to our core competencies of film and printing, and branch out from there.”

Speakeasy Fundraiser for Vision Campaign

speak 1
Donna Cratsenburg-Scott, Michelle Morgan, Mary Ruple and Adrian McClelland, will welcome players at the Vision Campaign’s Speakeasy.

By Sue Moore

With Prohibition long gone, how many speakeasies can you go to in this day and age, ask organizers of a fundraiser for the Vicksburg Vision Capital Campaign. They hope later this month to entice people to a speakeasy at the Community Center to have fun playing blackjack, poker, roulette and craps while giving their winnings and lots more money to the cause.

The campaign can’t accept money for gambling chips. Instead, it will have computers out to donate online to the Liberty Lane East project or to the general campaign. The top winners in chip totals will get prizes.

Those in attendance will not have to knock three times at the center’s door to get in; they will have been sent an invitation to attend with a password enclosed. The event is scheduled for Saturday, February 20 from 6-10 p.m., with hundreds hoped for in attendance according to the organizers.

There will be dancing to the tune of former members of the high school jazz band led by Director Ben Rosier, heavy hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and the table games to keep the evening rolling along, says Donna Cratsenburg-Scott, chair of the family division of the campaign. She will be assisted by Adrian McClelland, Mary Ruple, and Michelle Morgan.
They want folks in attendance to help fulfill the promises of making the village an even better place to live. Projects that the overall funding will help build include the trail development, Liberty Lane East renovation, Clark Park promenade, parking lots rebuilding and streetscape plans for downtown.

They expect to have a computer set up that isn’t for gambling but for giving to the crowdfunding campaign that has been inaugurated to raise the money specifically for the renovation of Liberty Lane East. The crowdfunding site will match dollar for dollar the donations, including those raised at the “speakeasy” event, until it reaches the $50,000 goal by March 8. That will mean $100,000 in the kitty for work on the project, according to Kathleen Hoyle, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority. The site is accessible at http://www.patronicity.com/project/liberty_lane_east#/

Liberty Lane East is part of the Vicksburg Downtown Development (DDA) Placemaking effort. This effort began with a public visioning session in which the community strongly expressed its desire to have a downtown district that embraces its rich heritage by showcasing boutique shops in historic storefronts, and offering dynamic dining, event and entertainment experiences. Liberty Lane will turn a dark, rundown alley into a vibrant Victorian garden path offering a pedestrian only passage connecting the S. Kalamazoo St. and S. Main St. shopping and dining areas.

Other events the family division expects to promote include a March 5 car wash in anticipation of tearing down a building at the corner of Richardson and North Streets to construct the trailhead, a vision geocaching and scavenger hunt fundraiser on April 16 from 11 to 2 p.m., a Vicksburg Vision Race on June 18, and a Vision Scrambled Scramble golf outing on May 21 at Angels Crossing.

The overall goal of the family division of the campaign is $250,000, Hoyle said. Grants and other sources of income bring the total campaign effort to $2.7 million, with the money raised locally to be used for matching funds to the grants.

Vicksburg Foundation Matches Vision Campaign Grant

vix foundation members
Trustees of the Vicksburg Foundation seated, from left to right: Lloyd Appell, Bill Oswalt, Rudy Callen. Standing, from left to right: Danna Downing, David Schriemer, Warren Lawrence, Jim Shaw, Didik Soekarmoen.

By Sue Moore

The Vicksburg Foundation has stepped forward with a huge donation of $170,000 toward the Vision Campaign, said Kathleen Hoyle, Downtown Development Authority (DDA) director. The challenge will be to match the $170,000 in order to receive the grant, she added. This goes along with the matching opportunities the campaign is sponsoring through the state of Michigan’s Economic Development site.

“The foundation has helped to fund big and small projects in the south county area,” Hoyle said. “This would be one of their most generous donations to beautify the village of Vicksburg. We are extremely grateful for their challenge to the community and believe we can maximize their dollars to the fullest.”

The pavilion on N. Richardson Street received nearly $200,000 from the foundation. Much of it was matched by the community through the efforts of the Vicksburg Historical Society because of Margaret Kerchief and Kristina Powers Aubry’s work to raise the matching dollars, according to Bill Oswalt, Vicksburg Foundation president.

“We are happy to be able to see the next step in community development that the DDA has planned. We participated in the streetscape work that was done in the 1980s and realize it is time to upgrade and make the pedestrian walkways more accessible. The village should have a facelift, to keep up with the times,” Oswalt said. “The foundation has provided over $2 million to the Vicksburg and Schoolcraft communities in the last decade. We are pleased to be a part of this major effort to be a change agent for the village. We hope that the response will be as great as it was for the pavilion and the many other projects the foundation has supported.”

Hoyle has been assisted by the chairpersons of the campaign, Ted Vliek and Kristina Powers Aubry. They in turn have called on Ron Smith, chair of the family division; Bill Adams, chair of the foundation division; Steve McCowen, special gifts division; Steve Goss, vendor division; and Donna Cratsenburg-Scot, chair of the community division.

“The most important thing we need to do is show the community some visible progress and we think the donations will come in,” Hoyle said. “Our goal is to begin construction on the trailhead in March and Liberty Lane as early as April, weather permitting. We will utilize the funds raised on the crowdfunding site to the fullest. There are no grants available for parking lot improvements, but they are very high on our list. We will use the cash we raise through the matching foundation funds to show progress in this high-priority fix.”

Get Out of the Cold with February Events at the VCAC

pottery by Lisa Beams
Pottery by Lisa Beams.

The Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center is planning two events this month: “Valentine Songs for the Heart” on Friday, February 12 from 6-8:30 p.m., and the Artists Open House, showcasing demonstrations to ignite the inner artist on Saturday, February 27 from noon to 5 p.m.

Both events will be held in the main gallery room at 200 S. Main, located in Vicksburg’s downtown district. They are open to the public without charge.

“Valentine Songs for the Heart” will feature a musical night of classic romantic music and songs. Those attending will be inspired to dance cheek to cheek on the dance floor with Leigh Fryling on vocals and Phil Timko on guitar serenading with music from a bygone era. Specialty coffees and teas prepared and served by the Gallery Barista along with light appetizers, chocolate, and roses for the ladies will add to this delightful evening.

At the Open House, gallery artists will provide a variety of demonstrations throughout the day. Artists showcasing their artistic skills include Helen Kleczynski, watercolor painting techniques; Terri Nugent, glass bead jewelry; Dina Hadley and Lisa Beams, pottery wheel basics; Kass Kalvig, acrylic painting techniques; and Kim Marston with a digital photography demonstration. Those attending are encouraged to talk with the artists who will be happy to talk about tips and techniques of their medium.

The Vicksburg Cultural & Arts Center focuses on a wide range of work including painting, drawing, pottery, jewelry, leather, metal, fiber, wood and photography as well as providing space for music and performing arts events. The Arts Center hosts readings, workshops and demonstrations. Those events and a speaker series are planned in the future.  For more information on how to exhibit at the gallery, email info@VicksburgArts.com or visit http://www.VicksburgArts.com.

The Vicksburg DDA is an economic development organization that promotes and embraces Vicksburg’s rich heritage by showcasing unique boutiques in historic storefronts, and offers dining, event and entertainment experiences to enhance quality of life opportunities in the region. For more details, visit VicksburgDDA.com.

Showboat is all About the Election Year of 2016

By Sue Moore

“The Great Campaign” seeks to shed some light on the national elections as the Showboat crew votes for its captain in much the way the nation votes for its president, according to Dr. Ken Franklin, the show’s director.

The contest for captain takes place at the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center on February 26, 27, and 28, with the curtain going up at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and 2 p.m. for the Sunday performance. Tickets are all general admission in 2016.

A spaghetti dinner, served by the Boy Scouts and their leaders in Vicksburg Troop 251 will get everyone in the right mood for the songs and jokes from the Showboat cast, says Kevin Bordon, scout troop leader. Advance “combo” tickets for the show and the dinner will be available at Hill’s Pharmacy and from the Boy Scouts. The troop is also planning a brunch in advance of Sunday’s matinee from noon to 2 p.m. Bordon points out. All three meals are a fundraiser for the scouts. The Rotary Club and its charities will benefit from proceeds from the show, David Aubry, president of the club says.

Both groups have combined to offer a silent auction that will be held in the cafeteria each night and for the Sunday matinee. Some great and small surprises will be auctioned off to also help raise funds for the scouts and Rotary Club, according to Mary Ruple, who is working out the details.

On stage, an emissary from Rotary International shows up to demand that the position of captain of the Showboat be duly elected by conducting a proper election campaign. Thus the setting for a debate between the captain, his first mate who decides to throw himself into the ring and Vera Burris, a walk-on from last year’s show played by Jim Thompson, who wowed the audience with his impersonation of the great lady enjoying her tea and crumpets. Things get out of hand from there, said Franklin, the lead writer of the script committee.

The crew of the Vicksburg Rotary Showboat is comprised of a male chorus with many years of experience singing together. They are volunteers who love to sing and are led by Chris Garrett in his eleventh year as the chorus director. There are soloists who are well known to the community, in particular Charlie Glaes, in his 20th year of being on stage, Bob Donelson, Carl Keller, Jeremy Franklin, and Dusty Morris, the high school choir conductor. Mike Tichvon serves the club as general chairman of the Showboat.

This is the 63rd rendition of the Vicksburg Rotary Showboat. Over $550,000 has been raised through these performances and given right back into the community for improvements. Big items include a three year pledge to help build the pavilion, start-up funds to launch the Revolutionary War re-enactments, Rocket football helmets, Sunset Elementary school’s playground equipment, ALS Foundation, Generous Hands, Vicksburg Historical Society Historic Footprint Project, Vicksburg Athletic Boosters and the United Way of Vicksburg.

Combo tickets for the dinner and show for adults are $15 which represents a $3 overall price reduction. Single tickets for the show are $10 and $8 for the dinner. Children under 10 will pay $10 for the combo ticket each night. The combo brunch ticket is $12 for adults and $10 for kids under age 10.

For further information on tickets, call Hill’s Pharmacy, 649-1476. Tickets will also be available on the day of each show at the high school box office and from the scouts at the cafeteria door.

Ken Franklin Opens the Curtain on Showboat

franklinBy Sue Moore

Dr. Ken Franklin is a transplant who stayed and grew once he got to Vicksburg as a family physician for Family Doctors of Vicksburg in 2002. It didn’t take long for him to get involved with his church as a lay minister, the South County Players as an actor and the Vicksburg Rotary Club Showboat.

He was given little choice about the Showboat participation when Dr. Lloyd Appell, a colleague, heard him sing in the church choir and insisted he become a chorus member of the Showboat in 2003. He has been performing on stage ever since. He was asked to join the script committee and soon took over the reins as director in 2007.

“I started acting when I won a Best Supporting Actor award in middle school and I’ve been hooked on performing ever since,” Franklin said. “I played a genie who came out of a chamber pot instead of a lamp.” His rendition of Teddy Roosevelt in the 2008 Showboat has become a classic, since he fairly resembles the 26th president of the United States. He was even asked to reprise that role for the Vicksburg Historical Society in several hour-long presentations in 2012 and 2013. He studied the many biographies of Roosevelt, and on stage became TR personified.

As director of the Showboat, Franklin has introduced more new skits and provided many of the boat’s crew with speaking parts that they excel in. The timing and fast-paced presentations have become a trademark of his directing talent. “The script committee deserves most of the credit. The ideas that come from interacting with each other are truly mind-blowing.”

His medical training came after graduating from Michigan State University and Army ROTC. He attended the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine from 1977-1981, followed by specialty training in Family Medicine. He then practiced at various army posts before retiring as a Colonel and joining Family Doctors of Vicksburg.

Franklin will be retiring from medical practice at the end of 2016 “to become a full-time disciple,” as he puts it. “I intend to remain in Vicksburg–the home town I had to move 36 times to find. I also hope to contribute to the Showboat for years to come.”

Boy Scout Spaghetti Dinner

scouts dinner2
Boy Scouts from Troop 251 line up to serve their special spaghetti dinner in 2015.

By Sue Moore

Is there a spaghetti dinner on your menu soon? The Boy Scouts of Troop 251 hope so. They’re offering a spaghetti dinner to enjoy before Showboat starts. The spaghetti will be served up from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, February 26 and Saturday the 27th.

As an extra bonus, they will offer juice, coffee, eggs and bacon for brunch on Sunday, February 28 from noon to 2 p.m. in the VHS cafeteria. The meals are a fundraiser for the scouts but they also learn to meet and greet, help serve, and set up the tables and chairs.

The menu features spaghetti, salad, garlic bread, green beans, cake, Kool-Aid, coffee, water and fruit salad. The cooks are scout leaders that have been refining their spaghetti recipe for many years, according to scoutmaster Kevin Borden. “We used to serve the dinner at the Vicksburg United Methodist Church, but wanted to partner with the Rotary Club to offer a special night out for the public. The brunch is an added feature this year which we hope will bring people from church services, and especially those who don’t like to drive at night but still want to see the show.”

A silent auction with items collected by the scouts and the Rotary Club will be held in the cafeteria all three days.

Many ingredients are donated so the scouts can benefit from the ticket sales. The ticket price is $10 for Showboat, $8 for din­ner. The combo ticket is $15 or $10 for children ten and under. If the whole family is coming to just the dinner, the cost is $25. Brunch tickets cost the same. All seats for Showboat are gener­al admission in an effort to simplify sales, according to Steve Goss, chair of the ticket committee. Advance tickets are available at Hill’s Pharmacy, from the Boy Scouts or at the box office and door of the cafete­ria on show days. Dinner will be served from 5 – 7 p.m., brunch from 12 – 2 p.m.

Battle of the Books in its Twenty First Year in Schoolcraft

Jenny Battle
Jenny Taylor, Vicksburg third grade teacher, selects the questions students will be asked as they progress upward in the Battle of the Books.

By Sue Moore

The Battle, as most everyone calls it, teaches young people who participate good sportsmanship, leadership, team building and even losing gracefully, says Faye VanRavenswaay, Schoolcraft Library’s director. “I get a real thrill watching kids who are not readers convert to liking to read as they participate in the Battle.”

This year the winnowing down of the 35 teams to four teams will take place on Saturday, February 20, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Schoolcraft Performing Arts Center (PAC). The participating students in grades 4-6 are from Schoolcraft, Vicksburg and Parchment.
The Grand Battle for the final four teams will take place on Thursday, February 25 at 7 p.m.

A lot of preparation for the Battle takes place behind the scenes, according to VanRavenswaay. Bobbi Truesdell, who started the Battle as part of her responsibilities at the library, has helped her successor, Jenny Taylor, select the 12 books for the students to read. This is the second year for Taylor, a third grade teacher at Sunset Elementary in Vicksburg. She spent her summer vacation composing the thousands of questions about the books that the teams will face on stage at the PAC.

Members of the teams have to spend many hours reading, practicing and planning their wardrobe for the occasion. They can call their teams most anything. That leads to imaginative names such as Tobey Elementary’s first place team in 2015, the Question Marks. They even rehearse with mock battles in preparation for the big day, says VanRavenswaay.

All of the people who help with the Battle are volunteers, even VanRavenswaay’s staff, who spend their Saturday helping with the many details it takes to complete the Battle successfully. Other volunteers who have been helping for years include Thom and Kris DeWolfe, Sharon Zakrzewski, a number of school liaisons, the library board, Friends of the Library, individual community members, and Gary Monroe on the technology team with the DeWolfes. They assist with the scoring projected above the stage. Even the coaches come back year after year, including some who participated when they were in elementary school, VanRavenswaay says.

The library depends on sponsors who help to defray the expenses. They include Kazoo Books which also carry the selection of books in their store and donate gift certificates to the winners. Others include On Purpose Branding, Otten Trophy, Subway, Pizza Hut, Hungry Howie’s, Little Caesars, Bella Creamery, Bob Evans, and Friends of the Library.

Schoolcraft Library Gets Memorial Donation

librarybookThe Schoolcraft Community Library received $1,500 in donations in the name of Carol Kendall after she passed away in the fall of 2015. Her husband, Charlie Kendall, asked that $500 go to children’s books including fiction and non-fiction, according to Faye VanRavenswaay, library director.

“We were able to purchase 38 books and each one has a memorial plate put inside the cover indicating that it is dedicated to Carol Kendall. Right now, many of them are on display in our new books area. These materials are a fine addition to the children’s collection,” she said.

“Anyone can make a memorial donation to honor a loved one and restrict it to a particular type of book or material,” VanRavenswaay said. “If a gift is not restricted, it typically goes into the general fund and is often put to use later for special projects. It all adds up, so it is great to have any kind of donations to help us meet expenses.”