Two Local Guys Win Big While Doing Good

By Sue Moore

Standing tall on a stage in Seattle among a field of over-achievers in mid-June were a couple of hometown guys, Rajeev (Raj) Singh and Chris Moore. Each had migrated from Vicksburg to Seattle as young upstarts in the field of technology in the 1990s. They weren’t captains of industry then, just guys with a dream to succeed in the highly competitive world of tech-based Seattle.

Twenty-five years later, here they were together at the apex of their separate careers, singled out as movers and shakers in the Northwest region. The event was sponsored by Ernst & Young, the accounting firm that initiated the Entrepreneur of the Year program throughout the United States and worldwide in 1986. They had been selected by an independent panel of judges and presented with their individual awards during a black-tie gala in Seattle.

The Entrepreneur of the Year awards program, founded by the accounting firm, is the world’s most prestigious business awards program for entrepreneurs. The program encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognizes people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement.

Moore was acclaimed as Mold Breaker of the Year and Singh as Innovator of the Year out of the 22 nominees and were brought on stage as winners. They will proceed to the next level of competition for National Entrepreneur of the Year for the United States in Palm Springs, Calif., in November. Each of their technology companies is serving the health care industry although their earlier endeavors did not.

Singh and Moore Grow Up in Kalamazoo County

Singh’s family emigrated from India and settled on the north shore of Gourdneck Lake in 1980 when his engineer father, Gopal Singh, went to work for Eaton Corporation in Galesburg. Raj Singh, now 51, attended Portage Middle School and Portage Central. Moore’s family goes back to settlers who came to Vicksburg and Schoolcraft in the 1830s. Now 54, he attended Vicksburg schools.

Moore was instilled with the entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. Singh admits to just wanting to get an education so he could find a good job. Both said they wanted to meet expectations of fathers who wanted them to excel. Moore attended the University of Michigan studying liberal arts, although he preferred spending time on his business, Moore Audio, making loudspeakers.

Singh attended General Motors Institute in Flint for two years. He didn’t much like it and came back to graduate from Western Michigan University with a degree in engineering, then started his first job with Ford Motor Company.

Singh and Concur Technologies

Both men struggled to make ends meet for a few years. Singh left Ford and was admitted to law school at Notre Dame. He was living in Detroit with five to six months off before school started when he got a life-altering call from his older brother, Steve. “Come to San Francisco to write code. You can have my car, but no salary.” Once there, Singh met and worked with Mike Hilton to develop an idea that would later result in a start-up company they named Concur Technologies.

Singh and Hilton moved to Seattle because the cost of living was cheaper than in San Francisco, where Singh’s brother worked for the software company, Symantec. They worked out of an apartment in Seattle where the shared rent was $450 a month, burning through Raj’s $2,500 savings in seven months. Within four years, Concur was going public (probably too soon, Singh admits) with an IPO when they had annual revenue of $25 million and losses of $75 million.

But in 2014, Concur was purchased by SAP, a German multinational software company, for $8.3 billion. Singh stepped back with some time to reflect on his next step. In 2015 he accepted the CEO position with another startup company called Accolade. Hilton serves as chief product officer. The company helps employers help their workers navigate healthcare options.

“Entrepreneurship is in the fabric of this region, and you can feel its energy within the people and the work we’re doing at Accolade. We’re heads down trying to change healthcare in this country – it’s a lofty goal but healthcare is too complex, costly and doesn’t get the outcomes we all deserve. We appreciate opportunities to elevate our mission across the country and share the entrepreneurial spirit that thrives at Accolade,” Singh said as he accepted his award.

Moore and Concord Technologies

About the time Singh moved to Seattle, Moore also migrated west to Seattle where he founded Concord Technologies in 1996. Concord served as an online hosted service provider for the popular WinFax Pro fax software, but by 1999, the company had created and delivered the SAAS industry standards for internet fax and unified messaging operating through the world’s most prolific fax software. With Concord firmly established as the leading provider of online fax solutions for health care, in 2018 Moore extended the “Cloud Fax” platform with a new set of easy-to-use cloud software services the company branded as “NEXTSTEP.” This new service enables Concord to go beyond delivering faxed patient records electronically by allowing customers to digitally incorporate those documents into clinical workflows and ultimately, to become usable parts of an electronic patient record.

“Today, health care providers spend too much time and money managing patient information—we want to change that,” said Chris Moore. “At Concord, we’ve developed AI technology that enables automation in the processing of patient data. Our commitment is to helping health care providers spend fewer resources managing data, so they can focus on superior patient care.”

“The award couldn’t have gone to a more deserving person.  Not only does Chris have the vision, but an incredible endurance to see those dreams become a reality, no matter how long or difficult the journey.  And he has a lot of dreams! it’s inspiring to be around,” said Dan Tierney, one of the original Concord employees in Seattle.

Old Stove Brewery and The Mill at Vicksburg

In 2013 the opportunity of a lifetime for someone who likes to drink beer dropped into Moore’s lap. Pike Place Market in Seattle was seeking proposals for a new phase of the historic old market in downtown Seattle. He submitted a proposal that caught the eyes of the reviewers and soon he was knee deep in architects and brewing equipment. Old Stove Brewing (named after an old Kalamazoo stove) won the bidding and opened in the spring of 2017. It has been going strong with great beer, good food and beautiful vistas looking out on Puget Sound.

Moore’s most recent venture and major investment is preserving The Mill at Vicksburg—a historic paper mill he’s transforming into a mixed-use campus that will include meeting and convention space, multiple indoor and outdoor concert venues, an Old Stove Brewery and Taproom, residential, commercial and outdoor recreation space, and a boutique hotel while also stimulating long-term economic revitalization in his hometown of Vicksburg.

At the June 14 event Moore thanked his parents who “always supported my entrepreneurial risks and encouraged me to take more.” He also acknowledged that the award helps recognize a childhood dream of becoming an entrepreneur: “Ever since I was a little kid I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and I’ve been able to live my life that way. I’m very appreciative of this recognition of how my life has unfolded.”

Schoolcraft 4th of July Celebration

By Sue Moore

The population of Schoolcraft multiplies by thousands for the annual 4th of July parade that snakes over Eliza, U.S. 131 and Clay beginning at 11 a.m. It runs until about noon with over 75 parade entries.

The grand marshal for the parade will be River Fox, who just graduated from Schoolcraft High School. The village will celebrate his accomplishments as he won the state championship for heavyweight wrestlers at 285 lbs. His record for his senior season was 50-2 and he was ranked number one in the state in Division 4. He was also a key anchor on the varsity football team, playing both defensive tackle and offensive lineman. He was a four-year starter on the varsity track team in discus and shotput in which he qualified for the state tournament.

The fireworks display brings the day’s events to a thrilling close at 10 p.m. near the high school on the north side. The cost of the pyrotechnics has increased this year from $7,000 to $10,000, because prices have increased on Chinese exports, according to Virginia Mongreig, event coordinator for many years. Her husband, Chip, has been a mainstay of the show. He has recruited Randey and Rod Palmer the last five years. They get an assist from Fred Western who has the fireworks show programmed and ready to go. Money for the display comes from community donations and individuals that Jon Krum oversees.

Deb Reynolds is chairing the parade for the 17th year. She has become a master at keeping it all under control and ready to roll at exactly the moment the gun goes off. She has tried to bow out for the last several years but nobody has stepped up to undertake the job so she just keeps moving ahead with an assist from Kalamazoo County State Bank, where she is a collections officer.

These volunteers are looking for help from younger members of the community. They are hoping that new blood will be found to take their place in the year 2020.

Firecracker 5-Miler Run

By Sue Moore

Running a five-mile race in the 4th of July heat early in the morning is a great way to start the day of celebration, according to Randy Small, Schoolcraft High School basketball coach. The Firecracker 5-Miler, sponsored by the Athletic Boosters, begins at 8 a.m. in the high school parking lot and circles around the village.

After the race, the Boosters will give away door prizes, but runners must be present to win. A race shirt goes with those who register early for the run. Late registration will take place on July 3 and and on July 4 until 7:30 a.m. for $30 at the high school. The event benefits the athletes and coaches of Schoolcraft Community Schools.

This race is known for its unique distance as well as its fast and flat course. It will be timed by Mac’s Sports Timing for quick and accurate results. Runners will receive their timing tag and bib number during packet pickup on the morning of race day.

If the 5-miler is too long for potential runners or if they prefer to walk, there is a new 5K Walk event only beginning at 7:30 a.m. There is also a free, fun, non-competitive run/walk for people of all ages at 7:30 a.m. on the high school grounds. Finishers will receive a participation ribbon. Customized trophies will be presented to men’s and women’s top overall winners and to men’s and women’s top overall master winners for the 5-miler. Customized medals go to the top three places in 13 different age groups for the 5-miler. Results will be available following the race and posted at Participants who register online can have results sent to them via text.

Participants are encouraged to stick around Schoolcraft for the many other events scheduled for the day, Small said.

American Legion BBQ Dinner

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M. Sziede of the VFW marching unit some of his organization good food after the parade in 2018.

Schoolcraft’s American Legion Post 475 at 425 E. Clay St. will continue its tradition of celebrating the 4th of July in Schoolcraft by opening its doors to the public for a barbecue chicken or rib dinner from noon to 4 p.m. following the parade.

The post provides indoor and outdoor dining facilities that feature the “River Run” live band upstairs in the building. Outside under the big white tent, the “Laditude” live band will hold forth from 1-5 p.m. with its country/blues/classic rock.

Tickets are on sale for the annual 4th of July raffle with prizes of a Royal Gourmet four-burner gas grill, a 32GB Apple iPad, and Schoolcraft Harding’s $50 meat certificates. The drawing will be held at 5 p.m. on July 4. Winners need not be present to win.

Schoolcraft Village Council Honors Citizens of the Year

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Deb Christiansen, honored citizen, at right.

Deb Christiansen and Harriett Swartz have been named Citizens of the Year by the Schoolcraft Village Council. It’s a posthumous award for Swartz, who died last year.

The award is presented annually to individuals who have performed outstanding service or made exceptional voluntary contributions to the community. The first person to be honored was Marilyn Jones, who received the award last year for her poetry and other writing about Schoolcraft.

Christiansen will be honored by appearing in the village’s annual 4th of July parade.

When selecting recipients for this award, the award committee looks for individuals who lend leadership and vision, organize or assist in achieving organizational goals, who serve on service or school committees and youth programs lending expertise and guidance voluntarily. The recipient will have performed voluntary services that have advanced or helped the quality of life in the Village of Schoolcraft.

Schoolcraft lost a true pioneer and iconic spirit with Harriett Swartz’s passing last year. She was a beacon of light in the community with a friendly smile for everyone. Her knowledge of Schoolcraft and its history was unsurpassed. She was the daughter of Mary Jane Swartz who wrote, So I’m Told: The Nineteenth Century in Schoolcraft, Michigan. Harriett herself went on to write several delightful books on Schoolcraft with photographer Elizabeth Hamilton including The Porches of Schoolcraft, Kitchens of Schoolcraft, and So We See. An educator for 41 years at the Milwood Elementary School, Harriett will be remembered as an educator of the highest esteem for those eager to learn about Schoolcraft’s illustrious past. Nancy Rafferty, Harriett’s sister, will be accepting this award on her behalf.

Deb Christiansen is a 30-year resident of Schoolcraft who, after graduating three daughters from Schoolcraft High School, turned her attention to spearheading events in Schoolcraft to bring awareness to the history and charm of the Village. She has chaired several historical home tours and a hauntingly historical cemetery tour. Proceeds benefitted three Schoolcraft organizations: Schoolcraft Community Library, the Ladies Library of Schoolcraft and the Schoolcraft Historical Society. She published the book, This Beautiful Prairie, based on these tours. The title of this book, she says, came from an article about the Schoolcraft United Methodist Church in the Schoolcraft Express dated March 11, 1920. For the last two years she has co-chaired the Christmas Walk with her friend, Kelly Bergland. Deb founded and runs the local Tournament of Writers, which attracts many entries on Schoolcraft history. She then collects all the winning entries and publishes them in the Small Town Anthology series.

Lions Club Pancake Breakfast

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Craig Riddle, a member of the Schoolcraft Lions Club gets the pancake syrup ready.

The Schoolcraft Lions Club will be holding its annual Pancake Breakfast on July 4th from 7 to 10:30 a.m. at the Schoolcraft Elementary gym on East Clay Street. Breakfast is free for veterans and men and women in uniform. Tickets are $6 for adults; $3 for kids ages 6 to 12. Kids age 5 and under are free.

The Sight Mobile will be at the breakfast site from 8 to 10 a.m. to provide vision screening for infants all the way up to 18 years of age.

July 4th Event Schedule ★

7-10:30 a.m.: Pancake breakfast at Schoolcraft Elementary, hosted by Schoolcraft Lions Club

8 a.m.-3 p.m.: Car show at Burch Park

8 a.m. – 5-miler run at the High School

9 a.m.-2 p.m.: Ice cream social at Schoolcraft United Methodist Church

11 a.m.: Parade from Eliza St. to Grand St. to Clay St.

Noon: Chicken and ribs barbecue at American Legion Hall

Post-parade: Underground Railway House tours until 3 p.m., sponsored by Schoolcraft Historical Society; fire truck rides at Schoolcraft Elementary, sponsored by South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority

2-6 p.m.: Dance at American Legion Hall

10 p.m.: Fireworks north of Schoolcraft High School (park in school lot)

Hair Mania Band Headlines Taste of Vicksburg

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Jim Halladay on the left is the soloist for Hair Mania that will appear at the Taste of Vicksburg. He is accompanied by Paxton Olney and Lloyd Wallace.

By Sue Moore

The Taste of Vicksburg organizing committee has brought back by popular demand its headliner band from last year, Hair Mania. “Their music was great and they have a big following,” said Mandy Miller, the Chamber of Commerce’s event coordinator. “Plus, two of their band members are local Vicksburg boys who have made good,” Miller said.

Jim Halladay is the lead singer from Vicksburg and Paxton Olney, the bass guitarist, lives at Long Lake. They will play from 7 to 11 p.m. on a stage at the corner of Main and Prairie Streets in downtown Vicksburg. The Taste of Vicksburg opens for food vendors from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 13 with Jaspare’s Pizza and Vickers planning to serve food until closing time.

Hair Mania plays music from the 80s and are great entertainers as well, sporting long hair or wigs as part of their attire. They even bring their own band of followers from the many places they have played across Michigan. That includes Halladay’s mom, Susane and wife Chris, who are granted front row seats while most others in the audience like to stand and move with the music.

The Chamber has been serving up the Taste of Vicksburg for eight years to bring people into the community on a warm summer evening. In 2018 they sold more beer than ever before even though the event is not viewed as a fundraiser. Miller Lite, Miller High Life and Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy will be served in the beer tent located on S. Main Street. Vickers, Jaspare’s, Main Street Pub and the Hide-A-Way are some participating food vendors.

There will be three entrances to the roped-off area downtown at the corner of Washington and S. Main Street and on each end of east and west Prairie Streets in order to cut down on the waiting in line time for guests, according to Miller. Parking is available in back of the S. Main street stores and on both ends of Prairie Street.

Classes Offered for Summer of Fun and Learning

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Vic Simmons demonstrated his artistic abilities in front of the new VCAC showroom.

By Deb Christiansen

The Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center has a summer of art fun planned at its new location on 105 S. Main Street in Vicksburg, with classes on art, writing, quilting, felting and small pottery.

Running from July 8 through July 12, Junior Arts Day Camp, $130 is open to kids ages 8 – 12. This camp will be at the Vicksburg Community Center.

Starting July 18, The Art of Memoir, $195 member/$225 non-member. Author and Instructor Leeanne Seaver, M.A. leads this six-session (one a month for six months) writing class.

Starting July 20, Quilt Finishing: Ideas and Techniques, $15 member/$20 non-member. Instructor quilter, Kirk Bergland.

Starting July 20, Introduction to Felting: Painting with Wool, $40 member/$45 non-member. Instructor fiber artist, Holly Jensen.

Starting August 26, Handmade Pottery: Buttons & Beads, $30 member/$35 non-member. Instructor is celebrated local potter Lisa Beams.

Check for full information about these upcoming classes or call (269) 200-2223.

Become a member of the VCAC. $40/year for Individuals, $32/year for seniors and students, $70 for households. Go to or call (269) 200-2223 for more information on how to join.

New Theatre Company for Summer Classes and Camps

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Melissa Sparks, center.

By Sue Moore

Melissa Sparks has started her own theater company, Prism. She’s organizing an inaugural year of camps and classes in August at the Vicksburg Community Center. “It’s about growing, not just creatively, but also growing the students’ minds and hearts to develop into their multifaceted selves. Like a prism that reflects the many colors within light, they will discover the many colors of their character,” she said.

Sparks has taught, choreographed and directed theater and music throughout Kalamazoo County. During the school year, she is the director/choreographer for Vicksburg Community Schools’ International Thespian Society and theater program; an educator for Education for the Arts Advanced Musical Theatre course; and the co-director/co-instructor for the Direct Encounter with the Arts program at Western Michigan University.

Each class runs for one week, and classes run between July 29 and August 16. Classes for students age 7-14 include: Hip Hop Shakespeare, Stage Combat, Playwriting, Directing, Improvisation, Directing, Musical Theatre, Technical Theatre, and Tap Dance.
In addition to classes for 7-14-year-old students, Prism also offers extra classes in early evenings for 4-6-year-old participants, involving fairy tales, dinosaurs, and creative writing as well as classes for ages 15-Adult in improvisation, stage makeup and tap dance.

“I’m trying to offer something different from anything else I’ve seen. I believe the arts are such an incredible teaching tool that help us grow as human beings. All of my summer classes and camps are tied into academics, but also to character qualities that we want our youth to learn to become the best versions of themselves,” Sparks said. “Hopefully they leave as a better human being so they can shine a light in this world. At least, that’s the goal.”

Sparks freelances as a director, music director and choreographer for theaters such as the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, Farmer’s Alley Theatre, Portage Central High School, Center Stage Theatre, and more. She brings her theater degrees, extensive career in the arts, and education experience to this exciting new theater company. “Through Prism Performing Arts, I hope we both inspire people’s passion for the performing arts, but more importantly, we inspire them to become better versions of themselves so they can go out and be a light in the world,” she said.

Prism is offering a discount for students who participate in all three weeks of classes and camps. For further information go to