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Lean Rocket Lab Awarded Grant to Help Support Small Businesses

State Rep. Kathy Schmaltz today announced Lean Rocket Lab in Jackson has been selected to serve as one of 27 entrepreneurial hubs providing resources and support to small businesses across Michigan. 

Lean Rocket Lab received a $1.4 million grant through the state’s new Small Business Support Hubs program, funded with federal dollars set aside for programs to support small businesses disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.  

“In the face of tough times and rising inflation, this support will offer a lifeline for small businesses in Jackson and beyond,” Schmaltz said. “It means Lean Rocket Lab can now reach even more people, helping family-owned businesses and hometown innovators overcome challenges and ensuring our local economy stays strong.”

Lean Rocket Lab is a business incubator designated to support tech-focused entrepreneurs in Jackson County. It offers access to educational resources, professional service providers, and experts like engineers, prototypers and manufacturers. It also operates Local, a program specifically designed to help neighborhood based small business owners. The program consists of a six-week boot camp, intensive mentorship and support, and access to small business lending and milestone-based grant funding.

Gross, Puckey, Gruel & Roof, P.C Rebrands as  “Brown & Nofzinger, P.C.” 

Brian Nofzinger and Daniel Brown, majority shareholders of Gross, Puckey, Gruel & Roof, P.C. have announced a significant milestone for the firm as it unveils its new identity, “Brown & Nofzinger, P.C.” This re-branding reflects the firm’s evolving ownership structure and its unwavering commitment to delivering exceptional services. While the name changes, the dedication to guiding clients in wealth creation and preservation remains steadfast. Having initially formed in 1991 through the merger of Gross & Roof, P.C. with Puckey, Gruel & Merril, P.C., Brown & Nofzinger, P.C. has maintained a strong presence across two key locations in Adrian and Jackson. For over three decades, the firm has been a cornerstone in the southeastern Michigan region, offering comprehensive accounting and tax services. The team, comprising fifteen professionals, including five Certified Public Accountants and five additional accounting graduates, possesses the acumen and proficiency necessary to provide tailored solutions to clients. Brian Nofzinger emphasized, “While our name is changing, our core values and commitment to excellence remain resolute. The transition to Brown & Nofzinger, P.C. signifies not only our deep-rooted heritage but also our anticipation of a future marked by continued growth and client-centric service.” For further information or inquiries, please contact us at 517-787-1400 or via email at dan@BN-cpa.com. Brown & Nofzinger, P.C. eagerly anticipates this transformative step and the continued opportunity to service its clients with distinction. 

American 1 Credit Union Cuts Ribbon on New Chelsea Branch, Appoints Rebecca Hatto as Branch Manager

American 1 Credit Union held its ribbon-cutting ceremony for their new Chelsea Branch on November 8 and appointed Rebecca Hatto as Branch Manager.

The new branch in Chelsea will complement the Country Market branch by offering an additional location for banking services, along with the convenience of a drive-thru and drive-up atm.  

“We’re beyond excited to offer an additional location for our Chelsea members,” stated Keleigh Ballinger, Vice President of Branch Operations for American 1. “Offering an additional branch within Chelsea will allow us to fill the demand that we have seen for uncomplicated, and convenient banking in the community.”

Rebecca Hatto, who started her journey with American 1 in 2018 as the Manchester Branch Manager will lead the new Chelsea branch with her extensive banking and retail management background.

“The impact that American 1 makes on the communities it serves is powerful,” stated Rebecca Hatto. “As a Chelsea native, I have seen firsthand how our boldly generous lending rates, along with convenient and uncomplicated banking services, make a difference in the lives of many. I look forward to continuing to build financial wellness in Washtenaw County through my role as Branch Manager.”

The new Chelsea branch is easily accessible from I-94 at exit 162 and includes all the amenities of a full-service branch, including a drive-thru lane, and a 24/7 drive-up ATM.

County National Bank Announces New Hillsdale Location

County National Bank has announced the relocation of its Lewis Street drive thru banking services and the opening of a new Wealth Management office in Hillsdale. The current drive thru location at 150 Lewis Street will be relocated to 1 West Carleton Road, at the corner of Carleton and West Street. The new Wealth Management offices will be based at the same location. Services will be available at this location beginning December 4, 2023.

This exciting move reflects County National Bank’s commitment to providing convenient and comprehensive services to its valued clients. In addition to drive thru banking services that clients already rely on, the new location will also offer in-person Wealth Management services and an ATM, less than a mile away from the current Lewis Street drive thru location.

“County National Bank has always been dedicated to meeting the evolving needs of our clients,” said Joe Williams, President and CEO of County National Bank. “Relocating our drive thru banking services and opening a new Wealth Management office in Hillsdale enables us to better serve our clients, providing them with convenient access to a variety of financial services under one roof.”

The new Wealth Management office will offer a range of personalized services to help clients achieve their financial goals. County National Bank’s team of experienced financial advisors will be available to provide guidance on investments, retirement planning, estate planning, and more.

“We are excited to offer our clients a dedicated Wealth Management office in Hillsdale,” said Christopher Phillips, SVP – Senior Wealth Management Officer at County National Bank. “By providing in-person consultations and personalized financial solutions, we aim to empower our clients to make informed decisions and create a secure financial future.”

County National Bank will be hosting an open house celebration in early 2024 to mark the opening of the new location. Details about the event will be shared with the community soon, offering an opportunity for clients and community members to tour the new facility, meet the Wealth Management team, and learn more about the services available.

Carolyn Bloodworth to be Honored at 2023 Governor’s Service Awards

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Community Service Commission announced the 42 winners who will be honored at the 2023 Governor’s Service Awards Nov. 28 at the Fox Theatre in Detroit.

Carolyn Bloodworth of Jackson will receive the National Service Impact Award, along with Diana Rodriguez-Algra (Lansing), Kyle Caldwell (Grand Rapids), Julie Calley (Portland),  and Sam Singh (East Lansing).

Carolyn Bloodworth is passionate about philanthropy, service, and volunteerism in Michigan. She retired from Consumers Energy in September of 2023 after 42 years of service. Carolyn served as the Secretary/Treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation and the CMS Energy Foundation and was the corporation’s Executive Director of Corporate Giving for the past 30 years. Her responsibilities included corporate philanthropy and coordination of various community relations activities, including volunteer engagement and recognition. She currently serves as a member of the board of directors for the Michigan Nonprofit Association and Habitat for Humanity of Michigan and is a commissioner on the Michigan Commission on Community Action and Economic Opportunity.  She has served on a number of local and statewide nonprofit boards throughout her career, including the Michigan Community Service Commission (2008-2016), Food Bank Council of Michigan, Council of Michigan Foundations, Jr. Achievement of the Michigan Edge, Michigan FFA Foundation, and the Michigan FFA Association.

Individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations will also be honored for their commitment to volunteerism, service or philanthropy. 

“Michiganders roll up their sleeves to help their communities and always have each other’s backs,” said Governor Whitmer. “That spirit of service and selflessness defines us and demonstrates the power of getting things done for the people and places you love most. Every year, we come together to honor those extraordinary Michiganders who go above and beyond to serve their community and this year is no different. I look forward to meeting and celebrating all the awardees from across Michigan and hearing their stories.”

The Michigan Community Service Commission will host the 2023 Governor’s Service Awards on Nov. 28, 7 p.m. at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. Admission to event is free, but register to attend.

To recognize those who go above and beyond, the Governor’s Service Awards have been presented since 1994. The Michigan Community Service Commission supports Michigan volunteers, organizations and businesses that are committed to service and play a critical role in improving the lives of our people and communities.

Other winners include:

Governor George Romney Lifetime Achievement Award: Helen Knar Cirrito (East Lansing)

Lifetime Humanitarian Award: Roland Hwang (Northville)

Excellence in Philanthropy Award: Gilbert Family Foundation (Detroit), Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation (Birmingham)

 Visit www.michigan.gov/GovernorsServiceAwards for a list of more winners  and information.

American 1 Credit Union announces the Promotion of Anisha Watkins to Assistant Branch Manager 

American 1 Credit Union announces the internal promotion of Anisha Watkins to Assistant Branch Manager of their North Street Branch.  

Watkins, working with American 1 since October of 2018, most recently held the position of Member Service Specialist at the credit union’s North Street Branch. During her tenure, she also held the position of Account Specialist III, offering her a strong understanding of American 1 branch operations.   

“I am eager to jump into this exciting leadership opportunity,” said Watkins. “Since working with American 1, it is indisputable that our focus remains on the member experience. “The opportunities and mentorship for professional development at American 1 continue to impress and excite me, and I cannot wait to help others in the credit union reach their leadership goals.” 

Watkins accepted her promotion in May of 2023 and reports to Stacy Hewitt, Manager of the North Street Branch.  

“American 1 always keeps our members as our focus, making Anisha the perfect candidate for the Assistant Branch Manager position,” said Hewitt. “Anisha has been an asset to our members’ experience. Her strong understanding of members’ needs through being a Teller and a Member Service Specialist will allow her to be an effective leader. I am excited to see Anisha continue to grow into her new leadership position.”  

Credit Union Charity Golf Outing Raises Funds to Help People with Nonverbal Autism Find Their Voice

PICTURED: Jasmynn (front row, second from right) and her parents, founders of Jasmynn’s Voice, receive a check from the SoMi team who helped plan the 2023 SoMi Charity Golf Outing.

The Southern Michigan (SoMi) Chapter of Credit Unions raised $8,000 for Jasmynn’s Voice at their 2023 SoMi Charity Golf Outing. Jasmynn’s Voice is a nonprofit that aims to give iPads as Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices to those who have autism and struggle with language deficits or delays.

Using AAC devices have been shown to improve behavioral struggles, anxiety, and frustration for nonverbal individuals because they have the tools and guidance to be understood by those in the speaking, neurotypical world.

Jasmynn, the namesake of Jasmynn’s Voice, was diagnosed with autism at age three. She was given her first AAC device at age four, which allowed her to communicate with her family who, in turn, were able to discover more about their nonverbal daughter. Jasmynn has flourished since receiving an AAC device. Since its founding in 2012, Jasmynn’s Voice has given several hundred individuals the ability to find their voice using iPad technology and educational apps. To learn more about Jasmynn’s Voice, visit jasmynnsvoice.org.

The SoMi Chapter of Credit Unions exists to promote, perfect, and protect credit unions and the credit union movement. They were formed from eight separate credit unions located in Jackson, Lenawee, and Washtenaw counties.

The charity golf outing was made possible because of the combined collaboration and contributions of six credit unions: Aeroquip Credit Union, American 1 Credit Union, Community Choice Credit Union, South Central Credit Union, TLC Community Credit Union, and TRUE Community Credit Union.

Parkside Credit Union Members Vote to Join TRUE Community Credit Union

  Following a vote that concluded on November 15, Parkside Credit Union members have voted “Yes” to join TRUE Community Credit Union, effective January 1, 2024. This merger will bring together the collective strengths of both credit unions, resulting in expanded services, increased opportunity, and enhanced convenience for members.

The decision to merge with TRUECCU was made after careful consideration and extensive discussions among the Boards and leadership teams of both credit unions. By joining forces, Parkside Credit Union and TRUECCU aim to create a more robust organization that can better serve the evolving needs of their members.

“To say we’re excited to welcome Parkside Credit Union members to the TRUE Community family is an understatement,” said Chrissy Siders, President and CEO of TRUE Community Credit Union. “Together, as TRUE Community Credit Union, we stand, ready to empower and uplift our members, our employees, our communities, and our collective future. We are grateful to be a trusted partner and for the opportunities in front of us to generate financial well-being for all by cultivating legacy-defining moments for those we serve.”

The merger between Parkside Credit Union and TRUECCU is a testament to their shared commitment to provide exceptional financial services and support to the members, teams, and communities they serve.

“We are thrilled that our members have voted in favor of this merger,” said Janet Thompson, President and CEO of Parkside Credit Union. “This successful vote is a testament to the unity and strength of our credit union family. Together, we look forward to a bright financial future of combined resources and expertise to offer a broader range of financial solutions to members.”

Parkside Credit Union members can look forward to an increased variety of products and services, enhanced technology solutions, and an extended branch network. After the merger is complete, TRUECCU will add three branch locations in Wayne County to its 12-branch roster within Jackson, Ingham, and Washtenaw counties.

Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Launches National Civics Bee

The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce announces the launch of the 2024 National Civics Bee, an initiative aimed at encouraging more young Americans to engage in civics and contribute to their communities. Organized in partnership with The Civic Trust of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the competition in Jackson will inspire middle schoolers to become better informed about American democracy, to engage respectfully and constructively in the community, and to build greater trust in others and institutions.

Middle school students from public, private, charter, and home schools are invited to take part in the first-round civics essay competition. After a distinguished panel reviews the 500-word essays, the top 20 students will be selected to move on to the next round of competition: a live quiz event to test their civics knowledge. The Jackson Chamber will host the live event on April 10, 2024 at Spring Arbor University. The finalists and top winners will receive various prizes, including $500 cash for the first-place student.

“The National Civics Bee underscores our mission to create a vibrant, inclusive community and economy,” said Ryan Tarrant, president/CEO of the Jackson County Chamber. “Engaging our young people in this opportunity to participate in civil discourse will pay dividends for the future.”

The deadline for student essay submissions is January 8, 2024. For more information on the essay topic, competition rules and prizes, and to submit your essay, visit: jacksonchamber.org/bee

Scott Reed and Shannon Valdez Join Southern Michigan Bank & Trust

Southern Michigan Bank and Trust (SMBT) Vice President Retail Branch Administrator, Lori Neill recently announced the appointments of Scott Reed as Assistant Vice President Branch Manager and Shannon Valdez as Assistant Vice President Branch Manager. Reed and Valdez will oversee branch locations in Sturgis and Portage, respectively.

Scott Reed

Reed brings with him over 22 years of banking and management experience to his new role with Southern. Most recently, he served as Branch Manager for KeyBank in Sturgis, Michigan. Previously, he held the position of Branch Manager at FlagStar Bank, as well as various sales and managerial positions with Greenmark Equipment John Deere, Autopark Ford, and Dave Smith Pontiac Buick GMC. Reed is a graduate of Portage Northern High School. He currently resides in Sturgis with his wif e, and together they have ten children.

Shannon Valdez

Valdez has over 28 years of experience in the banking industry. Before joining Southern, she served as Branch Manager for Eaton Community Bank in Nashville, Michigan. Prior to her role with Eaton Community Bank, she held various managerial roles with Truist Financial, Chase Bank, and Fifth Third Bank. A graduate of Pennfield High School and resident of Battle Creek, Valdez has three children and four grandchildren.

“We are pleased to welcome Scott and Shannon to Southern’s branch management team,” stated Neill. “These appointments reaffirm our commitment to providing top-tier leadership within our branches, and we look forward to bringing their extensive banking experience to our customers.”

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