MUSKEGON – Five groups or individuals have been selected as finalists for the 2021 Lakeshore Innovator of the Year award, presented by Grand Valley State University’s Muskegon Innovation Hub.
The award celebrates and recognizes the most innovative ideas on the Lakeshore. The winner will be announced at a ceremony July 29 from 5-7 p.m. at the Hub, located at 200 Viridian Dr. in Muskegon. The program begins at 6 p.m.; the event is free and open to the public.
The keynote speaker is Jamiel Robinson, founder and CEO of Grand Rapids Area Black Business (GRABB), and co-owner of several ventures including Motu Viget Spirits, Ambiance GR Kitchen and Lounge, and Motu Lakeshore Wine Bar.
“All of the 2021 Lakeshore Innovator of the Year finalists epitomize the breadth and depth of the creativity and innovation happening on the West Michigan Lakeshore,” said Kevin Ricco, director of the Muskegon Innovation Hub.
Finalists for the Lakeshore Innovator of the Year are:
Zaneta Adams – WINC For All women veterans
In 2017, while president and founder for WINC for All Women Veterans, Zaneta Adams created the Military Sisterhood Initiative, an online/app network platform for women veterans all over the country and beyond to connect and help lower the rate of suicide among them. Adams took her idea and partnered WINC with Challenge America to create a network that has over 5,000 women from all over the world connecting with one another and sharing stories of survival. She was recognized as a Department of Veteran Affairs Trailblazer in 2021 for her work in this area. Adams also founded the women veterans recognition day held June 12 every year in Michigan.
Jill Batka and Curtis Chambers – Dynamic Conveyor Corporation
Curtis Chambers noted a lack of light-duty portable conveyors available to serve injection molders like his Pliant Plastics Corporation. So, he designed a modular plastic conveyor loosely modeled after Legos. DynaCon has grown under the leadership of Jill Batka, one of Chambers’ three daughters who own Dynamic. Dynamic designed a new line of easy-to-clean conveyors specifically for food processing and packaging. The DynaClean sanitary conveyor line has a simple design allowing easy access to internal components. The DynaClean conveyors offer the food industry a line of plastic, custom conveyors that are eco-friendly, easy to clean, and save time and money. A line of specialty conveyors was introduced in early 2020.
Beth Beaman – Playhouse at White Lake
The Playhouse at White Lake has utilized inventive methods to remain connected and relevant over the past year. In order to continue offering new content amid the pandemic, The Playhouse traded in its live, in-person Summer Theatre Festival to become a three-camera movie production house. With only a four-week turnaround, Managing Director Beth Beaman decided not to cancel the beloved summer season, but rather, to pivot and engage with audiences virtually, all while putting displaced artists to work. In addition, the White Lake Youth Theatre Council was formed to help support year-round arts education programming at the Playhouse. The White Lake Youth Theatre Council aims to cultivate a compassionate community, leadership and life skills through arts education at The Playhouse. This program is open to all area high school students and hones inclusivity and business skills in the next generation of arts leaders.
Michael Hyacinthe – Wimage, LLC
Michael Hyacinthe founded Wimage, LLC in 2014 after creating the Wimage app, an educational application that allows kids to input words to create images and turn their ideas into a visual story. Wimage stands for “words to images.” The goal of Wimage is to move kids from being passive consumers of digital content to being creative producers of content. Studies show low-income students and students of color are more likely to be passive consumers, and students learn better when they use technology to create their own content, rather than just consuming content. In cooperation with the Kent District Library, Wimage, LLC also created an educational livestream show that engages children through visual storytelling and vocabulary building, meeting the unique needs of students, educators and parents during the pandemic.
Brent Raeth – CatchMark Technologies
CatchMark Technologies was founded in 2013 with the purpose of delivering professional technology services to small and midsize businesses throughout West Michigan. The “CatchMark Gives Back” program was created to encourage CatchMark teammates to use their skills, expertise and company resources to improve the communities they are part of. In the last year, CatchMark has donated to multiple high school sports programs, provided computers to local robotics teams, donated “Causeway Cams” to the White Lake Chamber of Commerce, and provided free tech services to multiple churches and struggling organizations. In August 2020, Montague Area Public Schools approached CatchMark Technologies to help them find a solution to a viewership issue caused by COVID restrictions established by MHSAA and the state of Michigan. The restrictions only allowed for two fans per player to watch any athletic event live and in person. CatchMark offered to purchase equipment and help run a Livestream at all home athletic events.
About the Muskegon Innovation Hub
The Muskegon Innovation Hub is a business innovation center that provides business incubation, coworking space, funding assistance, events and programming. It is a key partner in the regional innovation ecosystem, and supports startup businesses, entrepreneurs and corporate innovation teams. For more information, visit gvsu.edu/mihub.