Tag Archives: Michigan

Lansing and Charlotte, Michigan Small Business Marketing Solutions

small-business-marketing-solutions-lansing-michigan

Looking for small business marketing solutions? We receive calls everyday from small businesses looking for answers to their marketing needs. We also receive phone calls from other marketing companies trying to sell to us! I am amazed by the volume of calls (some robo calls, don’t get me started on those-ugh!) from marketing companies. Each call promises increased  Google rankings, website visitors, social media followers, decreased pounds   – wait, no, that is a call that could actually be helpful…

I met with a customer this week who received one of these calls. The call spurred a discussion about Google rankings and how we could help. We’ve also met with a couple of small businesses in Lansing and Charlotte, Michigan have monthly marketing package agreements with Town Square Media. Town Square Media have a large sales forcey, targeting small businesses in mid-Michigan and throughout the country who need help with web design and marketing. They build responsive websites and offer social media management. They also promise search engine optimization (SEO) and monthly edits to small business websites for a set monthly fee.

Marketing Packages for Small Business

Marketing packages are beneficial small business marketing solutions if they offer consistent, fresh, customized content, at a set affordable cost. We were surprised to hear Town Square Media customers were paying twice as much per month as we charge. Plus, their customers were getting a very  small percentage of the service we provide. Some of the small businesses who had WordPress responsive websites built were paying over $200 a month. They also told us that if they wanted to cancel they would lose their website. After over a year of paying for a website the didn’t even own their website!

Fortunately, we have been able to help these Lansing and Charlotte, Michigan businesses. They now own their website designs and have control of their internet marketing. Can we help your small business save money and get more ROI and higher brand recognition?

If you are a Town Square Media customer in Lansing or in the surrounding small towns please give us a call today. We believe in small businesses and we relish the opportunity to help you grow. For those of you who are paying monthly for a responsive e-commerce website or other small business website that you will never own – cut your losses.

Affordable Small Business Marketing Solutions

We will build a custom website for similar or less cost than you have paid and you will own it once paid in full. We will also train you on how to edit your responsive website. Have problems with edits? Call us, we’re here to help and we will walk you through updating your website. We’re here for you if you have major changes you prefer not to attempt. We will provide an accurate time-based estimate to get your website design developed quickly. You don’t have to take our word for it, our reviews speak for themselves.

For small businesses with professional websites who need answers about social media management, email marketing, SEO and getting reviews posted on Google, etc. please give us a call. Don’t sign on with a company you haven’t researched or with a company who doesn’t know you, or your local area.  We will meet with you over the phone or face to face. After the meeting, we can develop a custom plan. Plans can include fee based services, or we train you how to achieve similar results. Take back ownership of your brand, connect with us today!

Michigan Design and Marketing Firm Receives Certification as Women’s Business Enterprise

Connection Graphics, Michigan based Design and Marketing Firm Receives Certification as Women’s Business Enterprise by WBENC

Michigan design and marketing firm receives Certification as Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) from WBENC

December 15, 2015 – Connection Graphics, LLC receives national certification as Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) by the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council, a regional certifying partner of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

“The Great Lakes Women’s Business Council is proud to have Connection Graphics as one of our newly certified women owned businesses.  They have tremendous talent and promise that we are excited to see soar even higher,” according to Michelle Richards, President, Great Lakes WBC.

WBENC’s national standard of certification provided by the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council Certification Committee is a meticulous process including an in-depth review of the business and a site inspection. The certification process is designed to confirm that the business is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women. According to WBENC, by including women-owned businesses among their vendors, corporations and government agencies demonstrate their commitment to fostering diversity and continued development of supplier/vendor diversity programs.

“We are pleased to receive this certification by WBENC. We look forward to fostering the growth of other women-owned businesses while continuing to provide marketing and design services to successful corporations,” said Connie Sweet, founder and CEO of Connection Graphics.

About Connection Graphics:

Connection Graphics is an integrative marketing and design firm located in the Lansing, Michigan area. For nearly 20 years, Connection Graphics has provided expert website development, graphic design, and marketing solutions.  Connection Graphics offers guidance for the most cost-effective and creative solutions available to achieve maximum results. Serving a diverse clientele of large corporations and manufacturers to start-ups and non-profits clients extend across Michigan and the United States.  Connection Graphics works in person or digitally, to develop a strategy and visual signature adaptable to each stage of a companies growth.

Certification as Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) from Great Lakes Women’s Business Council means Connection Graphics can help more corporations. If corporations have marketing services, graphic design, or website design and development needs, this certification can help to meet supplier diversity program goals with an experienced, responsible design firm.

The certification achievement is an important milestone for Connection Graphics as we continue to grow and to improve our corporate relationships while fostering the growth of diverse and other women owned businesses.  Through a culture of continuous improvement our mission is to create partnerships by delivering cutting edge marketing and design solutions combined with incomparable service that brings results and makes everyones job easier. 

About WBENC:

The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council is the nation’s largest third-party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women in the United States. WBENC is a resource for the thousands of U.S. companies and government agencies that rely on WBENC’s certification as an integral part of their supplier diversity programs. www.wbenc.org

Media Contact for Connection Graphics:

Connie Sweet
517-645-4387

WBENC Women owned business certification

Creating Combined Marketing Campaigns – 2015 Best Marketing Strategies

Combined campaigns example with website landing page and direct mail postcardsWhat market segment or demographic does your largest customer group belong to? Is there a specific industry you have a strong track record with that would benefit from your expertise? Do you want to continue to serve this market and reach other prospects in this segment?

Once you identify your ideal customer the next step is to determine where you can find them.  Are they newspaper or magazine readers? Or are they on Instagram and have never seen a Yellow Page book? Chances are you have a mix of ages, interests or income in your target market groups. This is where creating combined marketing campaigns come in.

Taking the time in the beginning when creating combined marketing campaigns  will provide a multi-channel and cross-platform reach that can catch both the smart phone users and yellow page turners. Encouraging connections through multiple marketing channels builds the relationship between the brand and the consumer.

Creating Combined Marketing Campaigns:

In our effort to reach out to our specific target markets we decided to combine a direct mail campaign with social media and internet marketing to help us reach a larger segment of our specified groups. On our snail mail postcards we provided a custom URL for each market. Prior to mailing we created landing pages on our website associated with each target market. When the postcard recipient typed in the custom URL the landing page offered samples, testimonials and examples of services in their industry that would be helpful to them. Social media posts were created with hashtags and keyword phrases included on our website to help us come up when these prospects make a search inquiry for our services.

Internet advertising campaign created:

  1. To reach the prospects that we did not have mailing addresses for
  2. To get in front of those who received the postcard but did not respond yet

Each ad was similar in design to the postcard that was mailed. The ad linked directly to the custom URL designated for the specific target group. The ads took them to our website landing pages  with the information we wanted to share with them. The landing pages were also similar in design to the postcards and Facebook ad designs that were part of the campaign.

Example of a combined marketing campaign :

One of our target markets is the Michigan construction industry. Connection Group has assisted customers in the Michigan construction industry  with website creation and marketing management for nearly 20 years.  We provide marketing and website design services to builders, remodelers, construction trades and construction product manufacturers. We have the experience, we have the reviews, and we know we can help more  meet their business goals.

Combining Direct Mail and In-Bound Marketing

  • Design an oversized postcard targeting the construction industry
  • Create a unique URL to include on the postcard
  • Create  a construction industry landing page the URL will direct the visitor to
  • Add a call to action

Media Behaviors of this group

  • More likely to be on Facebook than Instagram
  • More apt to be searching Google than watching tv

Conclusion:

  • Prospect mailing list was created
  • Printed postcards – easily viewable by the recipient and inexpensive to produce
  • Unique URL and landing page will help us to track visitors and determine the effectiveness of the direct mail component.
  • Facebook and Google Adwords search would be the best use of our (very limited!) internet advertising dollars.

The above solutions were chosen to fit within our marketing and advertising budget to market to the construction industry. Other marketing segments we provide marketing services for are small to mid-size businesses and professional speakers. Fortunately these groups can be reached on the same media platforms as the construction industry. Pretty strategic marketing right there, right? This approach reduces our need for researching other platforms and keeps our media spend within budget.

If we choose to increase our marketing budget for let’s say the professional speaker market we know media behaviors of this group show they are internet savvy and social. With those traits in mind we could become an affiliate member of the National Speakers Association Michigan or National Speakers Association since we work with Professional Speakers across the country, We could purchase advertisements in their publications, be a vendor at one of their trade shows or sponsor an event. We would not purchase billboards, tv or radio advertising for this group – but we may want to look at YouTube for display or video advertisements .

Long standing businesses who are discovering that traditional advertising and marketing isn’t working anymore will find their sweet spot by creating combined marketing campaigns. Television may still work for some of your customers, combine it with a YouTube video or adwords campaign and see how many new customers result. As in the dawn of the advertising age, knowing your customers interests and needs will help you be where they are and form authentic relationships.

Not sure where to begin? Connect with us today for a consultation and assistance creating combined marketing campaigns that connect with your target market.

The 8 Agreements for Working With a Graphic Design Firm

computer with artistic sketches doodles. Design is... Steve Jobs quote.

There are a variety of reasons why a small business can benefit from working with a graphic design firm. Skilled graphic designers can help your company shine and organize information efficiently and in a graphically appealing manner. Once you have determined the project you are hiring the graphic design firm for the next step is to establish a clear understanding of who is responsible for each element of the project(s)

8 Agreements for Working with a Graphic Design Firm :

Explain Yourself – know what you are trying to communicate, to who (target audience), how (in print, billboards, or online, etc.). If you are not sure about the direction you need to take, you may want to schedule a marketing consultation or graphic design consultation before you begin working with a graphic design firm on a project that is defined ahead of time. Many graphic design firms offer consultations and provide marketing services to help you at this stage.

Be Prepared – Compile all text, copy, logos, photos, graphics, charts, etc. that will be included when the graphic design firm begins the project. If the graphic design firm is responsible for creating the graphics, locating photography, it is a good idea to share your ideas on style, color, size, etc.

Content – Will you be writing the copy for your project? Will a copy writer be providing copy? If you are working with a graphic design firm that also offers copywriting services request a bid for copywriting. Graphic design services do not automatically include copywriting, choosing headlines, compiling captions, etc.

Proofread – Graphic designers are paying attention to fonts, placement, scale, dimensions, color, graphics, photos and flow. Graphic designers are not editors or proofreaders. Sometimes while working through a project they may catch a typo or inconsistent use of text this is a bonus – this is an editing and proofreading task and is ultimately the client’s responsibility. Make sure you always get a proof and proofread it carefully before you go to print or post online… and then have someone else proofread it again.

Don’t Make Assumptions – You know your small business or organization best. It is important to share everything you want to include or depict. Don’t assume the graphic designer knows which are the featured services, products, mission and message you want to convey. A graphic design firm will learn about your company or organization but you know your organization best. Don’t assume it’s obvious what your company’s unique selling proposition (USP) is. Your current website and other marketing materials may not be explaining it as clearly you hope.

Share Ideas – Provide samples of designs you like. The examples can be from companies in your industry or just eye-catching designs with compelling messages that speak to you. This sharing helps designers follow your desired trajectory right away. A professional graphic designer will not copy these ideas, they will use them as inspiration, a jump off point, to build original work for your company.

When you are working with a design firm and leave it entirely up to them without any examples of what you envision you may have a rocky road ahead. If you are someone who is open to innovation and new ideas and you envision working with a graphic design firm as a refreshing exchange of creativity, give them full reign! It could be a great experience for both parties. If ideas go off track however, you will be paying for the revisions to get them back on track.

Don’t take things personally – a professional graphic designer will present new ideas you may not have considered yet. Be open to hear about the concept. Remember you hired the professionals for their expertise. If you really don’t like the new ideas a professional graphic design firm will not force them. Hopefully a compromise can be offered that merges both ideas and a winning design will result. Remember you are working with a design firm who wants to keep you as a customer, they want you to succeed and sometimes that means attempting to break you out of your comfort zone.

Always Do Your Best – Plan ahead for your graphic design and marketing projects. Whether you are looking for a brochure design, annual report design, logo design or website design, etc. allot enough time for all the project stages and mostly for design time. A full campaign will require more time than a corporate brochure. Creativity can not be turned on and off like a computer. A minimum of two weeks is requested. Although most design firms will do their best to fit in rush jobs, keep in mind you may not be getting their best work when creative time is cut short. Also remember to include the time it will take for the next steps of your projects, committee previews,board approval, printing, distribution, coding, etc.

Connection Group is a marketing and graphic design firm located in the Lansing, Michigan area. We work face to face on graphic design projects for small businesses and organizations in Grand Ledge, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Mason, DeWitt and Charlotte, Michigan. When working with companies throughout Michigan we like the initial meeting to be at your location to get a feel for your business environment.  Connection Group also provides marketing and graphic design services to companies throughout the United States. Consultations via Skype, phone and email offer opportunities to collaborate, share proofs and meet comfortably without additional travel expenses.

If you feel confident working with a graphic design firm is your next step, connect with us today.

 Stay connected!

Membership Website Ideas – WordPress Makes it Easy to Update

Jug&Mug Club Membership website home pageWe recently were selected to provide new membership website ideas and design for a local Lansing Michigan All Seasons Club JugAndMug.org. We worked with the president and a few other board members to re-create the site. I wish I had a screen capture of the old membership website – a before and after would have been dramatic and impressive.

We were happy to hear the group contacted us because we were referred to them as a company who would provide quality service and a website design that met all the goals of the organization at a reasonable rate. Upon our initial meeting with the website committee we learned more details about their ideas for the new membership website.

Local Club Membership Website Ideas:

  • Bring website design into the current decade
  • Offer a content management system that was easy for non-programmers to update
  • Responsive website format: detects screen size and format for smart phones, tablets or desktop monitors
  • Slide show of photos that can be updated easily
  • Blog page to be part of the membership website and not a separate url
  • Online inquiry forms, contact forms or registration forms
  • Emails with domain name (name@jugandmug.org) that forward to each board persons personal email if desired.
  • Ease in updating content and adding photos in all areas
  • E-commerce capability for accepting payments, ticket sales, membership dues, etc.
  • Members only section – password protected with different access levels

local-club-memberhsip-website-ideas

We have provided similar membership website ideas and solutions in the past with password protected areas, e-commerce, events pages, and specific administrative access. Membership websites can range between local clubs like jugandmug or large national or state associations, non-profit and political groups as well as business groups membership sites.

When we’re provided membership website ideas and solutions throughout our  17 years of business that incorporated content management systems (CMS) we typically built them from scratch. Now we can often use the robust WordPress options available.

Jug&Mug.org was built with a WordPress theme that supports e-commerce interactions. There were a plethora of plug ins available if we needed for the password protected area or the photo slide shows. The use of WordPress for this particular project was ideal primarily because of the ease in updates. Since membership websites are often updated by different people and the administrator may change with each board member update it is important to keep website updates simple. Jug and Mug is lucky, they have a President and website committee right now who is knowledgeable of computer programming and interested to learn. Other memberships, associations and clubs may have people responsible for managing the website who have no clue what web code is. Use of WordPress CMS helps alleviate worries and errors and helps newbie website managers to feel at ease.

ski club responsive website - on smart phoneThere are some particular rules to follow when choosing a website company and a WordPress theme,

  • do you want the website for business or just for fun
  • do you want to use your own domain name (hosted on it’s own)
  • a responsive theme
  • a theme that allows e-commerce
  • a theme that allows third party plug-ins
  • customizable
  • … and more depending on your website goals

Discussing WordPress, membership website ideas as well as customizing existing WordPress themes really requires another article. For instance I throw WordPress plug ins out there like they are little miracles… they can also be mean little sprites that choke your website speed and may not play nice together… So much to cover so little blog space.

If you are interested in using WordPress as a new website design solution and would like to talk to us about your considerations whether you have your own membership website ideas, an e-commerce site, or a website offering a service that you need help with. please call us today, 517-645-4387.

Stay connected!

10 Internet Marketing Strategies for Small Business

Internet marketing strategies

Internet marketing is not an option, it is a necessity for every small business to grow. We love working with start up companies, we love the passion and the excitement new entrepreneurs bring with each bright venture. It is also hard for us to meet some of these fresh start up small businesses who are following their dreams but haven’t done the due diligence of research. We are often contacted first to design and develop a small business website. One of our specialities here of course. However in our first website consultation we talk to our prospective customers about how they are going to market their new business and if they have considered internet marketing. Unfortunately many small business owners believe having a website is an internet marketing strategy. It is a component but it is not a complete strategy to drive traffic, phone calls and orders in and of itself.

Following is a list of some of the internet marketing strategies small businesses implement. Not all of these internet marketing concepts are necessary for every single business. If you are not sure about which will fit best with your internet marketing goals post a question in the comment sections and I will be happy to help. I will need to know what your product or service is and what your internet marketing goals are. Do you want to increase page views, do you want to make more sales, do you want more downloads, etc.

10 Internet Marketing Strategies for small business

  1. Web Presence – First and foremost is to have a fully functioning quality website. A website that communicates quickly what your product or service is key in keeping your visitor engaged in staying on your website long enough to determine if they want to work with you. List your services or products, make it easy to locate contact information whether it is an online form and most definitely provide an email contact and phone number on all your pages. Don’t skimp on your website design. If your website looks cheap your company will bear the burden of this perception.
  2. Content Marketing – Content marketing includes articles, blog posts, press releases, e-books, all types of photos including product photos, staff photos, stock photos for your blog posts, and videos. Don’t ever worry that you are offering too much information on your website. Note you will naturally be adding relevant keywords to your content (see SEO below) and you will be answering every visitors question each time they come to your site. Sharing your wisdom and expertise adds credibility and trust for your customer and bodes higher search results than websites that don’t get updated frequently and have less content
  3. SEO/SEM – Search engine marketing helps bring your website up in search results within search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. The use of relevant keywords holds high importance in SEO for small business websites. To use Connection Group as an example, as a graphic design and marketing company in the Lansing Michigan area we want customers who are seeking graphic design and marketing in the Lansing, Michigan to find us. The best way to be visible in search engines is to make sure we have those keywords (graphic design, marketing, Lansing, Michigan) on our website in various places.  There are many components of SEO and many bad practices by disreputable SEO firms to avoid. Please post in comments if you have questions.
  4. Local Search Marketing – Local search incorporates the rules and tactics for standard SEO and integrates maps, such as Google maps. When a customer searches your product or services a map with local companies who fit the query come up. Your company and similar companies in your industry will have listing that include contact information such as address, phone number, and can include website and there will be a symbol on the map indicating your exact business location.
  5. Social Media Marketing – Everybody groan and get it over with. I know social media for small businesses is an internet strategy that challenges the best of us but it all comes down to your goals and your audience. Some of our customers rock Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and others report increased sales rates from the traffic they received from LinkedIn. The most challenging part of social media as an internet marketing strategy for small businesses  is setting the frequency of posts and determining return on investment. To start, I recommend securing social media profiles with your business name in all of the main social media channels. The next step is to evaluate which social media channels your customers spend the most time in, when they are there and what they want to hear from you.  Piece of cake right?
  6. Email Marketing – Email marketing lists are considered by many to be the most valuable database in many small businesses portfolio. Email marketing lists are built from customers and prospects who have expressed an interest in your product or service. Whether you gained them through a give away, a promise to keep them updated on new product releases, or discounts, these people have opted in to receive communication from you. Unlike a phone call, or face to face meeting, emails can be sent 24/7 and the recipient can choose when they will look at them and how they will respond. Small businesses should consider using an established email marketing software such as Mailchimp to help ensure your campaigns reach your customers in-box without getting caught in spam filters.
  7. Landing Pages – A landing page is a page on your website that is designed to capture visitors contact information. Landing pages contain a lead capture form (conversion form) also known as an online inquiry form. Created for a specific audience they can be a very successful internet marketing strategy. Good landing pages are simple and focus on one message to achieve the goal of capturing the lead content. Consider using landing pages with email campaigns targeted to previous customers, use of landing pages with online advertising allow ease of tracking and optimizing for each ad, and lastly landing pages can be used for giveaways and free downloads of e-books, original graphics, etc.
  8. Mobile Compatibility – Mobile marketing statistics so far for 2014 show some industries are seeing nearly 50% of visits to their websites from mobile users. This of course will vary with demographics and your actual product or service but it is high across the board – high enough not to ignore. Most small businesses are investing in responsive website design rather than going with a desktop website and a separate mobile website. Maintaining two separate websites is just crazy unless that’s all you have to do all day. Responsive sites provide the best of both worlds. Those visiting your site on a smart phone, tablet or desktop computer get the same information, it is all just scaled for the screen size they are using. Questions? Let’s talk.
  9. Online directory listings – Make sure your business is listed and complete your information and be sure there is accurate contact information in all main online directories such as Google, Bing, Yelp and YP. Consumers who do not know your company name but are searching for your product or service can view your listing and contact you. Most directories have free listings and others offer more options at a cost. There are many other service listings like Yext, etc. and also industry specific directories you will want to explore.
  10. Google Adwords and Social Media Paid Advertising – Google Adwords can help bring you to the top of searches page by paying for top placement. Internet advertising is sold on a cost per click (CPC) or cost per  impression. You build ads using keywords for your product or service depending on your budget and how many others in your industry are advertising the same keywords and setting similar budgets your ad will come up in when people search for your product or service. Due diligence must be paid to each online adverting campaign to make sure you are getting in the top rankings and that you are taking advantage of each opportunity. As you work to improve organic search engine results for your website by adding content, etc. Although not for the faint at heart or for those who are not very ‘techie’, Google adwords and some social media advertising can be a good addition to your internet marketing strategy.

So which of the 10 internet marketing strategies above does your company need the most to increase inbound marketing results? Do you think you need to start working on all or them, or only 1 − 4, or are you completely overwhelmed and want to go back to door to door sales and forget all this crazy internet stuff? Connect with us, we can help with all of the services listed, we know the ropes and we can help get results.

Stay connected!

Photo credit: Apple, the Apple logo and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

Brand Image for The Salvage Yard Antiques

The salvage yard antiques visual brandingA long time customer, The Salvage Yard Antiques in Grand Ledge, Michigan is expanding and has contracted Connection Group for web and print brand design.

The Salvage Yard official website launched earlier this month:

  • a responsive website design that formats to the size of a smart phone, tablet tablet or other computer screen
  • simple, clean designed for the photos to pop
  • easy for the customer to update on their own

Brand Print Items: Updated business cards and new postcards incorporate the same brand images. Keeping colors and visuals consistent help build a recognizable visual brand – plus saves money on design fees! Connection Group printed a larger quantity of postcards than needed to promote the upcoming open house. Keeping the information generic without dates adds the flexibility to be used throughout the year for multiple purposes: future promotions, new product announcements, thank you notes, and more!

Congratulations to The Salvage Yard Antiques on your expansion! For those in the Lansing and Mid-Michigan area be sure to stop in for the opening. For those out of state this is a destination shop not to be missed when you are in Michigan!
The Salvage Yard Grand Opening on February 22nd
Special hours 7:00am – 7:00pmwww.thesalvageyardantiques.com

Connection Group Publisher of MI Sport Page Magazine

Brianna Flowers, Tony Sweet and Jill Marlin featured in Grand Ledge/Waverly Mi Sports Page Magazine

MI Sports Page Grand Ledge Waverly Michigan Magazine Issue 1

The inaugural Mi Sports Page Magazine, covering Grand Ledge and Waverly is now available on the newsstand in multiple community locations.

The first edition includes stories on former Grand Ledge athlete Jill Marlan, who has used the discipline she learned and benefitted from as an athlete to cultivate a successful educational and professional career; former Grand Ledge basketball coach Tony Sweet who has now taken his  basketball knowledge and passion to Brighton where he coached the Bulldogs’ boys team  to a Kensington Lake Athletic Association championship in his first year; and the steady, calming influence Brianna Flowers had on the Waverly girls track program during her four year years.

As an area leader in website design, print and corporate communications, Connection Group, is proud to introduce the first Mi Sports Page Magazine. Our goal to support local businesses and communities with highlights and feature stories of local athletes and high school athletic programs.

Please visit misportspage.com for more information.

Thad Kraus (517)645-4387

email: thad@connectiongraphics.com

Loving Lansing

As a marketing and design firm specializing in branding solutions we work with customers across the United States and Canada. We are located in the Lansing, Michigan area and much of our clientele are in Lansing and Grand Rapids. In the over twelve years of launching Connection Group, I have been pleased to see the growth and improvements both of these cities have made. Since I attended Kendall College of Art and Design in the, dare I say it – 80s’, Grand Rapids skyline and downtown offerings have improved dramatically. Areas where once I was tentative to ride my bike have now become revitalized, thriving neighborhoods.  With the diverse corporations and big donor names such as VanAndel and DeVos, Grand Rapids has been blessed with a stream of  financial gifts and investments.

Lansing, on the other hand, with its deep roots in the auto industry, has seen challenges and limited financial support. Even though it is the state capital of Michigan, the challenges the State has encountered has limited  state investment  and growth for the city. Fortunately, with a new diverse group of industries moving to the city, including many large insurance corporations, biotech companies, and of course the continued growth at MSU, Cooley Law School, and the many other higher education institutions, Lansing is growing and attracting a dynamic group of young residents. Downtown Lansing has expanded its offerings for nightlife and entertainment and Oldtown has continued to be a destination for celebrating the arts with its many festivals and locally owned boutique shops.

Local online newspaper, Capital Gains has dedicated a lot of ink to share the many wonderful events, happenings and growth Lansing is experiencing. Recently they featured a couple of articles on one of our favorite clients, Lambs’ Gate Antiques. Lambs’ Gate is locally owned by Carol Lamb. The first store in Grand Ledge has enjoyed much success throughout the years and Carol boldly chose to expand this Spring and opened Lambs’ Gate Antiques in OldTown. Managed by her daughter-in-law Ashley, the new store is the epitome of what is OldTown, eclectic, unique and colorful.

To learn more about the shops please view the Capital Gains article about Lambs’ Gate and the Lambs’ Gate Web site. To read more about the young talent Lansing is attracting and get a glimpse of why Lambs’ Gate Oldtown is experiencing such a welcoming response, read the Capital Gains article on Dan and Ashley Lamb.

Be sure to friend the Lambs’ Gate Antiques facebook site and join the newsletter to receive monthly coupons!

CAMW Offers Education Vouchers – thru April 9, 2010

Capital Area Michigan Works! is participating with the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth and Microsoft to implement Elevate America, a program designed to build Greater Lansing’s workforce-related skills in a 21st Century economy.

Elevate America provides access to FREE Microsoft E-Learning courses and certification exams. Beginning learners can access free training online. Intermediate and Advanced learners can visit a Capital Area Michigan Works Service Center to receive a voucher. Vouchers are available through April 9, 2010.

Intermediate vouchers are available to help job seekers, students, small business owners and residents upgrade their Microsoft Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Access and Excel skills (2003 or 2007), as well as Microsoft Vista skills. Additionally, learners can receive vouchers for the Microsoft Office Specialist Exam (2003) and Microsoft Office Certified Application Specialist Vista and Office Exam (2007). Free testing is available with vouchers at New Horizons in Lansing.

Those with existing IT experience can upgrade their skills further with vouchers for access to 89 different e-learning courses to help IT professionals prepare for Microsoft Certifications. Elevate America advanced e-learning courses support occupations such as Web/Windows Developers, Support Technicians, Database Administrators, Systems Administrators, Systems Engineers, Enterprise Administrators and Server Administrators.

Small businesses and existing professionals are welcome and encouraged to receive vouchers.

For more information, visit your local Capital Area Michigan Works! office in Lansing, St. Johns, or Charlotte.

Teri Sand, PHR, CBSP Capital Area Michigan Works!, 2110 South Cedar Street, Lansing, MI 48910 Direct Phone 517-492-5516; Fax 517-492-5501; Email tsand@camw.net