In 2012, seed accelerator Start Garden launched in Grand Rapids, MI, with a $15 million fund and the goal of building “a culture of entrepreneurship.” Its timeline of accomplishments since then reflects the vigorous growth of the Grand Rapids startup ecosystem, which has seen a proliferation of incubators, co-working environments, maker spaces, funding, and programs designed to help founders develop sustainable businesses.
The Right Place is a nonprofit economic development company that offers business growth assistance through a variety of services, from manufacturing training to site location to accessing state and local resources.
A vibrant startup ecosystem always seems to coincide with a vibrant cultural landscape, and Grand Rapids is no exception. GR dwellers and visitors can enjoy the city’s museums (African American Museum & Archives, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum), theaters (Broadway Grand Rapids, Civic Theatre, Actor’s Theatre), galleries (Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), Grand Rapids Art Museum), music and performance venues (DeVos Performance Hall, River City Improv), and public art, among tons of other offerings. Grand Rapids is also the home of ArtPrize an art competition and festival that is the largest public art competition in the world.
Once folks have worked up an appetite from all those uplifting excursions, they can choose from myriad brewpubs and restaurants to cap off the day.
And while many of the breweries offer exceptional cuisine, there are also plenty of restaurants to check out.
Noted travel author Jen Ruiz characterized Grand Rapids as “a foodie’s dream” and shared her restaurant picks based on category. You can see her blog post for the full list, but here’s a sample. MudPenny, for breakfast/brunch; Downtown Market, for lunch; The Sovengard, for dinner; MoKAYA, for dessert.
And for the tikes...
Many of the attractions mentioned so far are geared toward adults, but let’s not forget the kids. Grand Rapids offers a long list of family-friendly activities and attractions, like the John Ball Zoo and the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Oh, and the West Michigan Donut Trail. (Does that sound like a sugar-pocalypse waiting to happen?)
A historic steel mill town may seem like an unlikely place to establish a farm, but startup Fifth Season is doing just that. However, this is no ordinary farm. It’s going to be (wait for it) an indoor, vertical, robot-driven farm.
Fifth Season’s roots (sorry) trace back to a farm it incubated at Carnegie Mellon University in 2016. The company then spent the next two years developing a couple of R&D vertical farms. Now it’s time to go big.
Thanks to automated systems and hard-working robots, the farm is cost competitive with traditional farming (something most vertical farms can’t claim). It also requires far less water, eliminates the need for pesticides, and avoids issues like E. coli contamination. And because the produce is grown close to end markets, it arrives fresher, without the downsides of long-distance trucking.
During its first year, Fifth Season says it will grow half a million pounds of lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula, and herbs. Prices will be in the same ballpark as organically grown produce, which should allow a payback period of less than two years.
UK Center leading the charge on energy
The University of Kentucky's Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) co-hosted the Envision Forum, a gathering of 150 energy experts from across the public and private sphere to discuss the complex energy challenges and needs that lie ahead for the country. Panel discussions included ever-present topics like energy's impact on climate and the environment, the need for ongoing infrastructure development, and transmission challenges, as well as less obvious issues like the ripple effect of the nation's opioid crisis and how it threatens the energy workforce.
Speaking at the conference, UK President Eli Capilouto said, “It gives me hope to stand here before bright minds, fearless leaders and innovative trailblazers who are dedicated to confronting the most challenging issues of our time, like navigating our changing energy landscape and policies, and considering climate, criminal justice and water-related issues.”
Neil Chatterjee, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), noted Kentucky's position at the “epicenter” of these 21st century energy challenges and outlined the broader goals for the industry in his opening remarks—“finding real and meaningful solutions.”
Roughly 20 graduate students and upwards of 50 undergraduates work on CAER-related energy projects each year, gaining invaluable, firsthand experience in the field of energy research. Capilouto added, “We are not just thinking about solutions, we are making them... We are creating what is wildly possible.”
Second Rise of the Rest fund closes with $150 million
Revolution, the investment firm co-founder 14 years ago by AOL founder Steve Case, has closed its second Rise of the Rest seed fund with $150 million in capital commitments.
Rise of the Rest funds startups in historically underserved areas to foster innovation in cities other than those on the coast.
According to Forbes, some of the investors this time around include those who invested in the first fund, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, hedge fund manager Ray Dalio, and VCs Jim Breyer and John Doerr.
New investors include Sara Blakely of Spanx, Under Armour co-founder Kevin Plank, former Tennessee governor Bill Haslam, and Apollo Global Management co-founder Joshua Harris.
The first fund was run by Case and J.D. Vance, author of the book Hillbilly Elegy. Vance is stepping back on the second fund and longtime Revolution investor David Hall will manage it.
IN FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
It's ... Name that Flyover city!
Useless information that is strangely fascinating.
And now, the questions:
Otis Redding (“Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”) was killed when his plane crashed on the way to a concert in this city.
This city was where the construction of the first water filtration plant in the world happened.
The honeycrisp apple was invented at a university in this city.
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