Region’s Future Revealed with New Awards Program

Those are just some of the responses from winners of the first 10 Over the Next 10 Awards presented September 25 at the Radisson Hotel in Downtown Lansing. Organized by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce (LRCC), The Greater Lansing Business Monthly (GLBM) and Grand River Connection, 10 over the Next 10 was developed to publicly recognize the Lansing area’s top future leaders, young professionals who are not only successful at their jobs, but who are also involved in the community and its revitalization.

“The Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce recognizes the importance of identifying our next generation of business and community leaders for the Lansing region, and the 10 Over the Next 10 Awards allows for this recognition,” said Tim Daman, vice president of operations and strategic initiatives for the LRCC. “The economic success of any region is based on the ability to retain, attract and grow its human capital. By recognizing our next generation of leaders, the Lansing region is showing it can compete in a global market with keeping its best and brightest talent here.”

“The Grand River Connection—the young professionals group of Greater Lansing—seeks to develop a stronger network to support Lansing and East Lansing’s young and vital workforce,” said Brian McGrain, president of the Grand River Connection board. “We are very excited to be involved with this inaugural 10 Over the Next 10 event because it showcases some of the many young professionals who have chosen to call the Lansing area home. Lansing’s young professionals provide significant economic and community contributions to our area. Across the board, they are contributing to successful revitalization with their energy, enthusiasm and talent.”

“The joint effort between the Business Monthly, the Lansing Regional Chamber and Grand River Connection was a great opportunity to recognize the achievements thus far of our area’s younger professionals,” added Stacy Adado, GLBM vice president of sales and marketing. “These individuals are 10 people to watch over the next 10 years.”

To be considered, nominees had to be 35 or younger, professionally centered in the tri-county region, and have worked for a minimum of two years in the area. Nominees provided information on professional achievements, such as work history and development, awards and/or honors received, and leadership skills; community involvement, including a demonstrated commitment to mid-Michigan; and personal success, asking applicants how they balanced their personal and professional roles while maintaining integrity. Almost 80 nominations were received for this inaugural awards program, which was then whittled down to 22 finalists and eventually to the 10 winners.

“The judges had an extremely difficult task of narrowing that field down,” Adado noted.

“It was difficult to select the top 10,” said David Marvin, an attorney and shareholder at Fraser Trebilcock Davis & Dunlap, PC, who was one of the judges. “It’s a group of well-rounded high achievers. We were impressed with the professional achievement at such a young age. Hard work is one thing that’s obvious, but a lot of these résumés and materials we looked at are indicative of a well-rounded person. All the judges were impressed by folks who are not only successful in their business but who also are giving back to the community. It’s clearly a professional achievement award, but there are other parts of it that are important, and everybody selected was a winner, giving not only to their profession but to the community as well.”

The judges panel included Marvin, Linn Back of Westaff, Charles Blockett of Charles Blockett & Associates, Bill Kimble of C2AE, Ron King of Clark Hill, and Curt Munson of Playmakers Inc.

“We’re very focused, and we have similar values, and that includes community involvement,” stated winner Emily L. Matthews, an attorney with Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith, PC, whose husband, Aaron O. Matthews, an associate attorney with Clark Hill PLC, was also named one of the 10. “We’re both really hard workers, and we’re obviously at competing firms, but we’re the best of friends, and we do a lot of community involvement activities together.”

“[Over the next 10 years], I look forward to continuing in my volunteer activities,” said Elizabeth K. Lyon, director of governmental relations for the State Bar of Michigan, who is on the board of the Women’s Caring Program, a nonprofit organization subsidizing childcare for low-income parents who want to better themselves.

In addition to volunteering, the 10 have also been very involved in local revitalization. Ryan Vartoogian, president of Spartan Internet, has been renovating the former Holmes Street School as his company’s new headquarters. Jennifer Estill, owner and creative director of Redhead Design Studio, bought and rehabilitated an “eyesore of a storefront” in Old Town, and both she and Aaron Matthews are active in the Old Town Commercial Association.

“I plan to be involved in the growth and revitalizing of Lansing and Michigan,” stated winner Scott Gillespie, president of The Gillespie Company, a real estate development and construction firm currently renovating the Cedar Street School in Old Town and constructing lofts downtown.

Bree Popp Woodruff, an attorney with Miller Canfield Paddock & Stone PLC, who recently moved into one of  Lansing’s new downtown lofts, added, “I’m very excited about being a new resident in the community and feeling the new vibe that’s going on downtown. I hope I continue to grow in my involvement in the community and that we continue to see the growth that we’re seeing right now.”

“I have lots of plans for Impression 5 serving as a significant economic engine, being an attraction to the region,” said Erik D. Larson, executive director of the Impression 5 Science Center. “I want to leverage those assets so we’re regenerating interest in the city.”

“We want to continue working with the Lansing IT council to provide educational opportunities and internships to help create a bigger pool of talent in the area,” said Vartoogian.

“I’m really looking forward to continuing to work and live here with my family,” said Marsha Zimmerman, a marketing specialist at Dart Development Group, who works on a number of economic development projects.

“I think that the three organizations that put on the [10 over the Next Ten] should be commended for raising the bar for all young professionals in mid-Michigan,” Gillespie stated.

More than 275 people attended the inaugural awards dinner, which was preceded by a reception held in conjunction with Grand River Connection’s monthly networking event. Beth Shayne and Jason Colthorp, news anchors for Fox 47 News, recognized the finalists and announced the winners.

Only one winner said that while he wants to continue to be involved, his overall goal is to slow down. “Honestly, [I’m looking forward to] working a little bit less, but still being closely involved in Lansing’s redevelopment,” said Eric W. Stevenson, owner of U.S. Capital Mortgage and CEO of The Firm Food and Spirits, Raza Clothing, Passing Go Properties, and 227 S Washington LLC. “I’d give [another young entrepreneur] the same advice my dad gave to me, which was don’t give up, keep trying things, and eventually one of them will pay off for you. I got a little carried away, I guess.”

As co-host of the 10 over the Next Ten awards ceremony, Chris Holman, publisher of the GLBM, stated, “Things are changing. New leadership is coming forward. Not only is there a business change, but there is a culture change as well. A hundred percent of the new jobs in Michigan are coming from the small business sector.”

“We must accept change, especially by these new, young leaders,” noted Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who also spoke at the event. “That’s probably why you are here because you are bringing change. If anybody is going to lead us through and help us navigate, it will be these folks here tonight. I’m just delighted to be here with you on this journey.”

The 10 Over the Next 10 Awards were presented by Clark Hill PLC. Eastwood Towne Center sponsored the reception. Additional support was provided by Dykema; Maner, Costerisan & Ellis; Event Depot; CB Richard Ellis Martin; TechSmith; The Plant Professionals; Message Makers; and nYq Design Studio.


Author: Christine Caswell
Photography: Terri Shaver


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