If it weren’t for the dedication, persistence, and sheer hard work of these fine folks, the Downtown Market would have been just an idea.
General Manager: Embassy Suites
Behler is the general manager for the new Embassy Suites Downtown Grand Rapids. Previously he was with the JW Marriott, where he was directly responsible for overall guest and associate experiences. His extensive knowledge of the Grand Rapids hospitality industry helps him serve as a link between the hotel community and the overall business community. He is passionate about West Michigan and providing great visitor experiences.
Lisa Cooper, PHR
People Strategist: HR Collaborative
A graduate of Grand Valley State University with a degree in Management, Cooper is an HR Business Partner at HR Collaborative, specializing in building human resource functions from the ground up for small- and medium-sized organizations. Her expertise includes strategic planning, talent acquisition, performance management and development, employee retention and engagement, leadership coaching and more.
Civic Leader, Creative Specialist, Designer
Melissa is a designer, mentor, learner and strategist. She has a background in architecture and design, working for Design Plus Inc., (now Progressive AE), where she became a LEED Accredited Professional.
Executive Chairman: Founders Brewing Co.
John is Executive Chairman and Partner at Founders Brewing Company, one of the premier craft breweries in the US. He has more than 20 years of experience in the commercial real estate industry as Founding Partner of Locus Development.
Founder: Green Collar Farms
Former president and CEO of H & H Metal Source, Harris is now founder and farmer at Green Collar Farms. Harris graduated from Tufts University with a bachelor’s in Engineering Psychology, and began his career in Grand Rapids at Westinghouse Furniture Systems in facility planning, shop supervision, materials management and product marketing. In 1993 he joined Steelcase North America, holding various executive marketing positions before leaving to purchase the majority share of H & H Metal Source. After 20 years, Brian sold the company to start a new journey in controlled environment agriculture, and remains active in the community.
CPA and Partner: Vander Ploeg, Bergakker & Associates
Steve has worked in public accounting for over 17 years. He started working in Grand Rapids at a large, local firm after graduating from Calvin College and joined Vander Ploeg, Bergakker & Associates in 2016. He works with clients in the construction, real estate, nonprofit and manufacturing industries by providing partnership/corporate tax assistance, audit/assurance services as well as financial performance evaluation and proforma preparation. He enjoys giving back to the community.
Laina Mills, CFA, CF
Senior Vice President, Chief Investment Officer: Legacy Trust
In her role at Legacy Trust, Laina leads the development, execution and oversight of the company’s investment philosophy and asset management strategies, including asset allocation guidelines, tactical positioning, portfolio construction, and investment policy design. She also manages key individual and family office portfolios directly, working alongside the firm’s wealth management staff to deliver investment solutions that are customized to meet client needs.
Board Vice Chair
President and CEO: Pioneer Construction
Schowalter is the president and CEO of Pioneer Construction, a Grand Rapids-based contractor with annual revenues in excess of $150 million and approximately 300 full-time employees. He graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in civil engineering. Tim and his wife Barbie received the Grand Valley State University Leadership award in 2010.
Owner/Partner: Sibsco, LLC
Charlie has been an influential business professional for nearly 20 years, while also building relationsips and developing businesses around the world. As Owner/Partner of Sibsco, Charlie works in property management, commercial real estate investment, and asset management.
Immediate Past Chair
President: Experience Grand Rapids
Doug is President and CEO of Experience Grand Rapids and the city/county’s tourism chief. He is responsible for creating an unforgettable experience for anyone who visits Grand Rapids.
Vice President of Business Services: Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
In April 2017 Dante joined the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce as Vice President of Business Services from the Michigan Small Business Development Center, where he spent 11 years as the Regional Director for West Michigan. Dante earned his Master’s in Business Administration from Grand Valley State University and brings the Chamber 20 years of experience in economic and business development, including owning his own business.