Holland

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

President Obama toured an advanced battery manufacturing plant in Holland Michigan this afternoon. The newly retooled plant will produce batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles.

The facility is one of two new advanced battery plants in Holland that recieved money from president Obama’s stimulus package. The president called the plant “one the most advanced factories in the world.”

He says the new plant is leading the way in the advanced battery industry.

“That just doesn’t mean jobs in Michigan you’re buying equipment and parts from suppliers in Florida and New Mexico and Ohio and Wisconsin and all across America.”

Listen to Obama's full 25 minute speech here.

The U.S. Army / Flickr

President Obama is visiting West Michigan this afternoon for a tour of an advanced battery facility at the Johnson Controls plant in Holland. The president takes off from D.C. at 11:45 a.m. and is scheduled to touch down in Grand Rapids at 1:15 p.m. and then head to Holland by 2:25 p.m..

Of course, any presidential visit tends to warrant heavy media coverage. Here’s what news-outlets across the state, and around the nation, are saying about the President’s trip to the mitten state:

Politico.com: Obama’s visit draws mixed reviews

The Washington Post: Obama tries to change subject back to green jobs

The Grand Rapids Press: As President Obama visits Holland battery plant, should government be betting on technology?

MichiganRadio.org: Holland hopes to become leader in advanced battery manufacturing

The Grand Rapids Press: President Barack Obama's visit to Holland will be light on prominent Republicans

HollandSentinel.com: COMMENTARY — What about jobs, Mr. President?

The New York Times: Obama team turns its focus to tough re-election fight

Michigansmartcoast.com

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Thursday President Obama heads to Holland, Michigan. Mr. Obama will tour a new plant that will make lithium-ion batteries for electric and hybrid cars.

Michigan’s newly-branded “smart coast” welcomes Obama for the second time in 13 months. Last summer he came to the ground breaking of a different battery plant.

Randy Thelan is president of the non-profit, economic development group in the region, The Lakeshore Advantage.

“We are the advanced energy storage capital of all of North America and we see this as a great opportunity going forward.”

Advanced energy storage is a fancy phrase for long-lasting lithium-ion batteries.

www.whitehouse.gov

President Obama is expected to visit Holland in one week from today. His visit coincides with the opening of a new Johnson Controls plant that will make batteries for electric cars.

Mr. Obama visited Holland last year to mark the ground-breaking of an LG Chem battery facility. Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra says the president’s visit is a great opportunity for his community, and the state as a whole.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A group of young people marched through Holland Wednesday night to protest a vote city council made in June against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to its anti-discrimination laws.

These laws would protect people from getting fired or kicked out of their houses because they are gay or transgender. Federal and state laws protect people from discrimination – but not based on a person’s sexuality or gender identity. The debate in Holland has not died with that vote.

About 150 people marched as part of an ongoing effort to demand Holland City Council change its decision. The march was organized to show young people in Holland support the effort.

Tyrone Warner / Creative Commons

Last month Holland City Council voted against adding sexual orientation and gender identity to their local anti-discrimination laws. But the fight over gay rights continues in the generally conservative town.

The debate surrounds the City of Holland adopting local laws. These laws would protect people from getting fired or kicked out of their houses because they are gay or transgender. Federal and state laws protect people from discrimination – but not based on a person’s sexuality or gender identity.

The debate is not technically about the morality of homosexuality. But in a community known for having a church on almost every corner – for many people in Holland that is definitely part of the conversation.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Sometime between midnight and 1 a.m. today, at least 50 people file out of Holland City Hall. I hear some say, “They don’t get it, but you tried.”

A few people wearing "Holland is Ready" buttons hug one another -- some are tearing up -- after city council voted 5 to 4 against the recommendation to adopt the proposed anti-discrimination laws. The recommendation included providing homosexual and transgender persons protection from employers and landlords who discriminate against them.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Gender identity and sexual orientation are a hot topic right now in the city of Holland. That’s because Holland city council is considering adding local laws that protect people against discrimination for being gay or transgender. The ordinance would give them protection from discrimination by employers and landlords. The issue is extremely divisive in the generally conservative city.

Reverend Ralph Houston reads passages from the bible to city council at an informal meeting last night. He says passing the ordinance would lead to moral chaos.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

New regulations for medical marijuana will go into effect later this month in the City of Holland. Holland city council adopted the local regulations last night.

Caregivers will need to register as a home based-business.

However, caregivers won’t be allowed to operate within a thousand feet of a school, public park or pool. That provision passed by a very small margin because it makes most of the city off limits for cultivating medical marijuana. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder is honoring a West Michigan company for diversifying its business. Snyder presented Energetx Composites with his first “Reinventing Michigan” award. The award is part of a campaign promise to highlight more business success stories in the state.  

Energetx is a spin-off of Tiara Yachts. Luxury boats sales crashed during the recession.  In 2008 the company realized they could use the same strong but light-weight material used to make yachts to make other things, particularly parts for wind turbines. 

redgoober4life / flickr

Another advanced battery manufacturing plant is getting ready to open in West Michigan.

LG Chem will be opening in Holland later this year. It’s hosting a job fair today to fill 100 open positions with the company.

Two other advanced battery makers have also recently set up shop in West Michigan.

Jeremy Hagemeyer is with LG Chem.

Business owners and politicians are trying to figure out how to make Michigan a manufacturing hub for things like advanced batteries, wind turbines, and solar panels.

They’re gathering at the Clean Energy Manufacturing Workshop in Ann Arbor today and tomorrow. The workshop is being put on by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy along with Ann Arbor SPARK.

Steven Busch will be paying pretty close attention.

He’s with Energetx Composites Company in Holland. It’s a spin-off company of Tiara Yacht. Before the economy went south, their main business was building high end yachts. Now, they make blades for wind turbines.

“The basic manufacturing process is very similar. We have the expertise on how to handle large, big, bulky things.”

He says they’re planning to stay in Michigan.

“Michigan offers the best engineering and manufacturing skill set probably in the world. Geographically, the Great Lakes are a great opportunity as a place to be able to ship products over the water.”

Busch says he’d like to see more training programs at universities and community colleges – and more retraining programs for former auto workers who want to get into the business.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

City leaders in Holland are launching an initiative they hope will inspire random acts of kindness. The city will distribute ‘pay it forward’ cards that people can give to others after doing them some kind of favor. It could be monetary, like paying for their cup of coffee, or something simpler, like letting them go ahead at the store checkout line. The cards encourage that person pass the card, and a new favor, forward to a second person.

Residents packed Holland City Hall for the Human Relation Commission meeting Thu
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

An advisory board voted unanimously to recommend city council pass the measure Thursday night.

The board has been studying the issue for months. They took it up at the request of Reverend Bill Freeman. The Holland pastor says those who spoke against expanding protections to those groups embody why it's needed. "I mean to be homosexual, or to be a lesbian or gay person in Holland - it would seem to be problematic. Because there are so many people who oppose them - oppose their existence," Freeman said.

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