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A Look into Experience Jackson’s 2023

Year after year, Experience Jackson maintains a jam-packed schedule full of activities for the community. Experience Jackson is Jackson County’s official tourism and visitor’s bureau, vital in boosting tourism, developing local pride, and driving economic development. They have had a remarkable year so far, involved with a multitude of events that have captivated locals and visitors alike. From the highly-anticipated Art, Beer, & Wine festival to the thrilling Aviation Day, there has been no shortage of entertainment in our community!

Additionally, Museum Day provided an opportunity for culture enthusiasts to explore the rich history and artistic treasures of Jackson. Let’s not forget the Downtown Jackson Cruise-Ins, which brought together car enthusiasts for an unforgettable showcase of classic and vintage automobiles. These are just a few examples of the fun events that Experience Jackson has sponsored this year. Experience Jackson continues to build partnerships with local businesses, organizers, and venues who work to draw visitors and stimulate growth.

As we look ahead to the rest of 2023, many are curious about what lies in store for Experience Jackson. Rachel Buchanan, Marketing & Development Manager, reveals exciting updates and anticipated returns to the City of Jackson. “We are very excited to be partnering with Under the Radar Michigan, a television show on PBS,” Buchanan said. Under the Radar is about discovering the people and places of Michigan and a travel series available to watch on PBS Thursdays at 8:30PM or streaming. “Experience Jackson is set to release an exciting new episode soon – through a Pure Michigan partnership highlighting Jackson.” 

This year, Experience Jackson will sponsor the first-ever Rockin’ the Tee Box, a music festival with Chamber member Apex Sports & Entertainment. Prepare to be transported back in time as you immerse yourself in the nostalgic sounds of the 90’s. The event will be on August 19th and features no less than four major bands from the era. Hit makers – The Verve Pipe, Marcy Playground, and Wheatus, are just a few of the great bands that will be there. In addition to the captivating music, there will be an array of other fun activities for the whole family to engage in, such as sand volleyball and mini-golf.

“We’re thrilled to have established the new ‘Jackson County Events & Festivals Group’ to encourage and be a resource to those who plan festivals and events,” Buchanan said. The creation of this group signifies Experience Jackson’s commitment to the community and its dedication to promoting a vibrant and thriving event culture, by providing a platform for collaboration and knowledge-sharing. 

Experience Jackson hopes 2023 brings in investment from people locally as well as those coming just to visit. They want more hotel stays, increased business at local eateries, and a continued positive perception of events, festivals, and attractions in Jackson. The Festival for the Arts, a multi-day event showcasing various forms of visual and performing arts, is scheduled to take place in Downtown Jackson in September. Additionally, October will bring the much-awaited Bride of FrankenFest to Art 634, promising “mad, magical and mystical artwork from the area’s most intriguing artists.”

Some memorable events from the past are being revived with greater impact and higher production value. The PBA/50 World Series of Bowling made its triumphant return this year, captivating bowling enthusiasts with its action-packed schedule at JAX 60. The Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) continues to hold its position as the leading global organization committed to the sport of bowling and its professional tournaments.

The Hot Air Jubilee, a beloved annual celebration, continues to captivate attendees with its summertime festivities, which are set to take place from July 21st to July 23rd. This year marks the event’s 40th anniversary, and will provide affordable family entertainment including the beauty, color, and thrill of hot air balloons as well as other unique and one-of-a-kind attractions. New this year will be the addition of the National Women’s Hot Air Championships, which has a commitment to continue for the next three years. This competition will invite numerous skilled female pilots from all corners of the country to come together and participate and promises to add even more excitement to this popular event.

The highly anticipated Gus Macker 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament is set to make a comeback on the same weekend as the Hot Air Jubilee. This high energy event is an absolute must-see. “Gus Macker is expanding their festival to be more accommodating and family friendly, with additional events and activities such as a cornhole tournament,” Buchanan said. Both events will feature an appearance by JACK the Elephant, Experience Jackson’s mascot and Director of Historical Importance and Community Fun. He will be competing in the Mascot Game at Gus Macker and greeting families at the Hot Air Jubilee. 

Experience Jackson is gearing up for the continuation of a busy and exhilarating year. In a determined effort to bolster the favorable image of Jackson County as a tourist hotspot, the organization is leaving no stone unturned. Their primary objective is to generate higher revenues and foster economic progress, all for the betterment of the local community. With unwavering dedication, their mission is set to make a significant impact. Experience Jackson continues its partnership with our Jackson County hotels to provide visitors with the perfect stay while they enjoy local events and attractions. Additionally, their membership with the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce allows them to join forces and expose more and more people to everything our vibrant city has to offer. Stay up-to-date on what’s next for Experience Jackson here.

If you’re interested in partnering with Experience Jackson on an upcoming event, fill out the form here.

Automated Logistics Systems Goes the Extra Mile

When you think of an “epic experience,” what do you think of? A luxury vacation? Skydiving? Riding in a racecar?…What about work? Automated Logistics Systems (ALS) strives to provide both their employees and customers with what they’ve coined as an “epic experience.” Nick Schaefer, VP of Operations & Sales, dives deep into the business behind ALS and the company’s core values that are ingrained into each employee’s day-to-day.

ALS began as Parker & Motor Freight, a direct asset freight company. Since its origin, the company has grown expansively in recent years, and its growth is only continuing. They specialize in 3PL Managed Services, Freight Brokerage, Contract Transportation, Mexico Cross Border movement, Specialized Project Management, Consolidation, Warehousing and Supply Chain Network Optimization but there is so much more than getting goods from point A to point B.

ALS is big on its core values, implementing them into its employees day-to-day. Starting as a family-owned business, it continues to stand firm in its values, just as a family would. They prioritize recognizing their teammates as they showcase their core values. For this reason, ALS has over a 90% retention rate. ALS has a goal to add 50 employees by the end of this year, and 75 in the next three years. Roles available will include inside/outside sales executives, account managers, carrier sales, operations, tracking/operations, accounting and more. The ALS team is proud to have such close ties within the Jackson community, with many of their employees originally being from the area. Many of their hires are based on referrals, and don’t always require a degree or experience. There is endless opportunity and size in the freight industry, beyond the sizes of semis. Freight alone is an $875 billion industry.

The work culture at ALS is evident through their morning meetings, where employees connect with others at the Grand Rapids location, as well as those in Laredo, Texas, and Monterrey, Mexico. In these meetings, they recognize each other’s sales and operations accomplishments, get real-time updates on how they’re doing, and instill a “gladiator” mentality. For ALS, gladiators aren’t reserved just for movies or epic plays. Nick shared that the gladiator mentality is someone who is a lover, hero, and neighbor, and provides an internal ethos that encourages employees to keep persisting and growing in their own areas of expertise, while still being challenged. Each ALS employee works with what is called a performance plan, or epic journey, to ensure that they have goals structured for them, and are set on a path that aligns with company growth.

Joe Parker, President of ALS, expanded on the gladiator mentality. It’s part of their internal brand, rather than something that the community or other businesses recognize them for. A gladiator is something they embody each day they come into work. “There is a natural work ethic found in Jackson,” Joe explained. “Something I like about Jackson is that it a has neighborly feel. Once you come in, it’s a very close-knit community.” He continued to share that the atmosphere is similar within ALS; no matter how shy or closed-off as a person you may be before you enter, you’ll quickly come out of your shell after being surrounded by the team and positive environment at ALS, which boosts your confidence and shows you how much you are capable of achieving.

Incoming and existing employees have a lot to look forward to with the future of ALS. The new headquarters will be located at 3000 Blake Road, at the old Jackson College Maher Campus. Construction is underway, and they’re hoping to have some teammates in the office this summer. They plan to be fully equipped with a café, weight room, and game room. To oversee this fantastic new facility, they are looking to hire a facilities manager.

Joe shared his excitement for the new headquarters, and he explained that this location is symbolic in the state of Michigan. The building is one he always drove past, growing up in Grass Lake and one that he dreamed of filling out. “When you leave Jackson, it’s the last symbol you see,” he said, “It’s like the face of Jackson for people who may normally not drive by.”

Despite their growing size, ALS is known for being highly client-centric. They very much consider themselves to be in the service industry, assisting companies of all sizes with their freight and transportation needs. With their new Jackson headquarters, they hope the future holds more exposure for them within the community. They already actively sponsor, give back and are looking for further opportunities to get involved in the growth of Jackson.

If you’re curious about what is in store for Automated Logistics Systems or hope to join their team, click here to visit their website, or find them on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

Monster Motors Provides Opportunities for Success

After five years of business, Monster Motors owners Chris and Lori Jackson are more enthusiastic about supporting the community than ever. What started out as a wholesale company has expanded to a retail market. Beyond serving the community with excellent prices on excellent vehicles, the team at Monster Motors, including Chris and Lori’s partner, Dan Kidder, is all about the community and giving back. For that reason, they have held a longstanding Membership at the Chamber, at an Executive Level Membership. This allows them to sponsor the Memberships of smaller businesses. Ron O’Rourke, Fixed Operations, explained the importance behind Monster Motors utilizing this piece of their Membership.

Toneka Smith (T. Smith Business Consulting) and Ron O’Rourke

Some past and current Members, sponsored by Monster Motors include DoughNation Bakery, DS Life Coaching, T. Smith Business Consulting, and the U.S. Airforce. The reason they are so passionate about this piece of their Membership is they are able to offer new businesses opportunities to access and connect with the business community and reach new potential clients and customers using the Chamber’s expansive network. Ron shared that the Chamber has been a great resource meeting the unique needs of each, seeing their vision, and helping them succeed. This growing network of businesses, big and small put your business “on the map” in Jackson. “In a small community like ours, it can be hard to stand out. Sponsoring Memberships gives us the opportunity to give back and help businesses in their early stages, just like when we first started,” Ron shared. He continued by saying that the benefits that come from the Chamber stem from a variety of events, where there is truly something for everyone and every business.

Monster Motors has sponsored Memberships for new businesses looking to grow, and businesses that have been around, but are looking to get connected. They look to be partnered with businesses, who are like-minded and want to see succeed and have a hand in that success.

Monster Motors is very hands-on when it comes to supporting their sponsored Members. They don’t just want to pay a bill, they want to be a friend and mentor to business owners who want to be more engaged. Ron invites drop-in visits, schedules lunches, and offers text support just so their sponsored Members know that it matters they’re building businesses here in Jackson.

Amanda Loveland, Marketing & Development Director

Ron expressed that Chris and Lori have set an excellent example when it comes to business practices. Their business has an incredibly high retention rate, and according to Ron, “The way they treat employees speaks for itself.” He emphasized the meaning of the phrase “You’re only as good as your team,” as those at Monster Motors recognize the people who have gotten them where they are. With that being said, they see the importance of supporting those just starting out or looking for further guidance in business.

Ron O’Rourke and Master Sargent John Riggs, U.S. Airforce

Seeing those businesses Monster Motors has partnered with succeed doesn’t only feel rewarding to those at Monster Motors, but the growing connection to their community is what helps make them successful. The exposure they gain is beyond any sort of ROI, it’s about seeing smaller businesses succeed and grow. DoughNation Bakery, as Ron explained, is a great example of this. It’s hard to stumble into a coffee shop or restaurant that doesn’t serve DoughNation Bakery’s products today. Aaron Cole, the owner, has seen great success since being partnered with Monster Motors. Toneka Smith, CEO of T. Smith Business Consulting, is very active at Chamber events and has successfully grown her business since joining the Chamber, thanks to Monster Motors.

Monster Motors is proud to sponsor an upcoming Live at the Lab on June 23, where Ron and some of the Members Monster Motors has sponsored will have the opportunity to share more about their business’ stories live on the air with HOME.fm. As always, Live at the Lab is free to attend for both Members and nonmembers. It’s the ideal setting to introduce yourself to local business leaders, meet the team at the Chamber, and enjoy casual networking. The Chamber and Monster Motors will also be hosting an Off the Clock at the dealership on July 13, where Members will get to see the impressive fleet of vehicles Monster Motors has in stock, as well as enjoy light bites, drinks, and networking.

If you’re curious about how else Monster Motors stays involved in the community, you can visit their website, or find them at an upcoming event.

Jackson Popcorn Depot Keeps Jackson Sweet

In Jackson lies a shop that erases all thoughts you had about popcorn. When you walk into Jackson Popcorn Depot, you can’t avoid the childlike wonder that makes the phrase “like a kid in a candy store” all too real. The walls are lined with colorful treats, bags waiting to be filled, and snacks you can’t imagine beyond your wildest, candied dreams.

To this family business, popcorn means much more than just movie night. High school sweethearts Greg and Becky Vancalbergh went into the popcorn business in 2016. At the time, the shop they had taken over sold popcorn, nuts, and taffy. As the years went on, Greg and Becky started to sprinkle in what now makes Jackson Popcorn Depot stand out so much, like nostalgic or even freeze-dried candies. In February of 2022, they moved into their current location, just across the hall from their old one, but now three times the size. Jackson Popcorn Depot has proven to be such a growing success with a cult following, they will even soon be expanding to the Lansing area.

When you think of popcorn, you’re probably thinking of a giant bucket full of movie theater butter. Jackson Popcorn Depot doesn’t limit your flavor profile to just that; think tutti-fruity, Chicago, caramel, or jalapeno. Their caramel corn is unlike any you’ve had. At 70 years old, it’s one of their best-kept secrets. Despite their both tantalizingly salty and satisfyingly sweet popcorn, Jackson Popcorn Depot is not just limited to popcorn. Oh, no, they have almost 2,000 candies to try. It sounds extreme, but when you walk in the brightly colored doorway, their supply is wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling. 500 of those types of candy can’t be found anywhere else locally.

Their freeze-dried candies (yes, freeze-dried) aren’t intended for astronauts. You’ll be surprised to find your favorite candies like Skittles, Milk Duds, or even gummy worms can be transformed into a fun new candy that’s out of this world. Also unique to Jackson Popcorn Depot are cinnamon-roasted nuts all year round. Think cotton candy can only be found when the fair rolls into town? Jackson Popcorn Depot makes its own cotton candy to satisfy your sweet tooth whenever you please, coming in more than just blue and pink. They also have flavors like watermelon, cherry, birthday cake, and chocolate. If sour is up your street, they are the only place in town with Pucker Powder Bits.

Though Jackson Popcorn Depot is the ideal spot for a sweet escape, they can bring their treats to you for any special event. Want to show some staff appreciation? Hosting an office party? Need favors for a private event? Even a shower, graduation, or birthday party? Jackson Popcorn Depot does it all. They even create your own custom label for whatever products you select. Make it popcorn, gummies, cotton candy, Jackson Popcorn Depot offers three different sizes for you to choose from, depending on the scale of your event. If you’re looking for something a bit more personalized and special, like an award, prize, or employee of the month, Jackson Popcorn Depot also offers gift baskets and gift boxes, choc-full of treats that will make anyone’s eyes grow wide.

As a family business, they treat their entire staff like family.” Greg explained that they’re always joking and having fun when they come to work. “You’re at a candy store, it’s meant to be fun and upbeat,” Greg shared. Each of Becky and Greg’s two kids have done their time working at Jackson Popcorn Depot and are excited to keep them involved for years to come.

Whether you need a pick-me-up, are in search of a fun gift for a loved one, or want to order a few gift boxes, pop on over to Jackson Popcorn Depot for nostalgia, snacks, and fun. There will be no shortage of sweet possibilities.

Normalizing Mental Health Diagnoses in the Workplace

May is Mental Health Month. Not that it isn’t essential to acknowledge mental health needs all the time, but we’re currently calling attention to the importance of hiring those with a mental health diagnosis. Ann Monroe, CEO of A.R.E. Inc. gives an in-depth reflection on why normalizing mental health diagnoses in the workplace and how it can benefit your team as a whole.

A.R.E. Inc. is a peer-run nonprofit with a mission to help those in recovery during their mental health journey. Not only that, but they are also known for their drop-in center, support groups, and recovery plans for those with substance abuse. Peer-run means that each person employed with A.R.E. Inc. has a mental health diagnosis. This is not by coincidence; they require it. Everyone who shows up to work each day has overcome some sort of challenge to work there, and there are plenty of reasons why.

Firstly, it’s important for those in recovery to see examples of others succeeding in their own recovery. With about 60 members dropping in each day, it’s essential for them to see examples of hope, strength, and mostly, trust. Those in recovery are more trusting of a lived experience with mental illness. They are more understanding, because of similar experiences and struggles, and a general lack of ego. “Connection,” as Ann described, “is the most important element of life. If we don’t have it, we lose hope.”

A.R.E. Inc. has two locations, one in Jackson and the other in Hillsdale. They have been known to hire within when they see potential in members who come to the drop-in centers. About one-third of their employees are returning citizens, and also aim to include diversity in all respects, including race and the LGBTQ+ community. Drop-in centers are mostly run by certified peer-support specialists. Those who are helping members have once been in a similar position. 

The staff at A.R.E. Inc. is incredibly loyal, according to Ann. They want to give back to the same people who helped them. Mental illness can cause strays from families, and at the drop-in centers, members are able to find their own families. Some of the struggles members face inhibit them from holding down a job, so drop-in centers allow them to socialize with others, talk about their recovery, play pool, relax in the “zen room,” or enjoy a coffee-house atmosphere. Recovery, to those at A.R.E. Inc., means that you’re learning to live successfully with a mental health diagnosis. With A.R.E. Inc, members learn that they can still have a fun, robust life, while being able to love and feel loved by those around them, without allowing challenges to derail them.

But, how can you ask potential employees about their mental health? Here’s the thing: you can’t. What you CAN do as a leader, is let any employees or potential future employees that their workplace is a safe environment. Leaders in business can also encourage people to speak up when they have mental health needs. There are plenty of perks to hiring someone with a mental health diagnosis. Ann shares the qualities of those that she works with on a daily basis are compassionate, tenacious, resilient, creative, and have respect for others’ life experiences. Being an employer of someone with a mental health diagnosis shows value to employees more as a person, rather than just someone they see each day from 9 to 5. Successful leaders are transparent about their struggles and reassure those around them that they are in a safe space. 

Twenty-five percent of the population has a mental health diagnosis. If that’s something that’s avoided, that singles out a huge chunk of potential and talent. By opening yourself up to those with a mental health diagnosis, you’re opening yourself up to a greater talent pool and more diversified options. Ann advised that business leaders hire people for who they are, not by how many degrees they may or may not have. This can include the formerly incarcerated and those with a mental health diagnosis. If you create an atmosphere of transparency, you are going to build a loyal workforce. 

If you need advice or resources on how to create a workplace more inclusive to those with mental health diagnoses, contact Ann Monroe, at a.monroe@arepeerservices.org.

Street Construction Projects for 2023

Orange traffic barrels: something each Michigander is all too familiar with. Though construction can be seen as an inconvenience for some, there’s nothing like having freshly paved roads to drive on your morning commute. The City of Jackson has 14 infrastructure improvement projects planned for 2023, and some are already in motion. Here’s what to expect.

April 17 of this year, marked the beginning of these projects that are set to run through late fall. Though they’re labeled as “street construction projects,” this doesn’t just mean new roads. Improvements include water main replacements, street resurfacing, trail maintenance, traffic signals, and more. There is so much infrastructure beyond streets alone, and all are necessary to keep communities fresh and safe. Aaron Dimick, Public Information Officer of the City of Jackson, shared the importance of refreshing Jackson’s infrastructure. Jackson is an old city; therefore, upkeep is continuously necessary as time passes.

Aaron shared a few high-profile plans for infrastructure updates in Jackson, but a full list can be found on the City of Jackson’s [website]. North Perrine Street, one of the first locations for reconstruction, is a 40-year-old street that is riddled with potholes. Roads typically last about 20-30 years, so North Perrine has been on their list for some time. Later in April, construction is set to begin on Brown Street, from Morrell Street to Michigan Avenue. A new trail is being built, similar to the new sidewalk and resurfaced streets by Cascades Park. This expansion will add more connectivity to that neighborhood, as well as between downtown and Cascades.

Reconstructing of the MLK Equality Trail will begin in mid-July. The city has acquired the funding to re-create the trail, piece by piece, starting with West Prospect to West Ave. The trail itself is about 20 years old and starting to show its age. When that reconstruction is finished, the trail will consist of a 12-foot-wide concrete path. This path will be safer to share with other travelers, better for strollers, safer for bikers, and more accessible for those with disabilities. Ultimately, once complete, this trail will be more enjoyable for current and future Jackson residents. Aaron continued to point out that trails make for great non-motorized transportation, and with additional safe trails, that opportunity will make Jackson a more pleasant place to live and play.

When asked if there were any plans for highly requested infrastructure updates, Aaron listed a few. Wildwood Avenue to Ganson Street is scheduled for resurfacing. North Street, between Wisner and West, will receive some TLC with reconstructed pavement in that area this September. Neighborhood streets and water projects are coming as well. MDOT is continuing to work on the railroad reconstruction and is not under the direction of the City of Jackson.

With the coming construction, detours, and road closures, it’s important for the people of Jackson to remember that these projects are ultimately making Jackson a better place to live. It’s easy for residents to become frustrated when their street isn’t done, or on the other hand when their street closes. Aaron explained that planning these reconstruction projects are almost like a puzzle and often planned years in advance. Those at the City of Jackson ARE paying attention to what needs of the city, but all plans are dependent on funding and available resources. Areas with high traffic volume require available funding sooner than others, but that doesn’t mean those less-traveled areas aren’t on the city’s radar.

Be mindful that there are plenty of projects on Jackson’s list, and they are doing the best they can. It’s not feasible to fix every road at once. If you’re nervous about upcoming construction near you, the best thing you can do is to arm yourself with information before it happens.

N. Perrine St.

You can also follow the City of Jackson on Facebook and keep tabs on the live document on their website. Note that some dates on the construction schedules are subject to change, as start dates are often fluid. Start dates can also mean that the area is being inspected by construction, so don’t be nervous if you don’t see hard hats right away.

Construction is temporary, so don’t forget the improvement it will bring to the community for years to come!

MDP Diesel & Auto Prioritizes Honesty and Efficiency

Taking your car or truck in for repair is often a huge hassle. It can mean taking time out of your schedule, money lost, or having to rearrange your entire day. If you’re looking for an auto and truck repair shop that will work efficiently and keep your best interest in mind, look no further than MDP Diesel & Auto.

Mike Winter, owner of MDP Diesel & Auto, started the business in 2012 in Chelsea. Spending his weekends working on diesels and passenger vehicles on his own time while taking classes and getting through college is how his shop came to be. After six and a half years, they outgrew their spot and moved to their current Clark Lake Road location to continue to build on what they already had. They saw a tremendous amount of growth during a time when they were the only independent local business in the area equipped for auto and light-duty diesel repair, including ¾ ton to one-ton diesel trucks, semis, and equipment.

Unlike many repair shops, MDP Diesel & Auto is equipped to handle jobs big and small. Their services range from oil changes to full engine repair. There is almost no limit to what services Mike and his team can offer. They specialize in alignments, brakes, steering and suspension, tires, batteries, air conditioning, DOT inspections, and much more. However, it isn’t just what services they offer, it’s how they treat their customers. That’s why they get customers that travel from as far as Northern Michigan, just to receive the level of treatment and efficiency that Mike’s team provides.

The team at MDP Diesel & Auto focuses on the importance of a one-on-one customer relationship. They treat everyone who walks in their door like family. So much so, that a common phrase they use within their team is to “treat every car like it’s your grandmother’s.” Something that MDP Diesel & Auto is known for is their step-by-step communication, giving consistent updates, and even following up to see how your repair is holding up. Having fast and honest diagnoses and turnarounds is something that Mike and the team pride themselves on, and this is something that applies to both fleet and commercial vehicles.

“Time is money, and we understand that,” Mike explained. Being without a vehicle, whether it’s for personal or business purposes, is a huge inconvenience and often feels like money is being taken out of your pockets the longer you’re without one. That’s why honesty is a main priority. Those at MDP Diesel & Auto are able to be upfront on what exact needs your vehicle has, and if financing is what is necessary for you, they can do that. They also prioritize repairs on safety items and are open to putting a hold on any repairs that aren’t urgent, so that you’re not losing more money than you’re prepared to spend.

Moose

Not only does the entire team work efficiently and cost-effectively, but they also consistently offer a variety of specials and deals. If you mention this article, you may receive 10% off a repair. (Some exclusions apply.) Beyond that, they offer monthly specials, which you can stay updated on via text message. If you’re a Chamber Member, MDP Diesel & Auto also offers a Member 2 Member Discount. See what they’re offering here.

If you or your business are looking for someone loyal and trustworthy to repair your fleet or vehicle, set up a meeting with Mike or Kim to see exactly how they can fit your needs. There’s a team of Master certified technicians and over 120 years of combined experience waiting for you. You may even get to meet the office dog, Moose! Give them a call at 734-385-4208 or visit their website.

Experience Jackson Reflects on 2022

Even though we’re all looking ahead, ready to jump into the warmer months, Experience Jackson wants to take a look back at the successful year they had in 2022, in preparation for an equally as eventful 2023. Experience Jackson exists to support local events and festivals, as well as bring visitors to Jackson County in order to see what Jackson has to offer while supporting economic development within the community. Experience Jackson and their community partners strove to invite people to return to Jackson and see the development and evolution for themselves throughout 2022.

Experience Jackson runs multiple campaigns throughout the year, including golf, museums, and an outdoor campaign. They began with ice fishing, hoping to bring visitors from the surrounding areas to experience the sport in some of Jackson’s many lakes. As the ice thawed and spring came, so did many of Jackson’s classic events. The Rose Festival Parade made a grand return, where Experience Jackson’s own JACK the Elephant had his own shining moment.

Throughout the year, Experience Jackson was featured in a new series on JTV, titled A Visit with Experience Jackson. Where Experience Jackson’s Marketing & Development Manager, Rachel Buchanan, made her way with Andy Hawley and the rest of the JTV crew to highlight several Jackson County hotspots, like The Parlour, JAX 60, and Ella Sharp Museum.

Experience Jackson also sparked a new partnership with the Southside Summer Festival Series, celebrating and honoring Jackson’s black community with events throughout the entire summer. Some recurring partnerships also occurred, with other Jackson favorites, like the Birds, Blooms, and Butterflies Festival at the Dahlem Center, the summer Cruise-In and Concerts, the ORS Race Series, and Sandhill Crane Vineyard’s Running Between the Vines race.

Jackson also welcomed the larger events that the community has grown to love over the years. The highly anticipated Hot Air Jubilee made its return in July, where Experience Jackson served as the Hospitality Sponsor, offering guests insight into activities and attractions they can enjoy during their Jackson County Visit. At the Art, Beer, and Wine Festival, Experience Jackson sponsored the photo booth to help commemorate the day, while having a booth of their own to chat with patrons about their time at this fan-favorite festival. According to Rachel, the biggest (literally) partnership had to be with the Bright Walls Finale. Because of Experience Jackson’s partnership, the Jackson Chamber and Experience Jackson office now have a huge mural, proudly painted on the back of our building by California artist, Ricky Watts. Ricky painted a brightly colored 48-foot mural, that is a joy for the team to take in each morning as they come to work.

Summer continued with a handful of bus tours and motorcoaches and paying special attention to bringing groups from out of the area for weddings and tours. Michigan International Speedway always brings thousands of visitors to Jackson. This past year, Experience Jackson was able to sponsor a driver, Ryan Vargas in a No. 6 Chevrolet, for the NASCAR Xfinity Race Series. This exciting sponsorship allowed Experience Jackson to be advertised at high speed as Ryan zipped around the track.

The chill that brought on fall offered the opportunity for alternative ways to get outdoors, rather than NASCAR races or festivals. Jackson County welcomed the inaugural Rode to Hell gravel bike race to the Waterloo State Recreation Area in October. This race spans from Grass Lake to Hell, with a total of 100 miles, and a variety of shorter races stretching in between. They are looking forward to bringing the race back in 2023. After the race, participants enjoyed live music by the band Bombargo.

As a Community Champion level Member of the Chamber, Experience Jackson made the most of their membership in a few ways. They utilized their Chamber Membership by sponsoring new Chamber Members, like Daniel Martin’s Drinks & Deceptions, Wayland Golf Club, and Monster Box Theatre. Experience Jackson also sent one of their staffers to Leadership Jackson, a nine-month premiere professional development put on by the Chamber, where upcoming business leaders can connect with one another, and further develop their professional development skills in areas like HR, government, accounting, personal branding, and more. You may have also seen Experience Jackson at one of the many Off the Clocks the Chamber has hosted in 2023, in which Experience Jackson sponsored the bar, making the networking fun, casual, and comfortable for all in attendance.

With that, Experience Jackson is looking forward to another, not only successful but busy year! Like in 2022, Experience Jackson is, once again, excited to be partnering with statewide entities like Pure Michigan, MLive, and Under the Radar. As always, it’s an honor for Experience Jackson to be working with the Jackson County hotels, in order to bring new visitors to the community, and expose more and more people to all that the community has to offer. Stay up-to-date on what’s next for Experience Jackson here.

If you’re interested in partnering with Experience Jackson on an upcoming event, fill out the form here.

Capturing Jackson’s Memories Since 2009

Picture This…Jackson has been a cornerstone of the Jackson community for decades. Some may remember a small photo store in the Westwood Mall, where Kyle Hockley, co-owner of Picture This…Jackson got his start in the community. In 2009, Kyle and his business partner, David Hood, got word from Ritz Camera that their store was next to be closed, due to the upcoming recession. Before opening at the bottom of the recession, attending conferences and conventions, people in the industry wondered, “Who would open a photo store right now?”

Years later, Picture This…Jackson has grown to be an internationally recognized photo imaging store. What they found as an old office space ended up being the store they now call home, located on Wisner Street. Their store has seen plenty of evolution over time, including doubling its size by 2016. The reason Picture This…Jackson is so successful and is as widely recognized as it is, especially after opening at such an uncertain time, is because it’s not your typical photography store.

Picture This…Jackson offers a wide variety of products and services. They are an imaging store, not limited to just prints.  They take advantage of opportunities through national buying groups IPI (Independent Photo Imagers) and Pro. Pro offers high-quality cameras and photography equipment. These associations allow Picture This…Jackson to compete in camera sales and in photo products compared to the national competition.

They can print up to 42” on most materials and 12”x18” on glass or metal. If you’re serious about printing your pictures, Picture This…Jackson is the place to do so. Whether it’s the way they’re displayed in the hall of your home or given to family members as a unique gift. They also offer gallery mounts, video and film transfers, collages, memorial presentations, yard signs, and banners. Kyle and his team can revive old video tapes and can even be trusted with restoring and scanning those vintage photos of past loved ones.

“It’s not just a picture business, it’s a memory business. It’s all about memories,” Kyle reflected, as he explained that serving not only Jackson but patrons who drive from all over the region to receive the service the team at Picture This…Jackson provides. Kyle continued that those who visit the store leave happy because they leave with a memory, whether that memory has been restored or digitally saved to enjoy for the rest of time. Neither Kyle nor David predicted how much success they would see when opening in 2009. “It kind of just happened,” Kyle said. The fact that thousands of people are thankful to have services like this in Jackson is really something special. Something Kyle hears all the time from people who drive from outside the area is along the lines of, “I wish our town had something like this.” Picture This…Jackson gets the opportunity to touch people’s lives, near and far.

Camera and film enthusiasts are thrilled to hear that Picture This…Jackson utilizes a wet lab versus a dry lab. Dry labs are often what you’ll see when printing your photos from the same places you buy your groceries, often ending up with low-quality prints. In a wet lab, laser beams expose an image on light-sensitive paper, ensuring a much clearer picture, perfect for professional photos.

When you’re not seeing the team in the store, you might find them at most local high schools photographing sports teams. You may have even seen them taking preschool pictures or even your professional headshot. They offer a wide variety of photography services, from corporate to sports leagues.

Picture This…Jackson is home to a small but mighty team. Kyle and David crossed paths a few times before working together professionally at their small shop in the mall, when David was doing photography on the side at the time. Now, David oversees all the tech and networking behind the business. He shoots leagues on the weekend and captures other events as well. Other team members include Roy, their product specialist, who “knocks it out of the park every time.” Michelle, the in-house graphic design expert. Paula manages the lab and shoots seniors. Megan works in the back room, doing the dye sublimation of products, and even fixes their machines, troubleshooting problems their equipment may have. Leo is a 75-year-old retired minister, who has always wanted to try photography. “He’s REALLY good,” Kyle shared. Craig is a former prison guard and is now an associate at the store, proving everyone has their niche. Wendy, Kyle’s wife, does the books and keeps the business in order behind the scenes. Mike teaches their ever-so-popular photography classes and is also an in-house graphic design expert.

Jackson is lucky to have such a unique asset. Memory making is one thing, but preserving and saving those memories for a lifetime is something that Picture This…Jackson specializes in. Stop in and see for yourself; you’ll find walls lined with countless ways to preserve memories of your own.

A Look Inside the Jackson Area Career Center

Growing up and approaching college can be intimidating for young minds. What if college isn’t right for them? What if it is, but they want to practice in their field before putting thousands of dollars towards a degree? The Jackson Area Career Center offers those possibilities to high school students, along with so much more.

The Jackson Area Career Center (JACC) isn’t just a building on the outskirts of town where students slip away to for class, it is an extension of high school. The JACC is a career and technical education school (CTE), where students can enjoy hands-on learning while acquiring college credit and real-life experience. February is CTE Month, which means that the JACC will be hosting an open house on March 1, 2023, to see what career paths may be awaiting students in Jackson County. If they find one they’re interested in, they have the chance to enroll that day, with the help of their school counselor. This will be the only time the Career Center is open to the public. High school sophomores and juniors can familiarize themselves with the many programs the JACC has to offer. Those programs include:

Agriscience
Amy JROTC
Automotive Collision Repair
Automotive Technology Services
Careers in Education
Computer Information Technology
Construction
Cosmetology
Culinary Arts
Dental Health
Engineering
Firefighting
Health Technician
Law Enforcement
Manufacturing Technologies
Sales and Marketing
Visual Communications
Welding

The JACC adapts to school schedules, replacing some typical electives. All local high schools offer transportation to students who cannot drive themselves. They are accepting students in public schools, private schools, and even homeschooled students.

Each program has various focuses and options within each category. As each program is different, not all programs run the same. For example, the health technician program is a two-year program. In the first year, students learn foundational terminology used in the medical field and receive CPR, first aid, and proper PPE training. During their second year, they get to focus more on what part of their field interests them most. Recently, Health Technician students were interested in fields like labor and delivery or orthopedics. From there, they are able to hear from guest speakers in those fields and practice a bit of what they may be learning with hands-on, real-life experience, often from local businesses and organizations. In the past, the JACC has partnered with Henry Ford Health to pass on the proper resources and contacts to students. This can be enlightening, to seniors especially, because it helps them get a taste of what they want to be. Principal Dan Draper stressed that “It’s important to figure it out as you go,” as so many students are pressured to pursue a college degree, though oftentimes, students aren’t fully aware of what they’re committing to before they start college.

In the past, high schools have been known to have a college push, and the JACC strives to provide proper exploration for students. A term they use often is “Try before you buy,” because these programs can literally save students thousands.

Students in the Agriscience program learn to birth pigs, raise them, and show and sell them at the county fair. Cosmetology students can get licensed through the program that the JACC offers, and have plenty of practice, as Dan Draper pointed to his own head, sharing that a student that day had given him a haircut.

Each class can hold up to 24 students, and they receive industry experience from classically trained professionals in their field. From there, each student is helped with building a talent portfolio that they can take with them as they move on to college classes or job interviews. Though the JACC is a CTE school, it is not just for kids who don’t see college in their future. There are programs in cybersecurity, manufacturing, health, and more that offer a “13th grade,” in which students are able to graduate with an Associate degree.

The JACC takes new enrollments through March. If you don’t know a potential Career Center student, consider visiting their greenhouse for the Agriscience/FFA Plant and Flower Sale on May 6 and May 13, where you can pick up fresh flowers and more. Kaci Babineau, Marketing and Special Projects Coordinator, explained that the lines have been impressive in past years, so come early! Another upcoming event that the JACC celebrates is Signing Day, which celebrates the students who have a plan for when they leave the Career Center, whether that’s continuing to pursue a degree or those who are entering the workforce.

If you know a student who may be interested in kickstarting their career in a CTE setting, consider the Jackson Area Career Center. Students will be able to surround themselves with others on similar paths, ready to learn about what their future can hold. Call the Career Center today at 517-768-5100.