Finalists named for Lakeshore Innovator of the Year award.

The finalists for the Lakeshore Innovator of the Year award pose for a photograph at the Muskegon Innovation Hub
The finalists for the Lakeshore Innovator of the Year award pose for a photograph at the Muskegon Innovation Hub
Image Credit: Bird+Bird Studios

Five groups or individuals have been selected as finalists for the first-ever Lakeshore Innovator of the Year award, presented by Grand Valley State University’s Muskegon Innovation Hub.

The award is intended to celebrate and recognize the most innovative ideas on the Lakeshore.

Finalists for the award, which will be presented at a ceremony at the Hub on March 14, include:

Matt Pinter, Smart Vision Lights

Pinter was one of the original tenants of the Muskegon Alternative and Renewable Energy Center, which was the predecessor to the Hub. Pinter launched his company, Smart Vision Lights, from the early start at MAREC and has continued to grow over nearly two decades. Smart Vision is currently undergoing an expansion in Muskegon. The company produces a wide variety of specialty LED lighting for use in innovative ways. 

John Bilsky, Certified Master Water Specialist

Bilsky is the creator of an innovative process that saves money and helps preserve fresh water. He works for a major West Michigan automotive supplier, and pioneered a process that helps recycle water used in the manufacturing process to be used a second time. His innovation helps save money on water costs and reduces water waste.

Kristin Chmela and Julie Raynor, Co-Founders of Camp Shout Out

Chmela and Raynor led the development of a project that impacts two critical needs in West Michigan. Camp Shout Out is a residential training and therapy program that assists children and teens, ages 8-18, who stutter. The camp also serves as a critical training ground for speech and language pathologists and graduate students. The camp is unique in the U.S., and the innovative training and treatment portion of the camp is recognized by international experts and helps more than 100 children during each week-long session.

Muskegon Area Career Tech Center Machine/Engineering class; Instructors Kathy Van Til and Brent Nummerdor; Students Jackson Huizenga, Liam Johnson, Jacob Loudermilk, Everett Emory, Michael Dixon, Ethan McKenzie and Kyle Morris

This group of students and instructors from the Muskegon Area Career Tech Center worked collaboratively with consultants from the Muskegon Area ISD to create a specialized desk designed specifically for a student at Oehrli Elementary in Montague who uses a camera and an iPad to assist with visual and mobility issues. The process of collaboration to create a final project brought together staff and students across a variety of disciplines in an innovative manner.

Rick Smith, President/CEO of HyVIDA Brands, Inc.

HyVIDA’s innovation is the application for two patents for a groundbreaking process to infuse hydrogen into carbonated beverages. This process infuses hydrogen into carbonated beverages, making HyVIDA Brands the only company in the market capable of doing so. Smith said this is significant because hydrogen is an antioxidant that reduces inflammation, improves workout recovery and cognitive function. This innovation allows HyVIDA to reduce operating costs and prepare for rapid growth in a burgeoning domestic market.

About the Muskegon Innovation Hub

“We were overwhelmed with the response to our call for applicants for our Innovator of the Year award, and these nominations were truly the best of the best,” said Kevin Ricco, director of the Muskegon Innovation Hub. “We’re looking forward to picking one of these finalists to represent the innovative work being done all along the Lakeshore.”

The Muskegon Innovation Hub is a business innovation center that provides business incubation, coworking space, funding assistance, events and programming. It is a key partner in the regional innovation ecosystem, and supports startup businesses, entrepreneurs and corporate innovation teams.

For more information, visit gvsu.edu/mihub.