Category Archives: Local

“On the Map” visits Alma to explore Padnos, a manufacturer in the recycling industry

Padnos signThe family owned business has been recycling materials for four generations.

Padnos settled/ opening in Holland, Michigan in 1905. The family originally went to farms and sawmills trading goods for iron. Then they shipped the iron to large cities for manufacturers to use.

The company has grown. In the last century expanded to 20 locations throughout Michigan. It employs 500 people statewide.
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Michigan Manufacturing Koegel’s

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Koegel’s has been around since Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States. A time where you could enjoy a hotdog at a baseball game, but not a cold beer, liquor was illegal. 100 years later Koegel’s is still making hotdogs, and thriving. Desiree Jordan visits the company for our On the Map tour this week, on Michigan manufacturing.


“machines going”

Koegel’s is a meat manufacturing company that produces 45,000 pounds of product everyday.

“We do ring bologna, we do polish sausage, brockwurst, we have a summer sausage,
John Koegel is company President and grandson to the founder Albert Koegel.
we do some braunschweiger, we do slice lunch and meat, sliced bologna, olive loaf, a pickled loaf, macaroni and cheese loaf, so we have about 64 different items that can be in a store. And it’s all processed right here in this facility. ”

If you believe the old adage, you don’t want to see how the sausage is made, but for John Koegel it was a way of life. He said he’s worked at the family business since he was 12-years old.

“I have been head of our company since probably 1993. Idk I would have to look it’s been so long. We are celebrating our 100th anniversary this year, I’m third generation. Our official day is September 14th, that’s the official day my grandfather incorporated here in Flint.”

Even though Koegel’s is a small company over the years it has expanded, in part, by partnering with Meijer.

“We have about approximately 100 workers that’s including management and sales, sanitation, and crew. If they make it a year, and once all the benefits kick in they usually stay with us for quite some time. We are mainly just in Michigan. We service Michigan off of our own trucks, so we have 12 trucks on the road on a daily basis. We are in Ohio but on with Meijer, Indiana, Kentucky and that’s about it. ”

Serving four states doesn’t leave room for slack. The production line is fully up and running when most of us are just wiping the sleep from our eyes.

“We are up and running 100 percent by 6:30. Back in our kitchen we kind of stagger start because we have to start grinding and chopping so those people start at 5:15.”

Koegel’s has a logical layout to it’s production line.

“So the plant is a true east to west flow. So Bishop airport is right there and it’s just a straight line. So all the raw materials come in here at the east end of our building. Just make their way through the kitchen, cooking, cooling, packaging, shipping, right out the other end. So right on the west end, straight through.”

It all starts with purchasing…

“Our meat we buy everything fresh. We buy of course beef and pork, we check it here for weight, temperature, smell, look, and then we bring it in.”

While on the subject of buying cows, bulls, and pork jaws, Koegel told me the secret to making one of America’s most famous recipes, next to apple pie.

“Now the trick to making a good hot dog is to take the lean meat, so here we’ve taken the bull and the cow and blended it together. We’ve added salt, cure, and water. And we’re extracting the protein from this. So we take the fat and capsulate the fat in a nice protein bond, the people bite the nice texture through the protein, but then we all know the flavor is in the fat, so you get the nice release of flavor in the fat. And that the secret to making a hot dog.”

After the various products are made they are sent to the smokehouses to be cooked and cooled.

“Once we get the product smoked, the coloration like we like it, and the temperature where we want it, we then come down and put it into steam boxes. We steam the product, what it does because we just went through the cooking process we took a lot of moisture of the outside, so we’re pumping the moisture back in. And the steam tenderizes the natural casing, so it tenderizes it. This is the critical control point. So have to check every temperature, and next we start the cooling process.”

The hotdogs are then sent to packaging and shipped out. After the tour of the facility, I talked to Koegel about how it felt to take over the reins at the company. He said not a lot of companies have lasted as long as this one.

“It’s an honor to be guiding a company that has been around that long. To have a product that is still the same as it was a hundred years ago, we’re still making the exact same way my grandfather you know developed it, when he built the business and started the business. So to me not a lot of companies can do that. So I feel really fortunate they allowed to come in and take over.”

Koegel said he hopes the company continues to thrive for the next hundred years and remains in the family.

“I think we are just proud of the whole bundle that we’ve made 100 years, and still going strong, and maybe the chance to go another 25 to 30 or 100 years. Ultimately if I can pass it on to the fourth generation that would be success for me.”

Koegel said it will be interesting to see where his company will go in the coming years. Koegel’s opened its doors in 1916 and doesn’t plan on shutting them any time soon. With 100 employees making hotdogs for four states, Koegel’s has put Flint Michigan on the map.

Traverse City farmer says cherry dumping gives market to imports

IMG_5515A small cherry farmer in Northern Michigan is at odds with market regulations because he says they force him to dump as much as 40-thousand pounds of tart cherries and allow for international cherry producers to slowly take over the market.

But regulators say the rules are an important part of keeping cherry prices stable – and allowing growers to earn a livable income.

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Deadly currents — why they hit the Great Lakes

SciencePowerful currents on the Great Lakes have caused more than 150 drownings since 2002, according to researchers. Those currents can appear suddenly, says Mark Breederland, an educator with Michigan Sea Grant.

“The wind is key. It can start up pretty calm. Pretty soon it picks up – you’re out there, just enjoying the beach and you’re not really thinking about it,” Breederland says. Michigan Sea Grant is a university program focused on preserving Great Lakes resources through education and research. “All of the sudden, the waves have come way up from what they were when you first started.”

When a drowning occurs, people often attribute it to an undertow. Scientists say it’s much more complicated than that. Continue reading

Great Lakes drownings hit small Michigan county

BerrienDangerous currents and drownings go hand-in hand across the Great Lakes. But many are concentrated in Southwest Michigan’s Berrien Co.

The county has 50 miles of shoreline and its crown jewel is Silver Beach County Park. It’s straight out of a postcard: sandy beaches, a playground, and a big concession stand selling snow cones and hot dogs.

The area is a popular spot for Midwesterners who don’t want to make the long trip to the ocean, says Brian Bailey, who manages the park.

“We’re at the lower portion of Lake Michigan. We’re near major population, urban areas of Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis,” he says. “We’re a very attractive summer playground for many people.”

In addition to the large number of visitors, a couple of other factors come into play in Berrien.

“We get the combination of inexperienced swimmers, storms that can come up at any time, and wave heights,” Bailey says. “Those can be dangerous conditions.”

Since 2002, powerful currents have led to at least 21 deaths and 29 rescues at parks in the county, according to adatabase maintained by researchers. The wind also plays a role, says the National Weather Service’s Megan Dodson.

“When you have really strong winds blowing from the west, or the northwest, or the southwest, that causes the water to pile up near the beaches on western Michigan,” Dodson says. “You get the water piling up, you have a better chance for currents to develop.”

Haley Smoot, head lifeguard at Silver Beach, adds, “We have a lot of out of town people that don’t understand the lake and how it works. They come and they expect it to be like a swimming pool and it’s not.”

At Silver Beach on days when winds are high, lifeguards walk up and down the shore, keeping people out of the water and educating them about currents. But lifeguards are not responsible for the two piers in the county.

Several drownings have been attributed to people jumping off the piers. They were built in the 1800s and are operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Christopher Shropp, chief of construction and survey at the Army Corps’ office in Grand Haven, Mich., says the piers are still used for their initial purpose: to lead the way for ships.

“The purpose of the pier structure is for federal navigation, shipping within the federal navigation channels,” he says. “The piers allow ships to enter the harbor safely carrying whatever product they have – aggregate, coal, iron ore.”

These days, the piers are also used recreationally – anyone can fish or just walk on them. Shropp says that while it’s unfortunate that jumping accidents happen, making the piers unavailable to the public is not an option.

“We certainly don’t want to close the structures, because there’s a lot of visitors who enjoy them,” he says. “I don’t know that that would go over very well and people find their way around it anyways.”

The county Sheriff’s Department can’t ticket or fine anyone jumping off the pier, but Sgt. Kristen Robbins is hoping for such a solution.

“I hope that it can only go that direction to where pier jumping would be illegal,” she says.

Officials have taken steps to prevent drownings. For example, the piers have warning signs and throw rings in case of emergency. Silver Beach has emergency phones stationed around the property.

There’s one thing Silver Beach has that many other beaches around Berrien County don’t – lifeguards. That includes Warren Dunes State Park and all of Michigan’s state parks.

Ron Olson, chief of parks for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, says there are a couple of reasons why. “It costs a lot of money to equip lifeguards. Further, you need to have experienced people.”

Warren Dunes got rid of lifeguards more than 30 years ago. Since 2002, five people have drowned there because of dangerous currents, according to the currents database. On days when there are dangerous currents, Warren Dunes flies a red flag. The image on the flag depicts a swimmer with a line through it: no swimming due to currents.

Olson says the state is working to make the signs more accessible, too: braille for the blind, words or an image for the colorblind, and signs in other languages. Warren Dunes also has a boat available for emergencies.

Olson says the state is not responsible if an accident occurs, and that having lifeguards wouldn’t make a difference.

New product could help fight invasive mussels

DSC_0697Zebra and Quagga mussels have wreaked havoc on the Great Lakes ecosystem by almost completely removing the tiniest plants and animals that are essential to the food chain.

Now researchers will test a new product that could hold the key to taking the ecosystem back.

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Ohio mother mourns son taken by Lake Erie current

Mothers StoryIn her family’s backyard overlooking Lake Erie, Melissa Zirkle watched as her son Jermaine joined some friends in the water. On that July day in 2013, she was building steps in the backyard.

“I kept looking and checking on him, and he was standing in the water and he was laughing, having fun with the other kids,” Zirkle says, recalling the scene along Ohio’s shoreline. “Then about two minutes later, I heard cries for help.” Continue reading

Remembering the 1901 Train Crash

P1380327There was a horrible train crash that happened in a farm field in Michigan in 1901. 100 Italian immigrants were killed. And they were buried in an unmarked grave. That story has always haunted one local man. And inspired him to solve the mystery of where they were buried. He also hopes his gesture is one small way of helping history not repeat itself…when it comes to how poorly we have sometimes treated immigrants.
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