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VIDEO: MDARD Director Gary McDowell Completes 'MI Made Better' Tour

For immediate release: October 27, 2021

LANSING, MI – Yesterday, MDARD Director Gary McDowell completed a two-day 'MI Made Better' tour, focusing on several small businesses across Northern and Western Michigan, seeing first-hand various supply chain operations, what their challenges are, and talking about their experiences as companies recover. The tour's first stop took place at Great Lakes Potato Chips Co. in Traverse City.

"Small and local businesses are the backbone of Michigan's economy, especially in our rural communities, which includes a wealth of local manufacturers, farmers, and agricultural tourism," said McDowell. "I was thrilled to be able to see the inner workings of these companies, which source ingredients and products, showcasing that Michigan made is best."

Great Lakes Potato Chips Co. makes small batches of fresh potato chips from Michigan potatoes and spices. As of 2017, the company includes over 25 full-time employees who process over 100,000 pounds of potatoes per week. Currently, the company supplies six states surrounding the Great Lakes as well as Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Canada. Great Lakes Potato Chips Co. is celebrating nine years of employing workers, contributing to our economy.

In 1996, the first Grand Traverse Pie Company shop opened in downtown Traverse City. Grand Traverse Pie Company uses the best Michigan ingredients like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, and apples in their freshly made products. Since 1996, Grand Traverse Pie Company has expanded across Michigan and Indiana.

Grand Traverse Distillery opened in 2005 and is Northern Michigan’s first craft distillery. Grand Traverse Distillery products are found throughout Michigan and in select markets around the Midwest. The second day of the ‘MI Made Better’ tour started at Walters Gardens in Zeeland.

"I have enjoyed meeting with local businesses and having conversations about how food and agriculture are such an integral part of everyday life,” said McDowell. "Businesses like Walter Gardens and Hudsonville Ice Cream add a social and economic benefit to the surrounding communities. This tour has truly shown that Michigan businesses are poised to thrive as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Walters Gardens has been a pillar of their community since 1946. The company is run by Walters' second and third generations, aided by other family members and dedicated employees, including plant health experts, skilled horticulturists, qualified customer care, and additional staff. Currently, Walters Gardens employs 250 Michiganders while expanding to 1,500 acres of land and 500,000 square feet of greenhouse space.

Critter Barn opened in 1984 with a mission to teach others about farming and agriculture while inspiring people of all ages and abilities through the miracles in nature found on farms. An additional focus of Critter Barn is to study the impact of the seasons and the role that plants, animals, and the environment play in our sustainability.

For over 90 years, Hudsonville Ice Cream has provided fresh ice cream to residents for all occasions. The company initially started in Hudsonville, but upon expanding, their headquarters moved to Holland. Their neighbors are the dairy farms producing the Michigan milk and cream used in popular products.

Watch VIDEO from the 'MI Made Better' tour