Business is brisk at gun shops: Sales increase in reaction to Obama’s executive orders

Taylor Kibby, an employee at Point Blank Shooting Range & Sport Club, fires a Rossi .410 caliber rifle Tuesday at the indoor shooting range at the Benton Township store. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Taylor Kibby, an employee at Point Blank Shooting Range & Sport Club, fires a Rossi .410 caliber rifle Tuesday at the indoor shooting range at the Benton Township store. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BERRIEN COUNTY — Business at Point Blank Shooting Range & Sport Club has steadily increased since President Barack Obama began talking about increasing gun control last week.

Roy Daugherty, owner of the Benton Township shooting range that sells weapons, said their guns and ammunition have been selling quite well and he expects it to remain that way for another week.

“When we opened today, there were a few people waiting to come inside to look at guns,” he said. “This week it has varied in ages. We have had ladies in here who are 80 or 75 years old buying guns.”

After a mass shooting last month left 14 dead in San Bernardino, Calif., Obama said he would look into administering more gun control to curb gun violence in the U.S.

On Monday, Obama called for all gun sellers to register as dealers – even those who sell at gun shows and online – and to run background checks on all prospective buyers. In an attempt to prevent unlawful gun purchases, the FBI will hire 230 more examiners to process background checks, the White House said.

Point Black owner Roy Daugherty shows off a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun for sale at his store. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Point Black owner Roy Daugherty shows off a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun for sale at his store. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Taylor Kibby, an employee at Point Blank Shooting Range & Sport Club, fires a Rossi .410 caliber rifle on Tuesday. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Taylor Kibby, an employee at Point Blank Shooting Range & Sport Club, fires a Rossi .410 caliber rifle. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Daugherty said this is nothing new for his business. Since Point Blank Shooting Range is a registered gun dealer, employees have to call background checks with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“In a way, it’s going to increase my business because it’s going to slow down these other guys,” Daugherty said. “Obama’s going to increase the number of agents, so maybe I’ll get to someone faster when doing a background check. You come to our store, purchase the gun, we do the paperwork and call it in.”

At the worst, Daugherty said a customer has to wait half an hour on background checks.

“If you are a good citizen, you’re going to walk out of here with a gun,” he said. “This doesn’t change much on our end. When (the ATF) denies or delays it, it’s up to me to turn people away. If the customer wants to know why, they have to call a certain number. Officials don’t tell us why they’re not approved.”

Chad Shimunek, owner of Black Arsenal in Stevensville, said gun sales haven’t been a challenge coming out of the holiday season. December and January are months when a lot of residents look at buying a gun as a present.

However, Shimunek said some of those sales stem from what people have been hearing from the nation’s capital.

“There’s some concern. The concern is the legality and extent of power that (Obama) is taking,” Shimunek said. “People are practical and know how things work. They see the problems that don’t come from a lack of regulation. It comes down to individual accountability.”

More funding

While his customers have expressed their worries, Shimunek said he is supportive of any president who is willing to put more money into the ATF.

Shimunek said he considers the move to add more staff to help with background checks long overdue.

“At the end of the day, there are some very positive things there. It will improve the time and any delays,” Shimunek said. “When we call for approval, we want to make sure they’re correct and will keep bad people from getting weapons. That’s money well spent.”

Mike Sharkey, owner of The Gun House in St. Joseph, said his gun sales have doubled in the last few weeks in anticipation of Obama’s actions.

“There’s a lot of word that this is just the start and that they are trying to initiate some things before getting aggressive,” Sharkey said. “What he has asked for in background checks needed to be done. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

In addition to gun and ammunition sales being on the rise, Daugherty said the classes his shooting range regularly holds are filled though February. Daugherty said this boost in sales is to be expected whenever gun control is a hot topic in Washington.

“They have to listen to what the president is saying,” he said. “If you catch anyone off guard by saying ‘gun control,’ everybody panics. We want to teach safety. When you buy a weapon, don’t put it in the drawer – learn how to shoot.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 6, 2016)

SJPS Foundation happy with 2015 fundraising

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — The St. Joseph Public Schools Foundation raised more than $400,000 in 2015, far surpassing its goal of $300,000, the St. Joseph school board learned Monday night.

Foundation President Bill Marohn provided some context to the board during its monthly meeting.

“It was a quite bit less than last year and the primary reason is because of Encore,” Marohn said. “Last year we had Encore and we grossed $93,000 from that. We are going to have Encore in 2016 and we have set a goal for $100,000 of revenue from it for this year. This is something we don’t feel we can do every year. Hopefully we can do it every other year.”

Encore is a collaboration between the Foundation, St. Joseph High School and alumni, which features acts that were presented on stage from the 1950s to the 1990s.

About $347,000 of the foundation’s total revenue came from unrestricted funds – with the biggest donor being Whirlpool Corp. at $119,000.

“As you know, they have this golf outing in August where they bring in their suppliers,” Marohn said. “They take the proceeds from that golf outing and divide it across three school districts – St. Joe, Benton Harbor and Lakeshore. Our one-third share was $119,000.”

Four of the major projects the Foundation funded included the 1-to-1 Initiative for sixth-grade students ($100,000), buying 300 loaner devices between January and July for the Bring Your Own Device program ($60,000), scholarships ($45,000) and professional learning communities ($41,000).

Marohn said all Foundation officers committed to another year of service.

Other agenda items

SJPS Superintendent Ann Cardon read a letter to the board from state Rep. Dave Pagel, R-Berrien Springs, which explained the process of how Senate Bill 571 was approved after items were added by the Senate.

If signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, SB571 would prohibit a public body, including school officials, from using public resources for factual communications referencing local ballot questions for 60 days prior to an election.

Cardon said she has reached out to Snyder to urge him veto the bill. She asked board members to do likewise.

Trustee Corey Carolla was not present for Monday’s meeting.

The board will next meet for a study session at 6 p.m. on Feb. 1 in the Lincoln Elementary Media Center at 1102 Orchard Lane in St. Joseph.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 5, 2016)

 

Mr. Friendly educational program returns to Berrien County

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON HARBOR — The first-ever Mr. Friendly training seminar in Berrien County was held in Benton Harbor, focusing on reducing the stigma of HIV.

Mr. Friendly is a movement to help improve the quality of life for those living with HIV in “friendly ways.” This educational program from CARES – a Southwest Michigan HIV service agency – was developed to train staff and volunteers how to fight the HIV stigma with one-on-one conversations, host events to educate others about the latest in HIV treatments and to give referrals to local services for testing and medical care.

Health care professionals, OutCenter employees and residents attended a seminar last month hosted by a Benton Harbor to allow the community to get a better idea of how to raise HIV awareness.

Dave Watt, HIV prevention team leader at CARES and founder of Mr. Friendly, has been part of the CARES team for more than eight years.

The creation of Mr. Friendly came in 2008 when Watt gave a speech about how people sometimes use hurtful words like “clean” to refer to being HIV negative.

“We need to be sensitive to all people when messaging around HIV,” Watt said. “For example, if you are promoting testing for HIV, while pushing a condom in their hand, you might turn that person off and miss an opportunity to really connect with someone about stigma.”

Instead of being pushy, Watt said he simply offers a button or dog tag to start a one-on-one conversation in order to check in with people on how they are doing.

Watt, along with other CARES staffers, developed the “Team Friendly” workshop – like the one held in Benton Harbor in December.

The training was held at the home of a member of the Whirlpool Pride Network. Watt said they will complete Part 2 of the Team Friendly training this Sunday.

“We sought out for more trained volunteers to help expand our reach,” Watt said. “We worked with Whirlpool Pride, the company’s LGBT resource group, to expand our reach in Southwest Michigan.”

Berrien County has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the state, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Watt said their goal is to share uplifting messages such as “live stigma-free of HIV” or “love knows no status,” and in the process be there for anyone who feels they are misunderstood.

Upon starting Mr. Friendly, Watt said he discovered people are afraid to test for HIV for a variety of reasons.

“If someone contracts HIV in say Africa, then we typically feel sorry for them. If someone contracts HIV in the United States – unfortunately a common perception is – it’s your fault,” Watt said. “We all need gentle reminders to understand where people are coming from, to handle situations with compassion, to meet people where they are at.”

CARES services 11 counties in Michigan, with offices in Benton Harbor and Kalamazoo. Anyone with questions or wanting advice can contact the CARES Benton Harbor office at (269) 927-2437 or visit 185 E. Main St. Suite 604 in Benton Harbor.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 5, 2016)

Chivo’s owner says restaurant may move if damage is too severe

A man brushes snow off the roof of Chivo’s Pizza at 2724 Niles Ave. in St. Joseph on Monday. The pizzeria has been closed for a week after the building sustained damage from last week’s storm. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

A man brushes snow off the roof of Chivo’s Pizza at 2724 Niles Ave. in St. Joseph on Monday. The pizzeria has been closed for a week after the building sustained damage from last week’s storm. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — Chivo’s Pizza has been closed for a week and there is no time line for when it will reopen.

The 2724 Niles Avenue pizzeria in St. Joseph developed a roof leak during the Dec. 28 ice storm and has been closed since Tuesday, Dec. 29.

Owner Tony Pedraza said they discovered more structural damage to the building when crews began repairing the initial leak. For this reason, the business has remained closed. Pedraza said they didn’t see the leak until last Tuesday, because the pizzeria is closed on Mondays.

“Last week, after the rain/sleet/snow stuff we got, we found a leak in our building,” Pedraza said. “I fixed it up the best I could, but we hold ourselves to a certain standard. We are trying to contain the leak the best we can. After so much damage, the building may be condemned for a little while. The roof has some holes that need to be fixed.”

Pedraza said they have a restoration crew working on the leased building.

He said he has also made appointments with the city’s building inspector and the health department. The owner’s plans are to wait it out – if there is a fix in the foreseeable future – or relocate permanently.

“We want to do nothing more than to make pizzas,” Pedraza said. “This is a major headache because this puts a halt on our operation. We just don’t know what to do and are figuring it out as we go.”

Pedraza said they are in search of alternative sites to relocate the restaurant, in the event it takes too long to restore the pizzeria to its previous self.

However, the decision to move has not been made.

“We’ve got a lot of support from the community that has reached out,” he said. “I have quite a few options. We’re doing our best to get those ovens fired up. It’s pretty much out of our hands. We will be out for some time, we just don’t know how long exactly.”

The pizzeria, which has been in operation for almost five years, debuted in February of 2011. Starting out, they initially offered 12- and 15-inch pizzas along with breads ticks, salads and soda. They increased the size of the pizzas two years ago to 14- and 18-inch pizzas. Pedraza said their pizzas are custom made, with he and his partner – Drew Truex (his brother in law) – being taught by an Italian family in South Bend.

“My partner and I have been making pizzas for more than half our lives,” said Pedraza, 27, who commutes from South Bend.

Because he commutes to work, Pedraza said Chivo’s has sometimes remained closed due to traveling restrictions. However, Chivo’s has never had to remain closed this long.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 5, 2016)

Diplomatic deployment: Stevensville native sees the world as independent consultant

Stevensville native Kari Kietzer poses for a photo in a bunker in Kuwait. Kietzer is an international independent consultant who has worked on projects with NATO and the U.S. military.

Stevensville native Kari Kietzer poses for a photo in a bunker in Kuwait. Kietzer is an international independent consultant who has worked on projects with NATO and the U.S. military.

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

STEVENSVILLE — A Lakeshore High School graduate and Stevensville resident’s time as a consultant has taken her to various places across the globe.

As an international independent consultant, Kari Kietzer develops and writes anti-corruption curricula and reports for the U.S. military, NATO and international non-governmental organizations.

She received her master’s degree in international relations in 2011 at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. At that time she became a member of the program design team at the U.S. Army War College’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute in Carlisle, Pa. She then played a role in the creation of anti-corruption training courses for deploying military and civilian personnel to Afghanistan.

Kietzer’s career has taken her from the U.S. Congress to managing a $20 million mega yacht off the South of France. In her spare time, Kietzer serves on the board of The Economic Club of Southwest Michigan.

Herald-Palladium Staff Writer Tony Wittkowski caught up with Kietzer to hear some of her interesting stories across seas.

What does an independent consultant do?

One of my more recent assignments was consulting for NATO and the U.S. military on anti-corruption. I had a study published on anti-corruption on the civil war in Mali, Africa. I’ve consulted NATO on their initial mission in Afghanistan. I also worked with the joint force command to help draft the next stage of the war. It’s a little obscure, but a lot of that stuff I can’t talk about.

How did you get into this field?

I went to grad school thinking I wanted to go into the State Department. I was getting to the end of my master’s when I was told to apply to a free internship at the U.S. Army War College. I worked on a project for them, but it was supposed to be a three-month internship. I ended up being put on a project full-time and created a military task force to reduce corruption in Afghanistan. It was the first task force of its kind in a military war zone. I did work for the task force for seven months with the think tank. From there I was asked to come to Afghanistan and continue my work.

Did you picture yourself doing this after grad school?

I thought I was going to the State Department to be a nice little diplomat. Because I was doing the engagement with civil society, I was still in a quasi-diplomatic situation. I used my education in a way I didn’t know existed.

How many countries have you been to? Among them, what one was the most interesting?

I’ve been to more than a dozen countries. Norway was interesting. In Stavanger, Norway, I was at NATO’s Joint Warfare Centre. My work location was in a bunker in the center of a mountain that (Adolf) Hitler built in World War II. When you get there, you get your meal cards and watch a safety video. When I was in Norway, it was also the time of year when you only had two or three hours of night time. I would be working all day and then go outside and it would still be light out.

Where do you live now?

I’m staying at my mom and dad’s house. I’m in between projects right now. Before, I have lived in France and London. I either work from home or in-house. This is my hometown and I haven’t spent a lot of time with my folks.

Having been to places like France and Afghanistan, does it feel weird coming back to Stevensville?

I’ve traveled all over the world. But it is pretty neat to come back here. We have an international flavor with Whirlpool being here. You do have that small town feel though. I’m a farmer’s kid. There’s a wholesome quality to having grown up here.

What have you enjoyed the most about your career?

The diversity. I have had the opportunity to come in contact with people from all walks of life. The cultural differences and similarities are always impressive to me. I’m a Francophile and a history buff, so my travels have suited me well. It’s the people you meet along the way that make the journey for me so fantastic.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 4, 2016)

Staying productive at home: Professional tips on working from home

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON HARBOR — Working from home can be beneficial to some salaried employees, while distracting to others.

One of the main struggles with working from home is staying focused on one’s job. For people who work from home, the trust requirement is higher because the employer can’t see them working. The only evidence they have is the output they produce.

Lynanne Kunkel, vice president of Global Talent Development for Whirlpool Corp., has a few solutions and tips on staying productive at work away from the office.

“Make sure your work setup allows you to perform against expectations,” she said. “Be results focused. Regardless of what your arrangements are, you should be able to deliver against expectations.”

Such is the case for Jon Barfell, a brand experience manager with Jenn-Air.

He has a mini-command center at home, where he keeps his manager and co-workers up to date with what he is working on.

“I have a separate office that’s set up in the front of my house away from the living room and TV,” Barfell said. “When I’m sitting at my desk, the laptop is open and I am there. It helps me separate that work-life balance.”

Kunkel said the second thing employees should consider when working from home is to balance the virtual collaboration with live collaboration.

That means finding time to meet with others face to face, even if it is with Google hangout – a video chat program.

“Be accessible. If somebody needs to find you, make sure it’s clear how they can find you if they can’t walk over to your space and physically find you,” Kunkel said. “That could be something as simple as leaving your cell or home phone number on the contact list.”

Among the benefits of working from home is you don’t have to dress up. While an argument can be made that people are the most productive when dressed for their best, Kunkel said this varies with each person.

She recommends everyone do a robust self-assessment of what makes him or her the most productive.

“Make sure you design your setup to maximize that productivity,” she said. “If that means dressing up like you are going to the office to get into office mode, then they should do that for sure. If somebody else can do it in sweat pants and a T-shirt, but need to have a fresh pot of coffee close by to be productive, then they should do that instead.”

The last tip Kunkel offered is that one needs to have the right equipment at home.

“You have to be equipped with the right tools and technology that allow you to be productive and efficient in achieving your work priorities,” Kunkel said. “We invest a lot in making sure people have the tools they need to be as flexible as possible. You’re only as good as the equipment you work with.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 3, 2016)

Taking care of business from home: Whirlpool employees use flexible schedules to their benefit

Jon Barfell, a brand experience manager with Whirlpool Corp., frequently works from home or on the road. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

Jon Barfell, a brand experience manager with Whirlpool Corp., frequently works from home or on the road. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON HARBOR — Jon Barfell spends a lot of time out of the office and near a laptop.

Whether that’s on the road or at his home office in St. Joseph, Barfell says he spends between 10 to 15 hours a week working away from his work office. That includes working weekends and a few hours after 5 p.m.

The decision to let employees telecommute for part or all of their daily work has gained traction over the past decade.

In fact, 23 percent of U.S. workers now do at least some of their work from home, according to a June report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s up from 19 percent in 2003 in a shift that accompanied a 2-point drop in the percent of U.S. employees who show up to a designated work place either some or all of the time.

As a brand experience manager with Jenn-Air, Barfell is on the road, working with local magazines and going to different cities and representing the Whirlpool brand.

“There’s a lot of working out of hotels and on planes,” he said. “But after those long days and long hours, sometimes you need time at home to recharge. It’s really nice to be able to spend the next two or three days working from home after being on the road for so long.”

He said it’s the flexibility that helps him.

Because his job is not the normal eight-to-five job, he can answer emails and react any time during the day.

Lynanne Kunkel, vice president of Global Talent Development for Whirlpool Corp., said the company considers working from home one of a variety of flexible work arrangements.

Whirlpool is a global business with a broad geographical footprint, which doesn’t limit workers to staying at their desks.

“Somebody somewhere is working every minute of every day at Whirlpool,” Kunkel said. “We do a lot of collaboration globally and have many people in global roles whose responsibilities cross many countries and time zones.”

At Whirlpool, Kunkel said some employees work remotely, who are in a different home location than where they have an office.

St. Joseph resident Kristy Proos has a lot on her plate. At Whirlpool, she is the finance director for global production organization. At home she helps raise three children and supports her husband, state Sen. John Proos.

Due to the amount of time spent with her family and work, Proos found a more flexible work schedule.

Proos started working at Whirlpool in 1999, where she was logging 50 to 60 hours a week. She did a job share after having her second child, where she split duties with another person and worked three days a week.

After her third child was born, Proos left Whirlpool for a full year sabbatical. When she came back she began a more flexible work arrangement where she works about 32 hours a week.

She has been doing so for the last decade.

Proos works Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. – a time designated to allow her to take her children to school and pick them up at the end of the day.

“My first flexible work arrangement was almost out of necessity,” Proos said. “I had two kids under the age of 2 at the time and a husband starting in politics. It was not a hard adjustment at all.”

Her working from home comes into play when she has a 7 a.m. global conference call or when she comes home and has a few more items to take care off.

“A typical day is here in the office,” Proos said. “Being in a global role allows me to make a conference call to China from my living room in the early morning.”

Advantages vs. disadvantages

Two studies have proved working from home can be beneficial and hampering.

A team of researchers at Stanford University performed a study tracking 255 employees at a Chinese travel site called Ctrip. Researchers found that employees working from home experienced a 13 percent increase in productivity.

However, home office environments may not stimulate everyone equally. Employees who procrastinate appeared less likely than others benefit from work-from-home policies in a 2014 study at the University of Calgary.

In some cases, the reasoning may be a convenience for both companies and employees.

If fewer employees at an office means less day-to-day overhead, there can be reciprocal benefits. Employees can save on commute costs and get more time to focus on their work, while employers enjoy fewer information technology and maintenance problems.

Barfell said the only disadvantage of working from home is missing the interaction from co-workers. However, since the advancement of technology, the face-to-face meetings can still be accomplished via online video conferencing.

“We work well off of each other, but having that healthy mix of working from home and being in the office is a nice mix,” Barfell said. “It’s nice to get back, catch up and have that face time.”

The biggest advantage to Proos’ flexible schedule is getting to spend more time with her family.

“I help coach soccer and basketball. It allows me to be a volunteer for junior achievement and the United Way,” Proos said. “It gives me the opportunity to help me develop my children, who are 14, 12 and 9, as they grow up. It also helps me support my husband and his work.”

Who it works for

Having that flexibility for the work force is critical to having a competitive business and to attracting new talent to Whirlpool.

Kunkel said the millenial generation expects this kind of flexibility.

“The companies that are considered employers of choice for this young generation are employers who offer a good menu of flexible options,” Kunkel said. “As the work force shifts and more millenials come in, the demand for flexibility is going to go up.”

Those who already work for the appliance maker can be on a schedule that allows them to work from home one or two days a week and come into the office the other days.

“We have a number of employees who live in Chicago,” Kunkel said. “It makes more sense for them to not have to commute every day from Chicago. This allows them to work from home and only have to travel to Benton Harbor a couple days a week.”

Kunkel said the work-from-home policy is most commonly used among women, particularly when they are trying to balance their needs with children.

For parents, it can be a little unpredictable sometimes when a child is going to be sick or when school gets canceled.

“Those are (on a) case-by-case basis when people need that flexibility,” Kunkel said. “Dual-career couples tend to be in a situation where maybe one member of the couple may work for Whirlpool, but gets assigned to a different geographical location for a period of time. That individual might need to work remotely.”

Whirlpool has had these policies in place for at least a decade. In the last four or five years, Kunkel said they really began the work place initiative with open work places, bringing your own device capability and shifting to laptops.

While Barfell’s transition to working from home part-time was sudden, it is something he has welcomed.

In his previous role with Whirlpool, he was in the procurement area, doing a lot of analytics at his desk for the majority of the week.

“This new opportunity came along, and by incorporating so much travel and long hours for events, it kind of established itself,” Barfell said. “Times are changing as well as the perception that if you are not sitting at your desk, you are not doing your job. You can be just as effective at home or on the road.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 3, 2016)