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Annual Fusion Event Brings Minority Professionals Together

August 11, 2015

Fusion, a networking event for West Michigan professionals from diverse backgrounds, is stepping up its efforts to connect people in the business community by offering a chance for attendees to meet one-on-one with leaders of some of West Michigan's best-known businesses.

Fusion is an annual event begun by Varnum several years ago as a way to strengthen inclusion within the community by connecting professionals of various racial, ethnic and cultural groups. Among the attendees are representatives from the Grand Rapids Black Chamber of Commerce, West Michigan Asian American Association, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, OutPro, BLE2ND, and the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

This year's event, set for Wednesday, August 12 at the Varnum offices in Bridgewater Place, features a drawing in which the prizes are one-on-one meetings with area business leaders. Among the participating leaders are Win Irwin of Irwin Seating; Kris Larson of Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc.; Pete Mitchell of Rockford Construction; Jeff Padnos of PADNOS; and John Rahn of Chemical Bank.

More than 200 people have attended previous Fusion events and this year's event is expected to be even larger.

"The idea is to enhance connectivity among these business groups," noted Varnum attorney Joy Fossel, who leads the firm's diversity and inclusion efforts.  "Our intent is to encourage collaboration and to leverage all of our resources and capabilities to make Grand Rapids a more inclusive community overall."

Partnering with Varnum is JA PR Group, which promotes and manages the event to ensure its success. Owner Jessica Ann Tyson, who initiated the idea of the one-on-one leader meetings, has been active from the planning stage to handling event details.  

"I'm not sure what I enjoy more: the endless opportunities to network with other communities, the delicious ethnic-catered foods, or the great community resources I go home with," Tyson said. "It's very gratifying to help bring people together who might not otherwise meet."

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