Newsmaker Images

May 2, 2002
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Grand Rapids Business Journal's Newsmaker of the Year awards ceremony drew more than 300 people to Thursday's Downtown Rotary luncheon. The overflow crowd stood in the doorway of the Ambassador Ballroom as the Amway Grand's staff hustled to bring in more tables and, presumably, whip up more meals.

And that's after it was moved from its usual — and more intimate — setting in the Pantlind Ballroom.

But standing-room-only isn't what makes an event; it's the people who define the success of any gathering.

That's why Thursday's celebration was so meaningful.

Here are a few snapshots that, while not seen by everyone, had special meaning for Journal staffers in attendance.

When Editor Carole Valade-Copenhaver announced the Wege Foundation's $20 million gift to the Art Museum as one of the finalists, PeterWege and Foundation Executive Director EllenSatterlee stood and acknowledged applause from the audience. Leading that applause, and with looks of sheer gratitude on their faces, were Art Museum board chairman SamCummings and museum executive director CelesteAdams. Wege said a community is defined by its arts. If that's so, then Grand Rapids will go up a few notches in the eyes of the rest of the world.

Walter Gutowski Sr. and Walter Gutowski Jr., owners of Swift Printing, are used to operating in anonymity. Their West Side print shop has been around since the 1950s, but, when compared with the other powerhouses in the room, the younger Gutowski was moved to self-deprecating humor.

"I thought you'd put us in another room or something," he said, smiling. "Thank you so much."

But the Gutowskis' efforts were validated when the father-and-son team drew the loudest round of applause from the audience during the introductions.

One of the best moments of the day occurred after the luncheon, when the elder Gutowski could be seen collecting the special Business Journal sections profiling the finalists that were left on tables by attendees.

While a printer by trade, it's assumed that Walt Sr. had little interest in scrutinizing the quality of the job and a lot more interest in preserving what was a big day in family history.

Since the Newsmaker winner is kept secret until the actual announcement at Rotary, it's always difficult to gauge what will happen.

County Administrator DarylDelabbio got off one of the best lines when he came all the way from the back of the room to the podium to accept the award for Kent County's leadership.

"Wow, this really is just like the Academy Awards," he said, surveying the packed house. "And everyone at our table just lost, because we were all betting on which of the others would win."

Delabbio, Kent County Board of Commissioners Chairman StevenHeacock and the county commissioners were recognized for their leadership and innovative programs during 2001.

Heacock, curiously, was absent from the proceedings. He's not the type to miss such an occasion. But during his acceptance speech, Delabbio gave another example of why "leadership" comes in many forms.

"I know Steve wanted to be here today, but he promised his daughter he'd go on a kind of job-shadowing program with her," he said, adding that the father and daughter were tailing a neonatalogist in Grand Rapids.

Decision-making skills were part of the package that earned Kent County the Newsmaker nod and, as usual, Heacock's priorities were right where they needed to be.

In closing, President ChuckCaldwell reminded Rotarians that the next meeting again would return to the Pantlind Ballroom, because they weren't expecting a huge crowd for the presentation.

This Thursday's program? Mayor JohnLogie's annual State of the City address.

"The mayor's been upstaged," Caldwell said, smiling. "That doesn't happen too often."

  • Here's kind of a last, sad note on the apparently certain departure of the LifeSavers manufacturing operation from Holland to Canada.

One of the things that no palliative or nostrum from Lansing could solve for Kraft Foods North America, the owner of the firm, is to significantly lower the price of its major raw material: sugar.

Depending upon a number of factors, Americans — corporations and consumers alike — pay about twice the world market price for sugar. And why? Well, it depends upon whose Web site you read, but it all seems to come down to the wonders of Washington, D.C.'s alleged agricultural policies.

Basically it seems American taxpayers pay out $1 billion over five years so that the same taxpayers, as consumers, can pay more than twice the market cost for sugar. And as the Saturday night TV commercials say, "But wait! There's more!"

In Florida, one of the largest sugar-producing states, cane growers use a great deal of phosphate to fertilize the cane that we taxpayers pay them to grow. After promoting the growth of cane, the phosphate leaches into the Everglades to spur the growth of algae and cattails. This, in turn, causes eutrophication, which the federal and state governments now want to reverse in order to save the Everglades — financed by, guess who?

But meanwhile, we consumer/subsidizers must spend yet more of our income to help the unfortunate citizens of Holland whom federal sugar price supports have thrown out of work.

Oh, something else. It apparently is not the ma and pa cane growers who benefit from the subsidies. It's the corporations that operate huge farms.

Sounds kind of like the dairy subsidies, and the peanut subsidies, and the wheat subsides, and the corn subsidies …

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