Still Growing Strong

June 5, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — It has been mentioned (more than once) that Fred Meijer is a lot more fun in retirement than when he was running the family’s multimillion one-stop shopping enterprise on a day-to-day basis.

Evidence of that surfaced again last week when Fred and Lena Meijer welcomed guests to the Frederik Meijer Gardens to explain what’s in store for the 95 as-yet-undeveloped acres of land near East Beltline Avenue and Bradford Street.

And that’s what a Meijer public appearance becomes these days—kind of an informal get together where every knows (or at least seems to know) each other and they share a few laughs.

The story of the expansion is on page 7 today, but here are a few of the unscripted Fred-isms that make Mr. Meijer so popular with the masses.

Fred on flowers: “I love flowers to look at, as long as I don’t have to do the work.”

Fred on the October opening of the sculpture park: “We’re going to have as many living artists that are willing to pay their own way to come.”

Fred on the Gardens’ master plan: “I’m sorry it will take 10 to 20 years to do, because some of us won’t make it that long.”

Despite the odds, we’re hoping that 81-year-old Fred does.

And here’s why. After the applause for his remarks died down, Meijer apparently was tipped off to the Fed’s rate cut and subsequent stock market surge. He walked back, grabbed the microphone again, shared the news of a 400-point upswing on the Dow, and then announced, “Now, let’s go make some money.”

See, he’s a lot more fun now.

  • Holland officials reluctantly began condemnation proceedings against H&B Service, a long-standing automobile service facility on West 8th Street in downtown Holland late last year after months of appraisals, offers and counter-offers failed to produce an agreement.

H&B is protesting the move as well as the “fair market value” being offered by the city and has hired Grand Rapids attorney John Logie to handle the case.

Logie, who undoubtedly has voted to condemn any number of properties in his role as GRMAYOR obviously fails to see the irony as he refers to the big, bad city of Holland and its use of the condemnation procedure.

City officials initiated the process to make way for the 7th Street transition and an expanded Civic Center as part of the “Western gateway” project.

Now, it can officially be said, that the mayor is willing to stand in the way of progress.

As long as it’s not progress in his own backyard.

  • Problems with China? Not as far as West Michigan is concerned.

When asked last week about the spy plane fiasco, the foreign trade issue and relations and questions from West Michigan constituents concerning China, Jeanne Englehart of Congressman Vern Ehlers’ staff said the world’s most populous country has been rendered irrelevant in the minds of West Michigan dwellers.

“No questions about China,” she said. “What everybody from here wants to talk about is President Bush’s faith-based initiatives.”

She said Ehlers was allowed to bring one representative from West Michigan to Washington to testify to legislators regarding funding issues.

That would be like telling one of your many children that only he or she could go to Disney World and the rest had to stay home.

For the record, Ehlers asked Bethany Christian Services to represent the Third District in Washington.

  • Michigan’s foray into the field of high technology gets a little more perspective based on the results of a University of Michigan study issued recently.

The study found that the U.S. automotive industry generates another four jobs for every worker it directly employs.

While more than 1.3 million Americans are directly employed in the automotive industry, another 5.3 million are working at “indirect” jobs ranging from suppliers to the businesses where auto-related employees spend their money.

The more than 6.6 million U.S. workers linked to the auto industry, by the way, represent a total greater than the population of 38 states.

Leading the list, of course, is Michigan, with just over 1 million jobs that can be considered “auto-related,” plus another 260,000 pinned directly to the manufacture and sale of new vehicles.

With statistics like these, it’s no wonder Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO Doug Rothwell is pushing for an influx of high tech workers into the Wolverine State.

  • When the 2004 Summer Olympic Games roll around, look for a West Michigan connection that might be a little surprising.

Rockford residents Dan and KellyTrierweiler have signed on as sponsors of Olympic dressage competitor Christine Traurig, who was part of the U.S. Dressage Team that won a bronze medal in Sydney last summer.

Earlier this year, the Trierweilers purchased a stallion named Cordino 5 that they hope will team with Traurig to qualify for the 2004 Games.

“We have tremendous respect for Christine and for the effort she displayed on behalf of the United States at Sydney,” said Kelly Trierweiler. “Her skill as a rider was exceeded only by her compassion for her team partner, her horse Etienne.”

Traurig needed some help after her previous sponsor, former Levi Strauss Inc. CEO Robert Haas, decided to sell Etienne immediately following the 2000 Olympics.

Trierweiler, who along with partner Bill Bishop spent the past 34 years building the Burger King name in West Michigan, became acquainted with Traurig when his wife participated in several dressage clinics at Timerland Farm in Lowell, where the Olympian was instructing dressage competitors.

One thing led to another, and now, if things go according to plan, West Michigan has another Olympic connection to look forward to in 2004.

“Stepping in to help this dedicated athlete was our honor,” said Kelly Trierweiler.

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