Oh What A Tangled Web

June 13, 2002
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And you think you’ve got a problem with your Web site?

Whatever that technical glitch might be, it pales in comparison to what the Grand Rapids Hoops are going through.

The city’s Continental Basketball Association entry a few weeks ago sent out a press release indicating that its Web site, www.grhoops.com, was down.

Well, there’s “down,” and then there’s “kidnapped, tied up, taken away and held for ransom.”

The Hoops would be somewhere south of the latter.

Seems that good old IsiahThomas has again stung the city’s oldest minor league sports franchise. The former CBA commissioner who drove the 55-year-old league into bankruptcy in just over one season apparently wasn’t too much of a detail guy, either.

When the Hoops’ Internet domain name agreement came up for renewal, the request was sent to the league offices, where it was promptly ignored.

But apparently the dark forces on the Web were waiting, and when the renewal time period expired, they sprang into action.

Call up www.grhoops.com now and — voila! — welcome to The Adult Movie Network.

“I know,” said a dejected Hoops public relations executive, DanielleChartraw. “We’ve had many, many, many calls.”

It would seem that after Isiah neglected yet another of the league’s duties, the purveyors of porn pounced. Now, an unsuspecting visitor to the former Hoops site will find himself trapped in a never-ending series of pop-up windows, each touting something even more explicit than the last.

The Hoops, meanwhile, are working on securing a new domain name, and Chartraw, GM SteveProject, CEO JoelLanglois and the rest of the staff are doing their best to explain the situation to anyone who might listen.

  • Surely few folks around town are looking as intensely for any glimmer of good economic news than those in the office furniture industry, which is mired in what’s shaping up as the worst annual sales downturn since orders and shipments were first tracked 30 years ago.

Executive Director TomReardon said BIFMA, the Grand Rapids-based Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association, expects to issue a downgraded sales forecast for the year any day now. The association reports that industry-wide shipments during the second quarter fell 19 percent from the same period a year ago. Orders for the quarter were off 16 percent, according to BIFMA.

That quarter coincides with a national economy that saw “slow growth or lateral movement,” according the U.S. Federal Reserve’s “Beige Book” that details economic conditions.

The report offers a couple of notes that are of importance to the office furniture industry:

1) That continued weakness in manufacturing spilled over into other sectors of the economy, including the demand for office space;

2) That commercial real estate markets softened in several Federal Reserve districts during June and July.

On a year-to-date basis, industry-wide office furniture shipments were down 9 percent as of June 30 and orders were off 14 percent. If that trend continues, the 2000 sales downturn would surpass that experienced during the 1991 recession and would become the worst downturn the industry has seen.

  • Was it a good day for the Great Lakes, or an orchestrated political event designed to boost Lt. Gov. DickPosthumus’ expected run for Gov. JohnEngler’s job next year?

Perhaps it was both.

Nobody can legitimately deny the new state law, authored by Republican Sen. KenSikkema of Grandville, designed to combat the introduction of foreign species into the Great Lakes isn’t a good idea.

Yet why was it necessary for the bill-signing ceremony to occur while Engler was out of the state attending a National Governors Association meeting, allowing Posthumus to do the honors? Pure coincidence? Or was it a way to boost the standing of the lieutenant governor on a potentially vulnerable issue — the environment — as we head toward an election year?

  • The Gerald R. Ford Museum is losing its director, but is gaining the man himself — at least for a day.

Word has it that GeraldFord, the 38th U.S. president, will be in town Friday for the unveiling of an exhibit honoring Abraham Lincoln.

But while Ford is coming, RichardNortonSmith is going.

Smith, who has been in Grand Rapids since 1996 and also has served as director of the Hoover, Eisenhower and Reagan libraries, this time is hooking up with a presidential also-ran, BobDole

Smith, who is executive director of the Gerald R. Ford Foundation and a Distinguished Professor of Presidential History at Grand Valley State University, will become the first director of the Robert J. Dole Institute of Public Policy and Public Service at the University of Kansas in Lawrence on Dec. 1.

“These have been wonderful years for the Ford Museum and Library,” said Ford in response to the news. “And while I am naturally disappointed by Richard’s decision, I take heart from his continuing availability to me and to the Ford Foundation in an advisory role. On a personal note, Betty and I admire Richard’s achievements and cherish his friendship. We look forward to enjoying any more years of each.”

The Dole Institute will be housed in a 28,000-square-foot structure on the Kansas campus.

“Difficult as it is to leave Grand Rapids, I’m excited by the prospect of starting something new,” Smith said. “For the first time in my career, I will be in a position to help build, define, staff and program an institution from its inception. At the same time, I have no intention of severing my ties to Grand Rapids or to the Fords, the most honorable people I know. None of what has been achieved these last five and a half years would have been possible without their enthusiasm and support.”

DennisDaellenbach, library/museum director, and the museum staff will carry on Smith’s work in Grand Rapids. Smith will remain as a trustee on the Ford Foundation board.

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