A Real Coup

June 14, 2002
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Import and export statistics show that the Grand Rapids business community is becoming more interested in trade with companies from abroad. Grand Valley State University's Van Andel Global Trade Center says that trade seminars put on by the organization are filling up more quickly than ever before.

So it seems that DixieAnderson, executive director of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan, has scored a real coup with confirmation that EhudBarak, former prime minister of Israel, has accepted an invitation to speak at the organization's 52nd anniversary dinner.

"I can't think of anyone more topical right now," Anderson said. "Here is a world leader who will have some amazing things to say about what's happening now in Israel and Palestine."

Lawyers say that ex-spouses and ex-employees make the worst sources, because they can't be trusted, but the same doesn't hold true for ex-heads of state.

"I've been doing this for a while, and I've found that a former leader, former ambassador or whatever, as a speaker, makes for a more provocative and insightful program," Anderson said. "They are released from the shackles of following current administration policy and, if they have an axe to grind, usually, with grace and élan, (they) grind!"

The program, which is being underwritten by Grand Valley State University, takes place on Oct. 17. The event is for corporate members, but Anderson said it will be open for general members and the public too.

"This is a huge honor for our local council; a former leader is coming to speak about an area of the world that, to say the least, is a current hotspot," Anderson said.

For ticket information call 776-1721.

  • While Israel and Palestine have fought over borders for years, a border war of a different sort may be brewing on the Lakeshore.

Shareholders' approval of the Bank West and Chemical Bank merger last week will eventually create two more "advisory" boards overseeing the financial institution's operations in different parts of the state. One probably will be based here in Grand Rapids (Chemical Bank West) while the other, with its roots in Shoreline Bank, will work from Benton Harbor. Chemical Financial Corporation will remain based in Midland.

The question becomes: Which one "advises" the Holland area? Shoreline's board will argue that the Holland/Grand Haven corridor is certainly along the "shoreline," although a ways away in terms of miles from Benton Harbor. The Chemical Bank West group will argue that Holland/Grand Haven is part of the West Michigan area and more in tune with Grand Rapids than Benton Harbor.

Stay tuned for this border war.

  • Bank wars should heat up on or about Sept. 15, which, ironically, is the date that the new Chemical Bank West signs and the new Fifth Third Bank signs will be unveiled.

  • It's not only the signs that may be changing, either. Wells Fargo Bank, one of the nation's largest financial institutions, has acquired some banks in northern Michigan. And while northern Michigan is a nice vacation spot for the locals, it's not one of Michigan's largest banking centers. Look for the West Coast-based bank to make its mark in Michigan in either the Detroit area or here in West Michigan.

Huntington Bank would be an attractive acquisition due to its established branch network throughout Michigan. Another target could be — are you ready for this? — Chemical Bank, which is now the fourth-largest bank in Michigan.

Don't get too used to those new signs.

  • A sign of change is coming at the Charlevoix Club in Cascade Township. A battle over taxes has come to a close and Cascade Treasurer MaryCarpenter has secured Miedema Auctioneering's services to sell the business's personal property assets. Funds raised will pay back taxes and attorney fees the township incurred attempting to collect those taxes, Carpenter said.

The process was more difficult than a typical tax sale, according to Carpenter, because the new owner, LarryKnowles, is planning to re-equip and furnish the facility and immediately reopen the club. Knowles already has invested in new equipment that is scheduled to be delivered as soon as the auctioned items are removed.

ScottMiedema, co-owner of Miedema Auctioneering, said the process should be a quick one.

"This auction will give people the chance to buy everything they would want for a home gym facility, or give other health clubs or restaurants a chance to buy this equipment at no minimum or reserve bids — the highest bidder at the auction will purchase it regardless of price."

The auction begins at 10 a.m., Thursday, Sept. 13, at the club, 3030 Charlevoix Drive in Cascade Township. Inspections can be made from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Sept. 12.

Carpenter said she hopes the auction generates enough revenue to pay the tax and attorney bills in full, and any balance will be paid to secured creditors.

  • Small business owners hope the Michigan Quarter Commission will make a "cents-sible" decision on Michigan's commemorative quarter and approve an entrepreneurial symbol for the coin.

"From fur traders to the first auto pioneers, small business owners are the one who built Michigan's economy," said MikeRogers, vice president of communications for the Small Business Association of Michigan.

Rogers said he hopes Gov. JohnEngler will appoint small business representatives to the 25-member Michigan Quarter Commission this fall. The commission will accept designs and Engler will select finalists after June 1, 2002.

"We encourage small business owners to give us their two cents' worth on what they think the symbol should look like," Rogers said.

Quarter symbol ideas should be e-mailed to sbam@sbam.org

Rogers said SBAM will forward the ideas to the Michigan Quarter Commission.

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