The Grand Plan

June 21, 2002
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The area’s boutique banks are thriving in the shadows of their big (national) brothers, maybe even to the point where the granddaddy of the genre might be being courted by a larger suitor.

Grand Bank, the hometown institution that showed the upstarts how business gets done in the land of the giants, apparently is being wooed by another Michigan-based bank.

GregDodgson, a financial consultant with Kent King Securities and a longtime Business Journal columnist, says something’s in the wind.

“Maybe they’re just going through the protocol (of an offer), but word on the street has it that Grand Bank is being bought by another Michigan-based bank.”

Dodgson still was making calls early last week to track down the principals, but his analysis of the situation is that it’s a bit odd, to say the least.

“I’ve called a few of the banks and it’s not them,” he said, referring to the potential buyer. “Maybe ChuckStoddard got an offer he can’t refuse, in terms of his shareholders. When you’re board chairman and bank president, you have to look at all offers.”

Dodgson said Grand Bank’s solid stature in the community would make it an attractive pickup, but it would have to be the right kind of fit.

“I wouldn’t think it would be the national guys, because there’s only one (branch),” he said. When asked whether another upstart, like Mercantile Bank, would be a possibility, Dodgson dismissed them, too.

“All I heard was that it’s a Michigan bank. I’ve made some calls, but I can’t figure it out yet.”

  • When Calvin College introduced its New Millennium/West Michigan luncheon in 1998 the intent was to annually bring in someone who could focus on important issues that affect both the West Michigan region and the United States.

Mission accomplished for 2002.

Treasury Secretary PaulO’Neill will be the speaker for the April 15, 2002, event (the talk is annually held on Tax Day as Calvin’s attempt to prove that “some good things do happen on Tax Day”).

O'Neill will address an expected audience of 800 invited guests in an event sponsored by Calvin, the Economics Club of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

Calvin officials are excited about the talk.

“We’re very pleased that Secretary O’Neill accepted our offer to be the 2002 speaker,” said President GaylenByker. “We’ve always seen this annual luncheon as an opportunity for West Michigan business leaders and opinion makers to hear from someone with a global perspective on the important issues of the day. O’Neill is such a person. I’m looking forward to hearing him speak.”

O'Neill’s speaking has drawn widespread media interest since his appointment 11 months ago. He is often blunt and plain in his pronouncements and that approach has earned him some criticism. An Oct. 2 profile in the New York Times was headlined “Ad-Libbing His Way Into Trouble” and took a closer look at O’Neill’s predilection for speaking his mind as secretary. The profile also noted that, despite the criticisms, many supporters in Congress and the Bush administration argue that his no-nonsense approach is invaluable.

It’s nice that West Michigan’s decision-makers will be able to judge for themselves.

  • BillBowling, chairman of Grubb & Ellis/Paramount Properties, has been in the real estate business since 1977 and as such could be considered the “Dean of Downtown.”

His comments appear today in a story on page 3 regarding office space. But the real estate professional also had plenty of other opinions. On more recent headlines, Bowling had this to say:

“I believe that when the planes crashed into the skyscrapers on Sept. 11 that it signaled two things: 1) people are not going to be included to build the tallest building in a city since that could become a target and 2) I think we are going to see a lot of major corporations make a decision to be headquartered in the suburbs in three-story sprawling buildings as opposed to one 60-story building downtown.”

Closer to home, the new M-6 will have an impact on real estate.

“I think that 28th Street will come under a lot of pressure as the new South Beltline goes in. A whole new string of industrial parks, offices and retail centers will line the South Beltline, which obviously will put vacancy pressure on 28th Street.”

Finally, Bowling offers his take on plans for a new Grand Rapids Art Museum on the Wurzburg block.

“Putting a museum on the Wurzburg block today appears to be decision that has already been made. Frankly, I had one chance to vote on it and I let it pass without voting against it, but I think it’s safe to say that a public building, especially this one, will draw limited traffic to it, creating rather limited parking needs, creating rather limited restaurant needs and limited retail needs. I’m not against the use, but I am stating that it is certainly not the highest and best use of that property. A major office building and hotel complex there would generate density, more people to use the retail facilities downtown and more excitement.”

  • Speaking of excitement, The Right Place Program President BirgitKlohs says Entrepreneur.com and Dun & Bradstreet’s 8th annual Best Cities For Entrepreneurs list is generating some locally.

Among the large cities category, Grand Rapids ranks 24th, right behind (tie) Salt Lake City and Nashville, and just ahead of Memphis. No. 1 in the category is a tie between Orlando and Dallas.

Even more impressive, Grand Rapids ranks No. 2 among the top entrepreneurial cities in the Midwest, trailing only Minneapolis-St. Paul.

“That’s pretty darn nice company that we’re keeping,” Klohs said.

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