Getting Postal

December 2, 2002
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The Nov. 11 issue of Grand Rapids Business Journal Street Talk followed the coursing conversations of hotel planning debates through the canyons of downtown, identifying who owns what — and how they use it. From the Blue Bridge Ventures plan for Hotel Calder Plaza to the purchase of Olds Manor (across Michigan Street from the new DeVos Place convention center) by Amway co-founder Rich DeVos, the curbside view of this hotel monopoly game includes all the family names.

Some elected city leaders who have tilted at the well-used moniker, however, apparently set that stage, believing appearances would serve to cover plans of a different sort, emanating from the bowels of the backrooms — at City Hall. Indeed, the Business Journal has learned that GRMAYOR was among the first to hit the street seeking support to up and move the downtown U.S. Post Office, despite national moratoriums on new buildings and other spending, despite the fact that two ZIP codes are served by the Post Office's area-wide distribution facility, despite the loss of city income tax revenue (conservatively estimated at more than $526,000). Indeed, we're told that the cry of city servants to become pseudo developers began even before Peter Secchia sold the Olds to DeVos. (And Secchia sent the first frowny face we've seen, underscoring a note: "I have never used my political contributions or party contacts for personal gain. I have no business with the state or United States Government," and further, nor does anyone on his staff or that of Rich DeVos.

Meanwhile, Business Journal sources still say, "the post office will move" and the Olds will become a hotel complemented by a "mini" convention center … and no one can say Jack.

  • Big Fight: Not since Avon tried bear-hugging Amway have we seen greater interest in a (Wall) street fight. Not since Christie's have we used the name Alfred Taubman. Grand Rapids has a couple of dogs in this fight, the Taubman-owned Woodland Shopping Center, and its would-be suitor, General Growth Properties (RiverTown Crossings Mall).

Grand Rapidians sound breathless in discussing the hostile takeover attempt currently being fought by the largest of U.S. shopping center developer, Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc., likely because of its breathless offer of more than $3.85 billion (B-illion) for Bloomfield Hills-based Taubman Centers. The more the Taubman family squirms, the more Simon offers Taubman shareholders. The voracity of the takeover attempt is said to have piqued the interest of other mall owners, including Chicago-based General Growth, perhaps creating a bidding war.

The fear: Taubman developments are classy; Simon properties are said to be less so. Then again, if Woodland has a new owner, can Grand Rapids get the deal with Lord & Taylor signed?

  • With Thanksgiving in the books, the next season up is everyone's favorite: the office holiday party.

While many save that last vacation day of the year for just such an occasion, those who haven't planned ahead and are required to attend can expect a "different" holiday party this season.

Why? Because many companies this year lost money — and employees — and festive doesn't rate the top slot on this year's list of vocabulary words.

So here are two questions: Can you plan a festive office party on a tight budget? Is it better to have an inexpensive celebration than none at all?

The answer to both questions, according to LizHughes, OfficeTeam executive director, is yes.

But the emphasis should be on staff recognition.

"Employees realize that budgets are tight in the current economy and that gatherings may not be as lavish as in previous years," she said. "But having some type of event can show appreciation for hard work, boost staff morale and reinforce the cohesiveness of the team — all of which can build staff motivation and retention."

To that end, here are some suggestions for planning a low-cost event:

  • Keep it small. Company-wide events can be difficult and costly to plan. If your firm has decided not to hold an event, see if individual departments can have their own celebrations.
  • Watch what you eat. Not every holiday party needs to revolve around a five-course dinner. Less expensive options include a potluck with appetizers and desserts.
  • Offer words, not gifts. Instead of holding a gift exchange among employees, plan a card exchange instead. Encourage each person to describe one thing they appreciate about that individual's work over the last year. Recognition doesn't need to come from managers to be significant; a co-worker's kind words can have just as much impact.
  • Volunteer. Replace a formal party with a group volunteer outing. Organize the staff to serve meals at a shelter, sort gifts at a toy drive or visit a local school to bring needed supplies.
  • Keep it social. The point of your gathering is to thank your staff for their hard work and reinforce your recognition of the team throughout the year. Focus on building teamwork and camaraderie and keep business talk to a minimum.

And above all, enjoy the holiday party season.      

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