2002 Review May and June

December 27, 2002
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May

As Grand Rapids focused on China as a partner for World Trade Week, small businesses were focusing on an entirely different matter: insurance premiums. An SBAM survey showed that four years of double-digit premium hikes was taking its toll on small businesses, some of which were considering doing away with health insurance for employees or simply packing it in altogether.

In other health news, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation presented Spectrum Health with a $6.25 million gift to speed up planning for a new outpatient cancer-treatment center across from the health system’s Butterworth campus in downtown Grand Rapids. Preliminary cost of the center was $35 million to $40 million.

Also expanding was one of West Michigan’s retail apparel giants. Rogers Department Store President Dan Hurwitz announced that his family was planning a 54,000-square-foot upscale retail center on nine acres near I-96 at 1100 East Paris Ave. The complex, called Terrazzo, hoped to have a dozen fine shops, distinctive dining, chic goods and upscale services.

In a little news of our own, Grand Rapids Business Journal was given the statewide Excellence In Business Journalism Award by the MEDC during a ceremony in Lansing.

On the legal front, Eugene Smary, of Warner Norcross & Judd, was named chair of the American Bar Association’s section of Environmental, Energy and Resources. Smary is the first Michigan resident to chair the ABA’s EER section and is the first Grand Rapids resident ever to chair any ABA section.

On the Lakeshore, the news was all good during the first part of the month. State officials were paying attention to Muskegon’s SmartZone high-tech business park that will focus on fuel cell and alternative energy research and development. A state program called NextEnergy should help with that development, according to the MEDC.

In the manufacturing sector, Donnelly Corp. surprised Wall Street analysts and reported net income of 32 cents per share for the quarter, far outpacing the 14 cents per share estimates on Wall Street.

Closer to home, the fallout from the national Enron Corp. collapse hit Grand Rapids when Ernst & Young purchased the audit practices of the local office of Arthur Andersen LLP. The consulting arm of the business was not included in the deal, however.

A pair of local firms probably could do some consulting of their own, especially when it comes to success stories. The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce honored Mor Electric Heating Associates Inc. and Professional Benefits Services with its Small Business of the Year awards.

Another success story announced it was coming to town when Krispy Kreme revealed plans for three locations in the metro area. The first of those stores to open, at East Beltline Avenue and 28th Street SE, was still drawing long lines of customers as the year closed.

The Holland Chamber’s People-Friendly Work Place Award winner had a sweet hook, too: five weeks of paid vacation to start. That, along with other benefits, earned Sordal Inc. the honor. At the same time, Holland’s Dan Driesenga of Driesenga & Associates won statewide honors as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Michigan Small Business Person of the Year.

The lending community was jolted by — and took exception to — an MSU study that suggested racial discrimination was apparent during the home mortgage application process.

The Ford Airport also was tested, as the Transportation Security Administration selected it as the first facility in the country to implement a procedure for 100 percent baggage screening by explosives detection systems.

Hometown Allegan bested South Carolina when Perrigo Research and Development Co. chose to expand its laboratory here rather than building a new one in the South.

A change in the Arena Football League’s season schedule had officials worried about a loss of revenue at Van Andel Arena, as the Rampage would now play their season from February through June, instead of from April through August. The change had officials expecting a revenue loss of more than $100,000.

June

Health insurers scrambled to curb escalating premiums by floating a plan that would offer clients deductibles on their health insurance, which would result in employees picking up more of the cost of their health benefits but may help employers begin to get a handle on skyrocketing premiums.

Harvey Gainey put his business experience to use by guiding the Broadway Theater Guild back into the black after the troubled nonprofit experienced problems with leadership and board oversight. Gainey helped eliminate a $465,000 shortfall in just a few months and the Broadway season went on as planned.

Ford Airport landed its first federal security director when U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta tabbed John Mumma for the post, which oversees all federal security operations at the facility.

The last large parcel on 28th Street changed hands when Hund-Fink Acquisitions came to terms with National Amusements on the nearly 120-acre site that is home to Showcase Cinemas. The developers plan to turn the tract into a mixed-use project with office, retail, restaurants and a hotel. The deal is scheduled to close Jan. 2.

The city of Grand Rapids also made a change, and for the first time since its inception in 1992, the Minority and Women Business Enterprise program will cover all acquisition categories — construction, goods, professional services and non-professional services.

Farmington Hills-based Care Choices decided to pull the plug on its commercial HMO in West Michigan, leaving other health insurers to do battle over its 30,000 members in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties. Arrangements were made with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to cover members in the interim.

Muskegon got its first charge out of its SmartZone when Siemens Corp. announced a $34 million deal to partner with GVSU to develop a fuel-cell research center as well as build a fuel-cell generating plant that will provide electricity to the business park. It was hoped the deal would draw more interest from national companies looking to locate in the park.

For the first time ever, West Michigan got its own Entrepreneur of the Year awards competition. The event, sponsored by Ernst & Young, selected seven local finalists who will compete nationally for the EOY honor. They were Carol Burgess and Carol Smith of Great Lakes Scrip Center, John Kennedy of Autocam Corp., Lyle Labardee of Crisis Care Network, Dan Driesenga of Driesenga & Associates, Jerry Engle of CPR, Fred Keller of Cascade Engineering and Richard Haworth of Haworth Inc.

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