This Week In Journal History

January 13, 2003
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Grand Rapids Business Journal is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a little history of its own. Throughout the year, the Journal will revisit significant events that occurred each week 20, 15 and 10 years ago. For longtime Grand Rapidians, this is a chance to test historical trivia. For newcomers, it’s a chance to “catch up” with everyone else.

Twenty Years Ago

  • Talk with Ray Kisor about anyone else’s business he’s handling and the phone goes dead. But a recent visit to his new offices found Kisor with new partner Jim Streeter — and in a talkative mood.

Kisor has joined up with some old pals in the Waters Building to form Kisor/Streeter Associates. He has switched from free-agent status at Dodgson Realty, where he is credited with the Bishop Building and Furniture Company Building developments, GVSC’s recent riverbank acquisitions, multiple Monroe Mall leasings and numerous commercial and industrial coups.

Rounding out the new partnership are Steve Clause, comptroller, and Ron Sabin, contractor.

  • New officers for the Western Michigan Chapter of the Financial Executives Institute are F. Douglas Bison of Clarage Fan, president; Richard C. Simkins of Knape and Vogt, first vice-president; Ernest F. Tonsmeire of Wolverine World Wide, second vice president; William L. Waanders of Old Kent Bank, secretary; and David A. Walborn of Westran, treasurer.

  • Long-anticipated shifts at Daverman Associates — beset with problems of sagging business and staff layoffs — have begun occurring with the arrival of Neil Dick, the firm’s new chairman.

Dick was sent to the Grand Rapids architecture firm by Daverman’s parent company, Systems Planning Group. And one of the reasons for that decision, he said, was that, “Daverman has not been doing a thorough job of grooming an executive hierarchy. They were very good at developing the technical staff, but not administration and management.”

Daverman is the only architecture firm in the SPG family, whose main expertise is engineering.

  • Benefit managers at eight companies with 1,500 employees have been claiming savings with the aid of Home Care Inc. The firm, operated by Jane Esenwein McCreary, says it offers a “comprehensive program to coordinate home health services for employer group medical plans.”

Charging $16 per employee per year, Home Care intervenes in a claimed case to consult or manage the employee’s care, steering the patient to cost-effective resources. Among McCreary’s client firms are Howard Miller, Mueller Furniture, Stephenson & Lawyer, and Riviera Die & Tool.

  • Robert Sokorai, an 18-year sales manager at Rapistan, has been named manager of systems sales and marketing. Working with an eight-member sales force, he will develop support programs for three targeted marketing areas: food distribution, general merchandise and service parts/general systems.

  • A senior partner for the Westbank development group Grand River 1990 says he has figures showing how his project will generate 10 times more tax revenue than the land has produced in years.

He’d better get those numbers out, because mayoral candidate Gerald Helmholdt says his survey shows that a tax-exempt “institution row” on the riverfront is the chief objection of city taxpayers.

Helmholdt hardly needed the polls. Cornered by some irate Ambucs at a candidate forum during the primary, Helmholdt said he agreed the site needed a stronger tax base. Within the hour, GVSC president Don Lubbers was on the phone. Tax-exempt GVSC plans its “Downtown Center” for the site. They met for breakfast the next day and “shared.”

Fifteen Years Ago

  • John Heth, vice president and treasurer of Groskopf’s, likes the fact that shoppers don’t have to tug open a door to enter his store in the City Centre

“It’s a psychological edge,” Heth said. “There’s a whole world of difference when people don’t have to pull open a door to get in.”

He is one of a handful of merchants who have moved off the Monroe Center pedestrian mall and into City Centre. Tenants who have made the switch say the move has paid big dividends. “Traffic has increased incredibly,” Heth said. “This year was the best we’ve ever had downtown. We’re up about 20 percent in volume.”

  • City commissioners may decide on the location of the proposed new public museum as early as Tuesday, Mayor Helmholdt said after last week’s public hearing.

Should the commission decide to locate the museum on the west bank next to the Days Inn, the fate of the “Wurzburg Block” would “absolutely” be reopened for bid, Helmholdt said.

  • Amway’s most recent introduction to its cleaning product line is a bagless vacuum — the CMS-1000 being produced by Bissell Inc., a locally based vacuum manufacturer. The devices will be sold exclusively through Amway distributors.

According to Nancy J. Albers, an Amway public relations analyst, Bissell is producing the vacuum because the firm has the capabilities of making plastics and assembling them with robotics.

  • Owen-Ames-Kimball Co is preparing to enter its second century in West Michigan without something that marked its first — an Owen, an Ames or a Kimball.

Calvin P. Owen, the thread that tied O-A-K to its corporate patriarchs, retired Jan. 1 after a 40-year career, the last 17 as the company’s president. The incoming president, Thomas M. Healy, insists that little will change at the general contracting company that has built most of downtown Grand Rapids.

“We’ve been in business 100 years. We must have been doing something right,” he said. “I don’t see any significant changes in either our planning or our marketing.”

  • One of the nation’s largest freight brokerage firms specializing in international transport has opened an office in Grand Rapids to serve a growing export market. John V. Carr & Sons Inc. of Detroit manages international import and export primarily for manufacturing companies.

  • Grand Rapids’ unemployment rate for last November rose to 5.4 percent, up from 5 percent the previous month. Of the state’s 12 labor markets, 11 showed unemployment increases, with Ann Arbor being the lone exception.

  • You can expect to see significant changes in the way WGVU/WGVK-TV does business soon. So, too, may there be changes at West Michigan Magazine — if it’s around for very long.

Changes at WGVU began immediately after Arend Lubbers appointed Matthew McLogan — a veteran with WOTV — as Grand Valley State University’s first vice president of community relations.

Ten Years Ago

  • Opponents of an Ada Township tax abatement for a $35 million Amway Corp. building are mounting a last-ditch effort to turn around township board members who favor the move.

  • John Canepa, chairman, president and CEO of Old Kent Financial Corp., announced that the firm completed its acquisition of University Financial Corp. of Elgin, Ill. The move officially was completed New Year’s Day. The merger extended the reach of the Grand Rapids-based bank into Chicago’s Fox River Valley suburbs area extending from Aurora to St. Charles.

  • Wolverine World Wide this week filed a patent infringement suit against Nike in Grand Rapids Federal District Court. The allegation is that a Nike line of shoes copied a Wolverine invention called a plastic inner sock.

  • The five Democratic Party members of the Kent County Board of Commissioners complained that the board’s Republican chairwoman, Katherine Kuhn, had not granted any of their committee assignment requests. Kuhn had, however, granted eight of 15 requests given to her by her 14 GOP colleagues on the board.

  • Blodgett Memorial Medical Center was reported to be a step closer to a controversial $150 million plan to build a new facility at Bradford Street and Leffingwell Avenue NE. The reason for the move was to ease crowding at the hospital’s cramped East Grand Rapids campus.

  • The Peck Drugstore building’s rebirth could be the first of many future downtown restorations if some ideas percolating downtown take hold. Public, private and city groups are crafting ways to make it easy to put historic buildings back into use.

The structure anchors downtown’s Monroe Mall at Monroe Center and Division Avenue. The Kent County Council for Historic Preservation is putting together a $1.6 million package of loans and grants to buy and renovate the building that the council had earlier saved from demolition.

  • Peter Colvin, head of leasing for Bridgewater Place, said negotiations are under way with Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. concerning the lease of as much as 13,000 square feet in the tower. The proposed lease would involve about 75 percent of one floor.

The structure’s anchor tenant, the Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt and Howlett law firm, is scheduled to move in during March, the same month the building’s grand opening will take place.           

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