Legislature Invests In Business

January 17, 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

  • The Michigan Legislature has convened with House Speaker Gary Owens promising that Michigan’s $54 million Strategic Investment Fund — meant to provide incentives for expansion of businesses — is a top priority for lawmakers.

  • United Community Bank, of Wayland, has announced that thanks to deregulation it is establishing itself in the Grand Rapids market. The firm has seven branches in four counties but, according to Vice President Bonnie Miller, none really was growing, hence the decision to come to Grand Rapids to target small businesses and professional firms.

“We have been dealing with that segment of the market from arm’s length for about four years,” she added.

  • Rumors of the demise of Williams and Works were as far off base as they could be, even though the company had to sell its headquarters and lay off about 180 people thanks to the collapse of the public works construction and engineering market.

In fact, Chairman Ted Williams said the sale of the company headquarters on Cascade West Parkway to an Illinois venture group for $3.5 million has given W&W a boost.

“For the last two years we’ve been struggling quite a bit,” Williams told the Business Journal. “But we have that turned around now and are profitable. The sale has given us capital for operating. It’s a Chrysler kind of story here in Grand Rapids.”

  • Lear Siegler Instruments has honored Wilbert G. Mellinger as its 1983 Total Manager, citing his commitment to developing policies and guidelines.

Mellinger is manager of salaried personnel and has been with LSI for 22 years.

  • Union Bank has opened a new branch at 4366 Alpine Ave. NW. Ken Olson is manager and Ruby Hoeksma is senior assistant. The contractor for the new building was Kirk W. Rottschafter Builders and the architect was Post Associates. The branch features Union’s first drive-up window.

Fifteen Years Ago

  • The director of research for the corporate offices of Rodman and Renshaw, Chicago, told the Business Journal that October’s so-called stock market meltdown could unsettle the market for a long time to come. He predicted that the Dow Jones Industrial Average could jump to 2,400 points this year, but possibly bottom out at 1,650, lower than the 1,738-point average on Black Monday.

  • Howard Cooper, Steelcase’s 47-year-old senior vice president for marketing and product development, died Jan. 10 at his home in Cascade Township. He was stricken by a heart attack. Cooper was instrumental in developing the Steelcase Japan Ltd. joint venture in the early 1970s.

  • Neil A. Dick, executive vice president for Greiner Inc. has been named the Grand Rapids Jaycees Boss of the Year. He came to Grand Rapids in 1983 to take over management of Daverman Associates which, five years later, assumed the name of its parent firm. Dick is on the board of trustees of Grand Rapids Art Museum, the Kendall College Board and the board of the AIDS Foundation of Kent County.

  • Robert Hodge is turning in his key as director of the Grand Center. He is vacating the $53,000-a-year post to man the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg, Fla.

“The challenge of helping turn this thing around was too much to resist,” he said referring to his new position. “St. Petersburg is involved in a downtown reconstruction project and I’d like to be a part of that.”

  • Like a puzzle, the pieces of the Research and Technology Center of West Michigan are falling into place. The institute took a significant step forward when Bruce A Chubb was named president. He is the former vice president of research and development for Smiths Industries and will meld the final shape of the organization designed to fill the absence of a major research university in West Michigan.

Once the components of the RTC are on line, local industry will have access to state-of-the-art research facilities, technical instruction and graduate engineering courses operated by a consortium of Grand Valley State, Michigan State, Western Michigan and Ferris State universities and Grand Rapids Community College.

  • The West Michigan Environmental Action Council has appointed Rick Newberry as its new executive director. He replaces Frank Ruswick. Newberry has been with the council four years and has directed its oil recycling program and its research on solid and hazardous waste. His big challenge now is raising funds for the  $1 million endowment the council wants to establish.

  • A third preferred provider — Metrocare National, of Portland, Ore. — is expected to open in Grand Rapids late this month. Metrocare, which manages seven other PPOs in the country, will offer a family health plan through Butterworth Hospital and doctors on the Butterworth staff. It will be marketed by Employee Benefit Administrators.

The PPO will be the second to begin operations here this month. Partners National Health Plans is offered through Butterworth, Metropolitan and Pine Rest Christian hospitals and about 160 physicians.

Ten Years Ago

  • Jeffrey Grotsky, Grand Rapids school superintendent, said in his state of the schools’ address that the district needs a new funding scheme to improve buildings and add staff to seven inner city schools without penalizing the rich schools.

“We have schools in the district (where) kids just don’t perform as well and schools that just don’t look as good,” he said. “The children come from very poor families; some of the families are disenfranchised. They have greater social needs.”

He said with extra money, target schools could add teachers to make classes smaller, hire counselors to handle increased social problems, or buy technology that frees up teachers to spend more time with students — in effect, leveling the playing field between the target schools and their richer counterparts.

  • Grand Rapids city officials say the national restaurant chain Spaghetti Warehouse this month will close a $200,000 purchase of an abandoned railroad yard warehouse at 201 Ionia SW near the U.S. 131 expressway.

The city says the restaurant firm plans to spend $1.6 million to renovate the reddish, low-slung building, giving a shot in the arm to plans to revitalize Oldtown. Spaghetti Warehouse has made such investments all over the country, usually redeveloping structures that have been out of use for long periods of time.

  • Blodgett Memorial Medical Center announced that it will reduce the services of its poison center, eliminating access to the 517 and 906 area codes. People in the 616 area code still will have access to the system. Blodgett’s executive vice president, Bruce Hagen, said the decision was based on the state’s failure to renew $177,000 in funding. The medical center has operated the center without the subsidy since 1991, but says it no longer can afford so large a program.
  • Comerica Inc. and First of Michigan Capital Corp. have signed an agreement in which Comerica will acquire all the outstanding common stock of First of Michigan.

Founded as a broker-dealer in 1933, First of Michigan — which employs 500 people — is one of the nation’s oldest regional investment banking firms and is one of the largest Michigan-based securities underwriters.

  • Thomas Maguire, international trade representative at the Grand Rapids office of the Foreign Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce, announced that a trade seminar will take place here next month.

The session, to be at the Applied Technology Center at Grand Rapids Community College, will focus on the possibilities and realities of doing business in the global market.

Among the speakers will be Stephen Thuiry, export manager at Knape & Vogt Manufacturing; Hildegard Adkins, assistant vice president for international banking, Old Kent Bank; and Dan Van Dyke, partner with Price, Heneveld, Cooper, DeWitt and Litton.

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