Newsmaker Scenes

January 20, 2003
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When the Business Journal reveals its annual Newsmaker of the Year Award at Downtown Rotary, no one knows beforehand who the winner will be.

So it’s always good to be prepared. GVSU Dean DavidMielke, for example, had a nice red rose in his lapel at the luncheon. Parmenter O’Toole partner ChrisKelly wore a stylish suit.

And Muskegon Mayor SteveWarmington brought darn near the whole Muskegon City Commission, plus a few elected and appointed officials.

That’s good, because when the Muskegon SmartZone project won this year’s award, there were plenty of people to high-five.

“Didn’t they do The Wave, too?” one wag joked.

Not quite, but the enthusiasm generated by the announcement of the winner was indicative of the entire partnership, which included the city of Muskegon, GVSU, Parmenter O’Toole, Siemens Corp. and Muskegon Area First. They cheered at the announcement of Muskegon getting a SmartZone. They slapped high-fives at the Siemens plan. And they were all smiles Thursday.

“These people are going to celebrate for a month,” said MikeKirby, who was representing Siemens at the luncheon. “I’ve worked with them on this project and I’ve never seen this type of enthusiasm. They really deserve this.”

The party reportedly started when the Muskegon contingent retired to Bob’s Bar after the luncheon, ostensibly to talk about more economic development issues.

Kirby said the project, with so many different partners, could have fallen apart countless times.

“But it didn’t. They worked hard to get it done,” he said. “And I’ll tell you something else. This would not have gotten done without BirgitKlohs.”

The Right Place Program’s president was instrumental in making sure everyone worked together and that Siemens had all the opportunities in the world to succeed.

“I’ll tell you what, that’s one lady who understands economic development. She looks at the big picture. You guys have got one bright lady here, and you’re lucky to have her.”

Klohs’ counterpart and compatriot at Muskegon Area First, ToddBattle, said he often fields questions about his job function. “People say, ‘So, you’re in economic development. What do you do?’ Well, this is what we do,” Battle said.

Kelly may have summed up the cooperative efforts best when he told the Rotary crowd of the difficulties the partners had to overcome.

“A variety of miracles have occurred over the last four years,” he said, “not the least of which was getting 19 lawyers to agree on something.”

After Warmington asked the Muskegon city commissioners and officials in attendance to stand and be recognized, Kelly, whose firm represents the city, got off the best one-liner of the day.

“Boy, I hope we don’t run into any Open Meetings Act trouble over this.”

  • There was no smoking gun, so PeterSecchia is gone. So is Gov. JohnEngler

Coincidence? Maybe. But the former U.S. Ambassador to Italy and chairman of Universal Forest Products Inc. took a seat on the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Board of Directors to “find out what was going on” and see if his political expertise could be of service.

Apparently the Blues board, which Engler wanted restructured, is working all right. So prior to leaving office, Engler appointed Williamston resident StephenTerry to the Blues board. He replaces Secchia as a representative of retirees over the age of 62.

Terry, a certified public accountant by trade, ostensibly is a better fit because numbers crunching will be required in the coming months. But Secchia’s beloved Michigan State University connection is not lost, as Terry was the assistant vice president of finance at MSU from 1967 to 1998. Terry’s term will end in February 2004.

Secchia, presumably, will spend some time on the home front fighting a casino 30 minutes south of downtown Grand Rapids.

  • What’s cookin’ at Grand Rapids Community College? Glad you asked.

The former head of GRCC’s culinary arts program, AndrewRaschid, left in May. Now a replacement has been found in RandySahajdack, who will assume the title of program director for the Hospitality Education Department.

One of his first tasks will be to help coordinate Tuesday’s Grand Culinary Affair, put on by sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine, where the area’s Restaurant of the Year will be revealed as part of the magazine’s annual Dining Awards.

  • When a car took out a power transformer in the Ada/Cascade area early last week, it almost took out WOOD TV8’s business news segment, too. The resulting power outage left business anchor AnneSchieber’s vehicle trapped in the garage, held hostage by an electric garage door opener without juice.

Schieber, who is nowhere near the tallest player on WOOD TV8’s team, had to rouse her husband, Assistant Kent County Prosecutor DavidSchieber, for an assist at an ungodly hour.

Husband supplied the strength and wife broke most land speed records to get downtown, arriving moments before Marketwatch hit the airwaves. As they say in TV land, the show went on.

  • High-speed ferry service returns to Lake Michigan this spring, when a new Grand Rapids company rolls out a 180-foot catamaran that will make regular runs between St. Joseph and Waukegan, Ill.

LEF Corp. plans to initially offer passenger service on the 350-passenger “Voyager  111”and then put a new car-carrying catamaran into operation in the spring of 2004. The trip across the southern tip of Lake Michigan would take about an hour and 50 minutes, LEF spokeswoman GayleEvans said, cutting about 100 miles off a person’s drive around along the heavily traveled freeways leading to and from Chicago.           

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