As the (GR) World Turns

April 14, 2003
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Grand Rapids Business Journal this week lays out the facts of the auto world as West Michigan knows it (or will know it). Much has changed in the technology-rich industry, but nothing so much as is described in a thorough analysis by The Right Place Inc.

One million American manufacturing jobs have disappeared overseas over the past 10 years, and the Grand Rapids region has the highest concentration of manufacturing jobs in the country, at 26 percent of total employment.

Right Place insiders say the real problem is that the service sector "isn't getting it," and shrug at the news. While professional services keep the blinders on in making business projections, manufacturers lament with a question: Who do they (service professionals) think is going to provide them business? Is a five-person design-team business going to bring the volume of a major manufacturer? (Hint: They think not.)

  • The Alliance for Health has long provided the advisory role in all matters of health care but its acknowledged expertise was given the big headlines in 1970 when it created the Hillman Commission to bring some order to the very competitive hospital entities for a health facilities study. The panel was named for the revered U.S. District Court Judge Douglas W. Hillman. At the time, Hillman wrote, "As we move into the '70s it appears to be an accepted fact by many authorities that medical care in this country is on the brink of chaos." The panel made numerous recommendations for services known in 2003 as the Grand Rapids Medical Education & Research Center for Health Professions (MERC), Mary Free Bed Hospital, visiting nurse programs, medical and osteopathic doctors practicing together, neighborhood health services, home care and alternatives to nursing homes.

Hillman was called upon again in 1994 to re-emphasize the work and bring the warring Blodgett and Butterworth hospitals to the table of compromise, at a time both were reviewing major expansions. Blodgett was shopping for a new campus — on the East Beltline. (A fact then denied by everyone actually showing the hospital board properties for sale, and those that might be for sale — at the right price — including Cascade Country Club.)

The second Hillman Commission, Vision 20/20, resulted in:

  The merger of Butterworth and Blodgett as Spectrum Healt

— The adoption of Kent Oaks hospital (jeopardized by Medicaid cuts) by Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

— Spectrum's erection of a major outpatient facility at the Pine Rest campus.

All on volunteer time and effort.

GRBJ has word that the Alliance believes it is time for a reunion of the 1994 group, and is putting plans together for a congratulatory review party.

If that many people with a 30-year-plus history of "the health care problem" get together in the same room, one wonders what will be wrought (though even our inside sources know not). Last year the Federal Trade Commission attorneys traveled in packs to review the cost-savings promised as the result of hospital mergers in selected states. Though they were rumored to be headed to Grand Rapids, FTC attorneys would not confirm the rumor, but did indicate to GRBJ reporters they "are interested" in such analysis.

So is the business community, now dealing with yet another year of double-digit health care cost increases.

Alliance For Health Executive Director Lody Zwarensteyn said the reunion is planned only as a celebration.

  • Where are they now? Phasing in Phase III. The Grand Action Committee who's who roster of business leaders expects to have an announcement "soon," as Phase II of the DeVos Place convention center and old Civic Auditorium construction move closer to completion.

C&H Holdings' Robert Hooker is the overall finance campaign chair, and son David serves with Fifth Third President and CEO Kevin Kabot in Phase II,generally targeting "smaller gifts" of "several hundred thousand." The team is nearing 75 to 80 percent of the Phase II (unannounced) goal, paving the way for Phase III.

What is unique about Phase III is that it establishes a category for small businesses. And small business owners will have opportunity for naming rights along the corridors and for the smaller meeting and conference rooms. Grand Action Executive Director John Nunn notes it will provide visitors and convention attendees a unique "calling card" of community businesses throughout West Michigan.

  • Does Hooker know Blystone? Grand Rapids Business Journal staff has been working on the annual list of public companies with the greatest percent gain in stock prices, and the companion list ranking the highest paid CEOs. The man with the most left town. No, that isn't the great former Old Kent Bank leader/merger-er David Wagner; it would be John Blystone Crunching the numbers and wading through proxy statements turns up a rare gem in the person of Blystone, chairman, president and CEO of SPX Corp. When CEOs are donning pauper's robes in public in the year of Enron, Blystone is the exception. He topped the hit parade in last year's list of highest paid CEOs, and would be a runaway first this year had the company not moved to Charlotte, N.C. His base salary of $1.4 million is a modest sum, but add to that a $4.1 million bonus and $1.2 million in relocation expenses.
The whopper, however, shows up as a restricted stock award in 2002 of the tidy sum of $48.8 million to be paid in five installments. The 49-year-old Blystone probably senses retirement around the corner, and who wouldn't with so sufficient a nest egg. The board shows extraordinary faith in his judgment, in that he's the only board member holding 4.5 percent of the Class A voting stock. All the directors put together have only 6.4 percent. And if Blystone needs an additional confidence builder from the board, he got it in 200,000 underlying securities which amounted to 6.09 percent of total options granted to employees in 2002 at the bargain exercisable price of $69.43 per share when SPX stock was selling at $144.58 before the split in October.           

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