Here And There

April 21, 2003
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Fasten your seatbelts, because Street Talk is off to the races.
  • A study by released last week by Pep Boys listed America’s “Most Driveable Cities,” along with lots of other interesting information.

Topping the list of best cities in which to drive were three from Texas: Corpus Christi, Brownsville and Beaumont, based on lowest gas prices, pleasant climate, traffic flow and average travel time. Rounding out the top five were Pensacola and Ft. Myers, Fla.

The bottom five? Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver and Boston were the places to avoid.

  • Rankings of a different sort are going on a little closer to home.

Sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine next week will announce the results of a massive research project: the Metro Area Rankings, which compares 36 categories of data for 96 area communities and 29 school districts. The magazine last compiled the rankings in 1997, which gave Cannon Township/Forest Hills Schools the top spot. But the staff changed things this time around, refusing to use MEAP scores as part of the school district calculations, but relying on ACT scores and a multitude of other information from the Standard & Poor’s School Evaluation System.

How much debt per student has each district amassed?

What ’burb has the highest non-violent crime rate?

Which communities made the top 5?

They won’t tell us either until the press conference at 10:30 a.m., April 28, but while GRM Managing Editor Cara Kissling hoarded the data sheets, one of the GRBJ staffers used the upside-down-reading method to tell us Grand Rapids Public Schools made the top 5 (but we don’t know just how far up the rank it rested).

They could not have done the final rankings without the help of the Crowe Chizek & Co. accounting and consulting firm. While GRM staff weighted the categories (and refused to listen to Realtors), Crowe staff, lead by Marketing and Communications group leader Andy Carpenter, assigned the numbers and did the math (whew).

The charts and the story are in the May issue of Grand Rapids Magazine.

  • In what might rank as one of the smartest moves of the year, a Florida-based company is moving to West Michigan and tapping some of the local talent.

Conduit Healthcare Solutions is relocating here from Maitland, Fla., and strengthening its board of directors at the same time.

StevenHeacock has been named board chairman and Fred Vandenberg also has been named to the board. Heacock is currently CFO and Chief Legal Officer for IdeaSphere Inc. Vandenberg is currently interim CEO of the Grand Rapids Medical Education Research Center.

Conduit develops and markets software applications that use “smart cards,” which are credit-card-sized pieces of plastic with embedded microprocessor “mini computers” capable of offering new, highly efficient options for managing, accessing and protecting health care information.

  • We didn’t get you a card, but happy 35th birthday to Holland’s Trendway Corp.

“At 35 years old, we’re energetic, agile, hard-working — we’re in our prime,” said DonHeeringa, Trendway’s CEO and board chairman. “And we’ve got a lot to celebrate.”

Besides the anniversary, Trendway is celebrating two other achievements. First, the office furniture manufacturer recently marked 114 consecutive days with 100 percent of its shipments on time and complete (an industry record). Second, Heeringa said orders for last month were the highest since 2001.

And just to prove the firm isn’t hitting “middle age,” it’s landed products on one of the hottest — and hippest — shows on TV. Trendway’s newest seating line, Xantos, is being used by the judges on Fox’s “American Idol,” which has more than 20 million viewers a week.

“Having this seating line used by the judges featured on such a popular show is a great opportunity for us,” said BradFritz, seating general manager.

RandyJackson, PaulaAbdul and SimonCowell get to use the chairs each week, but the odds are that you don’t.

“In fact, it is still not on the market in North America,” said Fritz. “We will be introducing it to the American market at the annual office furniture show, NeoCon, in June.”

  • Judges from another “competition” also are raising an eyebrow. The Business Journal’s “50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan” celebration went off without a hitch last month. But it also went off without any representatives from the Van Andel Institute.

Not for lack of effort, however. In a letter from CaseyWondergem, vice president of communications and development, the VAI explained to us that “given the level playing field on which our women scientists are presently working, including Dr. SaraCourtneidge, we feel it would be difficult to rank one above the another until one or more of them have achieved a discovery or major breakthrough here.”

OK, fair enough. But in case you’re wondering who the women behind the microscopes might be, check out the most recent Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce newsletter. There on the inside back cover are Courtneidge, Bryn Eagleson, Cindy Miranti, and PamelaSwiatek. Now at least you know who they are.

  • One West Michigan firm is marking tomorrow’s celebration of Earth Day with a milestone of its own.

Nu-Wool Co. Inc., a cellulose insulation manufacturer in Georgetown Township, has been producing the ultimate “green” product since 1949. The company has quadrupled in size over the last 10 years, according to President MarkHenderson, and in that time has recycled 515 million pounds of paper to produce its cellulose insulation.

Let’s put that into perspective. Nu-Wool now processes at least 150 tons of recycled paper each business day, according to Henderson. That’s the equivalent of 2,550 trees.

“Putting all this paper to use in the walls of houses and buildings helps keep it out of landfills, where it has the potential to pollute the environment,” he said.

Happy Earth Day, indeed.           

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