Chip Shots

May 27, 2003
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AnnikaSorenstam may have played in last week’s Colonial golf tournament (and acquitted herself quite well), but that doesn’t mean women will have a free pass to the men’s tour.

One only needs to witness the scrap between MarthaBurk and HootieJohnson at Augusta National to realize the battle of the sexes is usually based on merit, not gender.

The same is holding true in the world of business. As an example, take the case of the recent Gentex Corp. shareholders meeting.

The investment group behind a shareholder proposal to push Gentex to do more to attract women and minorities to serve as directors plans to continue pressing its case with the company.

The proposal from the Calvert Social Index Fund, rejected recently during Gentex’s annual shareholders meetings, represented the beginning of efforts to convince the company to take a more proactive stance in diversifying its corporate board of directors.

“We’ve had some very good dialog with them. This is just the beginning,” said DianeWhite, head of the corporate board diversity initiative for the Maryland-based Calvert Group that includes the Calvert Social Index Fund.

The fund, part of the broader socially responsible investment group that manages $8.6 billion in assets, has $28.7 million in assets and holds 428 shares of Gentex stock.

Fifty-six percent of the shares that were cast at Gentex’s annual meeting on May 14 were against the proposal, which asked Gentex shareholders to back a resolution that would have required the corporation’s board of directors or nominating committee to “take every reasonable step to ensure that women and minorities are a routine part” of every search the company takes in the future for new directors. The fund argued that diversity generates more independence and a broader array of views among corporate boards.

Gentex directors, while agreeing with the principles behind it, opposed the proposal, saying the company already embraces diversity and requiring an annual report on the issue would have been a burden. The proposal also would have detracted from finding “the best qualified candidate” for boards seats when a rare vacancy comes open, Chairman and CEO FredBauer said.

The Gentex proposal is one of several Calvert filed this year with companies whose shares it owns. As a socially responsible investment fund, the Calvert Social Index Fund is acting on a core principle of promoting gender and racial diversity among the boards at companies in which it invests, representatives have said.

“You have to be proactive and have a plan in place, or the good intentions just don’t materialize,” White said.

  • Through the grapevine: We hear Rockford Construction executives flew to Las Vegas last week, copies of every piece of evidence of Grand Rapids as a “new economy” city in hand — including sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine (April 2003 issue: “it’s about the golf.”) The Rockford team had scheduled meetings with the House of Blues executives, likely hoping to sign them on for the Cherry Street Landing project.

  • Yes, Virginia, it’s true … mounted as it is on a thick white column, the TV 13 Weather ball now does look rather like a Tootsie Pop, with the flavor changing daily from cherry, to lime to, maybe, blueberry.

What’s that? What happens if lightning should strike the weather ball?

Well, as far as we know, the glowing steel orb never sustained a strike in its earlier existence. And it’s probably even less likely to do so now, if for no other reason than that it stands quite close to the broadcaster’s much taller steel tower, which would be the more likely target of such a strike.

But, you never can tell. Lightning does funny things, and when it hits something, the display usually is pretty spectacular, with lots of sparks and associated fireworks. We can always hope (it doesn’t happen).

  • We see that Congressman FredUpton, R-Kalamazoo, and Gov. JenniferGranholm recently exchanged solemn mutual congratulations on the “true bipartisan effort” to keep Pfizer from cutting jobs in Kalamazoo.

That’s kind of a cold comfort to the people who stand to lose those jobs. It might be more accurate to say that it was a “true bipartisan failure” or a “truly too-late effort” to keep Pfizer from following through on its announcement. The effort in question should have gotten underway sometime deep in the administration of JohnEngler

  • And you think your job is stressful? Check out the quote White House Press Secretary AriFleischer gave to the media last Monday upon the announcement of his retirement in July. “I want to do something more relaxing — like dismantle live nuclear weapons.”

  • Maybe Fleischer should have taken advantage of a new service being promoted in West Michigan by Michigan Medical PC. The physicians’ group is offering a new Executive Physical program at its Grand Rapids headquarters that can be completed in one day and at one location.

“Our Executive Physical program is designed to offer executives a physical with the quality and medical technology that was previously only available by traveling a considerable distance,” said JamesBuzzitta, MD, CEO of Michigan Medical. “Understanding that time is a precious commodity, we have developed an executive physical that offers quality, convenience and costs savings. Our executive physical can be completed in one day, without the need of overnight travel or other related expenses.”

The procedure makes use of MMPC’s new CT scanner and includes cardiac scoring and a full body scan.

What else can the busy CEO expect? Oh, just the usual: comprehensive physical exam, health risk assessment, lab work, chest x-ray, EKG, stress test, body composition analysis, bone densitometry, colonoscopy and consultation with a registered dietician and exercise physiologist. A day spa this is not.     

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