Moving Up A Notch

August 4, 2003
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Notch up another: The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce office water cooler might have sprung a leak if the contest continued. It seems GRACC Vice President of public policy and governmental affairs Rusty Merchant initiated a new version of the male libido game, in which he “scored” for any mention of his name in Street Talk boldface type. The “contest” was limited in participation to GRACC President John Brown, by Merchant’s rules, believing he could best his boss on the back page (the contest for page 1 had not yet arrived). The contest was a direct result of the merciless teasing Merchant endured for his appearance in sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine as one of “20 under 40 Faces of the Future.” It wasn’t what he said (we’ll get to that), but the indescribable color of his socks worn in the accompanying photo shoot that had him posed cross-legged on the floor. (December 2002 issue, for those who want to look back.)

At the time, Merchant thought he had the perfect job and said, “Rusty Merchant is, like, the ultimate chamber name. The only thing better would be, like, Bill Enterprise.”

And what might he be called en route to his new job for Lansing-based political lobbyist McAlvey and Associates, now anticipating Merchant’s help as it opens a Grand Rapids office on August 11? We hear through the Bull’s Head grapevine he can anticipate Socks… or maybe they meant socks.

The battle for page 1 mention was not given as much “merit” as the coveted Street Talk, but Merchant’s dimpled demeanor was the June 2 GRBJ cover when he accomplished the long-held GRACC goal of opening a Lansing lobbyist office. (Brown had significant page 1 “play” when the chamber announced its opposition to the casino plan for Wayland, beginning in February, and again July 14 when the EPA announced it would pounce on West Michigan for the pollution transported here from neighboring states.)

Meanwhile, pundits aplenty in River City anticipate the McAlvey office opening with a typical GR admonishment, “Just wait to they get here and get a load of this town…” As for Merchant’s pol play, we think it to be directly related to his food habits. Then again, such employment almost guarantees a permanent exit from page 1, but likely fodder for Street Talk. But will it still count?

GRACC was reportedly besieged with calls from potential applicants for the Lansing-based job once Sock-O’s word was out.

  • None have yet explained the gathering of such strange bedfellows in the Stabenow for U.S. Senate campaign. Kate Pew Wolters gathered like-minded Democrats (yes Gary and Linda McInerneyfor the First Annual Western Michigan Brunch to “celebrate the distinguished service” of U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow. But the brunch was also attended by such co-hosts as GRACC’s John Brown, Marge Byington, Twink Frey, Jim McKay and Shelley Padnos. Add to the group with Jo Bird, Joan Bowman, Richard Clark, Teresa Decker, Noreen and Charles Myers, Carol Sarosik, Paul Todd, and Ann Sullivan Soet.

The group is spirited by representation of a female representative on the national level, especially as their numbers in local and state offices are depleted, in some areas a casualty of the recent redistricting (and some blame old Glenn Steil). Would Saugatuck Republican State Rep. Patty Birkholz consider a run at Stabenaw?

  • No word, at least not during a gathering of more than 100 women from the greater Grand Rapids business community, hosted by Ginny Seyferth and EileenDeVries. The tea party (Long Island style) recreated a weekend event held several years ago during a February snowstorm, and brought a satisfying number of new faces to mix with their older guard. No subject was left untouched, and the small touches included cocktail napkins emblazoned with the Huntington Bank logo. We think it was Sharron Reynolds who contributed to this party.

  • It seems a Business Journal newsroom question is partially answered. During a June editorial board meeting with the De Vos scions Dick DeVos was asked why the family would launch yet another survey to determine feasibility for another downtown hotel. Especially after the price tag already paid for the same information by the less-famous Jack Buchanan, whose Blue Bridge Ventures is suggesting that the city and county get out of the way and off Calder Plaza to make room for a hotel across from the new convention center. Sources other than Blue Bridge Ventures indicated that the call came, and Buchanan was willing to share.

For those who believe that his proposal never existed, see the story on page x. for confirmation.

  • What might NYC’s Fifth Avenue have in common with GR’s Ionia Avenue? A bit of the Fifth is coming to Old Town as hair salon owner Keith Martin merges his business with that of Philip Anthony. The two have been long-time comrades in the trade, one which when combined will include every product under the Maly’s star.

The most interesting piece of the burgeoning business, however, will be the agreement for Redkin Exchange Fifth Avenue Academy’s first out-of-town foray. The Manhattan crew knows Anthony well. We’re told, “He is a star in this business. He and his wife Sharon are the Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston of hair shows internationally. People won’t come unless Philip and Sharon are there.”

  • Good news: Passenger totals at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport were up 6.2 percent in June over the same month the year before.

Passenger totals were 172,336 at June 20, compared with 162, 211 on the same date last year.

Given the fact that the airlines are down some 20 percent in passenger activity nationally, Ford International’s numbers speak well for the West Michigan air service market, said Aeronautics Director James Koslosky.

The airport also has picked up new service, such as additional daily flights to Atlanta, he pointed out. Continental Airlines will begin twice-daily nonstop service to Houston beginning Oct. 1.

“More airports are losing their service but we’re gaining it mainly because our market is remaining strong in not-so-good times.

“On the income statement side, I want to congratulate staff on holding the line on expenditures and budgets and working hard at trying to be responsive to the state of the aviation industry in general.”

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