Art Museum Marked Second Year In Federal Building

October 24, 2003
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Grand Rapids Business Journal is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year by publishing some history of its own. Throughout the year, the Journal has revisited significant events that occurred each week 20, 15 and 10 years ago. For longtime Grand Rapidians, this is a chance to test their knowledge of historical trivia. For newcomers, it’s a chance to catch up with everyone else.

20 Years Ago

  • With a series of events called New Building/New Accessions, the staff of the Grand Rapids Art Museum invited the public to join in celebrating the end of their second year in the renovated Federal Building. The celebration included a benefit fashion show and a special attic sale along with a tour of the still-unfinished third floor. Attractions during the celebration included works of fine art from the last century and this.

  • In projecting two decades in the future, Business Journal staffers made a number of fanciful predictions:

1984 — In what some observers viewed as a desperate move to raise lagging ratings, WOTV hired Bozo, aka Dick Richards, to serve as co-anchor with Suzanne Geha.

1985 Parking Mogul Ken Ellis provoked violent demonstrations when he notified monthly parking patrons that their parking spots had gone condo, starting at $10,000.

1987 — Grand Rapids Art Museum curator Buck Matthews announced the closing of an exhibit of a group of bowling pin lamps made by various shop classes during the ’50s. The exhibit, financed by a grant from Brunswick, was on loan from the Don Carter collection in the Bowl-a-rama of Paramus, N.J.

1990 — Steelcase Corp. shocked local and national media by announcing plans to close its seven-year-old 44th Street headquarters. Management said the facility had become too productive, eliminating the need for all employees but janitors.

1993 — The Amway empire reportedly teetered on the brink of collapse after the giant firm’s co-founders resigned in the wake of a soul-searching, weekend-long meeting with heirs to the Ford empire. The Fords reportedly convinced the Amway founders to mend their materialistic ways.

1999 — Grand Rapids city planners and developers released their 82nd consecutive master plan to revitalize the downtown shopping district.

2000 — Compiled census data revealed what local residents had suspected for years: A migration of people of Dutch descent was underway, with nearly all of Grand Rapids’ Hollander majority having re-established their homes in the Carolinas and Florida.

15 Years Ago

  • Bob Pew, chairperson and CEO of Steelcase, announced he would pass his duties as CEO to Frank Merlotti, president and COO for the furniture manufacturing giant. Peter Jeff, spokesman for Steelcase, said the change would become effective at the Steelcase board meeting in November. Pew, who was 65, intended to retain his position as chairman and to focus on promoting long-term growth of the company.

  • Robert McElwaine, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, told the Economic Club of Grand Rapids that import quotas fostered by Detroit often backfired and hurt the American economy.

“I believe in the Law of Unintended Consequences,” McElwaine said. “When you try to tilt the market in your favor, you’ll get side consequences you didn’t intend at all.”

For example, he said, American consumers suffered when the United States pressured Japan to limit auto imports to the U.S. He said domestic automakers could have regained market dominance by keeping prices low, but hiked prices to take short-term profits, thus initiating “the long, dizzying climb in sticker prices, giving rise to the term ‘sticker shock’” — and a sales slump.

  • Though trade policy can be a deadly dull topic, McElwaine’s presentation was comic, as befits a Hollywood background and stints as a press agent for Errol Flynn and Danny Kaye. Among his asides:

  • He said he was neutral in the presidential campaign, hoping that if the GOP was elected, it would keep its promises, and that if the Dems won, they wouldn’t keep theirs.

  • “My Uncle Jesse voted straight Republican until he died,” he added. “He’s voted Democratic ever since.”

  • “All this talk about Dan Quayle being so young, handsome and virile makes me wonder if the GOP wants to elect him or breed him.”



  • Though the color tour season hadn’t peaked, officials of the Michigan Travel Bureau and the Department of Natural Resources predicted 1988 would be a good year for tourism in the state.

“All the figures that we have seen seem to tell us that we can expect a very good year for tourism in the state,” said Dave Morris, the bureau’s research manager. “Everything looks very positive.”

He said hotel-motel tax receipts were a strong predictor of tourism and, though summer’s figures wouldn’t be in for weeks, January to May receipts were up considerably from the year before.

  • The board of PrimeBank, Federal Savings Bank, was expected to oppose an Indiana company’s request to buy a controlling interest in the institution.

Charles Conville, president and CEO, said the board had yet to respond to BoMarko Inc.’s federal petition for permission to acquire up to 100 percent of the thrift’s stock.

Conville said he expected the board to oppose the request because BoMarko was owned by a local man, James Azzar, whom he said did not directly approach the board.

  • A $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would allow the Grand Rapids Housing Commission to buy and rehabilitate 50 houses, each with at least three bedrooms, to rent to low and moderate-income families.

GRHC’s executive director, Carlos Sanchez, said the commission would either buy the houses from private parties or the city.

He said the maximum expenditure for any acquisition and rehabilitation would be $64,000 with the average being from $45,000 to $50,000. Rehabilitation would mean bringing the structures into compliance with city building codes.

  • The South East Economic Development Corp. — a nonprofit founded two years earlier by business owners and residents to help revitalize the Wealthy Street business district — hired Mark Durell as its first executive director.

Durell, 23, had just graduated from Grand Valley State University with a degree in economics.

The fresh-caught graduate originally planned to work in banking or government research, but said he was attracted to the post while working as an intern with the Grand Rapids planning department during its Wealthy Street campaign.

  • Grand Rapids said it would spend no money on engineering plans for the North Park Bridge until the Michigan Historical Commission completed an environmental impact statement to determine whether it should be saved.

The City of Walker, in which half the bridge lay, earlier had approved funds for half the engineering study. The City of Grand Rapids demurred, however, pending the historical commission’s study.

  • A former Steelcase systems analyst, Arnie Lee, authored a new book, “Computer Viruses: A High Tech Disease.”

The book was published by Lee’s firm, Abacus Software, a firm that specialized in creating software and computer manuals.

Lee said the firm started by publishing one book, and currently had more than 100 in print, several of them in foreign languages.

10 Years Ago

  • Although its action sparked discussions of retribution and financial ruin, Kent County Library System officials stood behind the board’s decision to implement a fee for services in January.

But they also said it was not set in stone.

“One thing that I’ve learned is that, quite frankly, we’ve revisited decisions before,” said board chairwoman Teresa Pawl-Knapp. “Not because it was not a sound decision, but because perhaps not all of the picture was available.”

  • Tours of Blodgett Memorial Medical Center led some facility study commission members to acknowledge that Blodgett needed more space.

Whether the new space ought to come in the form of a new campus, however, remained an issue on which few would comment.

Members of the Hillman Commission — a study group created by the Alliance For Health — toured Blodgett at the request of hospital officials hoping to give commission members a visual sense of why Blodgett was proposing a new $150 million campus at Knapp Street NE and East Beltline Avenue NE in Grand Rapids Township.

**Michigan’s state treasurer told two local school officials that their best hope for funding equity lay in Gov. John Engler’s reform proposal.

State Treasurer Doug Roberts told superintendents Jeffrey Grotsky, of Grand Rapids Public Schools, and Michael Washburn, of Forest Hills Public Schools, that their calls for greater equity in funding than Engler’s proposal contained were unrealistic.

Roberts, Grotsky and Washburn appeared in a panel discussion as part of the Strategic Issues Series sponsored by the Grand Rapids Business Journal; Crowe, Chizek and Co.; Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt and Howlett; Godwins, Brook & Dickenson; and Old Kent Bank & Trust Co.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments on Nov. 29 in a lawsuit that pitted a group of airlines against Kent County and the Kent County International Airport.

The 1988 suit involved the airport and Northwest Airlines, Northwest Airlink, United Airlines, American Airlines, Piedmont Airlines, Midway Airlines, Simmons Airlines and Conair (Delta Airlines’ commuter link).

The airlines contended that a portion of the airport’s profits should have been applied to its landing, terminal-rental, and crash, fire and rescue fees. The county and the airport contended that any profits were the rightful property of the community.

  • Globe Business Furniture Inc. purchased International Furniture Technologies LLC, a bankrupt wood veneer manufacturer in Big Rapids.

Globe, acquired by Holland-based Haworth Inc. in September, manufactured mid- to low-priced office furniture and seating, marketing its products through wholesalers, superstores and catalogues.

Based in Tennessee with seven plants in that state, Kentucky and California, Globe employed 1,000 and posted 1992 sales in excess of $100 million.

  • The sod was laid, the bleachers were going up and — as major league baseball’s season reached an end — things were well under way for the spring 1994 debut of the new West Michigan Whitecaps.

After unveiling the team name late in September and announcing Old Kent Bank & Trust as a corporate sponsor, Lew Chamberlin, West Michigan Baseball Inc. vice president and managing partner, said the focus had turned to marketing.

“We’re working with Greg Palazzolo, a local graphic artist, right now to have (a logo) created by the end of the month,” Chamberlin said, adding that the company hoped to have souvenir merchandise in time for the holiday shopping season.

  • One of the new owners of Die-Tron Inc. said there was one change in the company that would go unnoticed for a time.

Tom Hitson, 34, and 44-year-old Wes Rose — who previously worked for Dan Marshall at Die-Tron — on Oct. 1 took over management of the company after buying it for an undisclosed amount of money.

And Die-Tron customers, Hitson said, discerned no difference because they were working with Rose just as they had under the company’s previous ownership.           

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