Newsmaker Outtakes

January 19, 2004
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It was a hot time at Monday's Newsmaker of the Year luncheon in more ways than one.

Yes, DeVos Place took home this year's top honor, but first all 10 nominees were reviewed during Business Journal Editor CaroleValade's opening remarks.

Included in that number was Gallium Group LLC, the outfit trying (and so far failing) to build a convention hotel on Calder Plaza. Valade commented on the "resiliency" of Blue Bridge Ventures CEO JackBuchanan, a partner in the effort, and then proceeded to give an unflattering "timeline" of sorts in which city and county officials repeatedly shot down the project for a variety of highly variable reasons, mainly financial.

Of course, former Grand Rapids Mayor JohnLogie and current Kent County Board of Commissioners Chairman DavidMorren, among others, were sitting at a table right in front of the podium.

And Logie, for one, was steamed. While Logie had the good grace not to interrupt the presentation and talk to tablemates, one observer likened his glare to "daggers" as he faced the front.

Presumably, those at the table, which also included VerneBarry, DavidHooker, KevinKabat and others, lightened up at the end, when DeVos Place was announced as the winner.

Today's front-page photo even shows a smiling (for the most part) acceptance crew.

  • Giving the (only) acceptance speech for DeVos Place was Grand Action Committee co-chair JohnCanepa, who acknowledged Valade's salute to very little bickering among the leaders of the campaign with this: "The reason for that was I threatened to bring Uncle Vinnie over from Sicily."

Canepa then proceeded to thank everyone involved with the project, which one wag said applied to more than half of those in attendance.

But everything is bigger in Grand Rapids, it seems.

Canepa said he was in Palm Beach recently for the opening of that city's $120 million convention center. It was nice, he said, but something seemed to be missing. Something like business. He said the Palm Beach facility opened with three conventions already on the books.

By contrast, SteveWilson and his crew at the Convention and Visitors Bureau already have signed up 91 groups through 2010, representing more than 190,000 delegates coming to West Michigan.

"People are looking at West Michigan with new interest and respect," Canepa said.

  • Ah, respect. What does a publication have to do around here to get some? By all accounts, Monday's Econ Club ceremony was well-attended, well-planned, well-delivered and, well, good.

So here's what EC master of ceremonies DaveCuster had to say just before sending more than 500 of West Michigan's movers and shakers back to their offices: "Thanks to Grand Rapids Magazine for your part in today's presentation."

Ouch.

  • Still stuck for a Valentine's Day celebration? Try Opera Grand Rapids. It could be a gem of a holiday.

ThomasFox, who is back in business with Thomas Fox Diamond Jewelers, has donated a pair of 1-carat diamonds to OGR for use in a raffle at both of the evening's Fantasy and Romance concert performances. It could be a Valentine's Day she'll never forget.

  • Considering that the Business Journal's Focus section this week concerns printing and the marvels taking place within that industry, perhaps this is a good time to remind everyone that, though time goes by, the fundamentals still apply — and one of the fundamentals is good proof reading.

Consider that the Jan. 14 edition of the Detroit Free Press carried this headline: "Paul O'Neill Gives Troubling Peak Inside White House."

Kind of piques your curiosity, eh? It should be assumed he wasn't talking about a mountain, although some pretty tall issues certainly are facing White House brass.

On the same day, the Muskegon Chronicle carried an article about a brand new seafood store that just opened on Sherman Boulevard. The husband and wife who own the business boast that their product is fresh and never frozen. The article listed some of the items they carry, including a wide variety of fish, clams, crabs, oysters and, er, muscles.

OK, picture yourself ordering six soft-shelled crabs, two-dozen cherry stone clams and two biceps . . . alive, alive, oh?

  • We couldn't avoid noticing the scorn that some TV commentators recently expressed concerning the drawn-out, acrimonious debate that led to adoption of a constitution for Afghanistan last month.

The attitude is a bit ironic if you read Catherine Drinker Bowen's "Miracle at Philadelphia."

She relates that during the last few days of this nation's constitutional convention, the president of that body, George Washington, despaired that it was about to collapse. Four solid months of acrimony, distrust and suspicion had destroyed much of the good will with which the deliberations began. In disgust, some states' delegations had left the convention. Indeed, one state boycotted the convention.

Yet, two weeks after Washington had mailed his pessimistic thoughts to a friend, the delegates approved and signed the constitution of these United States. The document pleased few of the delegates. Some even pledged to fight its ratification. As the convention adjourned, a woman asked the eldest delegate — the frail and very aged Ben Franklin — whether the new constitution created a monarchy or a republic.

He wearily answered, "A republic, ma'am … if you can keep it."

  • Lastly, with State Rep. MikeSak bringing Democratic presidential hopeful DickGephardt to town last Wednesday, and the resultant political bashing by Republicans, it's good to remember now decades-old wisdom offered by Will Rogers: "I'm not a member of an organized political party. I'm a Democrat." This was uttered just before a 40-year run of power by the Dems.    

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