Earth Tones

April 19, 2004
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Green doesn’t always mean money, even in a publication like the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

And it doesn’t always mean envy (even in the Journal).

In fact, this week green can be taken to mean the environment, with a little money and envy thrown in for good measure.

Thursday is Earth Day and many elementary schools will mark the occasion with tree plantings, trash pickups and the like. But not too many businesses jump on the Earth Day bandwagon anymore.

That’s too bad. But there is at least one local firm that still makes a big deal about celebrating the environment and everything it represents.

Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, a firm of engineers, scientists and architects with offices in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Farmington Hills, is devoting a good portion of Thursday to Earth Day events.

For starters, FTC&H has proclaimed Thursday as a “car free” day and is encouraging employees to leave their vehicles at home and carpool, bike, walk or take the bus to work.

“Our goal is to see the parking lot half empty,” said spokesperson SueBorgeson. For a company that employs 280, that’s a lofty goal.

But the company is going several steps further than just a car-free day. Education is the focus of the event, and FTC&H is bringing in representatives from several firms to focus on Earth-friendly activities.

For example, DougKoessel from Crystal Flash will talk about soy biodiesel as a fuel alternative; JimIppel from Ada Bike Shop will review bicycle types and personal safety; Kool Toyota will bring a 2004 Prius, a gas/electric hybrid vehicle, to the event; and representatives from The Rapid will answer questions about the benefits of carpooling and public transportation.

On top of that, The BOB is catering in a brown-bag-style lunch.

  • Some other cities may be green with envy if a presentation last week to the U.S. Green Building Council was successful.

Grand Rapids is one of four cities vying for the national Green Building convention in 2006 and representatives from that environmentally friendly organization spent parts of two days here last week surveying the convention landscape.

If Grand Rapids is chosen to host this convention, it will draw up to 8,000 attendees to DeVos Place from throughout the nation and it will generate $1.7 million in delegate spending.

The Washington, D.C.-based USGBC, which sets national standards in environmentally responsible building through its Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, sent three representatives to Grand Rapids last Wednesday and Thursday, including USGBC National Conference Director KimberlyLewis and Vice President of Finance TerriStewart, as well as meeting planner NancyWise of Conferon.

The USGBC Site Committee reviewed the city’s convention, lodging, transportation, dining and entertainment venues to assess its capabilities in hosting the organization’s annual meeting, known as Greenbuild. The selection of a host city for Greenbuild 2006 will be announced in August.

The West Michigan organizing group of USGBC, the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), and the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, along with a number of area civic leaders, hosted the site selection committee as they toured three area LEED-certified buildings and DeVos Place. Simultaneously, the West Michigan USGBC organizing group, along with Haworth and the Amway Grand, hosted a chapter meeting that included tours of five LEED-certified buildings, afternoon presentations, an evening reception and a keynote speech by JimHartzfeld, board chairman of USGBC National.

Grand Rapids is competing with Denver, Phoenix and Salt Lake City to win the 2006 convention. Local leaders believe that Grand Rapids is a strong contender because the West Michigan USGBC organizing group is particularly active in the national movement. In addition, the West Michigan area has one of the highest concentrations of LEED-certified buildings in the nation. Herman Miller’s GreenHouse manufacturing and office facility in Holland served as a pilot project in assisting USGBC to formulate its LEED standards, and Steelcase’s wood manufacturing plant in Grand Rapids was among the first buildings in the nation to become LEED-certified.

“A few years ago, it would have been unimaginable to place Grand Rapids in competition with cities such as Denver, Phoenix and Salt Lake,” said Maria Brondyke, CVB director of national accounts. “The fact that we are in serious contention for this national meeting is a testament to our new convention center and to the dedication of our community leaders who have worked in tandem with the local USGBC organizing group. We are confident that the site selection committee will be impressed with DeVos Place and our vibrant downtown in addition to the many LEED-certified buildings and projects throughout the area.”

  • For those of you still green with envy after reading last week’s list of top-paid CEOs in the Business Journal, here’s something to keep in mind.

YaronBrook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute in California, asks if CEOs are paid more than they deserve, and then answers his own question.

“No. Successful CEOs have a moral right to whatever financial rewards the market will allow.”

In 2003, Brook said, the average pay for CEOs of 200 of the largest U.S. companies was $11.3 million — but a number of compensation packages approached the $100 million mark.

Many people ask themselves: “How can the work of a corporate paper-pusher be worth so many millions of dollars?”

Brook’s response is this: “Great CEOs are rare and are indispensable to successful corporations. Without them the U.S. economy would shrink.”

To steer a corporation profitably across a span of years requires exceptional thought and judgment. Excellent CEOs are as rare as no-hitter pitchers or never-tackled running backs. And in the business world, every day is the World Series and the Super Bowl. There is no off-season or respite from the need to perform at one’s peak, Brook said.

So remember that next time the green-headed envy monster pops up.    

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