Strong Medicine

May 10, 2004
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Is it $300 million, or $600 million?

Does it really matter?

Probably not. The thought of having Michigan State University’s medical school in Grand Rapids is making some West Michigan leaders reach in the medicine cabinet for their antacid tablets.

This is not a done deal. Why? Because RickBreon says it’s not. The Spectrum Health CEO has proven time and again to be a businessman who happens to be running a health system. The fact that it’s the region’s largest health system — and largest employer — only adds to the burden of responsibility. And until those dollar figures make as much sense for Spectrum as they do for MSU, it’s fair to say Breon is experienced in the waiting game.

But what about those “West Michigan philanthropists” who are portrayed in media as standing there with their wallets open?

Again, not so fast.

“I don’t think we can pull together all that money for MSU to build their medical school here,” said PeterCook, one of the area’s foremost philanthropists and a man who has more than just a passing interest in health care, medical research and education.

West Michigan translation: Don’t come here thinking we’ll empty the account for you. There’s money in West Michigan, but you have to earn it. And be very specific. And prove financial stewardship and equal interest/risk.

As Cook pointed out when the subject was broached, many of West Michigan’s (money) movers and shakers are still involved with putting together the next phase for the Van Andel Research Institute, the renovations at DeVos Performance Hall and a host of other projects that already are dotting the local landscape.

Yes, there’s money available, but it better make good sense for both sides.

  • They say that timing is everything. LodyZwarensteyn, executive director of the Alliance for Health, after months of work has snagged GlennDavis, M.D., dean of MSU’s College of Human Medicine, as the guest speaker at the organization’s May 17 annual meeting and dinner.

Davis said he will talk about the convergence of academic medicine with the community.

  • Speaking of money and health care, where does the bond proposal for Metropolitan Hospital’s new health care village stand?

RobertWhite, the county’s fiscal services director, said recently that nothing’s crossed his desk in terms of Metro bonds, which Kent County (and its sterling bond rating) has agreed to back.

Construction at the village is ongoing, so apparently Metro isn’t too concerned about the issue. But the bonds were first headed to market late last year (before MaryScott’s whistleblower lawsuit hit the fan), and then that date was moved back to the first quarter of ’04 (later and later each week, it seemed).

Now, VicKrause says the Metro board can talk about “a couple of different bonding proposals, departures from what we’ve talked about previously” after a May 25 board meeting. He said those bonds could still hit the market in May (unlikely) or June, but could be as late as August.

And that’s provided that ill legal winds don’t blow this summer, although privately Metro’s leadership is confident about the outcome of the Scott case should it go all the way to trial.

  • Some feathers were ruffled among Farmers Charity Classic personnel last week when Street Talk hit the streets.

Here’s the (official) public response. Farmers will not reconsider its title sponsorship, even at a later date. Honchos in California and Farmers’ local guy, JackHannigan, were in complete agreement on LanceHartman’s dismissal. And, no, there will be no discussion of Hartman’s leaving. The silence remains deafening.

That’s fine, but did you notice that fewer “big name” players are stopping in Grand Rapids at the end of this month and the beginning of next than were in town for last year’s event? Even with the addition last week of HaleIrwin (a very big coup) and the previous announcement of LeeTrevino’s participation, some of the bigger names are noticeably lacking. Also, the Jaycees seem to be less conspicuous this year than in years past.

But to be fair, not every player on the Champions Tour plays every event, and many may be spending time with their families over Memorial Day.

While staffing and participation issues are met with stone silence, however, the subject of a title sponsor is very much an issue.

“We have to have a title sponsor,” said Executive Director BrianKemp

Otherwise, the run is over in Grand Rapids.

  • Did everyone else appreciate the irony at Thursday’s “101 Best and Brightest Companies To Work For” event?

Last year, the “Best of the Best” award went to Kalamazoo’s Bronson Methodist Hospital. This year, Kalamazoo’s Borgess Health Alliance picked up the top honor.

As the torch was being passed, a spokeswoman for one of the hospitals (we can’t decide which) said, “I guess this shows how competitive we are.”

Indeed.

Other Elite Award category winners included Life EMS Ambulance, NTH Consultants Ltd., Ernst & Young, Mill Steel Co., Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Beene Garter LLP, Regal Financial Group LLC, Wade-Trim Inc. and Deloitte Services LP.

  • Last week’s survey question on grbj.com drew a varied response. The survey asked how Grand Rapids could compete with larger cities, like Denver, for big conventions at DeVos Place, in light of Denver’s undercutting the city on the rental price (read: free) for convention space.

Two-thirds of those responding said just give the space for free and take longer to pay off the convention center. Approximately 12 percent opted for free space but recouping the cost through higher hotel room and entertainment taxes on convention-goers, while more than 21 percent said the city should work to attract many more smaller conventions.

The Convention and Arena Authority will be considering those options, and others, soon.    

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