Out Of The Blue

September 28, 2004
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When the Oakland Press reported almost two weeks ago that Michigan-based retail giant Kmart was contemplating a move, it made waves in East Michigan but it was still a "developing" story without much confirmation. Then the Detroit Free Press broke a more detailed story on Wednesday, Sept. 22, followed by one in the local daily newspaper in Grand Rapids on Thursday.

Grand Rapids Business Journal sources indicate that the leaking news prompted an emergency meeting of the public corporation's board Thursday, at which time a decision on the move was made. Though that decision remains speculative, sources say the financially struggling Kmart was looking for a minimum of 350,000 square feet, and the only site it was considering, or had considered in Grand Rapids, was the American Seating location on Broadway, a site set with tax incentive lures. Atlanta was said to be the only other city given final consideration, though Detroit area suburban governments were still "hustling" at week's end to make attractive offers to the home of the "blue light special."

Those in the real estate industry say Bridgewater Tower II was never a serious consideration and that the company was "pushed politically" to consider the Cherry Street area under development, but that Kmart officials never came to Grand Rapids to make assessments of those sites.

Some officials said the Kmart board was particularly concerned about news leaks and the impact on employees. Kmart advised employees in August that another 240 layoffs were imminent. Notification was expected to be delivered to employees before the end of last week.

  • These are the autumnal equinox party weeks with more than one event per day through the end of September (and picking up again in October and November).

The metro area's creative class gave salute Sept. 21 to Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University President Oliver Evans. The packed house included board members from every period of Kendall's life, faculty who recalled the darker days and those leading to and through the merger of the two schools, as Evans' tenure began. Testament and testimony aplenty accompanied the toasts to Evans' 10 years, and some bit of (perhaps overdue) ceremony. Ferris State University President David L. Eisner's remarks solely concentrated on Evans and "Kendall's enormous contribution to Ferris."

Given the timing of Evans' appointment 10 years ago, an inauguration was never held. Long-time faculty member and program chair of the Furniture Design Department, Max Shangle, and "the new guy," chair of the Allesee Metals Jewelry program, Phillip Carrizzi, took the podium to present Evans with his presidential medallion, designed by Carrizzi. While the medallion captured the Kendall logo, it also captured elements of Evans' personal taste and inquisitiveness.

Carrizzi told the assembled it would not have his mark (or that of Kendall) were the medallion finished by the deadline, and so he apologized and promised its completion, while providing photographs of the design of the soon-to-be-finished medallion (one might hope prior to Evans' 20th anniversary). The audience roared.

Shangle's touch inspired reverence: he designed the rosewood box in which the medallion will be kept. Commercial traffic in rosewood now is illegal in the United States. Shangle, however, still has one rosewood log that he acquired in 1976, prior to the ban protecting the endangered species. He used the precious resource for the box, and presented it to Evans without comment on supply.

Indeed, it is a campus littered with Fed Ex boxes (just in time student deliveries) and so it did not seem odd that a special book presented to Evans was pulled from the familiar box right at the podium. Letters from board, faculty, alumni and many community leaders were compiled into a thick, leather-bound book.

  • In other business last week the State Bar of Michigan held its "West Michigan Corporate Reception" for the benefit of its Access to Justice, funding such programs as Legal Assistance centers. Readers might recall that State Bar President Scott S. Brinkmeyer, Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones PLC, hoped to be able to hoot a bit over the contributions made here and compared to an east Michigan reception earlier this summer (though General Motors is among the corporate supporters there).

Varnum Riddering Schmidt & Howlett certainly had the crowd oohing for the announcement of a $20K gift, but then Margaret E. Goebel, president of the Paul Goebel Group, and Pen Club reception sponsor, had all the hoots when she announced a $24K gift from her business.

State Bar of Michigan updated the total last Thursday morning, noting that "as of this morning, Access to Justice gifts received through this event is $155,725."

  • Speaking of big money, that's almost as much as was raised during the fifth annual "Positively Warren" Golf Classic, which teed off on Aug. 30 in honor of the late sportscaster and community icon WarrenReynolds

The golf scramble, dinner/program and silent auction to benefit the Warren Reynolds Patient Information Library at Saint Mary's Cancer Center and the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame's youth athletic programs grossed more than $286,000 and netted more than $200,000 for the charities, making it the most financially successful day in the event's history.    

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