West Side, Best Side

April 18, 2005
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Will Mary Milanowski prepare to take on J.J.?

Will two prominent, top-level execs form a consulting firm?

Will Duba’s return to the West (side)?

Are there any “cool places” to work in West Michigan

Ours is but to question (and ask why).

Milanowski’s millions (as in voters) are said to have beseeched her to begin contemplation of how to unseat GR City Commish James Jendrasiak, believing that the one-time GR Public Schools board of education member’s hatchet would serve Mayor George Heartwell as much as it embarrassed former school Superintendent Jeffery Grotsky, to whom Milanowski refers as a “terrible mistake” in hiring. (Milanowski was not just a budget hawk but outspoken and unrelenting in regard to the personal responsibility board members had to pay for the luncheons, doughnuts and any other item used or consumed in the course of board work. She was known to leave some amount of dollars and cents in reimbursement for such indulgences.)

Milanowski is said to still be pondering whether she “has the fire in her belly,” but the West Side neighbors call that an “eternal flame.”

Another of the neighbors is said to be considering petition pickup: Dave Shaffer, 26, who has been walking and knocking. Milanowski calls him “a very nice young man.”

But would he accept a free lunch?

  • Movin’ on up, to the West Side: It’s widely known and wildly anticipated as JonathonRooks’ U2, or Union Square project, which renovates the old Union High School into a “too cool” condominium building featuring tax-free living. Rooks wants to develop the auditorium area into a restaurant — so much so that he is offering the space free to a good restaurateur, for the price of fixing it up.

One wonders whether that is an attractive idea for Ed Duba, who must vacate the East Beltline restaurant location by September and is still shopping. The Duba family has owned Duba’s for 56 years, moving it from its long-time West Side location near Bridge and Stocking to the ’burbs in the ’90s. Back to the West Side? Too cool indeed.

  • Well schooled? Just how much a coincidence is it that GRPS Superintendent Bert Bleke will retire in the same year as his mentor and former boss Michael Washburn

Washburn has long threatened to retire, though his Forest Hills District would have none of that. His compromise was to wait until EasternHigh School opened (last year). Washburn and the leadership in the wilds of Cascade and Ada (as compared to the old, old, civilized East Grand Rapids) in fact guided former Forest Hills School Board Chief Ben Emdin from retirement and into the financial chief’s position at GRPS, as teamed with Bleke, who was wooed — or challenged — to take the GRPS top spot, leaving (most directly) the Lowell district. (Milanowski would have Kevin O’Neill recalled for the GRPS post. O’Neill was interim superintendent when the board picked Grotsky.)

Word on the street is that Washburn and Bleke will form a consulting firm/think tank.

  • Who goes there? Grand Rapids Business Journal is co-sponsoring “Cool Places to Work” with Crain’s Detroit Business, the American Society of Employers and Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth, a brainchild, so to speak, of Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The survey of employees across the state seeks to provide state (and likely national) recognition for those employers that entice and retain a young work force. Those “youngsters” then indicate what makes their company a “cool place” to work.

Grand Rapids Business Journal has received dozens of nominations (especially from all branches of Macatawa Bank). Employees have thus far defined cool places as: “cool workspace that fosters creativity and collaboration;” an on-site masseuse for whom the company pays half the cost of a massage; “self-managed” employees; employee appreciation weeks; leadership that encourages and inspires; “heavy” community involvement and the pride with which those projects are accomplished; products that leave the environment healthy and work/life balance in flexible work schedules. That’s just a sampling of proud employees in West Michigan

Businesses can enter the recognition program using nomination forms found in GR Business Journal, or at the Web site www.grbj.com

Nominations are due by April 29; employers must then complete an online survey no later than May 31.

The American Society of Employers and DLEG will select the top companies. Winning companies will be profiled in GRBJ in the Aug. 29 issue. A VIP celebration will follow in September.

  • At its annual PRoof Awards, The West Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society honored Grand Valley State University professor and immediate past president Tim Penning as its Distinguished PR Practitioner of the Year for the second time.

“I take my students to Detroit, Chicago and even New York,” Penning said. “It’s always stunning that the talent in this region is as good as any of them. To be honored among this crowd is really an accomplishment.”

Penning also won two gold awards: one for his own firm, Penning Ink. He shared another with film professor Kim Roberts and GVSU graduate student/Wondergem Consulting rep Andrea Speers for the GVSU School of Communications 20th Anniversary campaign.

Steve Wilson, president of the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention and Visitors Bureau was named Communicator of the Year. WOOD AM 1300 News Director Rich Jones was named Journalist of the Year and Metropolitan Hospital Public Relations Coordinator Anne Veltema was named Newcomer of the Year.

GVSU News and Information Services took home the largest portion of the 34 PRoof Awards (four gold and four silver) followed by Foremost Insurance (three gold and three silver), and Alticor Inc. (four gold and one silver).

Other winners were Lambert, Edwards and Associates, Straightline Public Relations, Pfizer, Wondergem and Professional Marketing.    

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