Stamped Out

June 19, 2005
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Enough, apparently, is enough. After years of battling with the city over everything from roof balloons (it was a sign, you know) to Ren Zones, it looks like Grand Rapids Spring & Stamping is taking its world-class manufacturing elsewhere.

CEO JimZawacki recently told Monroe North Business Association members that he will be gone in two to five years, making way for more of Monroe North's newest stronghold — residential development.

Reportedly, the project also would include the former Western American Mailers lot and most everything on the sites would be torn down to make way for a mixed-use development with underground parking.

Blue Bridge Ventures President JackBuchanan told the MNBA that a New York architect has been hired to design something that "will fit in with the area."

  • Crowds were in force at last week's NeoCon World Trade Fair, the office furniture world's annual three-day shift from West Michigan to Chicago's Merchandise Mart.

"This is my busiest NeoCon," said izzydesign founder Chuck Saylor. "The traffic has been non-stop."

The social hour was kicking off when the Business Journal stopped by the izzy suite on the 11th floor, seconds too late for an izzy cookie but just in time for a pig-in-a-blanket.


Izzy was a remarkable 1-of-1 in the Best Of NeoCon competition, earning a silver for its only entry, the Calvin/Edison workstation. The SpringLake firm didn't enter its Capisco Saddle chair, a funky task chair obviously designed for the ADD generation.

A floor below was the two-level Steelcase showroom. Its first NeoCon since the world's largest office furniture manufacturer filed divorce papers with the city of Grand Rapids, the award tally was uniquely symbolic.

The Steelcase family won seven awards, but five of those were for divisions located out of state. Polyvision took editor's choice and silver awards back home to Georgia, while Metro (Calif.), Designtex (N.Y.), and Brayton International (N.C.) each won a silver.

Including Caledonia-based Details' gold award, Steelcase had more awards than any other company. Of course, the competition only allows four entries per company.

For the most part, Steelcase's launches were overshadowed by buzz from the third floor — where Haworth's a-con conference table and Herman Miller's Babble had judges in a tizzy (see story, B1), along with a new line from Bernhardt Design conceived by California college students.

Judges ignored Steelcase's key launch, the office-pair oriented Duo line, in favor of its Elective Elements line.

But Steelcase did steal the show with a group of concepts that will likely never see the light of day.

Cell Cell was a felt cylinder that hangs from the ceiling so that a user can duck under and make private calls — and possibly smoke a cigarette, fix makeup or make out with a co-worker. Digital Yurt and Dyadic Slice are enclosures for small groups and pairs, respectively, to brainstorm in, with a circular pad of paper in the center to doodle on.

Down the hall, it was Knape & Vogt subsidiary idea@Work's first year on the bustling 10th floor. The increased traffic was a blessing for the Grand Rapids workstation accessory maker, as it launched its Proxi Worktool line and the Proliftix Electric Adjustable Table.

"Tables in general are new for us," said product manager Lisa Tudor. "We had never even thought of doing them before last year."

Hudsonville-based Facements co-owner Dave Steil is also hoping for a breakthrough year for its core product line, a tack board accessory for office systems.

"We introduced a new product in a down economy," he said. "Now we're having a good year and we're expecting good things to come."

  • Speaking of commercial interiors, there were deals galore last week during the final days of Rogers Department Store's closeout sale.

Furnishings and fixtures were snatched up at bargain prices by local retailers, small businesses, and homeowners with bad taste — those not earmarked for a new boutique store in an undisclosed location guaranteed to be wealthier than Wyoming, that is.

Among bargain shoppers was Sensations proprietor Mark London, who left with, among other items, security cameras and light fixtures, likely destined for his new full-nude establishment downtown, Showgirls Galleria.

As for the new owner of the Rogers raccoon costume…

  • Though not a baseball player, MichaelWalton now knows what it's like to pitch a shutout.

The Rhoades McKee attorney received word recently that the case he argued before the United States Supreme Court April 18 had been decided in his favor, 9-0.

"You have to feel very good about winning a case and getting such a unanimous confirmation of the position that you've taken," he said. "That was very gratifying."

Walton said he never thought of himself being a part of history, but just doing his job.

"I just looked at it as a great opportunity and a tremendous honor," he said.

Walton's case, Grable and Sons Metal Products Inc. vs. DaRue Engineering and Manufacturing, concerned real estate seized by the Internal Revenue Service and then bought by his client, DaRue Engineering and Manufacturing. The real estate in Eaton Rapids was bought in 1994 after it was seized from Grable and Sons Metal Products, which filed a lawsuit in 2000 in Eaton County Circuit Court, alleging that the property had been illegally seized because IRS agents did not properly serve the notification.

The case bounced between state and federal courts before finally landing before the nation's highest court.

Walton said previously that he believes his case was chosen to establish a firm opinion on federal jurisdiction, which has been interpreted differently by the circuit courts in the federal system, following Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc. vs. Thompson in 1986.

"I think that the Supreme Court took this case almost 20 years later to clear up that confusion," he said.

Walton said the Supreme Court chose to keep the question of federal jurisdiction flexible.    

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