Cereal Killers

August 8, 2005
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It’s like they always say, one bad apple lobbyist spoils the whole bunch. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that a fruit-and-vegetable lobby is upset with Battle Creek-based Kellogg Co. for its negative portrayal of an apple in a commercial for Apple Jacks cereal.

The premise of the commercial is that Apple Jacks, despite the name, does not taste like apples (as portrayed by an animated fruit, Bad Apple). Instead, it tastes of delicious cinnamon (shown as the dreadlocked, quasi-Caribbean CinnaMon). The two embodied taste profiles race through a city street, hoping to be the first to arrive in a freshly poured bowl of Apple Jacks.

CinnaMon wins.

That’s what has the Produce for Better Health Foundation sour to the core.

“It’s one thing for advertisers to market to kids these high-sugar-content cereals. It’s another to compound that by implying apples aren’t in themselves a good product,” ElizabethPivonka of the produce foundation told the Times.

Wow, you really have to admire that kind of altruistic concern for children’s healthy diets. Oh wait. Apple farmers pay her salary. No word on the victory from the American Cinnamon Growers Guild.

  • The North Monroe real estate market is heating up, with the Icon on Bond development underway and another BlueBridge development taking shape at the former Western American Mailers facility.

Speculators and developers have been eyeing RalphSiegel’s parcels, but they’ll have a hard time wrenching them away from him.

Siegel has owned QualityAutoServiceCenter since 1979. The auto repair shop does a steady business on two parcels between Monroe and Bond avenues, plus a body shop around the block on Ottawa NW. Kent County records indicate that Siegel’s holdings have an SEV of more than $250,000.

But will he sell? Probably not. Shop manager DaveParm said the shop would consider moving all its operations to the Ottawa Avenue location, but the current developers’ offers would have to “go up a lot” before they’d consider it.

Like they say, you can’t put a price on Quality.

  • Don Green, vice chancellor of Ferris State University Grand Rapids, and former administrator at another manufacturing oriented school, Grand RapidsCommunity College, agreed that the tooling sector is in the midst of a strong recovery, maybe more so than the Business Journal asserts in the story on B4.

In his position, Green sees the perception of the industry firsthand. Students are no longer filling up skilled manufacturing and apprenticeship classes. Because of this, he expects the region will lose skilled manufacturing employment by its own doing.

“It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he said. “You can’t just hire someone off the street in this industry. The workers getting hired now, they’re all in their 40s and 50s. What happens in 20 years when they’re not around anymore?

“If a kid who likes to work with his hands and likes machines tells his teacher he wants to work in a machine shop or in manufacturing, they say, ‘No, you don’t! That industry is dying!’

“People have to realize that if we don’t train people to fill these jobs, they are going to go places like China.”

On that subject, it should be noted that the 87 percent of West Michigan machining employees still working are now paid an average of 20 percent more, according to the Michigan Office of Labor Information.

In KentCounty, a machining worker makes $200 more than in 2000, a 22 percent jump to $1,223 a week. In contrast, the 61 percent of KentCounty’s 2000 furniture workforce still working are paid 19 percent less, a drop of $234 per week.

If Furniture City needs any more reason to roll over and cough up a tax abatement to frustrated machine makers like Jim Zawacki of GR Spring and Stamping — or for Mayor George Heartwell to pretend he never made the now-infamous “sow in a black dress” comment about Tool and Die Recovery Zones (even if there is some truth to that, see page B6) — machine manufacturing now employs 1,575 more people in Kent County than the furniture industry, and pays over $180 million more in wages.

  • The United Tooling Coalition trip to Toyota’s Kentucky plant earlier this month might help fuel the speculation of a possible Toyota manufacturing facility in West Michigan created by Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s recent door-to-door sales adventure in the land of the rising sun.

We didn’t get Kmart and the MSU med school is still a big question mark, so what about Toyota?

Michigan is one of three states with a Toyota design facility and four with a research and development facility. Of those states, only California has any Toyota production capacity. No news here; Toyota’s manufacturing is all done in a neat little triangle that stretches from Missouri to West Virginia and down to Alabama, with Kentucky smack in the middle.

The rest is in Texas, Mexico and Cambridge, Ontario. Currently, new plants are under construction in Texas, Tennessee, and Baja, Calif.

Supposing Granholm does pull a smooth move, will Toyota choose West Michigan

That all depends on if you think Battle Creek is West Michigan

Toyota has nine wholly owned subsidiaries in Michigan. Five of those have their North American headquarters here, including Denso, Toyota Gosei, Tokai Rika, Aisin and ADVICS.

Of these, only three have factories in state: Denso in Southfield and Battle Creek, Toyota Gosei’s TG Fluid Systems plant in Brighton, and Tokai Rika’s TRMI plant in Battle Creek and TAC in Jackson

Of the roughly 1,100 Toyota employees in Michigan, half of those are in Battle Creek.

Granholm’s big announcement from the trip was Tokai Rika Chairman Yoshihei Iida’s pledge to invest $50 million to grow its Michigan operations and create 230 new jobs between Battle Creek and neighboring Jackson

If you’re one of those people still waiting on Kmart to move in, take note that The Right Place and other area economic development groups sat out the trip to Japan. It was Battle Creek Unlimited President and CEO James Hettinger representing West Michigan    

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