The Dog And Donkey Show

October 24, 2005
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Although the Business Journal opted out of the photo op at last week’s Icon On Bond dog-and-pony show, GRBJ was not forgotten. Grand Rapids City Commissioner Roy Schmidt gave two shout-outs to West Michigan’s business publication for its gentle and constant ribbing of the long-delayed Moch International project.

Also in attendance were the Joes Moch and a virtual cornucopia of Democratic leaders, including city of Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell; John Cobe, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324; and State Representative Michael Sak

The pony, however, didn’t show, as Gov. Jennifer Granholm sent Michigan Economic Development Corp. COO Sandy Ring in her place.

What with an ugly hole already in the middle of the site, this “groundbreaking” was especially symbolic. When the assorted dignitaries moved the “first” shovelfuls of dirt, a surprising heckle was heard from well-wishers: “Keep digging!”

  • John Wheeler knows how to dig deep and build bridges. The founder and head of Rockford Construction heard that community radio station WYCE came up a little shy of its $50,000 goal for its fall fund drive (as mentioned in Anne Bond Emrich’s story on page B2). So Wheeler opened his checkbook and handed the listener-supported music station $10,000. That’s the largest single gift the station has received in its 18-year history.
  • One of the capital improvement projects on tap this year for DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena is possibly changing some of the urinals in both buildings to a waterless variety. The idea is to save on water and utility costs. So SMG’s Jim Watt and Ken Dahlman, whose jobs are to keep both facilities in tip-top shape, have been conducting water-use tests to determine whether changing to the waterless versions would be cost effective and more environmentally friendly.

They’ve found that only 30-40 percent of arena-goers actually flush after they’re flushed. Watt thinks those who don’t flush are afraid of catching something that might be hanging on the little silver plunger. A decision on whether to make the switch should come in January. But with nearly 7 of 10 arena-goers not flushing, it seems the arena may already have a waterless system in place.

Let’s hope Watt and Dahlman never have to measure how much of the liquid hand soap gets used in the men’s room. We don’t want to know.

  • If the arena and convention center do become no-flush urinal adopters, they’ll be in good company. In the Sept. 13, 2004, Business Journal story, “They’re Flush With Success,” the Business Journal profiled local no-flush urinal maker Falcon Waterfree Technologies.

Falcon had just capped off a year in which all four major sports had hosted a championship game in a Falcon no-flush zone, including the Rose Bowl, St. Pete Times Forum in St. Petersburg, Fla., The Palace of Auburn Hills and Pro Player Stadium in Miami.

Jay Troger, the company’s president, said he intentionally sought high-profile venues because, well, the no-flush thing takes some getting used to.

And just so you know, the average urination is four ounces, 98 percent of which is water.

  • Before watching his Orlando Magic’s 93-79 loss to the Maccabi Tel Aviv last week, Rich DeVos confirmed to the Orlando Sentinel that majority ownership of the team will be transferred to his children — sons Dick, Doug and Dan and daughter, Cheri — and that Bob Vander Weide, son-in-law, team president and recent Inside Track profile, will represent the Magic as owner.

DeVos, 79, has not been involved in day-to-day operations for years, but is kept abreast of significant developments.

“They’ll call the old man to tell them what they want to do and I'll probably go along with it,” he said. He will retain a 30 percent stake in the team.

DeVos looked fit, the Sentinel noted, but conceded that trouble with his left knee is causing him to lose his balance on occasion — just like Grant Hill and the rest of the squad.

  • He may be giving up his team, but DeVos still commands attention. At the kickoff ceremony for the new Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, it’s a good thing there were doctors on hand. During his speech, DeVos uttered the words, “I’d like you to pray with me… Bow your heads.” The rate at which the several hundred well-wishers heads snapped forward was likely enough to cause a few mild concussions, or at least some reverse whiplash.
  • Michael Dunlap, principal of Michael A. Dunlap & Associates, had hopes for some job growth in the furniture sector. In his last quarterly survey of the industry, he discovered consistently high number of hours worked, but unchanged employment.

“That means an awful lot of overtime is being worked, and hopefully that can translate into jobs,” he said.

Didn’t happen.

In fact, in the MADA/OFI Trends Survey released this weekend, all 10 of Dunlap’s metrics showed decreased results. But, the Industry Index Number was still a 56.90 on a 100-point scale, higher than the 56.04 in April 2005, but significantly lower than last quarter’s 59.72.

  • There was a bit of a row the week before last in that a number of Grand Rapids Public Schools board members had no idea that Superintendent Bert Bleke had been putting together a school closure plan for months. Board member Jim Rinck and Vice President Kenneth Hoskins said Bleke had deceived them with this secret.

Remember during the Hurricane Katrina coverage when CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked FEMA why he had better intel than they did?

From Bleke’s Apr. 25 Business Journal Inside Track profile: “The selection process for facility reduction begins on May 6.”    

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