It Must Be The Lake Effect

December 2, 2005
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It’s official. After months of rumors about Grand Rapids-based Spartan Stores Inc. taking over for Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.’s ailing Farmer Jack stores in the Detroit-area market, a deal has finally been inked.

But this deal has nothing to do with a grocery chain buy-out. It has to do with advertising and professional basketball. Until recently, play-by-play announcer George Blaha sent his listeners off to a commercial break with the words, “You’re listening to Detroit Pistons basketball on the Farmer Jack Radio Network.” Now, thanks to a deal between Spartan and the Pistons organization, it has become the Spartan Stores Radio Network. Spartan is not actually buying interest in any broadcast equipment or facilities; the company is simply buying the opportunity to be the title sponsor for the three-time world champion team’s radio presence throughout the state. Financial details weren’t released.

Hopefully, the new arrangement won’t confuse Blaha. The 30-year veteran Pistons announcer has also been the radio voice of the Michigan State Spartans since 1971. Their broadcasts are aired on the Spartan Radio Network.

Hmmm … Maybe the Grand Rapids grocery wholesaler would do well to sign a deal with the University of Michigan, too. Then again, the maize-and-blue-bleeding U-M fans would probably boycott “The Spartan Wolverine Radio Network.”

  • Unusual developments? A movement is afoot to provide a center ground (read: not so conservative) for discussion of community issues and the election of not-real-conservative candidates. They used the word “liberal” and laughed to describe themselves as Grand Rapidians, too. An oxymoron? Take a deep breath. In this setting, “liberal” was used to describe a person who wandered into a local bookstore to purchase the new book by former U.S. Presidential candidate John McCain. (The would-be buyer was told the book was considered a little “left” of center, and those books generally do not sell in Grand Rapids. It was not available.)

And so it is in River City that “red states and blue states” are not distinguished, at least not as part of the newly forming Men’s Alliance for Progress. (One might ponder the fact that the blending of red and blue creates purple.) An inaugural get-together last week brought famous faces from the Kent County Republican Party and well-known Democrats together, in the same room. They spoke of unspeakable things (Planned Parenthood, environmental concerns, the “gay” community, vouchers and urban school issues) during the two-hour session, and decided to meet again — next year. One progressive man, concerned about “increasing federal infringements on privacy rights,” asked Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell whether he had remained at an event two weeks ago that featured former national Homeland Security Advisor Tom Ridge as speaker. Heartwell replied in honesty, “No, I prayed and left,” which brought down the house. (Heartwell, an ordained minister, had been asked to lead the group with a luncheon prayer.)

Who are these progressives? Like the counterpart Progressive Women’s Alliance, the Men’s Alliance spans ethnic and economic groups, claims no political party and is beginning to set an agenda that is highlighted by thought and discussion from many points of view. It appeared that the well-being of Grand Rapids Public Schools was at the top of that list of concerns.

Organizers include attorney Robert Eleveld, Irwin Seating President Win Irwin and former State Sen. John Otterbacher

  • The Michigan Farm Bureau went above and beyond bringing green space into the city when it brought its annual meeting back to Grand Rapids Nov. 29 through Dec. 2 after a 12-year absence.

Highlighting the transition from the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa to the DeVos Place was the addition of an indoor farmstead, complete with dairy calves, sheep and chicks. The farm was planned to be used by 1,100 Grand Rapids and Kentwood third-graders to learn about agriculture first-hand during the bureau’s Project Rural Education Day, rather than having representatives visit their classrooms.

The lure of that opportunity, as well as more space for the delegate’s reception, led the board to choose DeVos Place, said Dennis Rudat, the bureau’s director of information and public relations. Bureau board members who attended the venue’s grand opening liked what they saw. 

“The board was very impressed and just felt that it was time to make a change,” he said.

Rudat said the event brought about 1,500 people, including delegates from 67 counties, into the city.

  • A little bit of national news for the local office furniture industry last week.

The New York Post has it that Herman Miller (erroneously relocated from Zeeland to Lansing) is moving to new NYC digs.

Construction will begin this month on a 23,980-square-foot space at 1177 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, the entire 17th floor of the Americas Tower. Apparently, its New York Design Center was being edged toward the West Side — where competitors Steelcase and Knoll and the architects and designers who recommend their wares have already relocated — from the 462,269-square-foot space above Barneys at 660 Madison Ave., where demand from hedge funds and financial wizards has pushed rents upward of (yikes) $100 per square foot.

Jeff Cutler of CB Richard Ellis’ Lansing office brokered the deal.

  • Then there’s the little stock market mess with an unsuspecting Steelcase Inc. in the middle. Its stock skyrocketed in the first half hour of trading on Oct. 27 on volume that was almost two-thirds its daily average. Meanwhile, according to Investors Business Daily, shares of eyewear manufacturer Oakley Inc. tanked on volume equal to almost three-quarters of its daily average.

There was no news from either of the companies to explain the rapid trading during those 30 minutes. But the two stocks did share a commonality with a mention in the Value Line Investment Survey, one of the country’s most influential investment newsletters.

Value Line has historically forced prices higher and lower with its ratings, but not in this sense. Rankings are released each Thursday at 10 a.m., so it would appear that someone is getting the information a few minutes earlier than they should.      

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