April Fools

April 2, 2006
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Last week's "news" was never a story about The Development; it is a decent business story about how broadcast stations create "appointment" television and by all news director accounts the screaming me-mes at WOOD TV8 won a day (or two). But by week's end the folks at 8 were reporting that "we learned last night" (from FOX 17's broadcast) ….

For everyone who played a part in the local version of "The Simpson's"' monorail episode, "Mystery Development," it's time to take a bow.

You know who you are. You with the cousin whose brother-in-law's niece went on Spring Break with the daughter of the guy who cuts the hair of a guy who goes to church with an assistant coach on the East Grand Rapids volleyball team that coaches the girlfriend of Mayor George Heartwell's secretary's oldest child … who told you in strictest confidence that the mystery development was Google, a Trump underground casino, extension of the Mayo Clinic, or gangsta rap commune.

The jig is up (see the story on page 1). It's exactly what the original story, "Massive Riverfront Project Afoot," said over a month ago. Quoting Deputy City Manager EricDeLong from Feb. 20, "It becomes a blank palette for people to have an urban mixed use."

  • While the tip of the iceberg has been revealed from the river Grand what lies beneath is that for the first time, outside players have taken such a major interest in RiverCity. Michigan Black Expo Inc. President Rudolph Treece was uncharacteristically silent about the project, until former Mayor John Logie trapped him in an interview with one of the local daily papers, confirming that he was involved in the mystery project.


Treece now will only say "that all will be revealed at the right time" in regard to his connection to Delain Roberts, the Grand Rapids native and record company executive that introduced Duane Faust to the region. Treece is by all accounts one of the city's most unabashed cheerleaders. He did share his feelings about the media's involvement in the story's coverage.

"Our current goings-on about this could potentially destroy this entire piece," he said. "If the media would just pretend that they are New York media and wouldn't be impressed by something with 10,000 jobs — just let it happen as it should, then this will all be good."

Treece's statements mirror a growing sentiment in the region that the media has damaged efforts at the project by sensationalizing it and, well, sticking their noses where they don't belong.

Don Hunt, the Lambert Edwards partner engaged for RiverGrand's communications efforts, had this to say: "The ferocity of some of your peers knows no bounds. This competition over what is really an anemic process for news has people looking a little more carefully at the region."

But before taking too many digs at the region's "Hooterville" media and the esteemed B-to-B that broke the story, remember, it was Grubb & Ellis/Paramount's Deborah Shurlow that said 10,000 jobs. (You can watch the tape.)

And it might be worth taking the time to reread the original story; it's hard to see where the sensationalism came from.

  • The broadcast media didn't care about the effects of its reporting but kings of local development thus far got it. Former Ambassador to ItalyPeter Secchia commented, "I wish them (the project managers) the best; I wish them a lot of luck. Grand Rapids works because people have dreams. And then they have good partners and Grand Rapids makes altruistic contributions to good projects sometimes. I'm not saying that that's happened with this, I don't think they're that far yet. These are young men who have been successful and who have dreams. I wish them good fortune on this. It means good things for Grand Rapids."

And Secchia wanted to make another point: "Mayor Heartwell got caught in the middle of this. He had no choice but to sign the confidentiality agreement. If you want to know what's happening in your town, you get forced into that. Everyone has on one project or another; it's something you just have to do. Even I have not always liked it. Otherwise you get caught sleeping, like (city commissioner Rick) Tormala; and then you have to read it in the paper."

  • In the latest episode of DeVos: The Next Generation, Rick DeVos launched Spout.com, "the first online community focused on connecting film lovers with great films and people who have something to say about them."

Its official debut came last month at the Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, and the site is essentially an online forum community that sells DVDs.

"We see Spout filling an immediate need for people to reconnect with films and other people, extending the film experience beyond the run-time of a film or the dates of a festival," DeVos said. Ultimately, he hopes Spout will become an alternative to Hollywood's promotion and distribution model.

  • In other DeVos news. Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos may have narrowly averted the West Michigan equivalent of Gov. Jennifer Granholm driving a Honda (she doesn't), as Alticor was rumored to have engaged a pair of out-of-state manufacturers for a large furniture contract.

Massachusetts-company AIS and Wisconsin's KI were happy to report they had landed the deal through Lansing dealer Smart Office Systems.

"I know this was a hard decision for Alticor, what with manufacturing jobs leaving the state and DeVos' campaign," said AIS President Michael Dugally. "But had they stayed with Haworth, it wouldn't have created any jobs. This will create jobs for Smart Office … Or, they might not have bought anything."

Later, Smart Office Systems' Paul Covert said that Alticor no longer appeared to be placing orders for new furniture, but had contracted his firm to refurbish its current Haworth stock. That's PC.     

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