With Or Without You, Too

May 8, 2006
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  • Grand Rapids was ga-ga for Bono last week, as the Irish rocker drew a crowd of 2,000 to the Econ Club’s annual fundraising fête. By all accounts, it was quite an event. However, the Business Journal wouldn’t know. GRBJ staff decided not to attend the event after reading the specially prepared “media instructions” — which had reporters cordoned off like SARS patients, able to view Bono’s remarks only on closed circuit TV and unable to speak with the star before or after the speech. Instead, Business Journal reporters sat around thinking of goofy stuff to write in Street Talk. Oh look! Here’s some now!
  • Since the local crowd was receptive to the U2 front-man’s pleas for increased aid to Africa, Grand Rapids might earn a reputation as a friendly audience for lecturers on the rock-star-turned-pundit speaking circuit. Here are some speeches that might be worth watching out for:

    — Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards speaking about the dangerous undervaluation of the Chinese yuan and America’s growing indebtedness to China. (Sadly, Richards’ erudite speech is often misinterpreted as drunken gibberish.)

    — AC/DC guitarist Malcolm Young discussing the benefits of alternative energy sources such as hydrogen, solar and wind power, and the negative impact they may have on the relevance of his band’s name.

    — Darius Rucker of Hootie & the Blowfish warning America of the environmental threats facing the spotted owl and several species of self-inflating aquatic life.

    — Detroit rap-rockers Eminem and Kid Rock discussing the passage of Michigan’s embarrassing redneck celebrity torch from Ted Nugent to them.

    — Bret Michaels, lead singer of hair-metal band Poison, offering a presentation on toxic household chemicals and handing out “Mr. Yuck” stickers.

    — Rapper Snoop Dogg presenting “Nuthin’ But A ‘G.R.’ Thang,” a discussion of the rumor that his former record label, Interscope Records, will move to Grand Rapids

  • The Muskegon-Norton Shores area has been named as the best city for doing business in Michigan by Inc. Magazine, outranking the nearby Grand Rapids-Wyoming area and Holland-Grand Haven.

Muskegon was listed as No. 253 of 393 on the magazine’s national list, which was derived from three-month rolling averages of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics state and area unadjusted employment data reported from January 1994 to September 2005.

The Grand Rapids-Wyoming region ranked 368 while Holland-Grand Haven ranked 387, both well below Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn at 351.

  • Five years ago this week, the May 7, 2001, Business Journal had The Right Place Inc. President Birgit Klohs on the cover for a story on World Trade Week. Below the fold was the earliest of many stories detailing the collapse of the office furniture industry.

Then-BIFMA manager of statistical services, Mike Reagan, told the Business Journal the community should not be worried by the 17 percent drop in orders in March, or the 9 percent fall in the first quarter, but did adjust growth estimates from 5.6 percent to 2.7 percent for 2001. We all know how that turned out.

John Fox, then-associate medical director of Priority Health, was profiled in Inside Track.

  • In another trip down memory lane, a search of the 1991 archive of sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine did little to further the debate over gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos’ involvement in the revitalization of Grand Rapids.

It did provide one interesting tidbit concerning junior’s (this was before the family decided who was the Dick, Richard and Rick of the group) position on the state board of education. In the February issue, DeVos talked about plans for education reform, which would later be revealed as the controversial failed voucher program, and eventually lead to the adoption of schools of choice.

In a May story, “Shades of Gray: Schools of Choice,” then-Grand Rapids Board of Education President Judy Rose spoke out against the evils of vouchers and schools of choice.

Fifteen years and a downtown strip club later, Rose is now campaigning for DeVos.

  • Speaking of $100,000 pledges, the one needed to keep Fourth of July fireworks in Grand Rapids skies never came, as Grand Entertainment President Joel Schaaf announced last week.

Perhaps next year, the group will look less to the corporate benefactors with little to gain from adding a 382nd Michigan fireworks display to July 4, and look to the 200,000 people who plan to watch the display. Maybe a grassroots campaign with an online donation tool — perhaps a PayPal account? Actually, Grand Entertainment had an online fund-raising campaign this year, it just did a really bad job of telling people about it.

Here’s another idea: maybe East Grand Rapids will foot the bill. If last year’s Parade of Homes debacle is any indication, EGR residents will happily pay to keep the lawn chairs of Grand Rapids residents off their yards this July.

In truth, this may be a lesson for Grand Rapids. Who needs to go downtown when there are dozens of fireworks displays a short drive away: Allendale, Dorr, Grand Haven, Grandville, Ionia, Muskegon, Plainwell, Saginaw, Sand Lake, Schoolcraft and Montague (haven’t even gotten to Kalamazoo yet) to name a few.

  • The securitization package mentioned in the April 10 story “Christian Wall Street” closed last month. With the quiet time now over, the company can be identified as Foundation Capital Resources, of Mississippi, the nation’s leading REIT focused on the church finance market. With the help of local firms Lambert Edwards, Hartwick Capital, and Warner Norcross & Judd, the fund attained a $137 million financing package backed by church mortgage assets.
  • June Hamersma is stepping down as director of The January Series of Calvin College following the 2007 season.

“I have had 20 wonderful, productive and rewarding years at Calvin,” she said. “Now it is time for me to do something else.”    

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