What You Cant See

June 5, 2006
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Science may have found a solution for West Michigan NIMBYs. Since neither 23 is Enough’s gambling opposition or Mayor George Heartwell’s strip club ban are being waged for moral reasons (It’s all about blight, baby! And bigger government!), it would be safe to assume that if no one can see the offending institutions, development and quality of life should continue unabated.

According to the journal Science, physicists J.B. Pendry of Imperial College London and David Smith and David Schurig of DukeUniversity have developed a way to make high-tech “metamaterials” that can funnel light around an object and make it invisible.

Within a year, the scientists hope to be able to shield equipment from microwave radiation, and within a decade provide protection from visible light in the manner of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.

But rather than an Invisible Man, suppose the material could be used to create a giant tarp, or perhaps an exterior wall covering. This way, neighbors can rest assured that kids and customers won’t be gawking at the XXXs next door — because they won’t be able to see it!

  • Speaking of things that you’re not supposed to see, there might be fireworks in downtown Grand Rapids on Independence Day after all. As an outcome of the efforts of business owner and activist Ed Kettle, the Fourth of July Fireworks Celebration 2006 is slated to occur in downtown Grand Rapids. Donors were secured to cover the costs of the fireworks display and the majority of an entertainment component.

To cover the balance, there might be a fee for spectators to enter Ah-Nab-AwenPark and watch the show.

  • Grandville technology firm Trivalent Group will host its second annual information technology conference Tuesday at FrederikMeijerGardens. The “Solution Expo” will focus on business continuity and disaster preparedness, with keynote speaker Barney F. Pelant, an international expert on the subject.

Some interesting facts: 43 percent of businesses fail within five years of a major disaster; 29 percent fail within the first two to four months (Gartner Group). Ninety-three percent of companies that lost their IT for more than nine days filed for bankruptcy within a year of the disaster. Fifty percent filed immediately (National Archives & Records Administration).

Of the 350 businesses operating in the WorldTradeCenter before the Feb. 26, 1993, bombing, 150 were out of business one year later.

  • Scott Greenlee has announced his candidacy for 2007 President of Junior Chamber International, parent organization of the Jaycees. If elected at the JCI World Congress in November in Korea, Greenlee would serve as CEO of a 200,000-member global organization with roots in more than 100 countries and territories. He would be the first JCI president from Michigan and 13th from the United States

Greenlee has served as president of the Grand Rapids Jaycees, Michigan Jaycees and is currently executive vice president, Area B, of the JCI Executive Committee.

  • Michael A. Dunlap & Associates quarterly office furniture industry survey revealed some surprisingly low optimism for the rebounding industry. The survey’s Industry Index Number for April 2006 was 55.87, the lowest result since the survey began in 2004.

“Don’t misinterpret the reduction,” said Mike Dunlap, the firm’s principal. “Our interpretation is that the industry is still growing, just at a reduced pace … It’s like going from 100 mph down to 70 mph.”

Last month, The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association updated its projections for the coming year, predicting an $11.2 billion 2006 and an $11.9 billion 2007.

It’s getting a bit redundant to say those are the best years the industry has had since 2001 — the whole recession thing — so it’s with great joy that 2006 looks to be the best year since 2000, as the coming year looks to surpass the results of 2001 by $200 million.

Unfortunately, it will be a few more growth years before the industry can top 2000 ($13.2 billion), but at least then it’ll be “best year ever.”

More unfortunately, the statistics suggest the industry has lost ground to foreign competition. While U.S. production should be roughly equivalent to that of 2001 at $11 billion, 2006 consumption is a billion dollars higher ($13.4 billion to $12.3 billion).

  • Michigan’s three-year-old Club Game program was the second highest grossing U.S. club program last year. The games, commonly found in restaurants and bars, recorded median sales per retailer of $13,000 per month. Club Keno led the way with a 61 percent increase; Pull Tab sales were up 56 percent. In total, Club Games were responsible for $82 million of the state lottery’s record $667.6 million contribution to the State School Aid Fund.

According to Michigan Beverage Journal, four West Michigan establishments ranked among the top 20 Club Game retailers in the state. Florentine’s Pizza Restaurant and Sports Bar in Grand Rapids was the highest grossing establishment in the state. Eldo’s Bar & Grill in Grand Rapids and Stan’s Bar in SpringLake broke the top 10. Tommy Brann’s Steak House in Wyoming clocked in at No. 14.

Tommy Brann is a 23 is Enough member, but he’s apparently not on the same page as the group’s lawmaker members, or at least state representative Fulton Sheen 

Before the U.S. House Resources Committee, the Allegan Republican was asked by Saginaw Democrat DaleKildee, “Has your organization taken any position against this type of gaming which takes place in Michigan (that) has really proliferated?”

“Are you asking me how I feel about repealing the lottery?”

“Yes.”

“I would be happy to put that bill forward … At this point the main concern of 23 is Enough is just that: 23 casinos is enough… We haven’t discussed whether they support or are against the lottery.”    

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