Hooray For Homers

June 12, 2006
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Three cheers each for Fresh Coast Productions Principal Ed Kettle and a merry band of corporate sponsors led by Centennial Wireless, Spartan Stores, Alticor Inc. and Metro Health, keeping alive a decades-old tradition of Fourth of July fireworks over the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in downtown Grand Rapids

(At least one Business Journal staffer is still waiting on a thank-you card for the $40 he donated.)

You have to admit, letting everyone know the fireworks were a dead deal without these corporate benefactors sure raises the value of the sponsorship opportunity.

Again, props to the Centennial Wireless Family Fireworks, but let's call a duck a duck. A person or organization that pays for a project or activity is a sponsor. A donor is one that gives, donates or presents something (see: Business Journal staffer). And although this part is not addressed by Merriam Webster in either case, to expect something in return seems to imply the former.

Which brings up the very public case of Fred Meijer and the White Pine Trail.

Last week, Gov. Jennifer Granholm told the state's Natural Resource Trail Fund Board that it has until this Wednesday's meeting to figure out a way to rename the trail after Meijer in return for his $1 million donation.

Not to take anything away from generous folks like Meijer, but is this really a trail (the anecdotal kind) that the state wants to follow?

Even Amway founder Rich DeVos — who along with Meijer, and Amway partner Jay Van Andel, have enough things named after them to keep tourists "turning left at the Van Andel" for days — once questioned this practice, admitting in a recent speech that putting his family's name on buildings for which they'd given money had made him uncomfortable, but "I've gotten over my vanity. … I like my name on things…. I've got the right, I outbid everyone else."

And if it gets him to give his money to his hometown rather than some other needy place, who's to complain?

Do Gerald Ford and the estate of Rosa Parks owe the city some coin for the airport, highway and park? No, but maybe the world does need more police dogs named ReMax.

In for a dime, let's be in for a dollar: The Country Fresh Grand Rapids Police Department; Universal Forest Products Fire Department; The City of Grand Rapids, brought to you by The Grand Rapids Press.

Yes, it sounds horrific, but how is it wrong? Somebody needs to pay for this stuff. If you don't mind the city's new arena, convention center, museum or MillenniumPark being funded through private dollars, then why balk about painting the Jolly Green Giant on the side of the Calder?

There is, of course, a historical precedent for a culture where the public sector is unable to function without the assistance of the private sector. Perhaps a municipality could go this route — instead of stopping at naming rights, move right onto titles of nobility. How much would being the Duke of Grand Rapids, Count of Kentwood or Earl of Ada fetch on the open market? To be knighted?

People love titles. Doesn't Ambassador Peter Secchia sound so much better than UFP Chairman Emeritus Peter Secchia? Compare Mayor George Heartwell to George Heartwell, CEO of Pilgrim Manor Retirement Community.

West Michigan could even come up with its own title. A newsroom suggestion was Homer, short for Hometown Hero. Try it on for size.

This isn't feudalism, just honor. It wouldn't be worth anything other than recognition, but that's why Meijer wants his name on the White Pine Trail, isn't it? So people know he helped make something happen; that 100 years from now, even if his stores might be a division of Wal-Mart, people will still recognize that he helped make this world a better place.

  • A report by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network estimates that the Dick DeVos for Governor campaign has already spent $5.4 million. By the time the race is done, the two sides together will have spent roughly $30 million, or nearly twice that of the 2002 race.

Including independent special interest spending, some estimates have the 2006 gubernatorial campaign spending as much as $60 million. That's enough to fund two Kalamazoo Promises for the entirety of the term of office.

  • Granholm's re-election ads were launched late last week, but the campaign had already started.

Announced earlier this month at the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island, a massive Michigan Economic Development Corp. campaign will share stories of successful CEOs who have chosen to expand their businesses in Michigan as a way to encourage other businesses to choose Michigan for the site of their future job creation.

Award-winning Michigan filmmaker Jeff Daniels — along with news media personalities such as CNBC's Maria Bartiromo and CBS's Charles Osgood — will introduce these business-growth success stories to business decision makers in Michigan and around the country, and highlight economic growth tools such as the $2 billion 21st Century Jobs Fund.

Featured CEOs include Maria Thompson of T/J Technologies and Subhendu Guha of United Solar Ovonic. The MEDC commercials will be heard nationally on CBS Radio's Charles Osgood program, ABC Radio's SeanHannity program, and on Premier Network's Maria Bartiromo program, with television venues to be determined later.

And commercials are already playing on television and radio in Michigan, where businesses apparently need to be reminded that the state's business climate really isn't as bad as those DeVos campaign slots make it sound.

  • Let's not whine. Chuck Stoddard and his wife, Jan, are moving to SonomaValley. So Rotary last Thursday gave them a fine send-off, with a faux newspaper article that captured the essence of the man. To wit: The Groaner.

Groaners are believed to be jokes stolen from Boys Life Magazine, from which Stoddard has surgically removed all humor. Hearing more than one groaner in a 24-hour period, according to Rotarians, has been likened to passing a kidney stone.

We hear wine is good for kidney stones.    

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