Summer Gas Drive

July 31, 2006
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Twenty years ago this week in the Business Journal, the lead story was reporter Anne Rivers’ piece, “Cheap Gas Carries Expensive Price Tag.”

This was July 28, 1986, and the picture on the front page showed a now defunct Four Star Service Station with a regular self-serve price of 77.9 cents per gallon.

“The longer the prices stay low, the higher they will rebound,” said then vice president (and current CEO) of Wolverine Gas & Oil Co. Sidney Jansma Jr. “The glut means we’re getting the product cheaper and starting to use more of it. We, as a nation, better remember that the product will again become in short supply.”

You heard it here first.

  • On that note, the Michigan Department of Transportation last week opened a new 71-space carpool parking lot at the
    8th Avenue
    /M-6 interchange in eastern OttawaCounty

Construction of the $130,000 lot began in late May.

“We are always looking for opportunities to provide motorists with carpooling options,” said Erick Kind, MDOTGrand RapidsTransportationServiceCenter manager.

Michigan’s Statewide Carpool Parking Lot Pilot Program was initiated during the energy crisis of 1974. The system today encompasses 217 lots and 8,296 parking spaces.

  • Shares of commercial furniture companies took a shellacking last week following the previous Friday’s announcement of HNI Corp.’s second-quarter disaster. The Iowa-based No. 2 office furniture maker saw the quarter’s profit drop 18 percent and completely whiffed on analysts’ estimates.

Almost instantly, HNI stock fell 4.1 percent to $42.38, and still hasn’t recovered, trading on the New York Stock Exchange at under $41 late last week, its lowest since February 2005.

HNI dragged with it local firms Steelcase Inc. and Herman Miller Inc., both just weeks removed from impressive quarterly reports in June. Steelcase shares declined 1.8 percent that afternoon to $14.90, and had fallen another dime by week’s end to $14.78. Herman Miller, which slid 1 percent to $26.84, rallied late last week to $28.07.

  • Now this is regional strategy. If you were on the lakeshore last week, you may have gotten wind of the First Annual Sewage Fest. Held at MillPondPark in SpringLake, the all-day music fest was a salute to the good folks upriver.
  • In all likelihood, scary stuff happens at Meijer stores no more than at any large enterprise with its doors open all hours of the night. But wow, it sure does happen at Meijer. We’ve got all the makings of a meandering Stephen King novel (or at least TV miniseries) here.

Two people were killed in a Springfield, Ohio, store earlier this month in the course of three days. One was electrocuted, the other crushed by a semi truck.

Security at Meijer was a hot topic last year following the mugging and subsequent death of 81-year-old Margaret Herrema at a Wyoming store last year. A wrongful death case against the company was recently dismissed.

Then there was the deer that took an afternoon stroll through an Ohio Meijer last Halloween; the gunman in Cincinnati; the woman raped in broad daylight in Port Huron in 2001.

Of course, no old-school shotgun gang heists — that’d be D&W. Well, now it’s Family Fare, which has had its own heists in recent years.

Speaking of robbing big box stores, check out “Criss Cross,” the 1990 novel by former Grand Rapids resident and Ferris State University professor Tom Kakonis. It’s set in Grand Rapids and chronicles the robbing of a Meijer-based fictional retail chain. His four other books follow the hard-boiled adventures of Timothy Waverly, a CalvinCollege graduate and professional gambler.

  • In some chipper Meijer news, the store is piloting an innovative gas-price program in Indiana designed to prevent “gas price remorse.” The two-month-old program has already signed up 300 Hoosiers to receive text messages three hours before the stores raises prices by a nickel or more.

The alerts are only available via cell phone, with no e-mail or fax options. The program covers all central Indiana stores. There’s no word if it will spread to Michigan

  • Entrepreneur Dave Miller, upon opening his new Keystone Pharmacy store at
    East
    Paris Avenue
    and
    Cascade Road
    , referred to the perch overlooking the highway as “Pill Hill East.” This was a play off one of several terms for the
    Michigan Street
    medical complex of Spectrum Health, Van Andel Institute, Michigan Street Development and so on.

Miller’s Grand Rapids Township location is just up the road from Michigan Medical P.C.’s massive building on East Paris, and spitting distance from Jeff Hundley’s upcoming 108,000-square-foot Harley Medical Center. Still far from a Michigan hill type cluster, might as well call East Beltline and Cascade Drive the “Medical Miles” then, what with all the suburban doctors, dentists, whos and whatsits that locate on those corridors.

But we digress. The use of “Pill Hill” is interesting in that it was originally coined by Business Journal Publisher John Zwarensteyn. At least in media citations, the term has been overshadowed by the much more popular “Health Care Hill” (Yes, health care is two words. Look it up.) and “Health Hill.”

The term pressed by development officials and

Michigan Street
institutions over the past year, “Medical Mile,” appears to have gained little traction in the common dialect.

  • A recent Harris Interactive study commissioned by American Business Media determined that business-to-business media had retained its influence on executives despite the onslaught of new media outlets.

The study focused on how media end-users use business media in their decision-making, and determined that trust in online media was indeed growing. Roughly half of respondents said online advertisements led to making or recommending a purchase, but were seldom the only consideration. In fact, all media platforms provided some influence in the decision-making process.

Tops among these were business-to-business magazines, with 57 percent of responding executives reporting that an ad in a B2B publication prompted them to purchase or recommend a product or service.

Hint, hint.    

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