Tools Aside, Room To Spare

September 17, 2007
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Paul Goebel Group President Meg Goebel last week celebrated her 50th birthday (shh, don’t tell anybody) with more than 50 of her closest friends, including television sitcom and movie star Tim Allen, whose most current movie release is “Wild Hogs.”

It was a party weekend for most of the metro area, with Celebration on the Grand activities at full blast and the Muskegon Shoreline Spectacular … which caused overnight lodging issues for the actor who found downtown hotels booked. Though residents across the state (who all seemingly claim to have known Allen at his alma mater, Western Michigan University) might gladly have hosted him, one old friend had the golden key. East Grand Rapids native Michael Lyman is the new director of sales and marketing at the (as yet) unopened JW Marriott.

Lyman happily promised that he could line up staff and get a room ready for the actor. He literally did “line up” that staff and staged a celebrity welcome, with the uniformed personnel lining the short entrance to the luxury hotel to shake hands and welcome Allen and his wife. The only thing the hungry actor couldn’t get was room service, since the new facility was not yet fully operational.

The birthday babe’s little brother, Buzz Goebel, found the solution in the drive-through of the neighborhood Burger King. Good thing the comedian married his personal trainer. (Buzz is currently managing The Restaurant at Thousand Oaks.)

**An outtake from the joint Mercy General Health Partners and Hackley Hospital press conference last week at the Muskegon Harbor Holiday Inn, during which the two organizations announced their intention to merge as a single entity:

“In Muskegon, we have our backs to Lake Michigan,” said Roger Spoelman, president and CEO of Mercy General Health Partners. “But since we don’t get many patients from the water, we have to grow to the north, to the south and to the east.”

Also, the merger does not appear to bring many concerns of job loss. Spoelman and Hackley Health President and CEO Gordon Mudler emphasized that the combined hospital will only see more patients, so only positions that duplicate services would have anything to fear, and most of those will likely be eliminated through attrition or position shuffling.

There actually appears to be only a handful of potential losers in the deal. Unlike the Spectrum Health merger of a decade ago, there has been virtually no discussion about keeping costs down — a wise move, as it didn’t work for Spectrum — but the potential to improve services should be a net gain for consumers.

A brief “affiliation” between Spectrum and Hackley broke off almost two years ago. The common underground understanding of that relationship was that Spectrum was recruiting physicians, who would refer to Spectrum Health. It’s another chapter in “Why the Lakeshore Doesn’t Trust GR.”

Hospital vendors of products and services that are not part of normal operations will likely suffer a blow, particularly advertising outlets. However, the eventual branding effort should be a short-term bonanza for marketing and signage firms.

At some point in the future, either the Michigan Nurses Association or the Services Employees International Union will lose some members. The SEIU represents all Mercy General staff and all but nurses at Hackley. The MNA represents nurses at Hackley. The hospitals intend to honor all standing labor agreements, but it is a near certainty that the nursing staff will not be double-organized in perpetuity.

**Local band The Icicles has repeated its independent label commercial feat of a year ago with a new single on national airwaves.

The single “La Ti Da” is the soundtrack of the latest Target commercial, which began airing this past weekend in markets worldwide. The track is from the pop-rock group’s latest album “Arrivals & Departures.”

Last year, the Icicles tune “Sugar Sweet” helped launch the MOTOKRZR cell phone for Motorola. Following that hybrid commercial/music video, the group’s album and single sales increased dramatically, particularly for its 2004 album “100 Patterns,” which contains the “Sugar Sweet” track. It was a coup for Grand Rapids-based Microindie Records, believed to be the first local label to place a song through one of the national music licensing groups.

“It’s more exposure than we could do any other way,” said Icicles singer and lead guitarist Gretchen DeVault, who believed fans were finding the band by searching lyrics on Google or through tracking portals such as Adtunes. “With the music industry changing like it is, this is a great way for bands to get their music heard. It's really bigger than radio in some respects.”

The group is planning a European tour this fall, with stops in the United Kingdom and likely Scandinavia.

**Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Department of Labor Assistant Secretary Emily DeRocco are potential guests for the 2007 WIRED Innovation Conference Oct. 11 at Steelcase University. The free event will introduce interested parties to the various programs and initiatives within the region’s $15 million Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development Initiative, prominently featured in this week’s Focus section on page B1.

**Nucraft Furniture Co. has broken ground on a $1.5 million expansion of its headquarters and primary manufacturing facility at 5151 West River Drive.

The 20,000-square-foot project, to be added to the front northeast corner of the building, will improve the corporate offices and create a new entrance. The project also includes a renovation of the existing offices with an updated cafeteria, additional windows and conference spaces.

The building designer and architect is Via Design. The builder is Rockford Construction Co. The project will seek Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Construction of the expansion is expected to start immediately, and be concluded in March 2008.

Tim Schad, Nucraft chairman and CEO, said the company’s sales grew 15 percent last year, and he expects to exceed that growth in 2007.    

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