Backroom maneuvering secures monster project

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As the fight song says, it really was an effort to “smash right through for MSU,” which means super-conducting colliders will be smashing their way to new breakthroughs in Michigan.

It took a host of “designated pests” to help clear the path for a host of expert enthusiasts to bring a cutting-edge nuclear research facility to Michigan State University.

MSU benefactor and head cheerleader Peter Secchia was, of course, among the champions of the $550 million project that holds extensive promise for providing the entire region with a long-awaited economic catalyst.

While Secchia joined others in “harassing people” behind the scenes and pushed to “remind our friends we were on the list,” he gives full credit to school president Lou Anna Simon who “was the driving force and the Energizer Bunny who was everywhere seeking help and understanding. She did wonders on this project.”

Rep. Vern Ehlers, “who was translating for us non-physics majors as he presented the issue with technical verve,” led a Michigan congressional delegation that was “everywhere on this issue, and the entire group sung our praises,” Secchia said.

The cyclotron staff at MSU played an “awesome” role in the process, the ambassador noted. “Their reports and their attention to detail was outstanding.”

Secchia notes that MSU graduates 10 percent of all the physics Ph.D.’s in the country and is at the top in the number of physics graduates.

Always the political realist, Secchia noted the troubles of deposed Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich did not help that state’s cause to bring the project to the greater Chicago area.


Steelcase makes the band

Whelp, Steelcase Inc. has made it to the big time. That’s right, the company made the cut for hip hop artist Ne-Yo’s latest music video of the song, “Miss Independent.” The video was shot in Steelcase’s Santa Monica showroom and utilizes its office solutions — proving that, yes, office furniture is cool.

Breakdown

While most industries are experiencing job losses, one job has been overloaded with demand. Marvin, the computerized system that files unemployment applications for the state of Michigan, experienced so much activity that it shut down last week.

“It’s like having a nervous breakdown. The machine just plain isn’t working. We’re doing it all by hand. It caused a blowout of the system. Marvin couldn’t handle it,” said one state employee.

Marvin is expected to make it back to full health next week.

From wine to Doo Wop

Following on the heels of last month’s fairly successful Wine & Food Festival, which drew 8,000 connoisseurs of most things palatable to DeVos Place, the Convention and Arena Authority is now going after connoisseurs of most things wopable, as it recently announced its third Big Daddy’s Doo Wop Sh’Bop is set for Van Andel Arena March 19.

The board’s charity event will feature Shirley Alston Reeves, lead singer of The Shirelles, Gene Chandler of “Duke of Earl” fame, and Barbara Harris of the Toys, which gave us “A Lover’s Concerto.” Jay Siegel and The Tokens and Larry Chance of The Earls are also on the oldies bill.

Tickets are available at the usual places, like the arena and convention center box offices, for $25 and $35. VIP treatment is available for a slightly higher price and includes dinner, drinks and a chance to socialize with fellow doo whoppers. Call Gilda’s Club at 453-8300 for these tickets and ask for Louise Edison or “Punky.” It’s the same person.

All proceeds from the Sh’Bop will go to Gilda’s Club, Hospice of Michigan and St. John’s Home. Don’t be square, think stocking stuffers and help a trio of worthy causes.

It’s in the mail

So how many envelopes are you going to need for the holiday card-sending season? Probably not anywhere as many as Kent County plans to give the U.S. Postal Service in 2009. Our friends at the county estimate they’ll drop up to 983,350 different sized envelopes next year into those big blue boxes.

At least, that’s how many the county will get from Printlink Partners, the company whose bid came in as the most complete and lowest priced for the county’s envelope business.

So how much does 983,350 envelopes of 20 varying sizes and styles cost? Only $29,997. Of course, that doesn’t include postage.

City dropping the ball

City commissioners made a new event part of what will hopefully become Grand Rapids tradition last week when they declared New Year’s Eve on the Grand an official city happening. It’s set to take place Dec. 31 beginning at 5:30 p.m. at Rosa Parks Circle, with live music that will continue into the night and come to a crescendo with the first-ever city-endorsed countdown to 2009 and the dropping of the city’s first-ever ball.

“The noise will stop at midnight when the ball drops,” said Todd Tofferi, who heads the city’s office of film, music and special events. “There will be no alcohol sold at the event.”

So where will the ball be dropped from? Well, not from the top of McKay Tower or any other nearby building. Tofferi said it will come hurling down at the stroke of midnight from a 200-foot crane — what else? What could be more symbolic of what is happening in downtown than a crane? Rockford Construction, another good downtown symbol, is reportedly building the ball.

Tofferi said it’s tough to estimate how many New Year’s Eve revelers will be there when the ball drops, but he guessed from 5,000 to 7,000 if the weather is decent. “It could be larger,” he said of the crowd. “Being a first year, it’s unknown.”

Meanwhile, more than a fair share of downtown restaurants and entertainment venue operators were chagrined by the mayor and city’s endorsement of the radio stations’ promotion that doesn’t directly involve them and that some believe is ill-timed, considering New Year’s Eve is already a natural draw to the downtown area. They think closing streets and jamming the downtown with traffic and pedestrians who may have no intention of frequenting these establishments threatens to discourage those paying customers planning to head downtown. Why not a Ground Hog’s Day downtown celebration instead? Where’s Dick Clark when you really need him?

Another ball drop?

If the Arena Football League does drop the ball on having a season next year, Van Andel Arena will lose one of its two sports tenants as the Grand Rapids Rampage won’t have anyone to play. When asked last week what he knew about the upcoming season, SMG Regional General Manager Rich MacKeigan said, “We’re moving forward as if we’re hosting our first game in late winter or early spring. That is what we know.”

The Arena Football League voted Wednesday not to suspend play in 2009 — at least at press time.

Reportedly, the AFL was waiting to learn whether it will get an infusion of cash from a group of investors. MacKeigan thought the due diligence of investors could have been be a reason for the delays in a dispersion draft, the start of the free-agent signing period and a release of the league schedule.

Let’s hope Isiah Thomas isn’t an investor. Remember when the Grand Rapids Hoops used to play at the arena?

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