Local banker turns laps as he assumes greater role

June 1, 2009
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When Columbus, Ohio-based Huntington Bancshares Inc. announced last week the promotion of Jim Dunlap to senior executive vice president, it spurred some speculation about how long one of the most active, community-minded local executives will keep his base in West Michigan and how soon he may be called to headquarters to assume an even larger role.

Dunlap, who came to Grand Rapids in 2001, retains his role as the West Michigan regional president and the company’s commercial banking director. He also added responsibility for the strategic direction of the company’s charitable giving programs, recognizing his strong efforts in this area. It’s unlikely a move to the Buckeye state will happen for him until a new regional president is secured and assurances can be made the company can maintain the foothold created by his numerous high-profile community contributions.

Dunlap, the West Michigan region president since September 2001, recently added the responsibility of Huntington’s commercial banking and treasury management/fee-based services businesses, which includes overall strategic direction and alignment, as well as leadership of the commercial business segment in each of Huntington’s 11 regions. During his tenure with the bank, he is credited with transforming the company’s presence in West Michigan by significantly improving business performance, the culture and Huntington’s impact in the community.

In a note sent to bank customers and friends, Dunlap outlined his new role as senior executive vice president with responsibility for commercial banking and treasury management/fee-based service businesses across all 11 regions in the six states Huntington serves. “I will be working with the regional presidents and their teams in each of these markets to build the culture and local commitment that have helped our company expand its role here in West Michigan,” he said.

Rooks rolling in Muskegon again

Things are on a roll in downtown Muskegon for Grand Rapids developer Jonathan Rooks.

Earlier this spring, Rooks, owner of development company Parkland Properties LLC, secured ownership of the Shoreline Inn on Muskegon Lake, including the hotel's adjacent restaurant and marina.

Now he's about to get things moving at his Highpoint Flats project a couple of blocks uptown. Almost a year and a half ago, he closed a deal on the old Hackley National Bank building, with plans to begin renovating it into condos in spring 2008. That was held up by a lack of sprinklers, he said, required by the fire code.

The eight-story building, erected in 1919, has 60,000 square feet and prime views of Muskegon Lake on its upper floors. It's near the site of the former Muskegon Mall, and city officials hope it will spur more development in that neighborhood.

Rooks said he now has the permits to build a demo condo on the sixth floor of the building, renamed Highpoint Flats, and it will soon be under way.

Beer nuts vs. wing nuts?

It’s likely a healthy amount of market research drove Citadel Broadcasting Corp.’s announcement last week that the nation’s third-largest radio group and Michigan’s largest broadcast company would launch the region’s first-ever, online-only radio station, WKLQ.com. In addition, the company today introduced WBBL-FM 107.3 FM, the only FM frequency in the area dedicated to all sports all the time.

Some people obviously weren’t consulted regarding the move, however, as a fair number of angry KLQ fans called into the new station’s sports show hosts and indicated they have long preferred a lot more Ozzy Osbourne rather than heavy doses of Chris Osgood and his Red Wings comrades.

“More than 70 percent of the current WKLQ listeners use the Web site weekly,” said Matt Hanlon, regional president, Citadel Broadcasting Co., in making the announcement. “This new technology and direct connection all the time is designed to get closer to the needs of this audience; it is where they want us to be. In the coming months, Citadel will work with local advertisers to help expand the market’s strategic approach toward the virtual format.”

The key to that phrase would be “advertisers,” as it likely was determined the juiced-up sports station approach would generate more revenue than the KLQ hard rockers who must now turn to the Web.

Brophy a smooth talker

It should be of little surprise that West Michigan entrepreneur Keith Brophy became the first local business leader to capture the championship trophy at the New Enterprise Forum annual Entrepreneurial Improv: Battle of the Elevator Pitch.

The third annual event was held May 21 in Ann Arbor. The light-hearted contest pits seasoned business leaders against each other in the impromptu pitching of a nonsensical business concept to a large assembled audience. A panel of judges from the business community evaluates the pitches and selects a champion from among the business leaders. The winner takes home a traveling trophy, as well as the expectation to defend the title the following year.

The event is intended to highlight the entrepreneurial approaches presented to potential investors. Judges score the contestants both on core relevancy of points made and entertainment value. This year's contestants were two-time defending champion Dick Beedon, a well-known Ann Arbor-based serial entrepreneur; Mike Klein, president of OnLine Technologies, the state's largest hosting firm; Josh Linkner, founder and CEO of Eprize, a 600-employee prize company in Ann Arbor; and Brophy, general manager at RCM in Grand Rapids, past co-founder of Sagestone and president of NuSoft Solutions.

“I was pleased to receive the invite to compete in this fun and prestigious event. It is for a great cause in educating our state's aspiring entrepreneurs,” said Brophy, who has been known to wow local audiences with his not so tongue-in-cheek, tech-talk-laden presentations. “It is also a very stellar crowd involved with the event that I have great respect for. My involvement as a West Michigan businessperson also keeps the focus on statewide awareness of our investment ecosystem.”

Contestants were provided with a business concept to review and 30 minutes to prepare a pitch. They presented their high-intensity, three-minute pitch to the judges and participating crowd. Past themes included concepts such as Gilligan's Island and Dr. Seuss. This year's concept focused on pitching the funding of Christopher Columbus' voyage to a recalcitrant Queen Isabella. A facilitator, in character as Queen Isabella, received the pitches. Keith's presentation centered on the profit aspects of the journey, presented in character as “The Profit Musketeer.”

The Small Business and Technology Development Center was a key catalyst in Brophy's business launch of Sagestone, as well as a strong supporter of the NEF event, with the shared interest of promoting the state's entrepreneurial climate. Carol Lopucki, state director of the MI-SBTDC, remarked, “We are very happy to see the continued success of the NEF Battle of the Elevator Pitch, and were excited to see Keith claim the trophy since he is one of our SBTDC alumni from his startup days. His presentation was very lively and profit-centered, just as we expected.”

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