Jandernoa Lansing's ignoring some pertinent information

September 14, 2009
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The new Business Leaders for Michigan, announced last week, is the result of a merger between Detroit Renaissance and the Michigan Business Leadership Council formed more than a year ago by West Michigan business executives.

One of those was Mike Jandernoa, former Perrigo Co. CEO and active member of several venture capital groups in West Michigan.

Jandernoa, now a member of Business Leaders for Michigan, noted the new, expanded organization replacing Detroit Renaissance already has a strategic plan on its Web site (www.businessleadersformichigan.com) outlining five steps for turning around the stricken Michigan economy. It includes information about forecasted state revenues, predicted job growth or loss and more, he said.

"That information is available but not used by the state government," he said.

The new, more powerful statewide organization of business interests is going to make sure that every lawmaker in Lansing and every member of their staffs are familiar with the strategy and information it contains, he said.

"We clearly have a budget and financial crisis in Lansing," said Jandernoa, "and there are a lot of business organizations and other organizations that are extremely concerned about it, and offering suggestions and ideas on how  to make changes that can turn things around."

Meanwhile, the countdown continues on the end of the current budget at month’s end.

Not quite a secret

The suspense will be over soon. Robert Israels has promised to let everyone in on his next development plan for the city’s near west side within a month.

Rumor has it that the owner of Israels Designs for Living and Klingman’s Furniture has an option to buy a block of buildings on the north side of the 600 block of Bridge Street NW between Seward and Stocking avenues.

The structures — four two-story buildings and one single story — are commercially zoned, in the Stockbridge Business District, have been vacant for most of this year, and are within walking distance of his company’s campus on Seward Avenue.

“You may have heard that exciting things may soon be happening on Grand Rapids’ West Side. Some of these rumors are correct; many of them aren’t,” wrote Israels in a letter to the Business Journal last week.

“This project is still in the planning stage, and many details are up in the air. So unfortunately, there are a lot of answers I simply don’t have at this time. However, I can promise you the entire story will come out within the next month,” the letter continued.

“And I guarantee that the full story will be well worth the wait.”

That last point — being well worth the wait? We already knew that.

We also know that Israels’ latest West Side renovation project is nearing completion. He is converting the former Enterprise Iron and Metal Co. building into office space and making an addition to it. The building sits on the southeast corner of Fourth Street and Seward Avenue NW, kitty corner from the South Widdicomb Building he renovated earlier.

The building’s tenants are apparently all lined up, and one is the second location of the Cherry Deli and Catering restaurant owned by Scott and Suzanne Schulz. Scott’s title is head chef, while Suzanne’s is Grand Rapids city planning director. The restaurant will be an appreciated addition to the Israels campus and the neighborhood.

Erhardt Construction Co. has directed the renovation of the Metal building and is doing the same for another Israels-owned building: the former Drueke Game Co. structure at the northwest corner of Third Street and Seward Avenue NW. The Drueke is also getting an addition — about 8,000 square feet — and may be connected to the South Widdicomb via an enclosed skywalk. Yes, even on the West Side, it does snow and rain sometimes.

A ‘lifestyle’ approach

Other news regarding Israels Designs For Living became official last week, when store manager Luitjen Kiewiet outlined in a news release a new retailing approach for the Israels showroom at 28th Street and Breton.

Kiewiet said Israels was among the first to embrace the “brand gallery” concept more than a decade ago. It’s a process in which furniture from one maker is gathered into a single display. Now, the retailer is going in an entirely new direction — based largely on the results of an extensive marketing research study.

“The study was conducted by Furniture Brands International, and it told us that customer expectations are changing,” said Kiewiet. “So we decided to change with them — by embracing the ‘Lifestyle Collections’ retailing concept. It will allow us to sell furniture in the same way that our customers want to buy it.”

Starting in November, the Israels showroom will feature nine collections of furniture and accessories that share a common sense of design and character, grouped together in settings that reflect specific lifestyles. Kiewet said Israels has made the change in the way it presents itself on the Internet, as well. The store’s Web site, www.israels.com, has been completely redesigned.

Quality from West Michigan, USA

J.R. Duncan appreciates it when he goes into a Meijer store and sees fresh produce clearly marked as being from West Michigan.

He says that all too often, people aren't aware of the good stuff that comes out of West Michigan. They might, for instance, go shopping for carpet sweepers and not even realize that Bissell is a local product.

Duncan had an idea for a simple way to promote West Michigan products, so he took the idea to the Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce — which liked it and is using it.

The Muskegon chamber created a simple but attractive logo that any local company can put on its product labels or brochures. The logo is an image of the state surrounded by the words: "Quality Made – West Michigan, U.S.A."

Duncan, president of Harborfront Interiors on Black Creek Road in Muskegon, is going to put the logo on his product packaging and brochures. Harborfront is a manufacturing company with about a dozen employees and a 24,000-square-foot plant. The family-owned operation has been in business for more than 20 years, designing and making furniture for restaurant chains and commercial dining room interiors. Harborfront has an impressive customer list that includes well known names like McDonald's, Holiday Inn, Ramada Inn and Burger King. Duncan tries to obtain most of his manufacturing materials locally, and his seating, tables, counters and décor walls are shipped all over the country, with a lot of the products going to Florida, Texas and Arizona.

"Michigan has been down in the dumps way too long," he said. "It's time we do something for ourselves — try to support each other."

The camera-ready logo can be downloaded for free from the chamber Web site at www.muskegon.org

"We've got a lot of interest" from Muskegon chamber members, said chamber president Cindy Larsen, and the chamber has offered the logo to other West Michigan chambers to make available to their members too.

The first day last week that the logo was available online, the Muskegon chamber received a note of thanks from Jill Batka, general manager at Dynamic Conveyor Corp.

"I've already added the logo to a couple of pages on our Web site," she wrote.

Up, up and away

The growth spurt in the aerospace industry, as outlined in this issue’s Focus section, was recognized last week by a U.S. House of Representatives resolution introduced by Congressman Vern Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids.

“Workers in the aerospace industry have contributed to many scientific and technological breakthroughs in the United States, including space flight, meteorological forecasting and national security, as well as civil and commercial aviation,” Ehlers said in a news release.

“It is an important part of our economy, directly employing around 831,000 people and supporting more than 2 million jobs in other fields.”

Ehlers indicated the most recent data on aerospace employment shows that 5,535 people were directly employed by the industry in Michigan in 2006.

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