They're pulling it together to preserve manufacturing

November 30, 2009
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The organizers of a Dec. 2 event at the GVSU Eberhard Center — The State of Manufacturing: Why Manufacturing Is Still Alive! — are part of a fledgling group attempting to strengthen the impact of manufacturing in West Michigan.

Bonnie Knopf, member consultant for the Society of Automotive Engineers and president of Intrepid Plastics Manufacturing, helped coordinate the groups comprising West Michigan Manufacturing Societies United.

This is a “homegrown effort to help manufacturing in West Michigan,” Knopf said. “There’s a new super group in town that has a mission of bringing together nonprofit manufacturing societies to help strengthen the impact of manufacturing in West Michigan.”

Knopf said the groups involved in the effort include the American Society for Quality, American Welding Society, Materials Information Society, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Society of Automotive Engineers, The Right Place Inc., Grand Rapids Community College and Grand Valley State University.

“In recent economic times, the membership numbers for each of the societies has dropped,” Knopf said. “We got to the point that we were asking other professional groups to attend our events just to populate them.”

WMMSU is made up of two members of each of the societies. Current members include: Sharon Swadner, chair, and Paul Prunty, treasurer, of ASQ; Matt Post, chair, and Kris Marshall, secretary, of AWS; Debbie Aliya of ASM; David Kane, chair, and Knopf, of SME; Allen Vandenberg, SAE; Paul Johnson, SAE and GVSU; Natalia Powers and Tyrea Duncan, The Right Place; and Julie Parks and Mary Hofstra, GRCC.

A hearty effort

Talk about your standard turkey wishbone! There probably were 450 Thanksgiving dinners last Thursday that expressed gratitude to Home Repair Services because they still have a home in which they can dine. County commissioner Jim Talen said Dave Jacobs of Home Repair Services sent a letter telling each county board member that the organization stopped 291 foreclosures last year and was on track to stop 450 this year.

“Dave attributed the increase to two additional counselors, better training and more willingness by the mortgage industry to negotiate,” said Talen.

A stimulating impact

Talen also noted that the bonds the county’s building authority recently issued for the jail and juvenile detention center construction work will cost the county less than they normally do. That’s because the county went with the public bonds from the federal stimulus package, known as the Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds or Build America Bonds.

“The total bond cost will be $5.3 million less than might ordinarily be expected over their 20-year life. Construction bidding on the projects is expected to take place next April or May,” he said.

The work will replace 520 beds at the jail and replace the kitchen and dining facility at the juvenile detention center. The cost has been estimated at $32 million.

In exclusive company

Raj Malviya, a 28-year-old Grand Rapids attorney with Miller Johnson, was included last week in a group from the North American South Asian Bar Association invited by official invitation to attend the Nov. 24 “Arrival Ceremony for Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, on an Official Visit to the White House.” 

Dr. Singh is widely regarded as one of the most influential people in the world. He and President Barack Obama have met on other occasions, such as the recent G-20 summit, but this was the first official state visit. It highlighted what Obama termed “the strong and growing strategic partnership between the United States and India, and the friendship between the American and Indian people.”

The ceremony to which Malviya was invited was scheduled as a morning event on the South Lawn, but his group reportedly could not be included when the event was moved to a smaller location indoors because of wet weather. Malviya was able to meet with some of Singh’s delegation.

Malviya is the president of the South Asian Bar Association of Michigan and serves as a liaison to the national organization. Earlier his fall, he was named one of the Michigan Super Lawyers Rising Stars 2009.

Hailing from a family of mostly doctors and engineers, Malviya began his college career following the path his family expected of him. Somewhere along the way, he switched gears.

“I wasn’t passionate about science or medicine, and it took me four years of college to realize that,” said Malviya, who practices probate, estate planning, real estate and tax law with Miller Johnson. Malviya tapped into a skill he began honing as a boy: networking. He would often talk things over with his siblings, friends and professors before making a decision. When they suggested he go into law, he listened.

After joining Miller Johnson, Malviya, whose father was born in India and immigrated to the U.S. for graduate school, helped form the South Asian Bar Association.

“Whether I’m working on a matter with other attorneys within the firm, serving on a nonprofit board or attending a leadership conference, I am there to network and build relationships,” said Malviya, a Valparaiso University School of Law graduate who is married to Marta, a school psychologist he met at Hope College.

Some high-profile talks

Another local professional spending time in the nation’s capital this month was Rachel Hood, executive director of the Wet Michigan Environmental Action Council. Hood was invited to the White House to visit with Lisa Jackson of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Kathleen Sebelius, head of the Department of Health and Human Services. It was believed the topic of discussion focused on public transportation and energy.

Hood was recently recognized as a member of the Business Journal’s 2009 40 Under Forty class.

There may be tilting at wind turbines

There have been a lot of positive reports about the coming of wind turbines in the Michigan news media over the past year or two. Now comes the gathering tonight at Grand Haven Charter Township Hall, which may present the first major public opportunity for opposing viewpoints.

The township has scheduled a "public discussion" from 6 to 8 p.m. in response to the city of Grand Rapids’ proposal to install wind energy turbines at GR's Lake Michigan water filtration plant. GR wants to install two commercial-sized turbines, each approximately 300 feet tall and capable of producing between 1.5 and 2 megawatts of power. The electricity would be used entirely by the water plant pumps, which alone account for more than 16 percent of the GR city government's annual electric bill.

"Grand Haven Township is anticipating a great deal of controversy over this proposal," according to a township announcement about the discussion.

“The purpose of the discussion forum is to gather as much information and input as possible to help the Planning Commission and Township Board make an informed decision regarding the development of a large WET ordinance. It is for information-gathering purposes only, and no action will be taken by the board that evening,” said Township Community Development Director Patrick Waterman.

Invitations to the forum were mailed to owners of property within one mile of the city’s property, and the forum is open to the general public.

The township adopted a wind turbine ordinance this year, but it does not address turbines as large as those Grand Rapids is proposing. So why weren't the big commercial-grade turbines mentioned?

Waterman said that when township officials were looking at the language for the proposed ordinance, they used guidelines recommended by Ottawa County planners, who had anticipated the need for wind turbine ordinances in all the townships and municipalities. Waterman said the county "basically stated" that the Grand Haven Township area "would not likely be suitable for a (commercial) wind farm, and a wind farm is the most common type of application where you see these large ones."

He added they weren't "anticipating that a property owner may request just one or two utility-scale turbines, as is this case here."

So was it a surprise when the city of Grand Rapids came calling with their large turbines idea back in July? "Yeah, it was," he said.

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