Milanowski hits campaign road after career with city of Grand Rapids

March 29, 2010
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On the same day city commissioners interviewed four prospective candidates to fill the commission’s vacancy in the second ward, they said farewell to their longtime comptroller. Stanley Milanowski officially resigned last Tuesday from the elected post he has held for 29 years to run for state office.

“It will be especially difficult to leave, as I work with such a professional staff in the comptroller’s department. To be sure, it is the staff who makes for the success, but it is the department head who enjoys the credit,” said Milanowski in his resignation statement.

After the city’s Fiscal Committee meeting last week, 1st Ward Commissioner Walt Gutowski led a standing ovation for Milanowski. “We thank you for your service,” he told Milanowski.

Just before the standing O, though, 3rd Ward Commissioner James White reminisced with Milanowski about the committee’s gatherings. “We used to have doughnuts at these meetings,” said White. But for the sake of transparency in public spending, City Treasurer Al Mooney said, “Yeah, but we bought those (doughnuts) ourselves.”

Milanowski’s last day at the position is March 30, the same day commissioners will select a new 2nd Ward commissioner from the four candidates they interviewed. Expect Milanowski to release details about his political future soon.

A numbers game

The future of the city’s 2011 general fund will be previewed this week when City Manager Greg Sundstrom reveals the budget’s preliminary figures to commissioners on Tuesday. Sundstrom is doing this about a month earlier than usual to give commissioners more time to review the numbers, and maybe to get over the sticker-shock-sized deficit. Last fall, that shortfall was a gaping $27.4 million for roughly a $100 million budget.

But when Sundstrom announced the meeting last week, he seemed genuinely excited about having commissioners see the preliminary figures. So maybe the deficit has been reduced and commissioners won’t have to stock up on Maalox. The city’s new fiscal year starts on July 1.

Doug Wood, director of the Kent County public works department, said construction on the new single-stream recycling facility the county is building at 977 Wealthy St. SW is progressing smoothly. He said the building’s exterior is nearly complete and the recycling education center’s interior is about to be painted. “The neatest thing going on now is the installation of the process equipment. Heavy equipment operators are installing screens and other sorting equipment that weight tons,” he said.

Wood added that the new facility will be tested in June and the center’s public dedication ceremony is set for Aug. 20.

Design a Hush Puppy

Shoe fetishists and Hush Puppies lovers, here’s your chance. Hush Puppies is accepting entries in an on-line shoe design contest until April 18. It’s free to enter and open to anyone in the U.S. age 18 or older.

“If you live in the United States, have an imagination and can put it on paper, you can enter this contest,” said Dani Zizak, VP of Global Marketing for Hush Puppies. Entries, which are being accepted on-line at hushpuppies.com, are limited to one per person and can be either hand-drawn or computer-generated.

The company says it is going to let the public vote on-line for the best shoe designs. Then the top five finalists will face off as part of the “Runway on Monroe” fashion show at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids on May 15, for the announcement of the winning design.

Hush Pupplies says that next year it will actually be producing and selling that shoe.

The winning designer will receive $1,000, free Hush Puppies shoes for a year “and a one-on-one design summit with Hush Puppies footwear designers,” according to the Hush Puppies announcement.

Wolverine World Wide is one of the corporate sponsors of “Runway on Monroe.” (runwayonmonroe.com). Tracy Fahselt of the Hush Pupplies marketing staff said that as sponsors, they were invited to participate in the fashion show.

“We couldn’t really figure out how we would fit into a fashion contest,” she said, until the idea of a design contest occurred to them.

MBA champs

The Association for Corporate Growth Western Michigan anted up $5,000 to help remind local businesses that are hiring that there is some excellent talent among the business students at West Michigan colleges and universities.

The $5,000 was actually the top prize awarded to a team of MBA students from Western Michigan University, who took the ACG Cup last week after intense competition.

The challenge pitted MBA students from Western, GVSU and Davenport University, who spent months analyzing complicated business case studies and then developing comprehensive plans on how they would handle those mergers and acquisitions, finance issues and more.

Nick Adamy, of Adamy Valuation partners and a judge for the ACG Cup final round, said teams were able to “think quickly on their feet and demonstrate knowledge of fundamental principles,” while undergoing hard questioning.

Tom Olive, president of Elan Nutrition and also a judge, said all of the teams “did a lot of work and presented well. We’re really pleased to have students that were willing to put that much time and effort into this case study.”

Up in smoke

At 84, Don Freiburger is still “a real go-getter,” according to his son, Jim.

“He’s always looking into things,” added Jim.

About a year–and-a-half ago, Don started talking to a Chinese company about its “electronic cigarette.”

At first he was just curious, but “he really got pumped up with the smoking ban going into effect,” said Jim.

Today, the father and son entrepreneurial team from Grand Rapids is starting a business called Lite Up N Live, which is going to market that Chinese e-cigarette in West Michigan, just in time for the smoking ban that will banish real cigarette-smoking in all bars and restaurants — and all other in-door places where anyone is working, for that matter (see story, page 1).

When puffed on, the battery-powered electronic cigarette releases a smoke-like vapor containing nicotine. The tip even glows red, but it’s just a small red light; there is nothing burning.

Proponents have told the Business Journal that “e-cigarettes” are completely legal to use everywhere cigarettes aren’t, and can even be “smoked” on airplanes.

They popped up in China a few years ago but suddenly are all over the U.S., including in Grand Rapids. There was a booth promoting e-cigarettes at the Ultimate Sport Show in the DeVos Place a couple of weeks ago, and the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association is advising its members to suggest them to their bar patrons who just have to have a “smoke” while enjoying a drink.

Freiburger, 58, said he thinks the e-cigarettes were developed to help wean smokers from real cigarettes. The device can be adjusted to release atomized liquid nicotine in progressively smaller doses, he said.

Freiburger owns a small business that installs computer network cables in office buildings, and while he said he hasn’t “quit the day job yet,” he sees some potential in the new e-cigarette market since second-hand smoke is now taboo.

He smoked but quit about 30 years ago. Don, who had a construction business that put up a lot of buildings in Grand Rapids and Saudi Arabia years ago, never did smoke

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration is already locked in a legal battle with the e-cigarette importers. Last July, the FDA announced it had done “limited testing” that “indicate that these products contained detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could potentially be exposed.”

The FDA wants to regulate e-cigarettes as drug delivery devices rather than a tobacco product, because as drug devices, it can block importation of them. However, in January, a U.S. District Court judge granted an injunction that prevented the FDA from stopping electronic cigarettes from entering the country. Then in early March, a U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated the FDA’s authority to stop e-cigarettes from entering the U.S., but only for the time being, while the legal battle continues.

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