CVB captures top marketing award in statewide recognition

May 17, 2010
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The Convention and Visitors Bureau recently received the Governor’s Award for Innovative Tourism Collaboration at the Pure Michigan Governors Conference held on Mackinac Island.

The bureau won the prestigious award for its innovative marketing efforts that led to the Religious Conference Management Association selecting Grand Rapids as the site for it 2009 annual conference, which took place at DeVos Place in late January of that year.

“Hosting RCMA provided a key opportunity for Grand Rapids to position itself as a national competitor in the religious market industry. We’re proud to accept this recognition not only recognizing our team’s efforts during RCMA but the statewide collaboration in producing a ‘welcome to Michigan ceremony,’” said CVB President Doug Small in a statement.

Fred and Lena Meijer won the conference’s 2010 Tourism Leader Award, and Grand Rapids was named Best of the Midwest Food Town.

The 1913 Room captured the Five Star Diamond Award and Cygnus 27 won the Four Star Diamond Award. Both restaurants are in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. The Amway Grand and the JW Marriot both received Four Star Diamond awards.

Star of the Industry awards went to Cygnus 27 Chef Werner Absenger and Anne Marie Smartz of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

The Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association, Travel Michigan and Michigan State University co-sponsor the annual conference, which is attended by leaders in the hospitality and travel industries.

Back taxes haunt developer

The city of Walker edged closer last week to demolition of the abandoned house at 3167 Bristol Ave., which is owned by Walker Orchard Land Partners LLC.

Not only is it a decaying eyesore and “attractive nuisance,” nobody paid the property taxes on it last year — or the 16 other adjacent parcels that are also owned by Walker Orchard Land Partners, according to city and county property tax records.

The developers have been planning for about three years to build a major retail center there, anchored by a Cabela’s sporting goods store.

Walker City Manager Cathy Vander Meulen said the city commission asked her last week to try one last time to reach an agreement with the Walker Orchard group, so that the city does not have to pay up front for the demolition. If there is no agreement forthcoming, a contractor will remove the house, and the city will then ask the court to put a lien on the lot where the house was, to recover the demolition cost.

Kent County Treasury records indicate the unpaid taxes are in excess of $150,000. Tax amounts that have been declared delinquent are charged 1 percent interest per month, from that point on.

Kent County Treasurer Kenneth Parrish said tax delinquencies like this are not unusual.

“Given the size of the proposed development and today’s economy, it’s not at all surprising,” he said. He noted that the owners of the property still have almost two years left to pay the taxes and interest before the property can be foreclosed on.

An attorney who represents Walker Orchard Land Partners did not return calls or e-mails from the Business Journal.

When asked if she had heard from the attorney lately, Vander Meulen said no. “It’s been pretty quiet,” she said.

Duthler steps down

Citing pressing personal and family business issues, Patricia Duthler last week announced her resignation as executive director of GROW effective June 4. 

In a news release, Duthler expressed her gratitude for the leadership opportunity and noted that this has been an exciting time to serve as director of GROW.

“I witnessed GROW’s launch over 20 years ago, so I have enjoyed the chance to move the organization upward and outward  during this organizational transition,” Duthler said. “GROW plays an important role as an SBA-sponsored women’s business center in West Michigan. I wish the organization a successful future in meeting the entrepreneurial needs of our community.”

“Patricia has provided great insight and energy into development of our vision for the next chapter in GROW’s history,” said Carleen Crawford, GROW board president. “We will miss her enthusiasm, but know that her support of women business owners remains strong.”

During her two years as executive director, Duthler led the development of new programming that the organization believes strengthens women business owners as they progress from startup toward viability and sustainability.

A board-level search committee has been appointed to begin the recruitment and selection process for a new executive director.

Bye, Bye Bridie

Kent County Health Department’s Community Relations Coordinator Bridie Bereza, the local point person on swine flu, announced last week that she is leaving her post for the island life. Bereza said she and her husband, William, a student at Cooley Law School, are moving to Ireland for a few months, and are considering stints in Australia and New Zealand as well.

“As they say over there: Slainte!” said Bereza, who holds Irish citizenship, in an e-mail to the Business Journal. Bereza said she isn’t sure when the County of Kent (the local one) might fill her shoes in light of its hiring freeze.

Nonprofit exemptions at risk

As many as 400,000 nonprofits in the U.S. are in danger of losing federal tax-exempt status on May 17.

The Internal Revenue Service intends to begin revoking nonprofit status from organizations that have failed to submit annual returns for three consecutive year. That’s the law: the Pension Protection Act of 2006.

Previously, nonprofits with $25,000 or less in gross revenues didn’t have to file with the IRS, and many of those on the brink of status loss fall into that category, according to nonprofit site GuideStar. The agency created a new simple form for those organizations.

The goal is to weed out inactive nonprofits and ferret out those who aren’t following the rules.

The IRS told GuideStar that it will hold off sending out revocation notices until 2011 to give the recalcitrant time to comply.

The Michigan Nonprofit Association estimates that the state has 31,000 organizations exempt from federal taxes under 501(1)(3).

See www.irs.gov for more information.

Teeth-pulling and porn

“I think the Manufacturing Extension Partnership is a great thing, and it’s been like pulling teeth to get money from my colleagues for this purpose,” said Congressman Vern Ehlers last week.

He and Congressman Gary Peters, a Democrat from Oakland County, were in a telephone conference call with the news media Thursday to talk about their support for the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act that was scheduled for a vote in the U.S. House later that day. It is a multi-faceted bill focused on programs that support scientific research and technological innovation.

The Manufacturing Extension Partnership is similar to the Agricultural Extension Service. MEP supports new manufacturing research, techniques and marketing strategies that are offered to small and mid-size American manufacturers around the country to make them more competitive and create more manufacturing jobs.

“For a number of years, it was a very lonely battle trying to get funding for the MEP,” said Ehlers.

When Peters joined in support of MEP, it was “a boost because he’s from the opposite party I am. We were able to work together to cover both parties,” said Ehlers.

“Both Vern and I share a passion for manufacturing,” added Peters.

The MEP portion of the COMPETES bill would be a gradual increase in federal funding, from $125 million in FY2010 to $184 million in FY2015. At the same time, fees the companies have to pay for using MEP would go down.

The COMPETES renewal didn’t pass last week, but not because of the MEP portion. House Republicans and Democrats butted heads on issues ranging from the overall cost of COMPETES to government research computers allegedly being used to view porn.

Pulling teeth can sure be messy.

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