Bombs and campaign pledges bursting in air

July 2, 2010
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The Fourth of July parades count veterans first, but candidates are a close second. Most political campaigns are solidified in the month before the primary elections, and voters use the holiday to get up close and personal, especially those vying for the governor’s mansion.

The occasion leaves Michigan Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Mike Cox without a teleprompter and dangerously close to bungling conversation one-on-one (save for the aides). There is no debate whether candidate Rick Snyder left the comfort of chicken dinners to walk somewhere in the vicinity of one of his Republican gubernatorial opponents. How many followers does Tweety Bird U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra have in Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard’s district (which also includes Bouchard’s most famous follower, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land)? Can the reality based viewpoint of Dr. Tom George and his constitutional convention crusade really be heard above the predictable drones of his GOP cronies?

Does it really matter how few acknowledged Notre Dame fans live in Meech-i-gan to help Andy Dillon when Virg Benero walks off the leftist plank?

Inquiring minds have yet to know.

Eye on the prize

Bob Kaser, the Grand Rapids Griffins’ vice president of community relations and broadcasting, has been named the recipient of the American Hockey League’s 2009-10 James H. Ellery Memorial Award in the radio category, in recognition of his outstanding coverage of the league.

Kaser’s play-by-play of Griffins hockey has been heard for 10 years on Newsradio WOOD 1300 AM. Since 2002, his broadcasts alongside color commentator Larry Figurski have received five Michigan Association of Broadcasters awards and three Michigan Associated Press awards.

Last season, Kaser was instrumental in putting nine of the Griffins’ games on ESPN 96.1, a new all-sports FM station, and he instituted a new feature to his broadcasts profiling former Griffins and other AHL graduates now playing in the NHL. He also made frequent appearances on local TV and radio shows to promote the Griffins, the AHL, alumni with the parent Detroit Red Wings, and the team’s numerous events in the West Michigan community.

In addition to his broadcast duties, Kaser directs the Griffins’ community relations efforts and was instrumental in the organization garnering the AHL’s 2008-09 Western Conference award for community service. Under his leadership, the Griffins have helped generate more than $2.4 million for local charities over the last eight seasons, including nearly $330,000 during the 2009-10 campaign alone.

Kaser, who founded many of the team’s innovative community programs, also serves as president of the Griffins Youth Foundation, chairman of the foundation’s annual golf classic, co-chair of the Great Skate Winterfest, and director of the Griffins’ youth hockey camp.

A Kalamazoo native who grew up in Flint, Kaser has been involved in hockey since 1979, most notably spending 10 seasons (1990-2000) as director of communications and broadcasting for the International Hockey League’s Kansas City Blades. He was twice awarded the Bob Chase Award as IHL Broadcaster of the Year (1993-94 and 1997-98), and his public relations staff earned recognition as the best in the Western Conference on four occasions (1994-95, 1995-96, 1997-98 and 1999-00).

In his free time, Kaser serves as a board member for Southern Little League baseball and Cornerstone University's Champions of Character program, and is a member of the Advancing Excellence committee for East Grand Rapids Schools.

Hidden in Hudsonville

Info-Shred, a mobile document-shredding company based in Hudsonville that grew 30 percent in the last year, just acquired a new shredding truck that shreds four times faster and holds three times as many shreds as the old one.

“We’re still growing,” said Dan Dykstra, founder and CEO.

The company has a new website, too, plus a new logo, and the operation evidently has some marketing savvy. It promotes the fact that it recycles more than 90 percent of what it takes in; it will shred old library books for recycling, and sometimes holds Free Shred events where people are invited to stop by with up to three or four file boxes of papers that need to be destroyed. (Check out the website at www.info-shred.com.)

“July marks six years in business,” said Dykstra. “It’s an exciting time and I wanted to connect with the community with a recognizable, consistent brand.”

Last week the company was also planning to open a new shredding plant in Hudsonville but the precise location is a closely kept secret, according to a news release — “ensuring customers’ information stays as safe and secure as possible throughout the entire shredding process.”

Fewer construction jobs

According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 294 of 337 metropolitan areas in the country lost construction jobs from May 2009 through May 2010. That works out to be 87 percent. The report also said 16 metro areas gained construction jobs over that period, while industry employment held steady in another 27.

“With current demand soft and chances of a turnaround months away, construction firms are unwilling to expand payrolls. Contractors know there’s nothing to take up the slack once the stimulus runs its course,” said Ken Simonson, chief AGC economist.

Chicago, Houston and the Los Angeles area lost the most construction jobs from May to May. The Windy City lost 21,900 construction jobs in that period. Columbus, Kansas City and Oklahoma City added the most jobs. Columbus added 1,500.

Closer to home, the Grand Rapids-Wyoming market lost 1,200 jobs, or 8 percent of all construction employment. Holland-Grand Haven lost 500 jobs, or 11 percent. Muskegon-Norton Shores lost 200 jobs, or 12 percent. The entire state lost 10,700 construction jobs, which represents 8 percent of the industry’s work force in Michigan. Not one Michigan market of the 15 that were in the AGC report gained construction jobs from May to May.

More nonprofit work

Employment in Michigan’s nonprofit sector increased by 2.69 percent from the third quarter of 2006 to the third quarter 2009, according to a Michigan Nonprofit Association study.

Prepared by Public Sector Consultants Inc., the study found that the sector counted nearly 440,000 jobs in September 2009 and had added 11,500 jobs over three years. Wages also increased — by 14.7 percent — during the same period.

The study, released in June, covered public charities, private foundations and noncharitable nonprofit organizations.

Nonprofits operating in the public and societal benefit arena showed the strongest employment growth, by 6.79 percent, to 19,873. Mutual benefit nonprofits lost the most employment, dropping by 7.34 percent to 3,974. Arts, culture and humanities employment dropped 4.38 percent.

The largest sector was health, which employed 231,206, or 52.8 percent of all nonprofit jobs, and saw a growth rate of 4.8 percent during the three-year period studied.

“The relatively good performance of the nonprofit sector can likely be explained by the counter-cyclical natures of demand for social services during economic downturns,” according to the report.

Wages increased by 14.7 percent over the time period. “We hypothesize that employers expanded the role of current employees, asking them to do more without necessarily adding more staff,” the report stated. “Nonprofits are likely putting in extra effort to retain good talent.”

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