Pass the lettuce and who won the jackpot

August 16, 2010
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Art Johnson, chairman and CEO of United Bank in Grand Rapids and sitting chair of the American Bankers Association, has likely made hundreds of marketing pitches for his bank in his more than 40 years in the business, but today’s market brings some previously unseen grim realities.

That condition hung heavy in the air last week when Johnson declared United to be “open for business” before a room full of local commercial real estate movers and shakers.

The realtors had sat down for dinner after a day of taking their angst out on some innocent golf balls in the Commercial Alliance of Realtors’ annual golf outing at Blythefield Country Club. United Bank, the event sponsor for the outing, IS ready to help real estate deals come to fruition, “if for some chance you find yourself in a position to close a deal,” Johnson informally assured his audience.

Earlier this year, Johnson acknowledged “the credit worthiness of some business endeavors has been so severely ravaged by the recessionary conditions that virtually every asset on the balance sheet of all businesses, regardless of size, is substantially diminished from where it would have been three, four, five years ago.”

That handicap has kept firms from expanding, thus reducing the need for new or additional real estate and putting that market on extended hiatus.

So there was little wonder why the room full of commission-starved sales execs were listening so intently when the 50-50 raffle drawing winning number was announced.

The 50-50 raffle, by the way, kicked off the eighth annual CAR Cares Campaign. This year CAR is partnering with the Grand Rapids Exchange Club to provide new shoes to area children ages 4-15 who have been identified by the Grand Rapids Public Schools or the Kent County Health Department as being in need. The goal is to raise enough money to purchase 300 pairs of shoes ($13,500). All contributions to the campaign are tax deductible. The check will be presented to the Grand Rapids Exchange Club during the West Michigan Summit Sept. 22.

Top 40 hit maker

Apparently, the Business Journal knows how to pick ’em.

Brian Jepson, one of the Journal’s 2008 class of 40 Under 40 honorees, left the COO job at Metro Health Hospital earlier this month to become the new president of Rochester General Medical Center in New York.

Jepson was named executive vice president and COO just a year ago. He had been considered to have the inside track to replace Metro Health President and CEO Mike Faas, when and if Faas decides to move on.

Jepson hired on in December 2007 as executive vice president of growth strategies. He also was a board member for the Spartan Stores YMCA under construction at Metro Health Village. Previously, he spent seven years as EVP and COO at Morris Hospital and Healthcare Centers in Illinois.

Metro Health spokesperson Ellen Bristol said Faas told her this is the fifth time one of his executives has been tabbed as president and/or CEO of another hospital.

Not too incidentally, the Business Journal is currently accepting nominations for the 2010 Class of 40 Under 40 honorees. The deadline for nominations is the end of August.

Cleaning up rumors

The Business Journal also was on target in a Street Talk item in which reporter Pete Daly wrote about Bissell Home Care Inc.’s until-then clandestine plan to launch a rental business, a nationwide enterprise that would compete with firms such as Rug Doctor. A few days later, the No. 1 brand in deep cleaning machines announced its entrance into the rental arena. Bissell officials said it will bring its cleaning expertise to consumers who make deep cleaning part of their routine regimen but prefer to rent.

“Bissell has more than a century of cleaning experience, and consumers have made us their top choice for deep cleaners,” said Jim Krzeminski, executive vice president and chief customer officer for Bissell, in a long-awaited news release. “Because of this, it’s a natural progression for the Bissell brand to enter the rental market and offer a commercial-grade deep cleaner.” 

Beginning next month, consumers can rent the new Bissell Big Green Deep Cleaning Machine, which Bissell claims out-cleans the leading rental carpet cleaner.

At rental kiosks, consumers also will be able to purchase four Bissell deep-cleaning formulas and three spot and stain removers for specific cleaning needs such as pet messes, allergens and tough stains. Rental costs begin at $24.99.

Not a big blue Priority

The University of Michigan announced last week that it intends to drop Priority Health from the list of health insurance plans offered to employees.

“Priority Health is our most expensive plan, and our total enrollment is low,” U-M Associate Vice President for Human Resources Laurita Thomas told the University Record for a story that was posted online.

The 1,700 U-M workers who use Priority Health will be allowed to remain members through 2011.

An encore appearance

Maya Lin, designer of “Ecliptic,” is returning to Grand Rapids Oct. 2 for her first visit since the new Grand Rapids Art Museum facility was completed adjacent to her sculpture, now celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Lin will present a lecture, “Maya Lin: Projects and Processes,” at 7 p.m. in the museum’s Cook Auditorium. Museum admission will be required to attend.

Chief stands tall

Another sculpture made its debut downtown last week. The 7-foot tall bronze sculpture of Noahquageshik, also referenced as Nawquageezhig and "Chief Noonday,” ogema (chief) of the Grand River Band of Ottawa Indians, was unveiled onthe west side of the Grand River near Eberhard Center and the Blue Bridge.

The sculpture is the second in the series of 25 sculptures that make up the Grand Rapids Community Legends project, whose mission is to recognize historical figures who have been crucial to the development of Grand Rapids. The project was created, funded and endowed by the Peter F. Secchia Family Foundation.

The Community Legends project also announced two other new sculptures for the series, including Lyman S. Parks (1917-2009), first African-American mayor of Grand Rapids (1971-1976), and Jay Van Andel (1924-2004), Amway co-founder. The list of figures announced to date also includes Rev. Frederick Baraga, Stanley Ketchel and Helen Claytor.

“How will you know who you can be if you do not know who you have been,” Secchia said at the unveiling of the first statue, Lucius Lyon.

The unveiled sculpture of Chief Noonday was gifted to Grand Valley State University by the Secchia Family Foundation.

Chief Noonday was an influential Grand River Ottawa Anishinabe (Original People) leader. At the turn of the 19th century, he was one of the ogemuk (chiefs) who led bands of the Ottawa throughout the Grand River basin. The chief is documented as early as the War of 1812 as an ally of Tecumseh. In 1834, as large numbers of American settlers began moving into the region, Chief Noonday led the Bowtink village, located on the west bank of the river near where the sculpture stands today. Chief Noonday died at approximately 70 years of age in 1840.

“Grand Valley State University is honored to be one of the recipients of a sculpture from the Community Legends project,” said Thomas Haas, president, Grand Valley State University. “The chief is of particular interest because of our location on the Grand River and the leadership role he played in this part of Michigan. Grand Valley recognizes the instrumental role the Secchia family has played in creating and remembering the legends of Grand Rapids.”

The sculpture of Chief Noonday was created by artist Antonio Tobias Mendez, who is known for his portraits of Thurgood Marshall (Annapolis) and Mohandas Gandhi (New York). The sculpture’s Cottonwood limestone base was purchased from Stone Zone of Grand Rapids. The Terryberry Co. of Grand Rapids designed the engraved bronze plaques.

The plan is to install a new sculpture every two years. The statues will be sited in downtown Grand Rapids and donated to the city or to not-for-profits connected to the areas within the city core where the individual spent time. 

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