Setting policy with the governor's race at stake

September 13, 2010
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The big West Michigan Policy Forum taking place in downtown Grand Rapids later this week will feature both of the state’s gubernatorial candidates in a question-and-answer session.

“Rick Snyder, Republican nominee, and Virg Bernero, Democratic nominee, will participate in individual 45-minute question-and-answer sessions on Friday, Sept. 17, the second day of the Policy Forum,” said Jared Rodriguez, senior vice president of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and director of the West Michigan Policy Forum.

The session will be moderated by Paul Keep, editor of The Grand Rapids Press, and Mary Kramer, publisher of Crain’s Detroit Business. The grilling begins at 8:15 a.m. with Bernero answering questions first. Each candidate will respond to moderator questions for approximately 30 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of audience-submitted questions, according to the chamber.

Attendance at this second policy forum (the first was two years ago) is expected to be close to 500 business leaders from approximately 24 Michigan cities.

“The candidates’ participation underscores the longstanding efforts of the Policy Forum during the past two years at improving Michigan’s economy,” said Rodriguez. “This will be the largest cross-section of business leaders across the state to come together in statewide policy initiatives.”

The Policy Forum, scheduled for Sept. 16-17 at DeVos Place Convention Center, is a project of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce to promote five specific statewide strategic policy directives to the Michigan government, even as the state prepares for a leadership turnover in the governor’s office as well as a majority of House and Senate seats.

Led by forum co-chairs Doug DeVos of Amway, Jim Dunlap of Huntington Bank, former ambassador Peter Secchia and Jeff Connolly of Blue Cross Blue Shield, more than 650 business and community leaders at the first conference in 2008 established five directives:

  • Eliminate the Michigan Business Tax with corresponding spending cuts.

  • Implement a right-to-work status for Michigan.

  • Increase funding for health care providers with prevention practices.

  • Streamline the state government business permits process.

  • Update funding mechanisms for the state's transportation infrastructure.

More than 50 business and community leaders from across the state now serve on the Policy Forum steering committee, including Doug Rothwell of Business Leaders for Michigan.

The Policy Forum will feature speakers including William Clay Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Co.; Brian Wesbury, economic forecaster and chief economist at First Trust Advisors LP; and Michael Fleming, president of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives.

Keynote speakers at the Thursday night dinner will be acclaimed political satirists Mo Rocca and P.J. O’Rourke.

More information, including registration, can be found at www.grandrapids.org/wmpf.

Conway at the table

Warner Norcross & Judd partner Sue O. Conway joins Miller Johnson attorney Carol J. Karr (profiled in the Aug. 30 Business Journal) as among those being honored this week by Michigan Lawyers Weekly in its inaugural “Women in the Law.”

The award, which will be presented in a special ceremony in Detroit Sept. 16, recognizes the contributions of 20 leading women attorneys across the state. 

Conway’s nomination letter from a longtime firm client read, in part: “When Michigan Lawyers Weekly decided to honor women in the law, I could think of no other attorney as deserving of this recognition as Sue Conway. She exemplifies what your criteria tell me you are looking for — and what it means to be a true woman leader in the Michigan legal community.”

Conway concentrates her practice in employee benefits law, with an emphasis on consumer-engaged health plans, employer-sponsored wellness programs, and the design of health and fringe benefit plans. She is a member of the Warner Norcross Health Care Reform Task Force. Additionally, Conway serves as the firm’s Marketing and Business Development Partner and has served on the Management Committee.

“We are very proud that Sue has been chosen by Michigan Lawyers Weekly for this honor,” said Managing Partner Douglas E. Wagner. “Her contributions as a mentor to young attorneys and a leader within Warner Norcross have been invaluable over the years. Sue has also been an active volunteer, engaged in organizations that make our community a better place to live and work.”

Conway has been recognized by many professional organizations, including Best Lawyers in America, one of the Top 50 Women Super Lawyers by Michigan Super Lawyers, and the Inner Circle of West Michigan Executive Women by Inforum. She was also named among the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan by Grand Rapids Business Journal.

Active professionally and within the community, Conway serves on the state board of directors for Inforum, a professional women’s alliance, and is a member of the West Michigan affiliate. She is the past chair of Leadership Grand Rapids, past president of the Women’s Resource Center, past vice president of Legal Aid of West Michigan, president of the Vassar Club of West Michigan and a past board member of the Visiting Nurse Foundation.

She is also a member of the American Bar Association, State Bar of Michigan and Grand Rapids Bar Association.

Having a conversation

On Oct. 13, the Grand Rapids Young Professionals’ second annual community conversation will be held as the group presents “VOTE! Be the Change You Want to See.”

The event features Lauri Parks, Grand Rapids city clerk, who will speak about the issues facing us in the upcoming elections. A panel discussion between young professional representatives from the Democratic, Green, Libertarian and Republican parties will follow, engaging conversation on the current political climate and issues impacting our community.

Participants may tweet #ANCVOTE to have questions answered via Twitter throughout the panel discussion.

DeVos Place Convention Center will host the event from 5:30-8 p.m. The public can register at anewconversation.eventbrite.com/. This event is free and open to the public. Online registration is required by Oct 8. There will be a collection of 100 percent fruit juice boxes to be donated to Kids Food Basket.

A New Conversation began as a collaborative effort in 2009 between leaders of five area professional organizations: Asian Professional Organization, BL²END, Grand Rapids Young Professionals, West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, and in collaboration with the SMG/DeVos Place Convention Center.

More picks to click

WZZM 13, the Grand Rapids ABC affiliate owned by Gannett Co. Inc., and DataSphere Technologies, a provider of “hyperlocal” web technology and sales solutions for media companies, have launched 20 community-focused websites in the West Michigan area.

These “My Town” community websites will be part of the WZZM 13 website, www.wzzm13.com, and will feature hyperlocal news content and user-generated content about area happenings and events. Local businesses will benefit from the opportunity to target their potential customers. In addition to powering the community websites, DataSphere will provide wzzm13.com with enhanced functionality, including market-leading site search, coupons, a business directory and ad targeting.

“Providing neighborhood news and information on these new sites is an important part of our responsibility as a local news organization,” said Janet Mason, president and general manager of WZZM 13 and wzzm13.com. "These hyperlocal ‘My Town’ sites will be an easy way for people to keep up with what’s happening in their towns.”

Some gridiron gab

The West Michigan Sports Commission’s 4th Annual Luncheon, which takes place Sept. 20 in the International Ballroom of the JW Marriott, is sold out.

The luncheon will feature George Perles, former head football coach of Michigan State University, and Lloyd Carr, former head football coach of University of Michigan.

Sports Commission Executive Committee member and the aforementioned former Ambassador to Italy, Peter Secchia — a personal friend to both coaches — initiated the idea of inviting both as co-speakers knowing the humorous stories each could tell from their coaching tenures and from the in-state rivalry among these Big Ten schools. Given the match-up will occur a few weeks following, it should make for a fun and lively afternoon.

“We are thrilled that both Coach Carr and Coach Perles have agreed to join us in September,” said Secchia.

“Their memories are genuinely warm and humorous. Our guests should love these memories.”

The event serves as a fundraiser as well as a report back to the community and key stakeholders on the success of the West Michigan Sports Commission. In the three years since its inception, the WMSC has helped secure or support more than 146 youth and amateur sporting events, which will contribute well over $40 million in economic impact from visitor spending in this region through the year 2015.

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