With market trending up Snyder backer's are all in

November 29, 2010
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Sam Cummings remains extremely bullish on Gov.-elect Rick Snyder, and on the West Michigan economic outlook.

Cummings, managing partner of CWD Real Estate Investment, was an early and aggressive campaign supporter of Snyder’s efforts, particularly in this area, and he elicited other local business backers of the GOP’s nominee, including Holland’s Jeff Padnos, president of Louis Padnos Iron & Metal Co.

In deciding to back Snyder’s campaign over other gubernatorial candidates on the Republican side, including West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra, Cummings and Padnos bucked some conventional thinking that the local guy deserved the nod.

“We had an opportunity to elect someone who is actually capable of doing the job,” said Cummings, who acknowledged Hoekstra “was a fine congressman and does have a (political) future,” but he was enamored with Snyder’s no-nonsense business approach to politics. He contends such legislative fiascos as the last-minute budget wrangling that led to the MBT enactment “would never have happened under Rick Snyder’s watch.”

Frustrated by what he termed inept efforts of officials from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. to help lure a significant bio-tech player into the local market early last year, Cummings counts that and other leadership snafus at the state level as a cry for a new approach. “That company was looking for a $5 million commitment of local and state capital, and we couldn’t come up with it.”

For his part, Padnos noted Holland was able to generate more than $3 million in private contributions to secure Michigan State University’s conversion of a $50 million, 138,000-square-foot former Pfizer Inc. research-and-development facility into a bio center. He was amazed such an effort wasn’t successful in securing the biotech operation referenced by Cummings.

Padnos also remained steamed about the Michigan Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement of Attorney General Mike Cox in the governor’s race. When he asked chamber officials to give him a list of names of individuals who were on the chamber’s PAC committee who made the endorsement recommendation, he said he was told their identity was “confidential.”

Cummings also maintains the dip in the area’s commercial real estate market “has bottomed.”

“I am happy to say that the world of commercial real estate is stabilizing,” Cummings said in a note to CWD contacts last week. “It is certainly not 2006 (nor do I think it ever will be again), but cash is beginning to be redeployed in the asset class as investors recognize that no new product is being created and generational bargain pricing will produce extraordinary rate flexibility into the future (further exacerbated by any sort of inflation).”

Children’s Hospital displayed

The public gets to see what $292 million buys these days when the new Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital cracks open the doors for self-guided tours Saturday. Demand is expected to be high, so call 776-9626 for reservations by Wednesday. The hospital opens on 1-11-11: Let’s hope that’s good luck.

Quit carping; dig in

The West Michigan Environmental Action Council and San Chez Bistro are putting Asian carp on the menu as part of an exclusive culinary event to benefit efforts to keep the species out of the Great Lakes.

“Fight ’Em and Fillet ’Em” will highlight efforts to keep the ugly carp out of West Michigan waterways as part of a “fun, informative and tasty evening of adventurous eating and cocktails” 6-9 p.m. Tuesday at downtown’s San Chez Bistro. Featured speakers include John Goss, Asian carp director at the Council on Environmental Quality, and Dan O’Keefe, Michigan Sea Grant southwest district extension educator.

Asian carp, an invasive species found in the Mississippi River Basin, are rapidly making their way toward Lake Michigan via the Chicago Waterway System. Of concern are two species, commonly known as silver and bighead carp. These fish are voracious eaters that threaten the Great Lakes’ ecosystem by out-competing other plankton-feeding species. They have the potential to negatively impact recreational and commercial fisheries and the industries that depend on them.

Widely described as tasting like a cross between crabmeat and scallops, Asian carp are earning solid reviews from chefs throughout the Mississippi River Basin, where state leaders are attempting to rebrand the fish as "Silverfin" or "Kentucky tuna" in an effort to thin their population and keep local fishermen working. From a biological standpoint, Asian carp are quite different from common carp, which are bottom feeders.

“Although I hear it’s delicious, I don’t think anyone would like to see Asian carp as the catch of the day in West Michigan waters,” said WMEAC Executive Director Rachel Hood. “This is a way to draw awareness to the threat of Asian carp and other invasive... and have a good time doing it.”

San Chez is now experimenting with the fish and will have a draft menu available this week. Owner Dan Gendler indicated that the menu will include both mainstream dishes prepared from Asian carp and a few “outlandish” items.

 “We’re trying to put together a menu that captures how we feel about this issue,” said Gendler. “I watch these videos of Asian carp leaping out of the Mississippi River and think of how absurd it would be for us to allow that to ever happen in the Great Lakes. It makes me think of carp and garlic gelato or bacon and chocolate-wrapped carp — something off the wall. We need a real attention-getter to help drive home the need for permanent ecological separation.”

Hood said WMEAC and its members support permanent ecological separation of the Great Lakes from the Chicago Waterway System. She indicated that it is important for Michigan’s elected officials, its business and community leaders and citizens to be involved in the process to determine how best to accomplish that.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently announced it is embarking on a four-year, $25 million study on how to stop the migration of invasive species between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin. WMEAC is disappointed by the timetable and supports an accelerated study to produce a long-term solution within 12 to 18 months, as called for in the federal lawsuit recently filed by Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota and Pennsylvania against the Corps. The Great Lakes fishing industry is worth some $7 billion annually to the Midwest economy.

Talking turkey

Leaders at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital issued a Thanksgiving missive to employees earlier this month that alludes, a bit cryptically, to Spectrum Health’s, shall we say, “enthusiastic” overtures toward acquisition.

The rehab hospital has been struggling with pressure to merge with Spectrum Health or have its business cut by nearly 60 percent, as Spectrum lays plans to build a competing unit at Blodgett Hospital in East Grand Rapids. The majority of referrals to Mary Free Bed come from Spectrum, which presumably would divert them to its own facility.

Mary Free Bed responded with a billboard campaign that, while not pointing fingers at Spectrum Health, emphasizes its “100 percent” devotion to rehabilitation services, according to the letter from Guild Board President Julie Ridenour and Board of Trustees Chair Kent Riddle. The Mary Free Bed Guild owns the hospital.

“Know the big picture, face the challenges with hope, and then be present in each strategic moment,” the letter states. “The change of seasons and the arrival of winter in particular remind us of the changes in our lives and their role in renewal. As we face a new year with the possibility of changes on many fronts for Mary Free Bed Hospital, (Irish golfer) Christy O’Connor’s counsel again sounds very wise.”

So, as the 18th hole starts to come into view in 2011, who will wind up with the low score in this game? And will anyone actually win?

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