Attitude Adjustments for all

April 18, 2011
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When one uses the name Rick in the same sentence with “Grand Rapids,” it is widely assumed that one is speaking of Rick DeVos and of ArtPrize. Last week, however, belonged to two new Ricks: Gov. Rick Snyder, who made time to review his dashboard and budget bullets with 700 of his closest admirers during a Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon, and the new GRACC president and CEO Rick Baker.

Snyder marked 101 days in office on the first day of Baker’s new life in Michigan.

The governor offered brief comments on a dozen of his initiatives, including the 16 new pieces of legislation since taking office, drawing round after round of applause. But the packed room became attentively quiet when he chose to address the “differences” of east and west Michigan, encouraging the business leaders to share the positives about the state — the whole state — and its hard-fought recovery from the Great Recession.

“It’s our toughest single issue: changing our culture. Our heads are down. People have a negative attitude,” Snyder said, enumerating recent examples of business success, most notably among (east Michigan’s) Big Three.

Decrying east versus west, or racial and political extremes, Snyder said, “We’ve got too much of a win-lose attitude. … When one loses, we all lose.” The nerd even offered a new catch phrase for business chiefs: Relentless Positive Attitude. In West Michigan, where (almost) no one gloats or wants anyone to know that business is good, will RPA catch on?

The greatest amount of applause was given in answer to a question regarding manufacturing, based on Snyder’s earlier comment that, as he travels across the state, business owners tell him they need high-tech welders. “Manufacturing is absolutely a part of our future,” he answered, adding that high-tech tool and die businesses are a part of the state’s economic diversity.

A day later, GRACC members crowded the University Club to salute now “retired” President and CEO Jeanne Englehart. While Englehart’s next adventure is widely (yes, even wildly) discussed, it was Eastern Floral owner Bing Goei who proffered a possibility. Noting he and Englehart have similar entrepreneurial mindsets, he speculated on how long it might be before they both open new businesses — or do so together: “Maybe helping business owners — answering questions,” Goei thought aloud.

Sounds like a consulting business.

East plus west

Michigan Women’s Foundation barely found enough chairs for the sell-out crowd of 410 (mostly) women attending the annual Women of Achievement & Courage Awards at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

One of the five Trillium Lifetime Achievement winners, Marian Ilitch, easily amused the largely West Michigan group as she reminisced about the mom-and-pop pizza shop she opened with her husband, Mike, but she was most enthusiastic about the Detroit Red Wings and its relationship with the Grand Rapids Griffins, noting the number of players now on Hockey Town ice.

To add to the governor’s point, Ilitch noted her fondness for Grand Rapids and her family’s substantial investments to pioneer redevelopment of downtown Detroit, first with the Fox Theater and adjacent buildings. Ilitch is the sole owner of MotorCity Casino, the largest woman-owned casino in the country and likely one of the largest woman-owned businesses in the state.

Daughter Denise Ilitch and Skillman Foundation President and CEO Carol Goss also were honored with the Trillium award, as were west-siders Cecile Cave Fehsenfeld, who owns Schuler Books & Music, and former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.

The event happened to take place on a day of national recognition of pay inequality between genders, but the luncheon, rather than a dinner, was deliberate. The awards have been back and forth from one side of the state to the other in opposite years, and then moved to a format of dinners on each side of the state within a week of one another.

Last year, planners surveyed the two audiences and discovered that in West Michigan, women prefer to have a luncheon; in east Michigan, they vastly prefer a dinner event.

Night and day: Like Snyder said, it’s not divisive; it’s about appreciating the differences.

Zonder-size coup

Zondervan last week announced a new publishing agreement: with Jose Henriquez, one of the 33 trapped Chilean miners, who became recognized by the group as “the pastor.” The crew was trapped underground for 69 days, longer than anyone in recorded history.

Zondervan’s Editorial Vida Spanish language division is responsible for the coming book, “Miracle in the Mine.”

Brand new for the bicycle set

Bike riders are a passionate group; witness the quick action of the city to abide the growing number with bike paths and other amenities.

As they tell it, Tyler Doornbos and Josh Leffingwell first met at a Greater Grand Rapids Bike Coalition meeting. Now they are putting their passion for biking into a new business. The two friends last month opened Bike-Friendly GR, creating clothing and “fashion-driven bike schwag” in addition to organizing events.

In their first press release, Doornbos noted, “We’re really trying to brand biking in GR by making products that make a lifestyle statement and make cycling easier and more enjoyable.” They have Ts ready “so you can strut your stuff and show you support a more livable GR — whether or not you bike yet.”

’Tis the golf season, and the Ys have it

The Gutowski family is synonymous with the west side of Grand Rapids (just as some say Harold Voorhees is Wyoming), but the family ties are broadening. The YMCA metropolitan board learned late last week that its annual golf outing fundraiser will be sustained by the Gutowski family business, Swift Printing, as a title sponsor.

Patriarch Walt Gutowski Sr. has long joked that when he actually “gets old,” he would learn to play golf, says son and Grand Rapids City Commissioner Walt Gutowski Jr. Senior will mark his 89th birthday Sept. 8.

For those who can’t get enough of summer golf outings, the big day leads the season: May 16 at Kent Country Club.

In a note to the Y board, Gutowski Jr. noted his father has been a Y member so long, it precedes clothing now known as “bathing suits.” He also has a storied history with the former West Y, where Senior would annually take 100 apples and distribute them “in hopes of becoming a centurion.”

Gutowski Jr. noted: “He never admits to being old, just happy. … The sponsorship of this tournament may be the closest he ever comes to admitting to getting old.”

57 varieties — or more

Experience Grand Rapids President Doug Small promises to whet our appetites this week by releasing details of the second Restaurant Week. The first one, held last November, actually ran for 10 days — but who’s counting?

Small said the 57 participating restaurants served more than 30,000 three-course meals, with 19,138 of those served by 33 downtown eateries. Each meal went for $20.10, and Small said the event was worth $1.2 million to the local economy.

“I’m confident we’ll get 57 or more restaurants this year. It could be as many as 75.”

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