Caution Possible construction slowdown ahead

September 11, 2011
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“When you look down the road a ways, I’m hearing architects are slowing down. That’s not a good thing because if they slow down, we’re next in line.”

That’s Bill Schoonveld, president of Owens-Ames-Kimball, one of the top construction companies in West Michigan, in a recent conversation with the Business Journal.

He heard right.

“The most recent of the monthly Work on the Boards Survey from AIA national points to business conditions slowing across the nation, with the Midwest scoring the worst. The AIA billing index is a 1 to 100 scale, with 50 being no change, scores above 50 represent improving conditions, and scores below 50 represent worsening conditions. The Midwest was the weakest as of the most recent survey, with a score of 44.9,” said David Maxam of Maxam Architecture on Fourth Street in Grand Rapids.

Maxam, who has 15 years of experience and works on residential, commercial and industrial projects, is also the president of the Grand Valley Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, so he’s in a good position to know what’s happening out there.

“My personal experience is that I've been fairly busy as a solo practitioner, with work from a summer uptick. However, new inquiries do seem to be slowing,” added Maxam.

“I hear mixed news from other firms, depending on their particular specialties and types of clients — that either they're keeping their staff busy or somewhat slower — but I certainly haven't heard of any significant hiring,” he added.

Arty party time

With ArtPrize gearing up for its third run, local businesses and organizations are finalizing plans to host preview parties and receptions. Just two of those are the Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids, which one would expect to link to the annual event, and the Kent County Republican Party, which one might not expect.

The GOP is holding a free reception Monday, Sept. 26, from 5:30-7 p.m. at its spiffy new headquarters at 725 Lake Michigan Drive NW.

The Arts Council has its second consecutive preview planned for Tuesday, Sept. 20, from 5:30-8 p.m. on the third floor of 38 Commerce SW. The event is also a fundraiser for the council’s grant program that provides financial support for local arts and cultural groups. Last year, the council handed out $15,000 to 21 organizations from the program. For more info, contact Angela DeLuca Placencia at 459-2787 or aplacencia@artsggr.org. Tickets are $75. A cash bar will be available. The Fred Knapp Trio will perform, and San Chez, a Tapas Bistro, is providing the eats.

There’s an app for that

Warner Norcross & Judd and Fifth Third Bank are significantly expanding their ArtPrize presence this year, adding an indoor venue and sponsoring the ArtPrize mobile app.

In all, Warner and Fifth Third will sponsor 28 artists in and around their Grand Rapids headquarters at 111 Lyon St. NW, including four who work at the law firm or bank.

The ArtPrize app, which is available for download by iPhone and Android users, makes it easy to vote for artists, and also helps users locate venues, learn more about artists and keep track of their votes.

“Since it debuted in 2009, ArtPrize has been a phenomenon that has drawn our community together like no other single event,” said Doug Wagner, the law firm’s managing partner. “We are pleased to partner with Fifth Third again this year and considerably expand our commitment to ArtPrize. We are incredibly honored to host 28 artists from around the state and across the country, as well as co-sponsor the voting app.”

Michelle Van Dyke, president of Fifth Third, said the goal this year is to make the Lyon Street facility “a destination for ArtPrize viewers.” She credited freelance illustrator and photographer Yolanda Gonzalez with helping to secure an “incredible array of artwork.”

“Throughout our support of ArtPrize, we have strived to connect with artists whose works are both thought-provoking and visually appealing,” she said.

Those displaying works for the home team include Warner’s Christina Heyboer, senior accountant/analyst, Ric Roane, a divorce and family law partner, and Susan Stone, legal secretary, as well as Fifth Third’s Sharon Wollman, a learning facilitator.

Northrup leaves WMSA

West Michigan Strategic Alliance is in the market for a new president.

Greg Northrup, president of the regional collaboration organization since 2005, said he hopes to pursue a number of alternative energy project options.

“He guided WMSA through many major achievements as an organization and established a track record for state and national best practices,” said Al Vanderberg, administrator for Ottawa County and chair of WMSA’s board. “We certainly will miss Greg, and wish him the best in his future endeavors. The board will initiate a search for a successor president very soon.”

Northrup has agreed to stay on until the end of the year.

Tragically crossed hockey sticks

Three of the players who were killed last week when a Yak-42 jet carrying the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv hockey team crashed shortly after take-off from Moscow used to play for the Grand Rapids Griffins.

“The entire Grand Rapids Griffins organization is deeply saddened today by the horrible plane crash in Russia. The loss of three former Griffins, two former Red Wings, their Yaroslavl Lokomotiv teammates and the other victims is unspeakably painful,” said Dan DeVos, Griffins president and CEO, in a statement.

“Pavol Demitra, Karel Rachunek and Stefan Liv were tremendous individuals and great ambassadors during their time with us, while many in the Griffins family also knew Brad McCrimmon and Ruslan Salei well,” he added.

McCrimmon was a defenseman with the Red Wings and a few other NHL teams, but most recently served as an associate coach for the Detroit franchise. He was the head coach of Lokomotiv, which plays in the Kontinental Hockey League. Salei played defense for the Red Wings just last season.

“We mourn their passing with the rest of the hockey community,” said DeVos, “and our thoughts and prayers are with the friends and families of all the victims of this tragedy.”

Tailgater

If the stands looked a wee bit fuller for Saturday’s Michigan State versus Florida Atlantic football game, you can thank Peter Secchia.

Secchia instigated an auction-style bidding war at this summer’s Steve Smith Charity Challenge, an annual gathering of the MSU Club of West Michigan, which resulted in transportation for about 200 students from Grand Rapids Public Schools to the sporting event and a pregame kids’ tailgate party hosted by the GRPS Student Advancement Foundation.

It’s funny, but one of the kids looked a lot like Patrick Miles, an attorney at Dickinson Wright and the new leader of the Grand Rapids Black Chamber of Commerce. Oh, that really was Miles? Geez, he looks younger every day!

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