Plenty to celebrate right here in River City

October 31, 2011
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Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas will deliver the school’s accountability report to his board this week. But last week, he gave city commissioners a short sneak preview.

“We are an entrepreneurial university. Six of our eight colleges call Grand Rapids home,” he said. “We are operating as an urban university.”

Haas said GVSU welcomed its second-largest freshman class this fall, and total enrollment reached 24,662 students. He added that GVSU had a $680 million impact last year on the city’s economy. “We have a stable platform as we move forward,” he said.

“We must become a learning community if we want to become what we’re capable of becoming,” said GR Mayor George Heartwell. “To have Grand Valley on the west side of the river is phenomenal.”

Making the grade

On the east side of the Grand River is Spectrum Health, and HealthGrades, which tracks medical outcomes, recently honored the system’s hospitals and the Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center with Excellence Awards, placing Spectrum among the 100 best hospitals nationwide for cardiac surgery and prostatectomy procedures. HealthGrades ranked both procedures in the top 5 percent nationally.

“Our goal is to consistently provide the highest quality service to every person who entrusts us with their health care. These rankings demonstrate that our focus on quality is making a difference,” said Matt Van Vranken, executive vice president of Spectrum’s Health Delivery System, in a statement.

Neighborhood biz

Another celebration of quality takes place Thursday evening at Wealthy Theater, when the Neighborhood Business Alliance makes its Neighborhood Business Awards for the 22nd consecutive year.

“Each year we come together as a community to celebrate the accomplishments of our neighborhood businesses, their associated business districts, and, of course, the people whose hard work make this urban success possible,” said Mark Lewis, executive director of Neighborhood Ventures. “It is truly an evening of celebration by and with neighborhood business peers who share that same passion.”

The event begins at 5 p.m. with a Taste of Our Neighborhoods reception. Heartwell will begin honoring the winners at 6:30. More than 80 nominees have been named for the 14 award categories.

Homecoming

It just goes to show that you can come home again.

Mary Tuuk, executive vice president, will begin transitioning from chief risk officer to president of Fifth Third Bank’s Western Michigan affiliate, assuming full responsibility in January 2012.

Tuuk began her banking career at Old Kent Bank, where she served in a variety of positions including corporate secretary and chief legal counsel. She then held a variety of senior management positions for Fifth Third Bank (Western Michigan) until she left for Cincinnati in 2003. At the Bancorp level, Tuuk has served in a number of positions, focusing primarily on risk management, and she was promoted to chief risk officer in 2007.

Tuuk was named one of the top 25 Women to Watch by industry publication American Banker for the fourth time in 2011.

Movie incentives, take two

“I’m still trying to eat off of movies, so it’s been interesting.”

That’s Grand Rapids attorney Joe Voss talking about the movie industry in Michigan and the status of the controversial movie industry incentives.

Voss leads the entertainment industry practice at law firm Clark Hill. Last week he attended a hearing by the Michigan Senate Economic Development Corp. on Senate Bill 569, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.

Since Rick Snyder became governor, the Michigan tax credit incentives designed to lure movie productions here has been limited to $25 million total in 2011.

Voss said the proposed bill, as now written, would make the incentive a grant, not a tax credit, and might cover up to 32 percent of certain expenses. “Gone are the days of the 42 percent maximum refundable tax credit,” he said.

The great unknown now is how much Michigan will spend each year to lure movie productions here. The proposed legislation doesn’t say.

“Basically, it creates a fund that will need a line item appropriation (each year),” said Voss.

That may lead to “a little bit of uncertainty that the industry doesn’t like,” said Voss, because the movie producers won’t know from year to year what the total amount of available money will be. “It makes it difficult to plan ahead,” he said. “We can say with pretty good certainty that $25 million is not enough to actually help spur and continue to grow the industry on a statewide basis,” said Voss.

He concedes, however, that the “uncapped, no-limit tax credit scenario is just not viable in the political environment right now.”

Voss is listed on the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) as having provided legal services for at least six movie productions. However, the list is far longer when counting all the movies Voss’ clients have been involved in.

His last project was “7 Stones,” a short, made-for-TV movie shot in July in a former Steelcase factory near 36th Street and Eastern.

Voss mentioned “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” being filmed by Walt Disney Pictures in Pontiac at the Raleigh Michigan Studios. In the movie biz, it’s called a “tent-pole production” — in the $100-million-plus cost category. If Michigan had “somewhere in the range of $100 million dollars of incentive availability,” said Voss, it could attract one or two tent-poles each year “and still have room for productions that are smaller.”

Another Grand Rapids professional who found a niche in the movie business is Bob Schellenberg. His accounting firm, Schellenberg & Evers, is listed on imdb.com as the tax/audit professional on 31 films, the last three being “Red Dawn,” “Touchback” and “Setup.”

Schellenberg told the Business Journal he just completed work in October on a movie shot in Alaska, “Love of Life,” and this time it wasn’t as the accountant — he was one of the producers.

“There’s very little (movie accounting) work to be done in Michigan,” said Schellenberg. “Normally, what we do as auditors is, we work for the producer. So in this case, we kind of flipped roles.”

Although he was not one of the investors, as one of the producers on “Love of Life” his job was “making sure the bills get paid and the stuff gets done on time. And my job is to hire an accounting firm in Alaska to audit me now, for their credit.”

The state of Alaska offers movie productions a credit of up to 44 percent, he said.

Voss said “Love of Life” — although shot in Alaska — was financed by investors from Michigan, and Schellenberg confirmed that.

“We probably could have shot it in Michigan, but with our investor group, we had a number of movies we were looking at and it just seemed easier, because of the budget, to do this one in Alaska,” said Schellenberg.

He is concerned about the Michigan movie industry incentive being scaled back.

“We definitely have a lot less work, so we’re trying to use our expertise where we can. In fact, right now we’re proposing to do training for CPAs in Alaska, and we would be hired by the state of Alaska to do this” if it is accepted.

And, yes, those CPAs in Alaska would be involved with the movie industry there.

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